Being asked to be a bridesmaid at your best friend’s wedding is a huge honour – you get to play a special part in her big day and watch someone you care deeply about marry the person they love.
But, as a bridesmaid, the chances are you’ll also have an integral role to play in arranging the hen do – something which can strike fear into even the most organised of people. With so much pressure to get it right, tensions can run high and you may find it’s not easy to come to a consensus with the other planners – and the larger hen party group in general.
“Arranging a hen do can fracture or break even the best of long-standing friendships,” says life coach Jo Hanby, who’s also known as the Wedding Confidence Coach. “There’s a great weight of expectation around an event like this and unfortunately sometimes things don’t run quite as smoothly as you’d wish for.” Don’t despair, though - there are plenty of simple ways that you can minimise disagreements and plan the best weekend of your friend’s life.
Get Organised Early
It sounds obvious, but the best thing you can do to ensure an event like this runs smoothly is begin organising early. “The sooner you start planning and booking, the better your options will be,” explains Rob Reaks from group activity and travel organiser Red7 (redsevenleisure.co.uk). “This way, you'll have the pick of the best accommodation and the best time slots for activities - you don't want your 'afternoon' tea served at 11am because you booked it too late, after all!” Booking early also means that hens can save up for the event over a longer period of time – something they’re bound to thank you for.
TOP TIP: Arrange a meeting with the other bridesmaids as soon as possible and start sharing your ideas with one another. If you’re spread across the country, set up a Whatsapp group or try to organise a group call.
Keep The Bride Involved
Although it’s common nowadays for bridesmaids to arrange a secret getaway for the bride-to-be and only reveal plans last minute, Jo suggests ignoring this. “If you’re in charge of organising, don’t forget to keep the bride involved – frequently, plans get made in secret and the poor bride faces a hen-do that she is dreading but doesn’t dare speak out about,” she says. By talking your ideas through with her you can be certain that she’ll like what you have planned – and knowing you have her backing is a good way to silence other guests that think they have better ideas. If the bride has said she’d specifically like a surprise, ask her for some ideas of what she would and wouldn’t like so you have a reference point with which to start.
TOP TIP: Keep the bride in mind at all times. Remember you’re organising a weekend that she would enjoy, not necessarily you.
Communicate With All The Hens
Communication is key to a successful hen party. And, if there’s a group of you organising the event, it’s a good idea to choose someone to lead the pack. “Get one person to communicate to all the hen do guests at the same time,” Jo advises, adding that it’s important to be clear about what you’re expecting from them and when. “Give the other hens deadlines for replies and tell them exactly what the costs will be upfront.”
Make the most of online tools such as a Doodle Poll, which allows you to find a convenient date easily and quickly. Pick your communication methods wisely too. While many people use Whatsapp to chat as a group, you may find it easier to share all the necessary information via email.
TOP TIP: Make sure all the organisers agree on things as a group before talking to and arranging things with the other guests. It’s important to show a united front at all times.
Be Firm With Your Decisions
It can be daunting to think that so many of the decisions about the event rest with you and the other planners – but, as tempting as it may be, try to avoid asking all the other hen do guests for their suggestions. “Don't allow too much consensus or you'll never get anywhere,” Rob advises. “Pick a date and a destination, set a reasonable budget and let people opt in or out. Opening things up to discussion will make your life so stressful, as people often disagree. So, less choice means less stress!”
Jo agrees. “Be firm – you’re not there to persuade people to come along, nor negotiate when others want their own way,” she says. “Remember, attendance is not compulsory – don’t be afraid to let stragglers fall by the wayside.”
Saying this, it is a good idea to have a few different options available for guests with different budgets. “Lots of people actually have two hen parties - the big one, often a few nights overseas in Portugal or Spain, and another smaller one in the UK, usually just for one night,” Rob says. You should also allow guests to opt in or opt out of different activities, so they can save money if they need to.
TOP TIP: Have a clear vision of the hen do in your mind, but be considerate of the other guests’ budgets and availability.
Tensions can run high when it comes to hen dos. And whether it’s disagreements between the organisers, or snide comments from other hens during the actual event, little niggles like this can ruin the hen do for the bride.
“Ask people to be mindful of other’s opinions and ideas but when arguments and disagreements are occurring, then remind all parties that compromise is key,” Jo suggests. “Keep situations calm – if someone is raising their voice to you, you will be more likely to diffuse a situation by keeping calm and not shouting back. Give all a fair chance to be heard, without interrupting. Bear in mind that often you don’t know the full story behind a conversation and don’t make assumptions or prejudge.”
TOP TIP: If problems arise, remind all the guests the reason for the hen do and ask them to consider how the bride-to-be will be feeling if she knows there are disagreements.
Choose The Right Accommodation
If you’re arranging a mini staycation, accommodation is key for setting the mood of the hen do. “Where you stay matters as it sets the tone for the whole weekend,” Rob says. “Yes, you might be on a budget, but that doesn't mean you have to slum it.” Today, hiring a large house to stay in for a few nights is a popular choice as it allows all party members to mingle together and gives you a base where you can relax. When looking for a location for the hen do, be aware of any events taking place nearby on the dates you’re looking at – this can drive prices up and make beds hard to find.
TOP TIP: Check out accommodation on Airbnb where you can find stylish houses that sleep a large number of guests.
Get The Balance Right
There’s a careful balance to find between rushing around from one activity to another or not having enough to do. “Try to build your itinerary carefully - you don't want too much to do, but you don't want to be too idle,” Rob advises. “Be aware that your activities may be spread geographically - so you'll need to arrange transfers and allow enough time to get to and fro. Depending on your accommodation you may be able to get your activity providers to come to you, which can be a lot more relaxing for the group and eliminates transfer times and costs.”
TOP TIP: Find out what your hotel or Airbnb will allow you to do on site and make sure all your activities aren’t miles away from each other, or your base.
Pre-Book As Much As Possible
As hen dos tend to involve big groups of people, the more you can pre-book the better – and this is certainly the case with meals out. “Let the restaurant know you're a large group and they'll be able to send you a menu in advance, let you pre-order and often even pre-pay,” Rob says. “This saves loads of hassle on the night, and you won't end up arguing over who owes what.”
TOP TIP: If you have pre-ordered and pre-paid at a restaurant, it’s a good idea to print off a record of what everyone has ordered and take it with you on the night. The chances are no-one will remember what they chose. Quite simple, be organised.