Pink sashes, risqué outfits and various implements inspired by the male anatomy. Hen parties these days seem to be identical, offering brides-to-be the same clichés and the same, tired traditions. For some women, this may be exactly what they’re looking for, but when it came to planning my friend, Mel’s, hen party, I wanted something at least a little different. After all, she’s not like every other hen, so why should be treated as such?
Planning both her hen party and kitchen tea, which would take place in our hometown East London, South Africa, while I, myself, was in London, was the difficult part. Fortunately, the kitchen tea was Mel’s mom’s baby and, as for the hen party, one of the other bridesmaids was based at home so she could help to sort out details on that end. In addition, I had an enormous amount of options at the click of a button, with the phenomenon known as Amazon to satisfy my every kitchen tea/hen party-related planning whim.
Mel’s mom having picked out a theme for the kitchen tea in a highly organised fashion, it was now up to my fellow bridesmaid and I to decide on a theme for the hen party. This was one area where we were happy to duplicate certain elements of the hen party – ‘kitsch’ and slightly nauseating elements, that is. Mel has always been a big fan of bling, especially the expensive kind. Sticking with the theme of bling, but leaning towards the less classy side, we settled on ‘Blinging Pink’. We then decided on a date; this part was relatively easy considering that I had a narrow window of time in which I’d be there before the wedding, and we decided to have both the kitchen tea and hen party on the same day. After designing invitations for both, a classier version for the tea and another for the hen party – Mel Photoshopped in a fantastic collection of clothes, bathed in hot pink with a touch of fake gold bling – we could begin planning the finer details.
While details such as locations and transport were being sorted out at the other end, I was having a field day with online shopping. As someone who loves spoiling others, particularly on special occasions, I was less inclined to pay attention to the costs as they stacked up. It’s especially easy to do this when you order a lot of small things here and there. I probably should have set myself a budget as I’ve heard others have done, but nonetheless, because there are so many choices online, it was easy to find everything I wanted and usually at low costs. Also, although there was a bigger group of ladies attending the kitchen tea, since many of Mel’s friends at home are young mothers, the numbers for the hen party was a lot smaller. So when I decided to use a particularly funny photo of Mel to paste on the top of personalised badges for the ladies, it wasn’t that steep.
I did end up throwing in a few other ‘kitsch’ and clichéd items such as sashes – these too I had personalised and only for the wedding party – and Mel’s entire hot pink outfit, from socks and tutu to wig and tiara. Online shopping also proved very useful in getting together a few, small items for goody bags for each of the ladies, as did London’s abundance of random shops, where I found small, scented candles, heart shaped sweets, nail accessories and lip balms. My fellow bridesmaid, who also happens to be very creative, added to the little party bags homemade girly lips and manly mustaches for our ‘he says/she says’ game (on games, Google is your best friend).
A few months later, I was ready to leave for South Africa, my suitcase separated in two with one half dedicated to pre-wedding festivities. After a few days of relaxing with my parents in the Western Cape, I arrived in East London, SA, no earlier than the morning of the day it was all to take place. I had been vague to Mel about my arrival date so the first time she saw me was on the day of her kitchen tea. We both watered up, of course.
The kitchen tea was held in a hotel’s private room, kindly organised by Mel’s mom, along with delicious food and drink and neatly organised proceedings for the day ahead. The bridesmaids’ input at the tea included the goody bags, games and helping to co-ordinate Mel’s many gifts. Towards the end of the tea, we played another game, the point of which was to begin dressing Mel in her ridiculously pink outfit to prepare her for the hen party. For each wrong answer (or right, it didn’t really matter), she would receive an item of pink clothing, slowly alerting her to the fact that we were now moving on to the second part of the festivities (I’m going to pretend that the invite to her own hen party that somehow ended up in her hand earlier that day didn’t happen and it really was a complete and utter surprise to her).
Once Mel was fully clothed in her outfit, wig and all, the rest of us who were able to remain for the hen party left the hotel and entered one of the restaurants in the big shopping centre next door, which also happens to be East London’s shopping prize. Needless to say, Mel had a good crowd and received more than a few stares and requests for photos. During the evening, Mel had the task of completing a list of random and embarrassing things to do (another familiar hen party game but usually good fun). I’m not sure if it’s over time that her confidence has increased, although I’ve never really known her not to be confident, or if it was the fact that she was soon to be married, but she didn’t even blink at those challenges. I have to hand it to her – she completed those tasks with stylish ease.
Finally, we ended up in the town’s typical Saturday night entertainment hub. I’m not kidding – it’s the kind of place where you have one club and a few bars, and there’s no way you’ll get through the evening without knowing a good number of people there. Mel was one of five hens that night (about two of whom she knew) but I’m pleased to say that she was definitely the most unique and classy one there… as classy as one can be ,dressed head to toe in fuchsia and plastic bling.
Although at times a little complicated, having to organise and communicate with people on the other side of the world, I found kitchen tea and hen party planning to be good fun. Now pre-wedding organising, that’s something I’m glad I haven’t had to deal with yet, after getting a taste for it while staying with Mel in the run-up to her wedding. In hindsight, I think I would have chosen to visit my parents after the wedding for a bit of a holiday, rather than before. The honeymoon concept makes a lot more sense to me now…