**It is a bit sad that I feel the need to write a disclaimer for this post- I guess I am really aware that the events I mention in this blog are all loosely based upon real events and I don’t want to offend anybody. It is not my intention to do down anybody’s hen-do, wedding or celebration.. even if they do end up causing me to go blind with stress/go £200 overdrawn. I will, as ever be there with bells on**
I am at the age where Hen-do’s and the attending thereof, are becoming a problem. Of course, in writing about this thorny issue, and giving a voice to, what I have no doubt is an almost universal female late 20’s affliction- I am running the risk of never being invited to one of these things again. Which is sad, as I have never been opposed to the idea of a hen-do. I have even been known to enjoy one in practice. But I, like practically the entirety of my generation have absolutely NO idea how these once low-key affairs, have suddenly become an excuse to foist an enormous amount of inexplicable cost upon the people that you supposedly care about the most in life.
If we think about what a celebration is; a bunch of nearest and dearest getting together with some good food, an activity, some booze and usually some element of spontaneity thrown in for good measure (simple, right?). It perhaps seems all the more bemusing that modern hen-dos are becoming as far removed from this template as it is possible to be. And of course, with Hollywood Movies, Women’s Magazines and Celebrities to compare to, it is no surprise that what once was a night on the town with some girlfriends, has mutated into the standard 3 day minibreak that is oh-so commonplace.
“It’s not that I mind paying, of course I would do anything to attend!” said a friend recently, as she distractedly did some swift mental arithmetic in her head. “So if I just go to the meal on the Thursday evening, the cheerleading on the Sat, pottery that afternoon and afternoon tea… then that should just leave me enough for the night out, the actual do.. if I don’t drink, because if I drink then I won’t hve enough for the Taxi….” Further calculations revealed that she would require an outfit (£50 in the sale), appropriate shoes for cheerleading (£10, Primark) and a selection of “fun” items with which to decorate the chi chi apartment, which would serve as the hen coop for the weekend. Half an hour later, the same friend was near tears when I pointed out that she forgot the cost of the accommodation (£190), petrol to get to the venue and the fact that she would have to take two days off her holiday allowance just in order to attend.
“What else does the schedule say?” She said, anxiously, peering at the email on her iPhone- “SHOPPING??” now, apoplectic with rage “WHO IS GOING TO BE ABLE TO AFFORD TO SHOPPING?”.
We cut short our coffee date pretty soon after it transpired, via a particularly chirpy text from the Chief Bridesmaid that each hen would be expected to chip in “an additional £40… for the Bride to be!!”… yay for that.
It would seem, that whilst under normal circumstances, it would be considered grossly unfair to expect people to shell out so much on anything, people sometimes forget when there is a Wedding involved. In my experience, it is usually not the Bride that is to blame, there is a much more sinister force at play here.
The Chief Bridesmaid will usually have been tasked with arranging this whupla roughly a week after the engagement was set. She will do one of two things: She will a) Pretend that the whole thing is not happening, draft in some more organised mates and cobble together something acceptable at the last min which will be costly and tedious for all involved. Or she will, being a hopeless overachiever opt for option b) THROW A LOT OF MONEY AT THE PROBLEM.
I am not generalising here, OK.. maybe I am. I know of several well planned, fun hen dos where the head bridesmaid has really worked hard to ensure a fun and affordable time is had by all.
But then, of course.. I am not talking about that kind of hen do. The Chief Bridesmaid, drunk on power, giddy in her role as “The chosen one”, “The BEST FRIEND” will have been in the know about this for some months. She will have guarded her plans jealously, keeping the details and the subsequent cost a total secret from everyone else. And all the time she is saving, saving her pennies for this, her moment to shine! It probably never occurs to the people organising these do’s that in reality, they only usually warn tell the other hens a couple of months before. Essentially, you are always going to get off on the wrong foot against someone who has estimated this cost from the get-go and is probably only going to be attending one of these things in the first place. She will certainly neglect to remember that some of you are mere guests at the wedding and will have to buy an outfit, gift AND stay somewhere.
Probably worse still, is when we have more than one Bridesmaid charged with organising the event. Usually in this case it is two or three women, one of which is usually a sister or relative of the bride and another a close friend. By rights, the whole thing should run like a dream with more hands on deck- but don’t be fooled, women foisted into an unlikely tag-team, cemented by Sambucca shots will eventually grow resentful and become counter productive. Consumed with their respective ideas that they feel represent the Bride THEY know, the entire event is likely to be a mish-mash of conflicting activities and awkward revelations which leave everyone, including the Bride in the dark. It’s what habitually happens, trust me.
As a person who attended 3 hen do’s last year and who has been invited to a further 4 in 2013, I can honestly say that the cost was….. well, it was crippling. Not only was my entire holiday allowance for the year wiped out due to people wanting to “Start the party on the Thursday!”. I also had to find the cash to fly abroad, go to the Connaught and find a dress that would not make me look like a person who spends a large proportion of their days dressed as a teenage boy. Somehow, things just aren’t as fun when you are spending a large percentage of your time worrying about the things you will have to sacrifice in order to be included. People also underestimate the emotional strain of such events; getting a bit serious here, I recognise that a person suffering from anxiety should probably steer clear of situations that bring on sudden bouts of body-dysmorphia and self loathing. Girls can be fiercely competitive when they get together- everyone wants to assert how well they know the hen, what their personal claim to her friendship is and her, being the glue that binds you all together is probably the only person who actually has something in common with everybody… It can be extremely stressful, like being back at school again, those old desires to fit in seem to resurface, and I have seen even the most confident woman go a bit bonkers under the pressure. Everyone will spend the whole time fretting, yet not letting ON that they are fretting….excellent.
Because a hen-do, is no longer just “The Girls getting together” thanks to friendship groups widening and people scattering across the country, the average hen do can often encompass a wide range of people from a variety of walks of life. If you think about how likely you are to bond with Auntie Jean (aged 50) or a scouse girl called Veronica with questionable eyebrows under any circumstances other than those involving penis straws, the stranger the whole thing becomes. Paying vast amounts of money to do this only makes the whole thing worse.
I read back what I wrote just then, and I sounded like a party pooper but the truth is, I’m not. I have been the girl who stays up late making t- shirts for 15 women of varying bresticular proportions. I have cancelled work to fly out to a place several days early, to make sure the event goes smoothly. And, because I love my friends, I will probably continue to blow a hefty proportion of my disposable income on group activities at vastly inflated prices. I guess until we really get nostaligic about things again and people start yearning for the hen-do’s of yore… a night on the Malibu at the local club, wearing a tacky sash and tiara, rather than trying to justify our final night of freedon by doing ALL THE THINGS, the modern he-do will never change.
I guess all I can really do is hope that when the er, ring is on the other finger that everyone has some spare cash to join me on my trip to Necker Island in a boat made of Gold, crewed entirely by One Direction, with day activities that include a Diamond Hunt and something else that is equally obnoxiously lavish.. it will be SOOOOOO much fun!