Hen party planning can be an intimidating task, especially if you've never planned a big event before. We thought we'd make it a little more straightforward and break it down into steps to follow, so you can tick 'em off, one by one.
Hen party planning step one: Talk to the bride
If you've been tasked with planning a hen do, the first thing you need to do is talk to the bride. In our recent Instagram poll, 72% of brides said they didn't know exactly what was planned for them - but most brides will want to have some input at the start. You need a rough idea of what she's expecting, so you don't plan a week-long piss-up in Marbella for 20 while she's thinking a quiet dinner in town with just her closest pals would be the dream.
Consider the following areas, as a guide:
- Does she want to go abroad? 79% of our Instagram poll said they were staying in Ireland for theirs, but the other 21% were jetting off somewhere abroad. Whether it's a staycation or not, it's worth checking if she has any particular locations or cities in mind.
- What type of budget are you working to? You'll need to talk to the other hens on budget too, but the bride can probably give you a rough guide of what her pals can probably afford. This may be a decider on whether you opt for one night or more - but at least if you know she only wants one night, your budget will stretch a little further. For a rough guide, in our poll, 74% of people said they were paying less than €200 with the other 26% paying €200+, and 47% of people said they were just doing one night while 53% were doing 2+ nights on that budget.
- What's most important to her? Is she a massive foodie who would love a day centred around gorgeous meals? Is she an adrenaline junkie who won't be satisfied unless there's an adventurous element? Is she dying for a spa break away with all the frills? Is she really just focussed on the best night out of her life, so should you focus on finding the best craic nightclubs and pubs? Figure out what bits are her priorities, and focus the day around that.
- Are mams and aunts invited? Some brides can't imagine their hen without their mam, but others would die of mortification at the idea. In our poll, it was 55% mams invited, 45% absolutely not so a fairly even split - your bride might surprise you so definitely check before inviting anyone.
- Any other definite no nos? Your bride might have a mile long list of things she'd consider a nightmare - maybe she HATES karaoke or couldn't cope if she had to wear L plates and feather boa - either way, try and factor these in.
Hen party planning step two - decide on a date and guestlist
Your bride should be able to provide you with a list of names (and phone numbers for that all important Whatsapp group!) of people she'd love to have along. Regardless of whether she wants to be involved in the planning or knowing what's happening, she'll definitely want to know who's coming!
Usually hen parties take place around 4-6 weeks before the wedding, but if the wedding is in a peak season like the summer or around Christmas, you may want to factor in some extra dates to allow for the fact half the guest list may have another hen or wedding or event that crosses over with your planned dates. Something like Doodle is a great way to get a good gauge on what dates the most people are free on, and of course starting the planning early will help get in before any diary conflicts. Obviously don't forget to check the bride herself is free on the suggested dates first - sometimes this can be forgotten because she's excluded from the Whatsapp group!
Hen party planning step three - decide on a location and find accommodation
Once you have a rough idea of how many people can make your chosen date, it’s time to start researching locations and accommodation. Again, if you're planning in a busy season, or a town like Kilkenny and Galway that hen-central all year around, it's especially important to get moving on the accommodation early.
Hen party planning step four - time for activities
With the location set, it narrows down the activities you can do to those available around you. One of the big things to keep in mind is that hen party planning is a weird beast as there's pretty much not any other event like it, where the group are from all different walks of the bride's life, and could be any age at all. Keep that in mind when you're planning - you don't want to isolate guests by choosing an activity that isn't suitable for half the guests. Also consider anyone that is pregnant or has disabilities and factor that into your plan.
Try and be realistic about how much you can fit into the day, and the timings of it - you might want to do two activities before dinner, but if the first is an obstacle course or watersport, followed directly by a cocktail-making class, people are probably going to want time to glam up in between. It's not that you can't fit it all in, but just think about your timings and what people want - and don't forget to factor in travel time! On the flip side, if you're starting with brunch at 11am and there's nothing else planned until pre-dinner drinks at 7pm, you're probably going to see the group splinter off to do their own thing, so if your aim is to keep everyone together, plan something - even something casual - to fill in the time. If you're on a budget, this doesn't have to be a whole other activity - head back to the accommodation and play some hen party games with some prosecco in hand and make your own craic.
We recommend planning the hen amongst the bridesmaids and then coming to the group with the final itinerary and costs (having previously gotten a read on their budget expectations, of course). You could have 20+ opinions flying around on what you should do for the weekend if you throw it out to the group, and realistically, you guys are your bride's closest pals, so make life easy on yourselves.
Hen party planning step five - offer some flexibility
This is especially important if you're planning an event that's longer than just the one night - you have to allow for the fact that everyone has their own lives and own circumstances and while they probably want to be there for the bride, they may be limited by something else, like if they're a young mam, or they're pregnant, or they just have a little less to spend than everyone else.
It's worth offering some flexibility or options around what people can opt in for. For example, if you're planning a two night getaway, offer the option of just one night, or maybe if you have a full day of activities planned before dinner, drinks and dancing, offer the option to just come along for the evening portion. It will make it a little more complicated to divide up everything on the money front, but at least you know who can come to what parts so you're not expecting 20 people for an obstacle course at 11am, and you don't see 10 of them until dinner.
Hen party planning step six - handling the money
One of the biggest areas of frustration for bridesmaids often falls around the money end of things. Often bridesmaids end up shelling out the full whack, and guests can be slow to cough up and pay them back, whether through forgetfulness or budget constraints.
Let the hens know as early as possible what the cost is, how they can pay their share, and the deadline for payment - and most hen parties will factor in the cost of the bride's share into everyone else's payments so don't forget to divvy that up. Also, if you're planning on buying a pile of decor or some booze for the room for everyone, it may be worth factoring an extra few quid into the price for everyone to cover it - if you end up not using it all, throw it in towards a round of drinks for everyone on the day.
You will likely get more than one late payment - it's just how it goes! - so if possible, book on your credit card and then give the hens a deadline that's earlier than you have to pay to give you some wiggle room. If possible, it can be helpful for people to divide it up by paying a deposit first and the rest later, so the payment falls across two different paydays, though this does mean you're following up two different rounds of payment, so decide based on the group you have and the budget limitations they have on what will work best for you.
If your bride is worried about her pals' reputations for coughing up on time for other hen parties, it may be worth looking into a service like Henit.ie, who can book the whole event, and have a payment system that allows everyone pay for themselves without the bridesmaids having to fork out cash for anyone but themselves, so you're not left short down the line.
Finally on the cost front, we'd always advise being transparent. Tell people where their money is going - you can definitely keep some surprises, but it's worth giving them a rough outline of the itinerary. If people are forking over €200, they want to know what they're paying for.
Hen party planning step six - consider transport
If you're headed for a small town where everything is within walking distance of one another, and everyone's coming from different parts of the country, you're probably good to just meet there and start the day. If you're all heading from one place, it might be worth looking into renting a minibus or at your train options, so you're altogether and no one has to be the designated driver.
Factor these costs into the overall price and pay for it in advance if possible (or you just look after payment on the day) - people would much rather know the cost of the whole thing rather than be hit up for 'extras' on the day - even if it's all the same amount of money at the end of the day.
Hen party planning step seven - plan the finer details
Once all the big things are booked, take a second to breathe! You deserve it.
As it gets closer to the hen date, you'll need to start looking at some of the smaller details - and some of the fun stuff. If you're a small bridal party or some of the hens are offering to help, do take them up on it if you need it! Perhaps some of them can take over planning some of the hen party games, or if you know they're hen party decor whizzes, have them arrive a little early to help decorate the room, for example.
You need to do a bit of planning around the itinerary for the day - what you're doing, where people should be and at what time, what they need to bring or wear (and are you having a theme?) etc. And then factor in things like, when you'll play your hen party games and what they will be, if you're wearing hen party sashes/tshirts/badges and where you'll get them, do you want to do hen party bags, who is in charge of decor, does the bride need anything specific for the day. Think it all through in advance so you don't forget anything on the day.
Hen party planning step eight - have fun!
By the time they day comes and the hen party planning is over, your main job is to have fun, and make sure everyone else is too. You can't force them to have the craic if they're not feeling it, of course, but if there are a few girls there who don't really know anyone else, make sure to get talking to everyone to help those shy gals along. They'll be part of the pack in no time.
You've done all the hard work, so now relax, have fun, and enjoy the party! She's going to love it.