Pink satin sashes and plastic L-plates? Just say no. If you're a Maid of Honour with a hen party to plan, here’s a few hen do ideas to get you started.
Coming up with great hen party ideas needn't be a massive stress. Organising the best hen do for the bride-to-be is all about coming up with imaginative tweaks on the tried and tested hen weekend, or traditional (and often cringey) hen party games. So, think outside the box ladies. Here are a few hen party ideas to get you started...
What to do:
Swap: Greasy strippers
For: Being a cat lady
We were never into male strippers; the whole thing just gave us the icks. So, we say, 'sod that, let's surround ourselves with lovely, soft, strokable cats'. Lady Dinah's cat emporium in Hackney let's you take knitting classes, have afternoon tea and play bingo surrounded by the friendly felines. You can't book for groups of more than six, but you can hire out the entire cafe. Perfect for the frazzled bride.
Swap: Pole dancing class (so 2007)
For: Beyoncé dance class
Dance Party Experience run themed classes (Dirty Dancing, Bollywood, Charleston) for hen parties at studios all over London. No surprises that our favourite is their package dedicated to the badass shapes of Queen Bey, though the twerking workshop comes a close second. Get your group ‘Put a Ring on It’ routine perfected, then oh-so-casually break into it on the dance floor at the wedding. If you're outside of London then Seen On Screen has a studio in Manchester.
Swap: Cupcake decorating
For: Wedding hat making (two birds, one stone)
Unless you’re Katy Perry you can’t wear a cupcake to a wedding. What you CAN wear is a piece of bespoke headgear you’ve made yourself at one of Alexa Chung and Lily Allen’s favourite milliner Katherine Elizabeth’s hen parties. For £42 you get a three-hour class with all the materials and a hat box to house your finished creation (for £10 extra they’ll throw in some fizz and cakes.) Classes take place at the brand’s London studio, but if you’re further afield they’ll bring the party to you.
Swap: Trad arts & crafts
For: A graffiti workshop
Maybe one of the hens is the next Banksy. You'll never know until you try. Alternative London offers street art and graffiti workshops in all weather - start with the taster session which lasts for 2.5 hours and can take up to twenty people (though you've got to pre-warn them if you want to hijack the whole tour). For a small fee you can grab canvas bags and t-shirts to personalise with your newly acquired graffiti skills. A great - and very cool - keepsake for the hens.
Swap: Dinner in a restaurant
For: Immersive dining with The Chambers Of Flavour
You and your hen do meet at a secret East London location where you're guided through a series of rooms to feast on a five-course dinner, all the while being entertained by a group of mystery performers. About as far away from a set menu in a bland restaurant as it gets, and it's perfect if your bride is a bit of a foodie.
Read More: 7 Hen Party Airbnbs: The Perfect Place To Book Your Hen Do
For: A Pirate Canal Party
If your preferred hen do vibe is a cool box of Crabbies and a relaxed cruise through some beautiful scenery then try hiring a narrowboat on the River Avon outside Bath, which is also a great city for a hen night out afterwards. For something more in the urban thick of it then London's Canal Party Club takes you on a cruise down Regents Canal, through the buzzy Camden Locks and finishing up at King's Cross. You can bring your own booze, there's an ipod dock so you can create a playlist to make it a party and if you're worried about rain the canal boat has a cover and heating for when the weather gets a bit British. Pushing the boat out (sorry) and heading abroad for the weekend? Try a canal boat bar crawl in Amsterdam. Great excuse for a pirate themed dress code too...
Swap: Spa session
For: A trampoline cave adventure!
If your bride-to-be isn't really a 'mani and champagne at the spa' kind of gal then this is a brilliant alternative hen party idea. With a Bounce Below trampoline cave adventure you head into a giant network of underground caves to bounce up and down on nets suspended over 180 ft drops, with giant 60ft slides connecting them. Sounds fun right?
Swap: Afternoon tea
For: Afternoon tea on the top deck of a London bus
Covent Garden’s chic BB Bakery has just begun serving its afternoon teas on the top deck of their new 1950s route master (known affectionately as Rodney), so you can cruise around London for a two-hour session while nibbling on sweet pastries and macarons. If you’re planning one of those slightly stressful multi-activity hens this is a VERY cool way of shuttling everyone from A-to-B.
Swap: Bar crawl
For: Chocolate crawl
Go from shop-to-shop snaffling as many handmade truffles as you like on one of Chocolate Ecstasy’s London chocolate crawls. Depending on your budget, you can choose a three-hour Mayfair tour (ticking off the tearoom at Sketch, East India Company, Paul A Young, Carpo, Prestat and Charbonnel et Walker) for £44 a head or the evening chocolate tour complete with chocolate cocktails for £60.
On the chocolate tour: the very cool tea room at Sketch
For: Babes in the Woods camping
If your bride-to-be is a country bumpkin at heart, then a Babes in the Woods luxury camping hen do is a perfect alternative to a citybreak. Set in the beautiful wild woodlands of Devon and The Malverns, your hen do can camp in luxurious Californian Dome tents, have champagne and cream tea and do a selection of wholesome activities to bring you back to nature.
Swap: Cocktails out
For: Cocktails in
Turn your front room into a cocktail bar with 43 club’s at-home cocktail service. For £35 a head (for a group of 20) you get an evening of unlimited cocktails, your own personal mixologist and no leery men or four-deep bar queues. If you want a theme - whether it’s 20s speakeasy or 80s Club Tropicana - they’ll bring the vintage glasswear and booze to match. For an outdoor party you could even hire ‘Hector’ the 43 Club’s Landrover Defender that turns into a fully-functioning mobile cocktail bar. Genius.
For: Bottomless brunch
This is the perfect way to either tie off a hen weekend on the Sunday - when you're hungover and in need of carbs - or kick off the day with a seriously boozy session. Bad Egg in Shoreditch do Saturday brunches for £30, which includes unlimited bloody Marys, cava and Mimosas, Bunga Bunga in Battersea do Italian-style brunch parties with slices of stone-baked pizza and endlessly refillable jugs of prosecco (there are two sittings, one at 11.30am and one at 2pm - the afternoon sitting is a little more of a 'session') or try Bourne and Hollingsworth for bellinis and pancakes for £15.
Read More: Where To Book The Best Bottomless Brunch In London
Swap: A makeover session
For: A Chanel makeover session
If you’re going to do the whole pampering thing, you might as well do it properly. The Chanel Atelier is a ninety-minute private group session in Chanel's Covent Garden store where they’ll teach you professional make-up tricks and help you pick out just the right beauty look in time for the wedding, with a serving of champagne and canapés on the side.
Swap: An obstacle course
For: An escape-the-room challenge
If you're up north The Escape Room in Manchester is like a cross between The Crystal Maze and Saw - the entire hen party will be locked in a room with a series of clues and 60 minutes to work their way out of it. If you're in London then try Clue Quest, where you're given an hour to work your way through a series of rooms, solving various puzzles as you go.
Can you figure your way out of this room?
Swap: Dinner Out
A cross between a nightclub, a bar and a food festival, Street Feast in Shoreditch or Lewisham is the perfect hipster hen venue of choice, where you can get stuck into a round of pickleback shots and a toasted brioche lobster roll. And if you're worried about the tricky British weather, there are heated and covered areas so you won't get wet.
What to wear:
Be less… Pink wigs and fairy wings
Be more… Poppy Delevingne
If you ask us, Ms Delevingne’s hen had just the right balance of fun and class - we should know, we stalked the entire thing on Instagram. In honour of Poppy’s husband-to-be James, the theme was James Blondes. Laura Bailey came as Cher from Clueless and Harry Styles turned up at the end in a blonde wig. And because no-one’s ever going to wear a hot pink teeshirt saying LAURA HEN 2014 again (apart from in bed) take a leaf out of Poppy’s book and think outside the box; everyone at the Delevingne do instead had teeshirts by cool designer Simoen Farrar (whose silly slogans include ‘Kate Mouse’ and ‘Looking Chelsea, Feeling Dalston’).
Be less… Towie
Be More… Tatiana Santa Domingo
Hen parties can bring about a tribal urge to dress like an early noughties girl band. Resist this urge at all costs. If you absolutely insist on going all matchy-matchy, we recommend channelling the hen party style of willowy socialite Tatiana Santa Domingo who (before tying the knot in Missoni with Andrea Casiraghi of Monaco) had all her hens dressed in casually mismatched white dresses with chunky flower garlands. One part Riviera, two parts Midsummer Night’s Dream. We only wish we had the yacht and tanned Euro-hottie-fiance to match.
Momento for the hens:
Swap… Willy whistles
For… Hangover rescue balm
A lot of money is wasted on what are euphemistically known as 'hen party accessories’. Transfer the phallic plastic budget to a pretty pot of hangover skin balm for each of your hens to smooth on the morning after. £6.50 per pot, Not On the High Street.
Momento for the Bride:
Swap… Photo frame
For… A personalised book
One of the most brilliant ideas we’ve heard in a long time, The Book of Everyone will create a totally one-off book for (and about) your bride-to-be. The pages will mix up quirky random facts (from how many hours she’s been alive to what was number one when she was born) with personalised messages from friends, all printed on silk-coated paper with gorgeous illustrations. You can do the whole thing online and a hard-back costs only £24.50.
See, zero stress...