Last year my best friend Ali got married and I was appointed chief hen party planner. I’ve attended a few hen parties over the years and my favourites were those that were inclusive and affordable. I was therefore determined to throw a fabulous hen party on a budget!
One survey I found reported that the average person spends £507 on a hen or stag do, with 28% of respondents admitting to spending more than they did on their own holidays. I myself have spent upwards of £300. With 4/10 adults in the UK reported to have less than £500 in savings, that seems an awful lot to spend on a party!
I believe the problem is twofold. Firstly, there’s a sense of obligation. You wouldn’t spend £500 on a gift for the bride, but as soon as it’s dressed up as a ‘hen do’ you feel a need to attend in order to celebrate and not let her down. Secondly, the costs can quickly spiral. Hen party planners have good intentions, but for most this is their first attempt at planning an event. I know of hen parties where everyone has dropped out (save the bride’s own family) due to skyrocketing costs which they weren’t made aware of upfront.
Happily I threw two well received hen parties for under £80 each, so I wanted to share with you 10 tips on throwing your own hen party on a budget!
Ask Don’t Guess
Begin by speaking to your friend to get an idea of what she has in mind. Ali was clear from the start that she wanted two distinct hen parties, a spa break for family and an afternoon/evening hen do in Bristol for friends and work colleagues.
Ask your friend what budget she thinks would be reasonable. If she wants a mini-break to Barcelona but thinks her friends will only spend £70 then that isn’t going to be feasible. By getting a rough idea you’ll be able to better meet her expectations and none of the details will be ruined. It is worth asking what tone of event she would like as she may want to keep it PG.
Finally, ask your friend who she wants to invite and ask her to provide a guestlist and contact numbers. If several guests have Facebook you may find it easiest to set up a Facebook group to inform everyone of the plans.
Have a Plan in Mind and Offer Several Options
It’s great to ask others for ideas, but first develop a rough plan with the key people your bride wants to attend. Agree a date you can all make and work out rough costs for activities before getting in touch with everyone on the guestlist. It’s much easier for guests to commit if they know when the event is happening, what it involves and what it will cost. Also make guests aware of when you’ll be approaching them for payment and spread this out across several months if it’s a large amount.
If you’re planning several activities why not allow guests to pick and choose which they wish to attend? This maximises the amount of people who will come and helps to ensure that those with a small budget are not priced out. For Ali’s hen do in town I offered guests three options and set up a Facebook poll to gauge interest. It worked out perfectly as it ended up being family and close friends earlier in the day, then switched to work colleagues in the evening.
- Whole Day – £65
- Day Only (Afternoon Tea + Cocktail Making) – £45
- Evening Only (Meal + Karaoke) – £30
Hunt for Deals
Search around to find the best deal for your money and send several enquiries to keep your options open.
I searched for a budget spa break and managed to book an overnight weekend stay at the Parkway Hotel and Spa in Newport for just £79.50 per person! We shared twin rooms which each came with a bottle of champagne, full access to the spa facilities, breakfast, a 3 course dinner and to top it off we could pick between three 25 minute spa treatments. I found it by researching local spas on Tripadvisor and then reviewing the spa packages on each of their websites.
When booking restaurants may sure to disclose that you’re a hen party as a few venues don’t allow them as a rule. One such restaurant recommended I try La Grotta, a classy Italian restaurant in Bristol where we had a 2 course meal and glass of bubbly for just £16.50! It’s worth hunting around for hen party set menu deals, so search online to see if you can find any in your area.
Don’t go for the easy option of booking through a hen party organiser site, as they’ll be sure to add a premium on the price you could get by going direct. To plan a hen party on a budget you should take inspiration from the ideas and find suitable suppliers yourself!
Track All Spending
My project management skills came in handy for tracking costs in a spreadsheet and I’d highly recommend you do the same when planning your hen party on a budget. Documenting everything will allow you to factor in costs you may not have thought of (such as costs towards transport, decorations, presents, games and hen party gear). You should also make sure to add in some contingency – perhaps 10% on top of the forecast costs. This should help to cover any drop-outs and will ensure you don’t end up out of pocket at the end. You can be upfront with guests about this and explain that any money left over will go towards a joint present for the bride.
If possible, I’d also recommend storing any payments made to you in a separate bank account. I was able to do so by arranging for them to be paid into an easy access savings account. That will help to keep the money separate from your day to day spending.
Be An Early Bird
Planning your hen party on a budget well in advance takes away a lot of the stress. It allows you to secure the best venues for the best date, it ensures more of your guests can attend and it helps you to spread payment deadlines over a longer period. It also allows you to order items from China and have them arrive in plenty of time!
I used eBay and Amazon to order a veil and tiara directly from China (rather than paying up to 4x the amount to get them from a UK seller).
I’d also highly recommend buying hen party balloons in advance from the Card Factory’s online store. If you order deflated balloons through their website they’ll inflate them in store for you for free. This is a much more budget friendly option than having them arrive inflated (and means there’s less chance of you bursting them!).
Between all of the guests you’re spending a lot of money on a hen do, so why not ask for something extra? As we were collectively spending £636 at the spa hotel I negotiated for an upgraded spa treatment for the bride. If you don’t ask you won’t get!
Plan Low Cost Activities
Some of the best parts of hen dos can be in the downtime between structured activities. Often this involves playing games, taking photos or having fun catching up. Below are a few suggestions of low cost ideas I’ve seen used when throwing a hen party on a budget.
- Hen party scavenger hunt cards
- Inflatable photobooth frame
- Photobooth props
- ‘Pin the Junk on the Hunk’ game
- Mr and Mrs – we pre-recorded the groom’s responses on video
- Bride advice cards – these cards were read out on the evening and then I collated them into a hen party memory book along with pictures of the evening and presented it on the evening before the wedding
The scavenger hunt was particularly fun and the inflatable photobooth and props ended up being used at the wedding as well!
You can find lots of great hen party scavenger hunt and bride advice cards over on Etsy. Just made sure to bring enough pens with you!
Ditch the Favours
I don’t see the purpose of hen party favours unless they’re something you’ll keep and treasure. One personalised momento could be nice, but I think most guests would prefer their money wasn’t spent on fluorescent straws, hen do survivor kits and shot glass necklaces. With higher awareness around the destructiveness of single-use plastic, I’d say if it won’t be kept or eaten don’t buy it.
I do think hen party sashes are worth having as they help everyone to keep track of one another. I purchased my hen party sashes in bulk to keep the costs down. I also bought some temporary tattoos for the hen party which were fun.
Share to Save
If your hen do extends into the night-time people may be keen on booking somewhere to go back to. By teaming up and renting an apartment together you can make it far more affordable than everyone booking their own separate hotel room. Similarly by sharing taxis you can split the costs as well.
Buy a Group Gift
With most guests already planning to give a gift at the wedding, remove the obligation to do so at the hen party by giving a group gift instead. I factored in just over £4 from each guest towards presents for the bride-to-be and a hen do memory book.
You’ll know your bride best, however for inspiration I purchased the following gifts which I thought were lovely:
- Satin dressing gown personalised with crystals spelling the bride’s new surname
- ‘Just Married’ flip flops
- Spa voucher
- Hen do memory book (presented on the wedding morning)
Do you have any other suggestions for throwing a fantastic hen party on a budget? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!