If your name is Ebony, please do not read this post! This post contains a sponsored link from Bedford Lodge and Spa.
As joint maids-of-honour, my best friend’s sister and I have spent the last few months planning meticulously to throw our girl the best hen ever, and last month we finally sent out invitations to the bridal squad that’ll celebrate Ebony’s hen weekend extravaganza! Being a maid-of-honour for my best friend is something that I’ve been secretly looking forward to for as long as I’ve known her, and since I was kindly asked to be one a year and eight months ago, I’ve learned SO much.
So, today I thought I’d share some of my key learnings as a first-time maid-of-honour, as well as some ideas and tips for planning a hen party or similar occasion!
There’s a good reason why the classic spa weekend is often favoured, and that’s because it’s a versatile, fit-for-all occasion. No matter the age of the party (we have 16 and 60 year old’s at Ebony’s!), a relaxing spa weekend gets everyone together, has them feeling relaxed and offers each an opportunity to pamper, preen and fuel up on prosecco. Bedford Lodge is a 4-star hotel situated adjacent to the Newmarket racecourse and just a stone’s throw from where Ebony, her sister and I grew up.
A stunning countryside retreat, it’s also home to their 5 bubble-rated Spa and an award-winning on-site restaurant, making it the ideal place to check-in for an entire weekend of delicious food and drinks, blissful pampering and totally-under-control hen games, especially if your hen isn’t one for a wild night out.
Inspired by countless summer parties at previous workplaces, I also had the idea of crafting a personalised scavenger hunt! These work in a meticulous fashion and require a lot of planning, but in short, you set up mini tasks and challenges all across a city and whichever team makes it to the finishing spot first wins! Think that scene in Gossip Girl but with less faux-killing and illicit kissing. You could collaborate with local businesses to get the party to tell the bartender a secret code, find the glitter-covered penis, sing a song to the lady in a rainbow wig… the list is endless.
Bottomless afternoon tea on a bus
This is where I found the inspiration for our destination city, but eventually we decided that it’d be more cost-effective to select something else. The concept is simple: pay one set price and receive bottomless gin or prosecco afternoon tea on a bus that tours the city. Afternoon tea is a crowd-pleaser for hen parties and this one was of no exception. If you have a larger party, you can also hire out the entire bus!
1. Organisation is key
I’m not the most organised person by nature, but nothing will force you to kick it up a notch than organising activities, tickets, flights, a guest list and a whole bridal squad! In our case, we’re in charge of 26 hens! Our first port of call was getting the bride to add her preferred guests into a Facebook chat and then exit so that we could easily communicate with the girls. It’s been so handy, especially as Messenger allows you to upload files, photos and separately message members for any extra questions and requests. We also created a huge Google Sheets document to add ideas, prices, flight ideas, decor ideas and all of the contact details, along with check boxes to track payments. You can grab an empty version right here, just save it to your own Google Drive account to use. As Taz and I live roughly 100 miles apart, the Google Sheets doc has really upped the ante for us. We then check off things from the joint to-do list, to-buy list, etc. to keep track of our progress.
2. Take secret notes
As I’ve been best friends with Ebony for 10 years and Taz has, of course, been sisters with her her whole life, it’s been fairly easy to work out what to do and what we won’t be doing for the weekend. However, it’s still good to take secret notes of little snippets in conversation so that you can surprise her with the finer details. Hen parties have got completely out of hand in recent years and we know we certainly didn’t want to plan a cookie-cutter hen for our girl. Perhaps she noted a particularly nice bracelet on one weekend out shopping that you could band together and gift her, or maybe you know she’s a die hard fan of Crystal Maze and want to create a scavenger hunt event for her: either way, the tiniest of details will make it an occasion to remember.
3. Create a survey
My final tip is to create an easy online survey that the entire guest list can take part in. This is particularly ideal for getting a good idea of the days/evenings/weekends that everyone is free on, the sort of budget your party are happy to pay, any stand-out ‘no’s’ (for example, my friend has a pacemaker and so can’t be around bass speakers and subwoofers), plus any other questions you may want to ask. SurveyMonkey is especially good for this and they automatically collate the answers into a chart so you can easily analyse the answers. This was a godsend for us!