A hen party, also called a hen do or a hen night, is the British term for a pre-marital celebration, held for the bride-to-be. The male equivalent is known as the stag do. The maid of honour usually arranges the hen celebration, while the stag do is the best man’s responsibility.
The hen do usually occurs somewhere between a month and a few days before the wedding. It used to be held the night before, but as hen parties typically involve alcohol, most brides nowadays prefer a little extra time to recover.Traditionally, only women attend the hen party – the bride, her maid of honour and bridesmaids, sisters, and other close female relatives and friends. But mixed-sex celebrations are not unheard of, so who you invite is up to you.
In this article, we’ll talk you through what usually happens at a British hen party, and give you 11 alternative ideas to make your own hen do a fun and memorable experience.
What Do You Do At a Hen Party?
A traditional British hen do involves some or all of the following:
• Alcohol and food consumption in some form, usually at a pub, club or restaurant
• Dancing and/or karaoke
• Hire of a male stripper
• Dressing in garish or comical getups (lots of pink, neon, feathers and glitter!)
• Giving gifts to the bride-to-be, which may be designed to embarrass her (such as lingerie or adult toys)
• Playing games such as Mr and Mrs-style quizzes
Not all brides-to-be choose to have a hen do. If getting together with your female friends for a raucous and boozy celebration isn’t up your alley, then don’t feel pressured into it!
But if you do decide to have a hen night or hen weekend, remember that you can go against the grain, and make it anything you’d like it to be. Your own hen party doesn’t need to include any of the above elements, if you don’t want it to. Just be sure to communicate your wishes with your head bridesmaid in plenty of time.
Fun Alternative Ideas for a Hen Party
While it might be the tradition, the stereotypical British hen night isn’t everybody’s idea of a good time. If you’re looking for a more unique experience to celebrate your forthcoming wedding, you’re in the right place. Take a look through our 11 fun alternative hen party ideas.
1. Spa Day
Spa days are becoming more and more popular as alternative hen dos. There’s no better time to indulge your desire to be pampered than in the lead up to your nuptials – especially if you’re feeling stressed from all the wedding planning!
Every spa is different, but most locations have a pool, hot tub, and at least one relaxing sauna (steam room). Some spas also have whirlpools, lazy rivers, rainfall showers, ice rooms, and so on. For a little extra, you can also book a massage, facial treatment or manicure to enjoy with your best girls. You’ll come away feeling utterly spoiled and relaxed.
2. Afternoon Tea
An afternoon tea is the perfect hen party activity. Treat yourself and your best friends to an indulgent teatime experience at your local hotel, country house, or café – or make and serve your own afternoon tea at home, to save on costs.
Afternoon teas typically involve a variety of tasty sandwiches, bite-sized cakes, and scones with jam and cream. It’s all washed down with tea or coffee, or to make it a boozy celebration, enjoy a glass of prosecco instead. Sounds like fun - and as you have to look your best at a tea party, it’s a great excuse to treat yourself to a new outfit!
3. Fine-Dining Experience
Fine dining is expensive, and not something that most of us can enjoy on a regular basis. But if you’re a foodie, and you fancy something a little more refined than scones, use your upcoming wedding as an excuse to eat at a high-end restaurant with your closest friends and family members.
With fine wines, multiple courses, stellar service and meticulously presented food, fine dining is the classy alternative to the pub fayre of a traditional hen do. Use the Michelin guide to find a suitable restaurant near you, or leave it up to your maid of honour to choose one!
4. Multicultural Cocktail Party
What do you do if you’d still like to include alcohol as the main focus of your hen celebration, but a traditional pub crawl or club night doesn’t tickle your fancy? The answer is simple – turn a night of drinking into a multicultural experience by enjoying a selection of cocktails from around the world.
Take an evening to enjoy some Cuban mojitos, Italian bellinis, Puerto Rican piña coladas, American mint juleps – the list goes on. Go out to a fancy cocktail bar, or channel your inner mixologist in the comfort of your own home!
5. Wine Tasting
Cocktails not your thing? You might be more interested in a wine-tasting course. If you’re a bit of a wine connoisseur, this is chance for you to expand your knowledge and refine your tastes – and if you’re a total newbie, it’ll still be a lot of fun.
You and your hen party pals will enjoy a sensory experience sampling a variety of wines of different styles, vintages, and regions. You may also learn how to match wines with various foods, such as cheeses and meats – perfect for planning your wedding meal.
6. Arts and Crafts Class
Our ideas so far have been based on consuming, rather than creating – but if you are a crafty kind of person, why not design your hen party to embrace your inner artist? There are so many art and craft courses and workshops out there that there’s bound to be one that suits you. Some examples include:
• Life drawing
• Henna body art
• Embroidery and textile arts
The possibilities are endless. Not only are such classes a lot of fun, but you’ll also come away with a souvenir at the end of it!
7. Treetop Adventure Course
Burn off some of your pent-up energy and pre-wedding nerves by tackling a treetop adventure course. This would suit anyone who enjoys a physical challenge, but is perhaps best avoided by anyone who has a fear of heights!
Treetop adventure or ‘high ropes’ courses involve being strapped into a harness, and guided along platforms, tight ropes, wobbly bridges and zip wires – all 10+ metres up in the air, amongst the trees. Some of the most well-known brands include Go Ape and Treetop Trek, both of which have multiple locations across the country.
8. Board Game Night
Staying in is the new going out – that’s more true than ever in 2020. If your idea of a perfect evening involves a cheap bottle of wine with your friends and family at home, why not have a board game themed hen night?
Ask your best girls to bring along a board game each, such as Cluedo or Monopoly. Adult-friendly games, such as Cards Against Humanity, can also be loads of fun. Prepare some snacks or a finger buffet, and enjoy a homely and budget-friendly hen party. You could even turn it into an old-fashioned girly sleepover – if you can persuade your fiancé to vacate the premises!
9. Escape Room
An escape room is a brilliant challenge that provides you with an afternoon of fun, and will also test your teamwork skills – perfect for a group of eager bridesmaids. If you’re looking for an activity that will challenge your puzzle-solving skills, look no further.
To complete an escape room, you’ll be locked in a themed room (such as a dungeon, asylum or space station) with your friends. You’ll have to hunt for clues, and solve a variety of puzzles and brain-teasing riddles in order to unlock the door and escape. It’s timed, too – so you’ll have to get your thinking cap on!
10. Theme Park Trip
Are you a thrill-seeker? If so, a trip to one of the U.K.’s many theme parks could be right up your street. Two of the most popular theme parks include Alton Towers in Staffordshire, and Thorpe Park in Surrey. Both are jam-packed with roller coasters, water rides and other attractions, and are well worth visiting for a day of excitement.
If it takes your fancy, why not stay in a nearby hotel and split your fun across two days? Go at an off-peak time of year for the shortest queues.
11. Weekend Break
You only get one hen party (hopefully) – so why not got go all-out and take a weekend break with your besties? If you and the girls can spare the extra cash, treat yourselves to a swanky hotel in the city, or opt for a cute little bed and breakfast in the English countryside.
Visit a historical city such as Bath, and visit its grand old buildings and museums - or choose a seaside town and relax on the beach for a few days. A weekend break needn’t break the bank, if you all chip in – and you’ll create happy memories that will stay with you forever.