I will prepare meals for a few hen parties this spring. With summer wedding season fast approaching, it’s hardly surprising that April and May are popular months for getting gaggles of girls together for fun and silliness in the build-up to a bride’s big day.
But having now been greeted at the door to a few holiday lets by chief hens eagerly awaiting our arrival it’s clear that hen party planning is, as ever, a task and a half.
First there’s the pressure of delivering an event that lives up to the bride’s expectations. Then, there’s the challenge of keeping a group of people, young and old, who might not know each other and who all have different budgets and tastes, happy. Coordinating everything and everyone can feel like a full-time job, on top of a maid of honour’s invariably already demanding day job.
So, for those considering hiring a house and a private chef as part of a weekend of pre-nuptial merriment, what’s the key to making planning look, and hopefully feel, effortless from start to finish?
The first hurdle to successful planning is finding a date that most people can make. It’s never too early to start this process so you’re guaranteed your preferred accommodation and the availability of your chosen activities…falconry, cocktail making etc. etc. I had a flurry of queries just after Christmas and by the end of January most of my spring evening slots had been snapped up.
The second challenge is agreeing a menu that suits everyone’s tastes and budgets. Getting an early sense of everyone’s likes, dislikes, allergies and intolerances is important if you’re going to get an accurate sense of how much a meal per head will cost from the get-go. Getting a private cook or chef offers ultimate flexibility and the chance to create a bespoke menu tailored to the needs of everyone around the table.
However, costs rise the further away you go from everyone eating the same starter, main and pudding. Preparing a gluten free version of a starter, or a different main for your vegan or vegetarian friends, can start to double and even triple the time it takes for your cook to prepare your meal. So, assuming you’re looking for something special and tasty but not going to break the bank, you ideally want everyone to eat the same starter, main and pudding. This often means vegetarian or fish.
Experience suggests it’s likely there’ll be someone pregnant or newly pregnant among your party. Perhaps they weren’t pregnant at the time you all chose your menu, all those months ago, or they are only a few weeks in and haven’t told anyone yet. Either way, leaving out any raw, rare or unpasteurised options will avoid any awkwardness or last-minute substitutions should anyone’s circumstances change.
Finally, the weekend of the hen has arrived. Don’t take for granted your group will automatically gel and have a raucous time – design it that way. Rally everyone by asking them to bring and hang decorations; inject a talking point by all wearing sequins or the same colour or have some low-key drinking games up your sleeve to loosen everyone up. You could even schedule a round of Mr and Mrs between each course to maintain energy levels during your meal. Remember, even the funniest stand-up comedians have warm-up acts to get everyone in the mood.
Hen party done, remember to book the Monday off for a lie in, to catch-up on your group’s post-hen do WhatsApp banter and to bask in the glory of hen party mastery. After all that, you deserve it.