Hen Dos Are Getting Out Of Control: 5 Ways To Reign Them Back In

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  • The average cost of a hen party is now £110 – but most likely you just paid more. It's time to take stock.

    There was a time when a hen do meant a few cheeky wines down the local, maybe followed by a curry the night before the bride got hitched. It was a simpler time, when the only phallic-shaped object in sight would have been a pickled gherkin in a jar. Now, it’s an industry worth somewhere in the region of £275m annually, with the spend on a hen party in 2012 averaging £110. That’s a lot more than a couple of glasses of Chardonnay and a chicken Balti.

    But the concept of the British hen party (we can thank our American friends for introducing us) only really started in the mid-1980s, with it reaching the giddy heights we’re experiencing now in the past few years. It may feel like a rite of passage, but it’s barely as old as you are now.

    Hen parties were born from the sexual liberation of the Seventies, and the realisation that it isn’t just the men who want to mark the end of their bachelorhood. And why shouldn’t we have a party to rival the boys? We should. It’s just that they’ve got a little out of control recently, and it’s about time brides-to-be and maids-of-honour everywhere remembered a few things…

    Don’t invite everyone you’ve ever met 
    Sure, you like whatshername from work, and you have a laugh for half an hour in Pret at lunch a couple of times a week, but does that mean you want her to see you eating a scotch egg from a stripper’s bum (yes, this happened)? Not if you want to be able to look each other in the eye at the tea point ever again. Weird, emotional things happen at hen dos: it’s what they’re for. But it’s probably best only your nearest and dearest witness them – they’ve likely seen it all many times. Oh, and if someone’s not invited to the wedding, they shouldn’t be invited to the hen do.

    Keep it local
    Going away for the weekend is now the norm for hen dos. It started with a cottage on the coast that belonged to someone’s auntie, then someone suggested hiring a few yurts to go glamping, and now it seems the only done thing is to board a plane to New York for several days with a credit card and a panicky feeling in your chest that’s quietly screaming ‘you really can’t afford this’. Yes, these are all really, really fun things to do, but they don’t come cheap. And they cost on the time front, too. Keeping it close to where the majority of people live, or somewhere in the middle of everyone (very diplomatic), will score you major brownie points and doesn’t mean it will be any less memorable because you didn’t drink a Cosmopolitan through a penis straw on Times Square. It’s the people you’re with, not the place.

    Don’t forget you aren’t the only person getting married
    If you’re getting married this year (congrats, by the way), it’s easy to forget that you aren’t the only person in the world to be in love/have a wedding to organise/be stressed. Even though marriage rates are at an all time low (again, congrats), there were still 243,808 couples that got hitched in 2011 (this is the most recent data from the Office for National Statistics). Chances are, your guests – and you too – will be going to more than just your wedding this year. That means there’ll be more than one hen do to attend. And that means more money spent, more holiday used, and more emails sent about bank transfers than is appropriate. Bear this is in mind when you tell your maid of honour that you’d love a week in Croatia with you’re closest 15 mates.

    It doesn’t have to last forever
    Has anyone else noticed that as they and their friends reach wedding age (read: old), they don’t seem to have the same stamina they once did? Still drinking at dawn is a rare occurrence these days, what with ‘proper’ jobs, and, like, responsibility and stuff. Still, we like to think that sometimes we can keep going until the night buses turn back to day. But keeping at it for 48 hours? It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. Being told to have fun for two solid days and nights is a truly daunting prospect. Plus, no one wants to go home with gout. If you want people to still be on the dancefloor come 2am on a Saturday night, then don’t expect them to stay up drinking until 4am on Friday. And cancel the drinking games at Sunday breakfast – there’ll only be two people there. And they won’t have been to bed.

    Relax on the activities
    Hat making anyone? Tea towel printing? A spot of pottery? While it’s true that hen parties need structure, the activities on offer from companies now dedicated to the hen party cause take the whole thing a bit far. Cocktail-tasting (read: drinking games) and naked life-drawing classes are the tried and tested classic hen party activities that everyone can get involved in. But foraging for food for an entire weekend (at the cost of £300 no less)? That seems to be erring on the ridiculous side of things. Unless, of course, that’s what you’re into.

    Now onto bridesmaid etiquette… should you ever have to pay for your own dress?

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