Hiring a cottage or country house can be a great way to make the hen party truly unique and memorable. You’ve total control of food, entertainment, drinks and games; everyone’s under one roof so people can slip off for power naps, little chats, and there’s none of that herding cats which anyone who’s been on hen do will know about.
It can also work out cheaper, satisfying everyone’s budget and you can decorate/theme/party to your heart’s desire. BIG FAN! Here’s a few ideas to make it work:
Know your audience
First things first, will the bride like it? That’s all that matters. The great thing about a cottage is that you can still do the typical hen things if that’s what she’s into: big night out in the city (taxi it), spa treatments (book a therapist to come to the house), karaoke (hire it), fancy dress (obvs), stripper (if you must).
Alternatively you can totally customise a cottage hen to suit your special girl: surfing lessons nearby (taxi again), dance workshop (hire them in), crafty things (DIY), walks, dance parties, baking, games… The beauty of the cottage is you can make it your own.
Location, location, location!
Choose a location that’s accessible to everyone. Big holiday houses and cottages often have ample parking so that’s great for the drivers but also check out trains and buses too. Next think about the activities you’ll be doing – if you’re planning a night on the town, book somewhere close to a big city or town. If you’re thinking horse-riding, canoeing, something outdoorsy try the Lake District or Wales.
Many websites advertise hen party accommodation whilst many, many others forbid them. Do your homework and don’t book somewhere that says no parties; it’s always a total buzz-kill when the owner walks in and turns off the music at 2am. I’ve always preferred a detached house in the middle of a field for minimum interruption and sshh-ing. And always, always a house with a hot tub. Hen party essential, right?
A theme is a good way to pull things together. Hawaiian beach party, vintage tea party, nature goddesses…Choose something your bride will like and run that theme throughout the weekend. Fancy dress is the obvious place to start (one particular night / all weekend?) and doesn’t have to be awful.
Decorations can be made or bought to match, food can be on theme, cocktails made accordingly. Let’s take beach party: Summer tropical dress code / watermelon cocktails / coconuts everywhere / palm tree decorations / a surf lesson / BBQ. Simple.
Scared by the idea of self-catering with all those hungry hens to feed? Fair enough! But there are ways around this. One of our favourite hen house parties saw the hens split into groups of two or three with a designated meal each to buy and cook for everyone.
Every group had responsibility for one meal over the whole weekend. Give the reluctant cooks breakfast (no one can cock up cereal and toast). Give the resourceful ones a picnic lunch. Give the foodies the evening meal and another group pudding. Voila!
Alternatively, think about hiring a caterer for an afternoon tea, decadent brunch or slap up evening meal… and relax!
Everyone will turn up with supplies. But then again, it’s good to plan so you don’t end up with 20 bottles of gin and nothing else (actually, that doesn’t sound too awful). Divide again and ask each hen posse to make a signature cocktail (when they’re gone, they’re gone) or set up a hen kitty to cover it and buy it all yourself.
If you’re using your cottage as a base to go out then plan away as you usually would. Alternatively, if you’re planning on holing up for the whole weekend it’s worth planning some ‘organised fun’ (everyone’s favourite kind) to keep people entertained.
Splash out on a cookery workshop, dance lesson or craft session one afternoon and hire in an expert to teach you, or do it yourself with homemade Olympics courses (like PE day at primary school), a bake off style cooking competition (give groups a recipe to follow and get the bride to judge the best – much more fun than it sounds TBH) or get crafty and help make decorations/favours/thank you cards for the big day.
Good ice breakers.
Mr and Mrs – classic. Get 21st century by filming the groom/other bride and playing him to the room…ahhh!
Bride wars – each team gets a toilet roll, a tube of tin foil and some sellotape… they have 5 minutes to turn one person into a bride complete with veil, bouquet, dress…bride judges!
“I have never…” – An oldy but goody, can get awkward. Might be a good thing? Might not. Are mum’s/sisters/family coming?
Pin the tail on the embarrassing crush of the bride – print and laminate a pic of most embarrassing crush – childhood or now – blindfold, paint luminous lipstick on, spin, then kiss his face. Closest to lips wins! Mwah!
Nice way to get the evening going.
Even with the most laid back hen party you might want to impose some timings on things. Roughly. Don’t go crazy… say we’ll eat in the morning, we’ll do a bake off before lunch, we’ll eat, we have a dance teacher coming at 3pm, we can eat about 8pm and play some games before if we have time…. Casual.
On the other hand, it’s your party, and if your bride is the organised type by all means grab your clipboard and a whistle and keep those hens in check.
We’d love to hear your hen party planning tips and if you’re looking for a catering option – look no further! Browse our social menus or give us a shout to book your event!
(Sorry about the lack of hen images in this post. What happens on hen, stays on hen!)