Hen party. Those two words strike fear in the heart of many a woman (and pretty much all men). Do I really have to wear those wobbly penises on my head? Please can we not all wear matching T-shirts with my face on? And really, pink fluff-trimmed cowboy hats? Not my colour. I don't want to sound like a stick-in-the-mud, I'm all for big fun, but I'm joining the hen-night re-brand. Hell, the Dorchester hotel has even gone as far as to rename them 'Swan Parties'. I don't think they do penis-straws at Swan Parties...
So what does a Bride-ette do for her hen? Well the initial hurdle wasn't so much how to avoid the face-on-T-shirts, but when to do it at all. Half of my hens-to-be are getting married in the next year - two of them within two months of me. So once I'd ruled out their wedding dates, their honeymoon absences, and their own hens, I was left with one Saturday. Quite fortuitously two weeks before my wedding. Close enough to feel 'last night' but far enough off to recover from any, erm, damage.
So over to the bridesmaids you think? Well I try, but like many brides, my three bridesmaids represent my best friends from different stages of my life. Meaning they aren't actually each other's friends, and they all live in different cities. Great. Also, like the rest of my big day, there was an assumption because of where I work I would know best. Well it does help... A quick canvas of the office throws up a myriad of 'Well I did...'s. Villa in Spain for a week (the dream), weekend in Ibiza (tempting), Travelodge and night out in the UK (the classic), spa days (I think my friends would need more alcohol) and pretty much everything in between.
For some classic activity-dinner-club packages Gohen.com is an obvious starting point. There are classes galore from the hen-staples of cocktail making and pole dancing to recording studios and life drawing.
Spa days are another far from shots'n'strippers option. And they don't have to blow the bank. Stoke Park Club (www.stokepark.com), that white-washed epitome of English country club in the Berkshire countryside, currently is offering a spa day including a 55-minute and 30-minute treatment, use of the spa facilities and two-course lunch for just £99. Or Lifehouse (www.lifehouse.co.uk), a new day spa with rooms in Essex, offers day packages from £75. For the cool city spa, why not head to the Cowshed spa (www.cowshedonline.com/prettyparties) at Shoreditch House where their 'Pretty Parties' start from £130 per hen.
Then there's karaoke (www.luckyvoice.com) and private dining rooms (www.privatediningrooms.co.uk), underground supper clubs (www.supperclubfangroup.ning.com) and secret cinema nights (secretcinema.org), bowling (www.allstarlanes.co.uk) and butlers in the buff (www.butlersinthebuff.co.uk), and of course the ubiquitous afternoon tea (www.afternoontea.co.uk). And if you are looking for those penis straws... www.lastnightoffreedom.co.uk/hen-night-accessories. Have fun!