Remember the day your best friend asked you to be her chief bridesmaid? She had tears of joy in her eyes, while you felt a mixture of pride and delight at the honour bestowed upon you. But now the stress of all that wedding planning has turned your lovely friend into Bridezilla from hell and you have the unenviable task of organising the hen weekend. Which has to be in London – but not too expensive or tacky or loud. But can it be really fun and quirky? Oh, and suitable for all 20 of her guests, including her 15-year-old cousin and 80-year-old great aunt? Now the only person crying is you.
But before you change your phone number and start thinking up ways to leave the country, don’t worry. London has boundless possibilities for discerning hens, whether you’re after something classy and cultured or cool and quirky. So with that in mind, have a look at some of our ideas for hen nights in London .
If you’re planning a vintage-themed hen do, London is the place to go retro. You don’t even have to worry about getting your fancy dress outfits in advance – you and your friends can shop for outfits together. London has lots of vintage stores where you can all indulge your wartime pin-up girl fantasies – like Beyond Retro’s cavernous warehouse in Brick Lane, for instance (or there’s a branch in Soho if you wanted somewhere more central). Once suitably attired, it’s time to give your hair and make-up some serious war-time glamour. There are plenty of vintage hair and make-up specialists who will come to your hotel or apartment to give you all pin curls and victory rolls. But if you prefer, you could go to the Painted Lady in Shoreditch, which has hen packages that include authentic hair and make-up plus a few glasses of bubbly thrown in for good measure.
If there’s time after all that pampering, head to the kitsch and colourful Betty Blythe tea rooms for a war-time take on afternoon tea and cocktails (if you bring your own booze). While there, the hens can do a spot of make do and mend in a vintage jewellery workshop. Then it’s time for the main event – an evening spent dancing like they did in the good old days. Take the whole party to the London Swing Dance Society’s Saturday night Swing Dance Club in Central London for a Lindy Hop class, followed by a whole evening spent practicing your moves to music from the 30s, 40s and 50s.
Brides on a budget
If you’re canny, a hen do in London needn’t break the bank. Head for Hyde Park to try out your best heckles at Speaker’s Corner (free), then you and the rest of the hens can learn how to roller blade £28 per person including skates and protective gear). Next, hire rowing or pedal boats. (£12 each per hour) or just grab your towels and get ready for some serious goosebumps by doing a spot of swimming in the Serpentine (£4 each). Then it’s time for a picnic followed by an old fashioned sports day as you relive your school days with a sack race or a tug of war.
Even if you’ve lived in London so long you’re practically a Pearly Queen, it’s still fun to be a tourist every once in a while. Show your friends the best side of the metropolis by giving them a day that takes in some fantastic London landmarks. Go for an elegant afternoon tea at the Ritz, or take a trip on the London Eye for a bird’s eye view of the capital. To make it extra special, you could book a ‘Champagne flight’ a private capsule for up to 25 guests and a Champagne expert with plenty of fizzy for you to try. There’s also a chocolate tasting flight for a less alcoholic alternative or go for a magical dinner at one of the restaurants in the Shard, eastern Europe’s tallest building.
Eating delicious food is as much a part of the hen experience as Mr and Mrs, and London has some great places that can really inject some extra wow-factor. Indulge all your senses apart from your sight by eating and drinking in total darkness at Dans Le Noir. If sushi’s your thing, head to Inamo in Soho, where you order your meal using a mouse pad and can play computer games against the other hens. Get your own back on Bridezilla by giving her a large portion of garlic crickets, scorpion and wildebeest at Archipelago where fine dining meets a bushtucker trial. Yum!
This sponsored article is brought to you by Hen Heaven, specialists in making the perfect party dream a reality.
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Photo credits: Retro hair stying and Makeup by The Painted Lady, Pedalo in Hyde Park by Duncan Palmer, Champagne Tasting from The London Eye, Afternoon tea from The Ritz, Taste of the exotic from Archipeligo, London Eye at night by William Warby