A hen do is supposed to be a celebration with your friend before they tie the knot, not a stressful ordeal that leaves you strapped for cash. Here, one member of the Stylist team shares her story…
When my best friend got engaged, I was beyond excited for her. I had watched her relationship blossom and I knew she had been waiting a while for it happen. She asked me to be her Maid of Honour (I joyfully and tearfully accepted), we went dress shopping and I diligently took on any responsibilities expected from me. But fast forward a few months and I had to pick up my phone to tell her that, despite being Maid of Honour, I couldn’t actually attend her hen do.
Somehow, hen dos have catapulted into a world of extravagance. Gone are the days of a slap-up meal and some games over drinks. Now, we’re being asked to cough up cash for spa days, country cottages and workshops that cover everything from cocktail making to pottery. Then there’s the jet-setting brides. The ones who set their hearts on a hen do abroad, leaving us to drop a load of cash on what is effectively a mini holiday. Except, unlike a holiday, you don’t get any say in where you go, who you travel with and what you do day-to-day.
While I had no problem in splashing a bit of cash to celebrate a childhood friend’s marriage, I knew there would be issues when she uttered that dreaded word: Vegas. Yes, I was appointed the role of Maid of Honour, but she had taken it upon herself to decide her own hen do and nothing but Vegas would do. In August (peak-holiday time). And only at one of the fanciest hotels on The Strip.
So how much was this going to all cost, I hear you ask? The grand total was £1,500. Aka a whole month’s wage, for me.
Ridiculous as it may be, it turns out this wasn’t an isolated incident. In a recent survey, Hotels.com found that the average cost of attending a hen or stag party abroad is around £998. That’s more than double the average cost of attending a hen or stag do in the UK, which still costs a hefty £464. Not to mention the precious annual leave you have to use up (four days for me).
When I heard the travel agent had quoted “a great deal” at £1,500, I think my heart stopped for a moment… especially when I realised that the obscene price tag only covered the hotel and flights. Before I knew it, I was added into the dreaded hen do WhatsApp group (you know the one: lots of passive aggressive suggestions, counter-suggestions and snide ‘I know the bride better than you do’ asides). The bride quickly introduced us all to one another and swiftly left, leaving us to plan an “epic” hen do she would never forget. Her words. And, before I knew it, suggestions from her friends came pouring in. Limos, swanky clubs, shows and helicopter rides. Things I wouldn’t even have considered for my own bloody honeymoon.
Rapidly it all became too much, as attending the hen do took on a whole new meaning for me: in my head, it was my way of showing my friend that I cared about her, as if missing it would wipe out our years of friendship. I was determined to go. Then, one evening, I sat and jotted down all of my finances. As I stared down at the numbers, I realised that this was basically impossible for me: it would take months to save up.
However, I was too embarrassed to tell her that my wage wasn’t high enough to afford her special trip. So I kept going, as the costs began spiralling out of control: it was always more luxury, more ‘once in a lifetime’ moments, more unnecessary expenditure. Soon we were looking past the £2,000 mark. And, despite trying to see everyone else’s point of view, I just couldn’t get my head around why it was necessary.
A third of the 2,000 people polled by Hotels.com said they’d made financial sacrifices so they could attend their friends’ hen and stag dos. Finally, I realised that was something I just wasn’t prepared to do. My wages were going towards my own future - think impending bills, the dream of buying a house, possibly my own future wedding - and attending this ridiculous hen do would cut into a huge chunk of that.
The most shocking thing to me, though, was that the bride didn’t even stop to consider that.
As the pressure mounted and the group were eager to book, I knew it was time to speak up. While I didn’t want to put her off her dream hen do, I unfortunately couldn’t be a part of it. As she was so busy with wedding planning, I had to send a WhatsApp message. I explained that, while I was so touched to be Maid of Honour and to help so much with the wedding, I just wasn’t in the right position financially to attend her hen do. I also added that I would love to plan a separate hen do, possibly in the UK so that we could still celebrate. Compromise.
it went down like a lead balloon: she was cold, hurt and confused as to why I “couldn’t just get the money together and make it happen”. Above all else, she was so oblivious to how much she was asking of me. However, rather than get drawn into an argument, I remained firm.
Eventually, she came around to my way of thinking. Yes, it was a bit awkward at first, but once they had booked the trip without me, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. And, when pictures of the Vegas trip later began to trickle on to social media, I felt a wave of relief. The activities were flashy, the nights out were extravagant and the group even decided to upgrade to a penthouse suite upon arrival. If I had been there, I just know I would have been constantly on edge about how much money I was spending. I would have wound up resenting my friend for pretty much the rest of our lives. And I wouldn’t have gotten to storm ahead with the separate UK-based hen do, which was fun and thrifty. Win!
Sometimes, trying to please people isn’t worth the stress and I’m glad I put my foot down. Dipping in weekends and annual leave is completely fine, but dipping into life savings is not.
Main image: Unsplash