What's it all about?
We believe that spare time is to be enjoyed with friends and families, creating memories that will last forever. We have been helping groups create their very own weekends in the country, at some very special locations, for over 10 years.
We have an exclusive selection of self-catering cottages and glamping sites near Bath & Bristol and a few select 4 and 5 star hotels in countryside near Bristol and in Somerset and the Cotswolds.
There are lots of fun activities to do to make your weekend really special, particularly if you are looking for a different style of hen weekend or birthday get-together.
Organising the perfect hen weekend
We are now into thousands of hen weekends so hopefully we can help you create a great weekend and avoid any problems! Here are my thoughts, Best wishes, Renee x
STEP 1 – CONSULT THE BRIDE-TO BE
Find out what she wants, and more importantly what she doesn’t want! Some hens are up for anything, but others aren’t. Let your bride-to-be guide your decision-making, and make sure everything you do will make her happy. Do some research and send her links of web sites you think meet the brief. You can still surprise her, if you want to, just make sure you’re getting the tone right for her.
Good questions to get a feel for the type of hen do she wants would be: “Tell me what your perfect hen do would be like?”, “What would we do, where would we go?”, “What would your worst nightmare hen do be like?”
Establish if she wants just a day activity and night out locally, or a whole weekend away. Does she want to be in the city or out in the country, or does she want the best of both worlds with a country accommodation and city night out? Increasingly we are finding brides-to-be have 2 hen do’s – one locally, maybe just a night out or daytime activity for all their friends, and then coming away for a cottage or glamping weekend with friends & family.
If staying away for the weekend, does she want to be in a cottage, glamping or a hotel? Is a spa or hot tub important to her? Where’s a good location for everyone to get to?
Discuss with your bride-to-be what she feels is a reasonable budget for her friends. She will know, better than anyone, how much her mates can afford. How many people does she want to invite? How many does she think will actually come? Is she going to invite mum, sister/s, etc? This will give you a rough idea of numbers. She might invite 18 people but be fairly sure only 12 will actually come, for example.
Get a couple of potential dates from her that are suitable. Ideally at least 2 weeks before the wedding, and up to 3 months beforehand.
STEP 2 - RESEARCH
Start researching as early as possible, particularly if you are going to book accommodation as this often fills up well in advance. Contact a few companies to get an idea of prices and availability. If booking a cottage or glamping make sure you check if there is a minimum charge, and if the price will increase if your numbers drop. If you are booking a hotel, this is usually more flexible, but make sure you have a room for private dining so you can play party games.
Check out potential companies on Facebook. Look in detail on their web sites for information about the accommodation &/or activities you are considering.
If there are any particular activities you fancy, make sure they are available at your accommodation or nearby. If you’ve all travelled for a couple of hours to get to your venue on a Friday night, you won’t want to be driving far again on Saturday. Check pricing and availability of activities for your potential dates.
STEP 2 – CONFIRMING NUMBERS & GETTING COMMITMENT
Get the guest contact details as soon as possible. You might want to ask your bride-to-be to highlight which of her guests are besties so that you make sure these can attend.
Send out an initial communication to check who’s available for your proposed dates, a rough idea of what you’re proposing (based on your initial research) and a price estimate.
STEP 3 – GETTING COMMITMENT
Once you have firm numbers for a given date, confirm date is best (bearing in mind your bride-to-be’s besties). Once you’ve decided the date, stick to it.
Communicate with the guests. Tell them if it’s a local hen do, or if you are planning a weekend away. They need to know if it’s a night out, a day & night, 2 nights, etc so they can check their diaries. Give them an estimate of cost and what will be included. You can work out rough costs with a quick bit of internet research. Ask guests to give you a deposit to ensure their commitment, by a certain date, ideally just after pay day. If it’s a weekend away, a £50 deposit per person would be reasonable. This will help you quickly firm up who’s serious, and give you the funds to pay your deposit/s.
STEP 4 – BOOKING
Once you have numbers confirmed, and deposits in hand, you can book up your preferred activities, accommodation, etc. Don’t delay, particularly in booking accommodation as it does fill up quickly – many groups book cottages or glamping sites for hen do’s over a year ahead as they know these properties book well in advance! Key dates such as the May bank holidays, the first couple of weeks of June will be in higher demand so you need to get in quickly. Expect to pay a deposit of up to £50 per person and the final balance normally around 8 weeks before arrival.
For every element you book, expect a confirmation in writing, detailing exactly what you have booked, the dates, and any outstanding payments and when they are due. We always recommend printing out documents and setting up a paper file, as well as having them stored in your phone as you may need them on the hen do.
We use planners and budget management tools for our own trips, and will be making these available in the future.
STEP 5 – COMMUNICATION & MANAGING YOUR GROUP
Put together a detailed itinerary and budget and send it to all your group members. Include timings, activities, prices and what is and isn’t included. For example, if a meal is included in the basic budget but drinks are on top, detail this. If fancy dress, gifts, etc, are expected, mention this. If you are going out, what’s the dress code? Are you going to have a theme? If you are doing activities, what should guests bring to wear? If there’s a spa or hot tub, swimsuits, flip-flops, extra towels, etc.
Let everyone know about travel – is transport included or do they have to get themselves to the venue or accommodation independently? Be aware that some people may be on lower budgets. Once there, will there be any additional costs such as transport for a night out, taxis, etc, and can this be paid by card or will some cash be needed?
STEP 6 – TROUBLESHOOTING
So, I’ll outline the two main problems for group leaders.
Firstly, numbers dropping. Make sure you get some money out of people before you book. If you don’t, there’s no commitment, and the closer you get to a payment being due, the more stressful it can get. If a payment is due, tell the group it’s 2 weeks earlier than you need the money, so there’s a bit of flexibility if some people pay late.
Second, interfering group members! I have lost count of the times a group member has rung to change something, without consulting the group leader. We never allow anyone other than ‘the boss’ to make a change to a booking. Make sure whoever you book with does the same. If someone in your group decides they want to do things differently, it’s amazing how they can wind others up and cause problems. Be really firm. Don’t allow negotiation. If you have a few strong characters in the group, give them a job they can be responsible for, so they feel involved, but set specific boundaries - examples could be:
- Sourcing party bags & goodies to a set price with suggested contents
- Researching party games
- Making a shopping list for the weekend to your set menus
- Designing and printing something for the weekend – an example would be our ‘henfest’ weekends, where the groups will often buy lanyards and make festival style VIP badges which are personalised for the bride-to-be and the name of each guest
STEP 7 – FINAL PREPARATIONS
Send out your final itinerary a few weeks before the event and include any final details.
If you are in a cottage or glamping site, do a supermarket order for the weekend so you don’t have to travel with a carload of food and drink. Check with the property what time you can arrive and arrange the delivery at least an hour after your arrival time in case you are delayed.
Allow an extra hour travelling in case of traffic – Fridays are always busy on the roads. Try to get people to car share if you can.
Many groups will include friends from work, friends from childhood, family and friends from school, college or Uni. Use Friday night to get everyone together, a bit of bonding goes a long way.
Ady runs our Go Wild activities company and organises our team of Go Wild instructors - with difficulty, as they are all a bit of a handful!
Adrian is a Landscape Ecologist. He has a degree in Geography & Environmental Management and a Masters in Research and was previously a university lecturer & researcher in conservation & biogeography. He has also worked for Natural England and the Countryside & Higher Level Stewardship Schemes, helping landowners gain environmental benefit from their land. He has designed nature trails for several local schools and charities. Adrian has published academic papers at the International Association of Landscape Ecology and British Ecological Society, and writes a regular monthly article for regional magazine, The Mendip Times. His first book, 8 Wild Walks, was commissioned by the Mendip Hills AONB and he is currently writing a book on Wild Camping. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Adrian specialises in wild food and natural history, and leads all our corporate events with fantastic clients as diverse as Yeo Valley Organic, Clarks and Price Waterhouse Coopers. Adrian develops all our outdoor events to make sure that our groups have a great time. In addition to group events Adrian runs seasonal wild food forays.
Renée started out in management training & development, working with a wide range of clients, and served as Branch Secretary for the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development. Following an MBA in International Business, Renée worked as a management consultant/project director at the dawn of the internet age with organisations such as Microsoft, Intel, BT, and so on, combining her interest in technology and business with a deep knowledge of how people grow, learn and change. She designed the standards that became the entry requirement for the National E-commerce awards, was a popular speaker and writer on the future of work and has been featured in most of the leading business magazines.
Nowadays, she does our marketing and works with our suppliers as well as developing new activities for our groups. If she's not in the office, she's probably baking bread, making chilli jam or growing food in the garden...