Planning a hen party is no small task. You’ll need to manage a large budget, organise a variety of activities, and keep the bride-to-be’s tastes in mind while attempting to please a large group of other people, many of whom you might never have met before.
The Cotswolds are a great choice of location. Not only are they arguably the most beautiful part of the UK, but they’re easy to reach from most major cities in southern England. For example, a train from London to Kingham takes around 1.5 hours, and driving from Oxford takes just one.
The best advice for planning any event like this is to begin as early as possible. It may seem as though there’s not that much to do, but accommodation and other services can be booked up surprisingly quickly, and those extra little tasks and personal touches can take much longer than expected.
The following tips and recommendations should make life a little easier…
What You Will Need to Organise
Finding appropriate accommodation can be a very time-consuming activity. Search engines spit out long lists of properties but you really have to dig to determine if each would suit your needs. Does it allow hen parties? How much will it cost per guest? Are there any hidden costs? Is there enough car parking space?What additional facilities are provided? Is there a room large enough for everyone to socialise? These are just a few of the questions you’ll need answered.
Days of research showed that one of the best options is a beautiful set of properties called Mucky Cottages located in Naunton, Gloucestershire. There are four buildings with room for six, eight or ten guests. Each has the option to add more people at a cost of £30 per bed per weekend. There’s loads of outdoor space and the views are astounding. Mucky Cottage itself is the best place to host a hen party as it has a half-acre private garden, loads of parking space, a private hot tub and rooms large enough to host evening entertainment. It’s also remote enough that you can make as much noise as you like and not disturb the neighbours. If you have a large party, you can always rent another building. The Annex and Ashtree Cottages are just a five-minute walk down a small hill.
A lot of care and attention has gone into providing professional images of the property on its website, but the decor, incredibly spacious rooms and unspoiled outlook over fields of galloping horses still take your breath away when you arrive.
PRICE: No more than £130 per person if full, but can easily be reduced by making use of the sofa beds. High-season rental of Mucky Cottage (sleeps 10+): £1275 for 2/3 nights; the Annex (sleeps 6+): £525; Ashtree Cottage 1 (sleeps 8+): £1050; Ashtree Cottage 2 (sleeps 6+): £675, plus £100 for use of the hot tub for the duration of your stay.
Catering for Your Party
You could book a meal at a local pub or bring in private catering, but you’ll save a small fortune if you do the catering yourself. Pre-baked lasagnes with garlic bread and salad are a cheap option for the first night (don’t forget to check if any of your guests are vegetarians). Ingredients for a couple of cooked breakfasts shouldn’t cost much either. Provide plenty of snacks during the whole stay and then host a picnic in the conservatory or garden on the second afternoon/evening. If you include alcohol in the food budget you should be able to get some bulk buy deals and it means you can provide more variety than if each person brought along a bottle of wine or a pack of beers.
PRICE: No more than £30 per person for all food and drink for the weekend.
Add Some Cheek
A hen party wouldn’t be a hen party without a glimpse of male flesh, but this doesn’t mean you need to hire a stripper. Naked butlers are a classier option and come with the added bonus that you can ask them to take over your job as host for a couple of hours.
Butlers in the Buff are the world’s first naked butler company. They have over 300 ‘cheeky’ semi-naked butlers and can supply to venues across the UK. These hot-bodied men are trained to make and serve a variety of drinks. They will set the table if you’re having a meal, plate up the food, and even do the washing up. Their main selling point, though, is that they are genuinely lovely men. With charisma, confidence, charm and a selection of really fun ideas for games, they become the life and soul the party within seconds of their arrival and will be all the girls talk about for weeks afterwards.
The tag line on the Butlers in the Buff website says ‘You’ll love them so much you won’t want to let them go’ and, girls, this is so true.
PRICE: £139 for one butler for two hours (may vary depending on location).
You’d be hard-pushed to find a group of girls who don’t enjoy being treated like royalty and we all deserve a bit of self-indulgence. For ultimate fun at your hen party, pamper parties are a fantastic option. They bring the spa to you, so you can continue your fun and games in the comfort of your chosen accommodation.
Glo is a fantastic company that provides mobile beauty therapists to addresses all over the country and caters for most group sizes. You could have treatments to help you get ready for a night out, or you could have the pampering as the main focus of the event. They have a large variety of packages to suit different budgets and time frames. The Bliss Package is their most popular. You can choose between one 30-minute treatment or two 15-minute ones, and the options include a facial, eyebrow shape, manicure or pedicure, or back and shoulder Swedish massage with therapeutic oils.
If all of that wasn’t tempting enough, they’ve offered Beyond Blighty readers a free mini manicure for the bride to be at any party booked for seven or more guests using the Bliss Package. All you have to do is quote BeyondBeauty.
PRICE: £25 per person.
When you opt to spend the weekend in a remote village, your stunning surroundings come at a price. The logistics of travelling around the area become a little more complicated, and your options more limited, than if you’d stayed in a more urban area.
For transport to and from the party and for daytime activities, you will probably be able to sort out a car share system, but when it comes to the all-important night out, you’ll need to hire a taxi or minibus service.
Having compared over 40 quotes, one of the best value-for-money taxi services in the Cotswolds was Enrights of Cheltenham, who, at the time of writing, offered a return journey to Cheltenham from Naunton, returning in the early hours of the morning, with capacity for 14 people for £140. Competing company quotes ranged as high as £273 – and far more than this for a ‘party bus’-style vehicle. Our driver Paul was very accommodating, asking us to just give him a call if we decided we’d like to stay out later than we’d said. He suffered admirably through some bus ‘karaoke’ on the journey home and even offered to take group photos of us.
For the evening, we booked a table at the cocktail bar Lily Gin’s, followed by guest list entry to 13 degrees. Both were great fun – especially if you like a bit of cheesy music!
PRICE: £140 for the taxi plus spending money for the night out.
Activities in the Cotswolds
During the course of your weekend, you should think about some additional activities. If you’re starting to feel concerned about the budget, you have two options: to make these activities optional and ask that guests pay a little extra to take part; or to pick activities that are fun but free.
Horse riding is a fantastic way to see the stunning countryside and beautiful villages of Gloucestershire. At Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre they’re careful to match horses to guests’ ability/experience, as well as their height/weight. They have hen party sashes, helmet veils and a pair of incredible pink ruffled trousers for the bride-to-be to wear, and they can organise games on horseback in the school. In addition, they offer to organise champagne, lunch and brewery tours nearby if you’re interested.
If you want to add a little magic to the day, why not pre-order a unicorn horn from Rustic Horseshoe and transform your bride to be’s horse. We had ours delivered straight to the stables, and they were kind enough to let one of the horses practise being a unicorn in the weeks preceding the event. On arrival, we were touched to see that the staff had gone out of their way to add a few extra personal touches, such as sparkly hooves and pink leg bands.
Treasure trails or scavenger hunts are reasonably simple to plan. Start by thinking of the types of tasks you might want to include. Some ideas are: local knowledge questions; fill in the blanks; anagrams; items to collect; photos to take; and videos to make. Think of ways you can incorporate personal touches to the questions, make them wedding related where possible, and use them to encourage people to move around the town you’re in. Award extra points for more challenging tasks and allow about 1.5 hours for teams to complete as much as they can.
Our treasure hunt was in Bourton-on-the-Water. Click here for inspiration or to print and use ours.
Games and Gimmicks
There’s an amazing site called Last Night of Freedom that sells really great value hen party gear, including games, fancy dress items, decorations, gifts for the bride and favours for the guests. It has themed sections, as well as loads of suggestions on what to plan for your hen party, and hilarious topical blog posts.
It’s also a great idea to have some games on standby, and you can use the fancy dress items as forfeits. A classic is Mr and Mrs. Before the event, interview the groom-to-be about his relationship and then make question cards with his responses on the back. Get your guests involved by having them take it in turns to ask a question and, as the bride gives her answers, each time she gets one wrong, hand her an item of clothing to put on (i.e., a sash, veil, L plate, garter, fairy wings, hairpiece, rosette or piece of novelty jewellery).
It may be the taking part that counts, but you’ll get extra brownie points for putting together some simple prizes for the winners of each game. They don’t have to be costly. Rosettes are relatively straightforward to make and you can throw them in a bag with a few silly items, such as these alternative edible treats.
A great idea that costs very little money but makes a big impact is to produce a scrap book full of memories. Ask all family and friends of the bride (even those who can’t make the hen party) to supply a couple of pages covered with photographs of them with the bride to be, quotes and anecdotes. Suggest they use coloured paper, stickers, glitter, sparkle pens and anything else they can think of, and then stick them all into one big scrap book. As an incentive, you could even offer a small prize to the friend with the most creativity. This takes a lot of planning and chasing,but it’s the one part of the hen party that the bride can keep and refer back to in years to come.
It’s common to leave a small bag of gifts for each guest on their bed, and this is a great opportunity to add a personal touch. MOO is a brilliant company that produces printed materials of exceptionally high quality. MOO has coined the term ‘printfinity’ to describe their service that enables you to upload over 50 different designs. This means you can send them artwork incorporating all of your favourite photos of the bride to be and have them made into custom stickers for all of the guests to wear. Their postcards can be folded length ways to make name cards.
Beyond Blighty readers will receive 15% off when entering the code BEYOND15 in the checkout before 31st July 2015 (NB. This discount does not apply to shipping, and cannot be used on previously placed orders or in conjunction with any other offer).
Last Night of Freedom has a selection of great treats to add to these favours, such as heart-shaped sweets, rainbow dust straws and glow stick bracelets.
If you plan numbers carefully and make sure that all of the available beds are being used in the cottage(s), you should be able to organise a great weekend away for no more than £200 per person. Including optional extras, such as horse riding and pamper treatments, will increase the cost to closer to £250, but it will be worth every penny.
Before purchasing anything, it’s worth checking a voucher code site such as VoucherBin to see if you could get yourself a discount at the checkout. They list loads of great deals and you can select topics such as ‘gifts’, health and beauty’ or ‘party supplies’ from a drop-down menu to refine your search.
14:00 – 19:00: Suggested arrival time for guests
19:00 – 20:30: Serve dinner
20:30 – 00:00: Drinks and games (a chance for guests to relax and get to know each other)
09:30 – 11:30: Big cooked breakfast and morning prep (don’t underestimate how long this will take!)
11:30 – 11:45: Drive to Bourton-on-the Water
11:45 – 13:15: Scavenger hunt in Bourton-on-the Water
13:15 – 13:30: Drive back to the cottage
13:30 – 14:30: Lay out some food and get into swimming gear
14:30 – 19:00: Time to enjoy the hot tub; snack on picnic treats; mark the scavenger hunt and share videos and photos from the day; and experience the mobile pamper treatments
19:00 – 21:00: Games and drinks with the butler in the buff
21:00 – 21:30: Minibus taxi transport to Cheltenham
21:30 – 01:30: Night out in town
01:30 – 02:00: Minibus taxi transport back home
09:00 – 10:30: Get your guests up and fed, and tidy up the cottage
10:30 – 11:00: Pack up the cars and drive to Bourton Vale Equestrian
11:00 – 12:30: Get prepared and go on an hour’s hack
12:30 onwards: Find a local pub to have a Sunday lunch in before heading home
Was this guide helpful? Comment below if you have any other suggestions for struggling hen party organisers!