Congratulations! Your bestie’s getting married and they’ve given you the (terrifying? overwhelming?) exciting challenge of organising the all-important hen weekend. It’s the perfect opportunity to get the girls together and celebrate this amazing step in your best girl’s life.
You already have some ideas but you’re barely through your first glass of bubbly before the other bridesmaids have asked you everything from ‘what’ll it cost?’ to ‘what’s the dress code?’ and suddenly it seems a little less fun. We’ve all been there. Before you run screaming in the opposite direction, we’re here to help you navigate the gauntlet of planning the best hen party EVER. Pop open some Prosecco and put your feet up, this’ll be fun!
So where to start?
Step 1: Talk to the bride
The biggest mistake you can make as CHPO (Chief Hen Party Organiser) is forgetting to find out what the bride actually wants. It’s easy to get swept up in feather boas and plastic *ahem* appendages and suddenly your bride is facing a week of shots and strippers in Spain when all she wanted was brunch and Bellini’s with her BFFs.
So what do you need to know?
Who she wants to attend – This may be a deciding factor on the type of hen party you plan. If she wants Granny there, it’s probably best not to plan a boozy bar crawl in Marbs (unless Granny has a taste for tequila). You should also ask who she doesn’t want attending. Nothing will send a hen do down the toilet faster than inviting Kelly from work then finding out she and your blushing bride haven’t spoken in months. Hen parties are not the place to resolve previous wrong-doings so make sure you listen to your bride’s wishes.
What her available dates are – Imagine planning the hen party of the century then finding out the guest of honour can’t make it… Obviously when planning for large groups of people some won’t come but the bride is a pretty key element so get some dates from her and fan them out. It’s worth finding out how close to the wedding she wants it. If she has international bridesmaids she may want to hold off until they can be involved while other brides may want to do it early and focus on the wedding.
When you have a selection of dates, you can gauge everyone's availability by creating a trip using the packed app and inviting everyone to vote on their preferences. The app let's you create polls so everyone can signal when they're available (democratically), and it also allows you to request important travel details from everyone, like dietary requirements & passport details, which will save you some hassle later.
What her expectations are – Presumably, if you’re appointed CHPO, you already know the bride pretty well - but she could surprise you! Ask where she wants to go. Tip: check she has a valid passport if you’re planning a hen party abroad. If she dreams of bronzing herself on a beach in Barcelona, beers in Bath might not cut it. Try and find out what she definitely doesn’t want too. Just because she loves dressing up and hitting the town, doesn’t mean she wants to spend her hen party the same way. Trust your bride, if she says no strippers, she probably means it.
Step 2: Guests and dates
After speaking to the bride you’ll have a good idea of who she wants attending her hen party and who’s the most important. The bride can give you everyone’s contact details so now it’s time to reach out to those key people and get their availability.
Once you have the most important people on board, reach out to everybody else on the bride’s list to talk dates and get a rough idea of who can come. Numbers will probably drop once details are finalised so bear that in mind and don’t book until you know definite numbers. The earlier you start planning, the better.
If you have an estimated budget be sure to tell the hens so they can consider costs before committing. If you don’t have a budget yet, ask your fellow hens what they’re prepared to spend so you’re all on the same page. You can do this using the packed app too - just ask everyone to vote on their preferred budget range, you can make the voting anonymous if anyone's uncomfortable.
Tip: you could start a group chat with everyone involved at this point, but too far in advance and they can become quite distracting. Better to have a group for your core organisers and expand to everyone else in time for the trip, when the group will come into its own.
Step 3: Destinations
Now it’s time to factor in everything the bride wants and find destinations suited to your hen party style.
Budget and time-frame are key. If you’re doing one night on a shoestring, an all-keep it domestic. Two or three? Europe's awash with hen party destinations. We know it can be hard weighing up your options and actually packed can help. Tell us what you're thinking, a budget to stick to and your dates then pour yourself another glass of prosecco while we search for options that match your perfect party. Rest assured, you’ll get maximum bang for your buck.
Tip: it’s a good idea to bounce ideas off a couple of fellow bridesmaids before making final decisions. Don’t pose every question to the whole group, all this will do is annoy those who don’t want to scroll up. You’ll seem more in control if you have a small group to turn to for advice and save the group chats for key information that’s relevant to everyone.
Step 4: Communication
You’ve set the date, picked a location and planned activities to please the masses - you finally have a plan to give your girls.
This is when the group chat comes into its own so prepare yourself for the inevitable onslaught of notifications. Once you’ve sent out the details, ask guests to confirm ASAP.
Tip: set an early RSVP deadline to ensure you’re able to confirm on time – someone will be late so it’s better to factor this in in advance.
It’s also a good time to start planning fun surprises for the bride-to-be. Your fellow hens are sure to have some hen party ideas and this is a great way to delegate some of the work.
Do you want matching ‘I Do Crew’ t-shirts? Ask a bridesmaid.
Does the bride’s sister get a discount at a party store? Perfect! She’s on decorations.
Step 5: Collect money
Ask anyone, collecting money for deposits and final payments is the most stressful part of hen do planning.
If you’re booking with packed, give yourself a pat on the back because we’ve got you covered. We’ll take payment for each person separately to save you the hassle of chasing people down. This means you can dedicate your time to the fun stuff and you'll spend less time pestering your pals to part with their hard-earned cash. Otherwise, it’s time to get very familiar with spreadsheets. You should keep a record of what needs to be paid when, who’s paid what and what the final deadlines are.
An important thing to consider is whether the bride is paying for herself. Often, hens will chip in to cover the cost of the bride on her send-off into married life but check what people are comfortable with.
Everyone loves a ‘free’ cocktail or two on a night out so if your hens are up for a kitty, be sure to factor this into their final payments. It’s definitely worth ensuring your pre-booked activities and transportation are paid for before departure to prevent any awkward conversations in destination. If anything needs to be paid when you’re there, make this clear on the itinerary so everyone can budget accordingly.
Booking with packed also has its advantages here. We’ll manage individual payments to incorporate the bride’s cost and can organise a kitty for you. We can add a little extra to everyone’s total cost then send it to you before you leave. Sorted.
Step 6: Sort the logistics
Nothing makes you look less in control than arriving and realising you didn’t book the airport shuttle. Been there, done that and nothing says ‘fun’ quite like waiting for taxis in 30 degree heat, wasting valuable party time.
What do you need to be on top of?
Transfers – Nobody likes waiting around. Aim to pre-book transfers to and from the airport as well as sorting travel to any pre-booked activities.
Food – Pre-book tables. Large parties are hard to cater for and restaurants don’t take kindly to 20 rowdy hens turning up without warning, demanding to be fed. Make sure there’s always a plan for food – especially if you have hens with specific dietary requirements. We also recommend planning a supermarket run to stock up on snacks and booze, it’s good to have an accessible stash at all times.
Step 7: Finalise details
The logistics are important but the details determine the overall experience. A hen party is all about celebration and making memories. Creating opportunities for the important ladies in your bride’s life to bond is key to a successful hen party and you can’t go wrong with a few trusty ice-breakers!
Step 8: Have Fun
After all that hard work it’s time to let your hair down and enjoy yourself. You’re a hen party planning goddess so soak up all the compliments coming your way – you deserve them! And don’t worry, if you get stuck during the trip, packed is just a message away and our in-destination concierge service has your back.
Planning a hen do is a HUGE challenge but with the help of our personal travel planners, you will deal with it like a pro. Feel the stress lift away as we provide you with bespoke packages that are sure to have the girls fawning over your party planning prowess. Hen do? Handled.