On a Ryanair flight to Ibiza I once saw a bride-to-be dressed as a condom. It was pretty disturbing. Funny, kind of, it certainly marked her out as the 'special' one in the group. It was probably her friends' final attempt to ridicule her before she walked down the aisle.
The thing is, a hen party is wildly different to a stag - or, at least, it should be.
Yes, you want to get her a little wobbly, to help her relive the glory days, to help her cope with the impending catapult into full-on adulthood, crossing the threshold and leaving behind her youth and freedom, and all the fun. I mean, that's how the stags paint it, right? The plan: let's all just get absolutely hideously, dementedly drunk. Let's really enjoy this, the final outing, the final chance for a weekend of joy. But generally that sense of desperation and urgency is pressed upon the poor stag by his family members and mates - mostly the ones with the kids.
They want an excuse to go wild, not to just head to town for a nice meal and a feed of pints. No, they want to go away, far away so that they can take a couple of days off 'babysitting' duty and rekindle their youth. Fair play to them, but it doesn't always work like that for the hens.
While Sean is off being chained to a fence with nothing on but a Santa hat, Mary is strolling around Newcastle dressed as a condom and wishing she could call the whole thing off. This wasn't what she had in mind; yes, she wants a memorable and raucous weekend with her best pals in tow, but she does not want to feel like a total idiot for the whole duration.
I've been to a lot of hen parties. The best ones are where the hen is fully onboard, when her wishes have been respected but boundaries gently pushed. That mix of allowing her to have some input but forcing her to also lose all sense of control, that's the sweet spot. Here are some top hen tips to ensure the bride-to-be has the time of her life:
● Consider self-serve options for accommodation such as glamping or renting a house. You can pre-load the place with bubbles and breakfast, saving you a fortune on sleeps and eats. There's always a tight attendee who will infect the group if she's not kept in check.
● Call restaurants/cafes in advance for any group deals. You'd be surprised how often they are willing to create a set menu for group bookings. That way the cost is set, everyone is clear, and you don't have Greedy Gertrude at the top of the table ordering steak to get her money's worth.
● BYOB (bring your own booze) is always a winner for group endeavours.
● Never underestimate the power of fun fuellers (see below).
● A hen party is not a military operation. Make plans but let people decide what works for them. This is not a school trip, you're dealing with adults.
● Pay for as much as you can in advance. The only thing worse than being forced to wear matching pink T-shirts that say 'Zilla's Hen Party' is being landed with another €200 bill at the end of the weekend.
Show your feathers
Newly launched Irish business thepeacockbride.com offers 'hen party stuff for the wild-hearted' and their idea of adding 'Fun Fuellers' is genius! Hens are often meeting for the first time, or may be flying solo for the weekend, so anything that will help them loosen up and laugh is a great way to quickly unite a group. From giant inflatables, photo props and hats to piñatas, there's plenty to goad people to get involved. After all, there's nothing more unifying than discussing your outlandish costumes or watching the blindfolded bride-to-be beat the living daylights out of a unicorn piñata. Check out thepeacockbride.com
When I'm on holidays I love to carry a fan in my handbag. My aunties did it, whipping it out in all manner of random places. It seemed slightly bizarre to me, a little dramatic even, but a week in the sweltering sun has made me fall in love again with the manual paper fan.