How to organise a hen weekend – Part 2
“How do I organise a hen weekend?” It’s a question that doesn’t often get a lot of thought. The structure of organising a weekend can be as important as the elements you organise. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and in our previous blog we covered the beginning of the organising process as the Hen, and what we think you should do if you are going to use a company to organise the weekend for you. This time I’m going to cover the approach as if you were the Maid of Honour or a Bridesmaid, and how best to book things direct. As mentioned before, these are just our views but hopefully you will find them helpful in some way. Here is How to organise a hen weekend – Part 2 :
So, you’ve been chosen as the Bridesmaid/Maid of Honour
One of your closest friends has asked you to organise their hen weekend and you now need to know lots of information from them before you can start.
Firstly, how much input they want. They may want you to go away and arrange a total surprise for them or they may have already done some research. If they know what they want always make sure you listen. You can always add finishing touches and nice surprises to put your own stamp on the weekend but try your best to keep to their plan. The hen will know all the people coming so she will hopefully have taken this into consideration when she lets you know.
Find out the ‘likes and dislikes’ and a list of people they want to come and most importantly who else is going to be involved in the organising. If there is going to be an organising committee, normally the other bridesmaids, then you will all need to meet up and have a chat through options. It’s vital before you move into the planning stage you get the same information as in the previous blog entry. To remind you this was:
- How much people will want to spend
- Dates for the weekend
- Where you might want to go
- What you might like to do
- What you 100% don’t want to do
- Work out if you want to book it all direct or use a company to help
Once you have this information you can start looking into options. It’s really important the committee has a Chairwoman. Someone needs to be able to make the final decision. This might be the hen, but if she doesn’t want to get involved then someone needs to take control. If someone doesn’t take control nothing will get booked and it will become a nightmare. Sharing out duties is fine as long as everyone does their bit. If they don’t then things can become a real mess.
One of the decisions is whether to use a company or not. As we covered the ‘Using a company’ option in the last blog, I’m going to run through the things to consider when booking things direct.
Firstly, you’ve decided on a destination so you need somewhere to stay. Accommodation is going to be the most expensive part of the weekend. The budget and style of weekend you have chosen will determine where you look for this. It’s really important you get the right place and this will be the first element most people will see on the weekend so it can really set the tone. Self-catering accommodation is popular and there are lots of different serviced apartments, cottage owners online. Hotels are everywhere online but getting a recommendation is always a good idea. Be careful with review sites like Trip Advisor. They’re great in general and we all look at them but take the really good reviews and really bad reviews with a big pinch of salt.
Things to look out for when booking accommodation. Not all places will allow single sex groups. It’s always worth speaking to them directly and checking, also mention it’s a hen night. Some places are uncomfortable with hen groups and you don’t want to turn up and find that out. You might need to either pay in full or a deposit to secure the rooms. The best rates on hotels always require full payment in advance with no cancellation. If this is the case make sure you have the money and confirmation off the entire group in advance, you don’t want to be out of pocket. Also remember it is almost impossible to get one night stays in some destinations. It’s boring and goes without saying but if you are booking rooms and spending a lot of money read the T’s and C’s.
For activities the internet is always a good starting point. You may need to do some real digging to find suppliers for the more unusual activities, but they are there. Lots of stag and hen suppliers will arrange bespoke events so you may not always be able to find all the activities offered on event companies’ websites. There can be a massive difference between the quality of events. If one supplier is much more expensive there is normally a reason. It’s worth checking if it’s a private event or if there will be other groups there. The length of the event and what’s included can vary too. There’s nothing wrong with cheap suppliers but just make sure you know what you’re getting. Now for the grown up bit. Check they have insurance and are trading legally. I’ve heard lots of stories about suppliers not turning up to events over the years and it can really ruin a weekend. When you book activities ask for a deal for the hen, you might get something extra free.
With activities it’s always worth thinking about the logistics and flow of the weekend. All good event organisers are always thinking one step ahead and booking elements near each other so you don’t need to get taxi’s or clubs near the hotels so it’s easy for everyone to get back to if people don’t all leave at the same time. This leads on to the evening arrangements.
Restaurants are about the easiest thing to organise for the weekend. Most of the large chains have a good reputation and you know what you are going to get. With groups, most places will ask for a per person deposit and about half of them will like a pre-order. They will supply you with a set menu and you will need to get everyone’s choices. Restaurants are always flexible with different dietary requirements but make sure you ask the group early for this, you don’t want to be faffing the day before you go trying to change menu options.
Nightclubs can be much harder to get hold of when you want to book entry. VIP packages are normally the best way of guaranteeing entry and having a reserved area in the club. The better clubs tend not to allow fancy dress but always ask or look up on line.
It’s really important to find out what your group want and then get it booked as soon as you have found the right package.
Leaving the booking of the event until you get absolute final numbers often results in the package you wanted not being available and you being back to square one. Places like restaurants are normally happy to change group sizes after booking.
The most important thing is you make sure you have flexibility with any booking you make, be it direct or through a company. You don’t want to commit financially to anything until you have had 100% confirmation from people they are coming.
Don’t underestimate how much work organising a hen weekend is.
Organising a hen weekend takes a lot of time, normally a lot more than you will think, but the rewards are worth it. Always start planning earlier, and get the big elements booked a long time in advance. This isn’t a commercial opportunity to sell the benefits for using a company. There are massive benefits to both approaches. Often booking things direct is the right thing to do and I would always tell someone that if it was the case. Sometimes it’s best to use a company and tap into their experience, knowledge and the flexibility they offer. The truth of the matter is a combination of the two is often best. I recently read an article where a hen’s friends had been on a recce in advance to a Hay-On Wye and set up a treasure hunt using the different shop keeps and book shops in the town. The hen had a love of books and this made the whole thing really special and unique to the hen. It’s these things that will get remembered.
I guess my final message on organising a hen weekend is, however stressful it gets and however much you want to give up on it all, just remember that it’s supposed to be a nice, happy, fun weekend with a group of friends. It’s not the end of the world, if the hotel sauna is shut for maintenance or the Hen’s room isn’t next door to the others, you will have a fantastic time if you make sure the essence of the weekend is correct.