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Hen Party Heaven and Hell - Studies in Mirth and Misery


Sue Dawson

Table of Contents

Section 1 (The Data)

Section 2 (The Dirt)


Introduction

Over the past few months we’ve been collating data about hen parties as part of a detailed study (really, we have). For this study, we surveyed 200 women who’ve attended hen parties at one time or another. We wanted to know what they the victims, thought made a good or utterly horrifying pre-wedding celebration.

Section 1 deals with the data, while Section 2 presents some of the horror stories left by our respondents.

Hen Party Infographic

Hen Party Infographic

Before beginning, we should add that we’ve created an infographic that perfectly encapsulates the horrors that follow.

All of the important data that you’ll find in our article is presented, together with excerpts from our survey.

You should get an understanding of what doesn’t work and what does in respect of organising bacherlorette parties – great if you’re a planner or anticipate trouble from a bridezilla.

So if you don’t have the time to read through our magnum opus, feel free to study our visual presentation instead.

You can click the image link for the full version or download our infographic in pdf format.

But for those of you determined to stay with us until the bitter end, let’s begin by looking at what a hen party from hell looks like.

This is based on the raw data to which we were subjected.

Prepare yourself for some percentages because there’s lots of them.

Let’s go!

Section 1 (The Data)

What a Hen Party from Hell Looks Like

The words ‘Hen-Party’ tend to induce mixed reactions among the female populace, ranging from unbridled dread to weary acceptance. This is in stark contrast to the guys, who’ll often count down the seconds to an impending ‘stag-do’ as if it’s Christmas morning. Why is this, one wonders?

Well, suffice to say that hen parties aren’t quite the same as they once were. In fact, ‘traditional’ has gone right out of the window. Instead of a local pub crawl, the fashion these days is to choose far-flung locations and/or ‘activities’ to keep the baying pack entertained.

As a result, women find themselves air-dropped into some rather unlikely settings, often at considerable cost. So it seems that the marauding hens who once painted our high-streets red are becoming endangered species.

This drastic change in direction isn’t to everybody’s liking either. Allow us to illustrate.

Physical Activities

Physical activities are very popular options with maids of honour. But bizarrely, a lot of these include team-building type excursions such as Go Ape and It’s a Knock Out. Presumably a spill-over from the corporate world, they’re the most hated types of activities among our hens. According to our respondents, fun-runs are often part of a hen party itinerary as well. What the actual?

It’s worth remembering too, that some people can’t participate in these activities. For example, some of our respondents noted that they were disabled and couldn’t join in. A major clue then that high-adrenaline, sweat-inducing activities are not going to be suitable for everyone.

Nightclubs

35% reported that they’d want to give nightclubs the swerve. Clearly not all hens are up for the late nights. In fairness, the conversation-killing music and unwanted attention of drooling males tends to get in the way of the whole hen-party experience…right?

Fancy Dress

You might want to put away those wigs and glasses, because 32% of our hens also stated that they can’t stand fancy dress! Then again, 34% named it as something they love about hen parties. So maybe the answer is to ask your friends if they really want to get dressed up before hitting the town!

Brainteaser Activities

I mean seriously, who’d want to take part in one of these at a hen do? Such cheeky non-conformists do exist apparently. But most didn’t participate in our survey, because escape rooms and such like were extremely unpopular with our respondents. 28% stated that they certainly wouldn’t enjoy attending one of these abominations.

Having to Socialise With Strangers

Meeting strangers is a bug-bear for a lot of our respondents. 27.78% said they’d be less likely to attend a hen do because of it. 24% stated that meeting new people would make them feel anxious or stressed.

Hen Party Bingo Card

This illustrates that there are plenty of shy and retiring types out there (this author included) who spend a lot of time worrying about these things.

If only there was some sort of group activity that could help to break the ice? By happy coincidence, we’ve come up with just the game. It’s called Ice-Breaker Bingo and is a great way to get to know fellow attendees.

Expensive Activities

In terms of planning, a hen-party can quite easily get out of hand when it comes to costs. Activities, travel and accommodation are obviously not cheap these days. Things are often exacerbated by a maid of honour or bride to be with extravagant, over-elaborate ideas.

So planners would probably do well to take heed of our survey! 59% of those petitioned cited expenses as the major reason for avoiding a hen party.

A whopping 65.45% also stated that expenses were the biggest cause of stress and anxiety about attending a hen party. Underpinning all this is the fact that more than half (52.53%) said they were worried about not actually enjoying the activities.

A word to the wise – keep things simple!

Children and Elderly Relatives

A lot of our respondents baulked at the idea of caring for a child or elderly relative during a hen party. 41% said they’d be less likely to attend if this kind of arrangement was in place. We get the child bit, but what’s wrong with having a senior hen in attendance. Where’s the female solidarity, here? 🙂

In fairness, being in the company of an ‘older’ hen can cramp one’s style. Going full beast mode isn’t always an option here. With that said, we’ve got a few tales about senior hens in section 2 that will make your hair stand on end.

What a Hen Party from Heaven Looks Like

OK, so we’ve gone through some of the most reviled hen party activities. Let’s now take a look at some of the things that prove popular with hen party conscripts.

Seeing Friends

A huge 90% stated that catching up with their pals is the most enjoyable part of a hen party. This is surely what it’s all about, right? Not abseiling down sheer cliff-faces, swinging from branch to tree trunk or solving puzzles to unlock doors.

Relaxing Activities

Participating in relaxing activities was one of the most enjoyable things about hen parties for 54.95%. Not all that surprising, really. Things like spa treatments tend to go down a treat with hens. Our survey also petitioned maids of honour to find out some of the things that make planning an absolute nightmare. As you’ll see, the task is often a rather thankless one.

Hitting the Bars/Boozing

Drinking alcohol and going to bars or pubs are also favourites, with 59% of respondents declaring their approval. Interestingly, clubs were a big no-no among our surveyed hens.

Playing Games

Playing some sort of game was popular activity with 49%. Although puzzle solving is clearly out of the window, casual communal games such as hen do bingo, quizzes and scavenger hunts are usually very well-received.

Hen Party Icebreaker Bingo Carde

Travelling Somewhere Different

57% of respondents reported that they enjoy travelling somewhere different. You might say that this runs counter to the 58.59% who cited the price of activities as one of the reasons that they’d be less likely to attend.

Travelling somewhere different certainly isn’t cheap, after all. Unless of course ‘somewhere different’ means visiting a neighbouring town or going to a new pub – lots of room for interpretation here.

What Makes Planning a Nightmare?

If we ignore, you know, normal people, there tend to be two Maid of Honour (MOH) character types. First of all, there’s the attack-dog that carries out the orders of the bride with cruel relish. Then you’ve got the beleaguered put-upon planner who’s been cowed into submission by an absolutely monstrous Bridezilla.

Yep, planning a hen do is quite the undertaking.

Collecting the Cash

This is the number one gripe for your typical hen party planner. 77% of MOH cited money collection as the most stressful thing about planning one of these little shindigs. Getting people to cough up the cash often takes a lot of patience, no matter what you’re organising.

In fact, financial foot-dragging is often symptomatic of an ailment known as ‘activity resentment’. This is a highly contagious condition that infects hens who are forced to participate in activities they detest. In severe cases, the hen(s) might call into question the ‘cost of an activity’ even if said activity is affordable. 43% of our respondents have encountered such a resistance to activity costs and cite it as a major cause of stress.

Getting People Onboard

Getting people to confirm their attendance is another pain in the proverbial for 70% of planners. So too is getting people to actually respond to invites – 69% were understandably peeved about this.

We’d humbly suggest that a fear and loathing of the proposed activities is one possible reason for such hesitance. Fear and loathing of the bride might be another. Inflated costs and sheer forgetfulness should be factored in too.

Demanding Brides

40% of our MOHs identified the bride’s expectations as a major cause of stress during the planning phase. And it’s fair to say that weddings can have unpredictable effects on your typical bride-to-be. Oftentimes, that sweet and simpering human being you once knew has mutated into a different species altogether by the time the hen party swings around.

Finding Activities That Everyone Likes

And finally, we have this stress generator for Maids of Honour: Finding Activities That Everyone Likes. Is it really that difficult? From what we can tell by our survey, most women just want to catch up with friends, maybe play a few games and/or enjoy a spa day. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, as far as we’re concerned. But then, we’re not under starters orders with bride-to-be!

Section 2 – The Dirt

Hen Party Horror Stories

Section 2 of our hen party treatise presents some of the horror stories left by our harrowed hen respondents. There’s a degree of overlap with many of the answers. But we’ve tried our best to organise them properly. This can’t really be said of the hen parties mentioned below.

Planning Hell

Ah yes, planning. We might have mentioned it a few times already. Sadly for a lot of ill-fated hen parties, this is the stage at which the wheels start to loosen, before falling off the charabanc altogether.

What follows is a wasteland of inappropriate outfits, naked butlers and an excruciating no-show. We begin with a hen-do inspired by Peaky Blinders – a television series that seems to be filmed in slow-motion most of the time.

“The organiser decided to arrange a Peaky Blinders-themed night as it was supposedly the hen’s favourite show. Everyone bought 1920s-themed outfits and a Peaky Blinders pub crawl around Liverpool was arranged.”

“Apparently, on the night the bride questioned why they were all dressed up and when it was announced it was a Peaky Blinders-themed night, the bride expressed that she hated Peaky Blinders. The organiser stormed off and they didn’t speak for the rest of the weekend”

Punctuality is extremely important for organisers, evidently. Listen to this MOH who was, we should hasten to add, in no way intoxicated before getting to the restaurant.

“Arranging my sister’s hen party, everyone arrived late at the hotel to then go out for dinner. By the time we got to the restaurant we were so late and I was so stressed out that I wasn’t behaving in the usual way on the way. (I was accused) of being drunk (and they) wouldn’t serve me alcohol – a great way to start your sister’s hen party.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Then there’s this resourceful hen (below) who certainly got her money’s-worth (or so she initially thought) from a hapless naked manservant.

“As part of the Hen Party package arranged through a third party website, we had a Butler in the Buff visit on the first evening. Not something we would have arranged but as it was included we thought he could help serve food and drinks before we headed out.”

“We had two issues: the hen party website booked us two rooms in separate buildings which was very inconvenient – not what a group wants. And to top it off the Butler in the Buff had very bad and strong body odour so we didn’t want him near our food or us!”

You can just picture their little faces as the primordial aroma tickled their nostrils. But what happens when RVSPs get “lost in the mail”. This:

“My friend had her hen party where around 15 people were due to attend There was only myself and the bride to be attending By 9pm we were intoxicated and were ready for bed”.

The poor woman.

Pity also the party girl below who had to go home ‘early’ from the club dressed in an outfit from forty years ago.

“The Bride and her mum organised the transport. We got to the night club for 9pm (in 80’s fancy dress) and were collected at midnight. (This was) after forking out for a crappy hotel, miles away from anywhere!”

And while you’re at it, pity the entire hen party forced to attend this gothic and painfully trite assemblage.

“My friend wore a white blood stained and ripped wedding dress and 36 of us were dressed up as Thriller zombies and even drank only red booze.”

Now that’s what I call morbid. So what about the monsters responsible for planning?

Bridezillas and Maids of Honour

Maids of honour tend to be one of the constituent elements of a bad hen party. This is why a lot of hens behave around MOHs as they would an injured tiger: with caution and trepidation. Mind you, brides don’t exactly have a great reputation either.

Whether we’re being fair or not, it’s these two figureheads at which the blame and recriminations are usually directed. See below!

“We had a maid of honour from hell. She was a drill sergeant and didn’t even give us time to go to the toilet. The whole weekend had an itinerary which had to be stuck to, or else she would be knocking on your door. She also ended up spending the money of one of the girls who could not attend due to COVID.”

Ouch! But what about the one who was not just bossy, but also ruined the hens’ appetites…um, for food and drink.

“My daughter in law’s hen party was horrendous; the matron of honour was so bossy and unlikeable she organised a stripper who was grotesque and smelt (sic)… it put you off your drinks and food”

Reeking adult entertainers…bit of a recurring theme this.

There are times when other people’s delicate sensibilities aren’t really taken into consideration. What about this unfortunate bride who’d humbly requested a gaggle of nude men for her hen-do. We’ll let her tell you this tragic tale.

“My hen do day was lovely and casual and local with good friends. But because of the evening do… involving naked men (my request) none of my husband’s side attended. It was quite awkward I was looking forward to seeing them and bonding with them, including his sister”.

“I did not ask (her) to be my bridesmaid (so) it was quite awkward. I thought someone on his side might turn up but no and I didn’t know this until the evening. Weddings eh bring out the worst in people.”

Yes…yes, they do. Speaking of bridesmaids, they don’t half like to stir the pot, especially when alcohol is one of the ingredients:

“It was a two-night stay and everyone got too drunk on the first night then wasn’t really bothered about the second night. But instead of making the most and having a chilled night the bridesmaids started telling everyone they were bad friends and ruining the night.”

Sometimes, it’s the maid of honour who becomes the victim. Just put yourself in the towering high-heels of this poor dab.

“Planned a hen do for a complete Bridezilla. Arranged travel and put names down on all club lists and organised VIP rooms/booths/ service. Bride decided she didn’t want VIP service the day before and wanted to rough it.”

“She threw a hissy fit so I decided not to go on the hen do even though I had spent months planning…The main thing that upset me was if I had not bothered and just done a normal night out around Chester…she wouldn’t have been happy and asked me to make more of an effort!”

Then you’ve got the problem of frozen water – fairly common with the youngsters these days.

“The maid of honour iced me out over a perceived slight that I was unaware of and didn’t have the opportunity to resolve in advance. Other attendees that I didn’t know followed suit and so I was trapped on the weekend away with unkind people.”

“She eventually started a large argument (I did not fight back as I didn’t want to cause a scene at the hen party) and made everyone go home at 8pm on a Saturday night despite the bride clearly insisting she didn’t want to. Bride eventually cried and only us two went out afterwards as I didn’t want her to have a sad hen party.”

How thoughtful!

The Mothers

So what about the mothers, then? Oh, my. Have a look…

“Trying to plan my best friends hen do…she wanted a super active fun time but (was) taken over by her mother, everything she didn’t want…the mother of the bride made comments about people’s weight, how they looked in a bikini, how much she disliked the meme era… half of us left 2 days early”

And…

“It was my distant cousin’s hen party and we had arranged for a drag act show as a surprise for her. I didn’t know her very well but got invited because our mums were good friends. When we arrived at the bar waiting for the drag to show up, the bride’s mother got so drunk she was sick all over the bride-to-be! The bride cried, fell out with her mum and cancelled the whole weekend. It was awful.”

Money Troubles

Money is an issue that rears its ugly head an awful lot when it comes to hen parties, as our survey respondents attest.

“I was invited on a hen do for an ex-colleague…but I didn’t attend because I got the vibe from the group that it probably wouldn’t go too well. So to start with, they booked accommodation seven months in advance for 24 people.”

“One of the hens offered to put it on her credit card for £2400 and then it was discovered that the accommodation was non-refundable and non-cancellable. As it was booked far in advance some people dropped out as circumstances changed. Some of them refused to pay for the accommodation leaving the (organiser) with a hell of a lot of debt on her credit card.”

Sometimes, the organiser gets a bit fly with other people’s money.

“I organised a hen party. There were 14 in our group. We arrived at the hotel and they wanted payment for our stay. I thought I had paid for everyone. Instead, I had spent everyone’s money! I had to find some emergency funds to pay for the hotel!”

Um, OK. Still, you’ve got to admire her honesty – wonder what she’d spent the cash on. One sad hen party group had to contend with a smoking bus and a miserly coach company.

“Travelling on a bus from Peterborough to Liverpool and the bus started smoking inside whilst we were on the motorway. We pulled up on the hard shoulder and 20+ of us got out of the bus. (There was) no replacement bus and (we were) only halfway to Liverpool so we had to get picked up by numerous taxis on the hard shoulder adding to our expense of the journey.”

“When we eventually arrived we had missed our original time slot for cocktail making and food (which) made us rush everything else. It was very stressful for all and after returning home the bus company wouldn’t even refund us any money for the added Taxi expense to get to Liverpool!”

Our sympathy for these stranded hens and an example of how not to do customer service.

Disreputable Behaviour

You might be surprised to learn that disreputable behaviour is by far our biggest horror story category. But actually, bad behaviour isn’t just the preserve of rutting stags on a boozy weekend. The hens like a bit of a party too. Oh, dear lord yes.

Our survey revealed all manner of micro stories. There was a cooking evening where the hens got so drunk that their culinary creations came out raw.

One hen also imparted a sentimental tale about how she was so hung over after the first night, that she spent the following day in bed vomiting (bless). Happily, she managed to avoid the planned activities for that day as a result. Clever woman!

Another attendee also fell off of a fire engine – which was in service mind you – and suffered a compound fraction of her arm. And we learnt about a bridesmaid that fell asleep tied to a lamp post – pretty standard stuff this one, actually.

This rump-tweaking time trial really caught our eye, mind. You’re welcome.

“I planned a hen do at the dogs races. During the evening, we played truth or dare using a premade card game. One hen picked out how many bums can you pinch in a minute.”

“She then proceeded to line up the waiters along a wall and pinch their bums down the row. Some of these waiters turned out to be 16 and we were almost thrown out of the venue for inappropriate behaviour. The staff avoided us for the rest of the evening.”

Not all enlisted hens approve of such outrageous behaviour.

“I went on my own hen do with 4 of my bridesmaids and 3 other people, the group was split from the start and I ended up falling out with two of the bridesmaids whom I known for 20 years as they went out every day and came back drunk leaving the rest of the group waiting around for them.”

The cheek of it! Here are few more immortal excerpts:

“My friend who was almost fifty was getting married for the third time and was so drunk, we ended up in a nightclub where her son worked in Derby and he threw us out for being drunk and disorderly!”

“As the chief bridesmaid I had to try and find the missing bride, who I discovered had managed to wake up in Manchester – a completely different city!! – the next day.”

We close this particularly sordid little category with a tale of woe regarding the difficulty of passing water. It’s not what you think.

“(At) my step-mother-to-be’s hen party, they played a game of Mr & Mrs where her and my dad had to answer questions about each other in advance and she had to guess what he said. The question came up: ‘where’s the strangest place you’ve had sex was’ and it turned out to be a lovely lake I like to walk round with my family. The lake is ruined and I haven’t returned since.”

Out of Control

We’ve banged on quite a bit about how parties can get ruined by the unholy trinity of brides, Maids of Honour and planning. So what about those hen parties that have been affected by unforeseen events?

The first story is certainly no laughing matter.

“During a hen party in Paris, we left a restaurant to discover terrorists had attacked the Bataclan, a music venue on the same road as our AirBnB. We joined countless Parisian in huddling in locked bars, watching the news unfold, not knowing what would happen next or if we were safe.”

“It was a literal horror story. The kindness we were shown by the French people was unbelievable – complete strangers looked after us, and I will forever be grateful.”

Now for a pair of gruesome yarns that serve as cautionary tales about the excesses of hen party events.

“A group of approx 15 of us went to Dublin on a hen weekend. The Sunday morning, we were all recovering in a local cafe after the previous night. One of our ladies said her arms felt funny and started swinging them around.”

“We all thought she’d overdone it the night before and she drunk soft drinks the rest of the weekend. She was hospitalised the day we got home…turns out she’d had a heart attack. About a third of the ladies on the trip are trained first aiders. But nobody spotted the signs. She’s fine now and has made a full recovery.”

And

“Many years ago, I attended hen do of one of my best friends from school, going around clubs in Leeds…We were all having a good time clubbing after doing a pub crawl but then my friend, the bride to be, started feeling unwell.

“She started vomiting everywhere. None of her current friends stayed with her, they all disappeared so I was left to help her out. She was in such a bad way. I had to get a doorman to help get her outside where it was cooler.

Once she started feeling a bit better, I was then able to get us a taxi to take her home. The rest of her friends stayed clubbing. She was that out of it that she has no recollection of anything in the club or that it was only me that looked after her…..”

Humble Ideas for an Enjoyable Hen Party

In light of the above indictments, we’ve assembled a few planning tips aimed at helping brides-to-be and their winged maid-of-honour monkeys.

Planning Tips

  • Ask the Hens for Ideas
  • Avoid Fire Engines
  • Get Payments Up-Front
  • Keep the Costs Down
  • Keep Things Simple
  • Keep an Eye on the Mothers
  • Send Invites Early

Popular Games/Activities

  • About the Bride
  • Dares
  • Icebreaker Bingo
  • “I Have Never”
  • Quizzes
  • Spa Treatments

Endeth

That almost completes our odyssey into the hen-do heart of darkness. Before we wrap up, we’d just like to give a shout out to the furious MOH who sank a pint of gin and tonic in five minutes. This was after her Zoom hen party was taken over by the bride’s luvvie childhood pal. And finally, there was the bride-to-be who lost her engagement ring in a bowl of barbecued chicken wings. What an appropriate place to finish.

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