Planning a hen party is pretty straight-forward when you stick to the typical format of cocktails, dinner and dancing, but, as much as we love this kind of bash, it doesn't suit every bride. We've already written about planning a hen party abroad, alcohol-free hen party ideas, and what to do if your bride doesn't want a hen party at all, so today, we're sharing our favourite alternative hen party ideas. These hen party activities ideas are cool, unique, and a little bit offbeat, and, chances are, your hen and her guests won't have experienced them before. If you think your bride would like something unconventional, you'll find all the inspiration you need right here!
1. Host a Picnic or Beach Party
Planning an al fresco hen party in cool climates is definitely a risk, but it's worth taking the gamble, as I found out a couple of Summers ago when myself and my pals managed to pull off a gorgeous beach hen party on Dollymount Strand in Dublin! This is an opportunity to let your imagination run wild in terms of décor, food and drinks, but the beautiful surroundings will go a long way towards creating the atmosphere you're after. Having a solid Plan B is crucial for this one - you've got to be able to pack up your spread and head indoors if the weather doesn't play ball - so make sure to secure a bridal party member's home, rental apartment, or event space nearby that works with your theme.
2. Plan A Karaoke Party
This alternative hen party idea is a personal favourite of mine, and, if your bride enjoys belting out Zombie by The Cranberries as much as I do, she'll love it too! It may seem like an intimidating option to some, but our love for karaoke stems from the fact that it's a judgement-free zone - whether you sound like Adele, or a farm animal from a viral video, it becomes a level playing field when you add dodgy instrumental tracks into the mix. There are lots of ways to do it, too, from booking a private room in a hip karaoke bar, to renting a karaoke machine for your Airbnb rental. We've broken down your karaoke options in Ireland in this helpful post, but if you're in the UK, check out Lucky Voice, and Karaoke Box.
3. Enjoy a Once-in-a-Lifetime Meal
Every hen party involves some kind of meal, but these days, more and more pre-wedding bashes are based around unique food experiences. You may decide to go for a high-end, fine dining meal (an affordable option if the attendees are all based in the same city, even more so if you score a lunch reservation), seek out an exciting pop-up restaurant, book a fun food tour, or take over a private dining room in a beloved restaurant for the evening. You could even use the hen party as an excuse to whisk the bride off to a food destination she's always wanted to visit - from San Sebastian to Berlin, there are plenty of options where the food offering is surprisingly affordable.
4. Head to a Music Festival
While it may take a logistical whiz to pull off a festival-bound hen party, it's destined to be a weekend that your hen and her guests will never forget! Organisation is key when it comes to securing tickets, which can sell out up to a year in advance, but the upside is that, once you arrive on site, the entertainment is essentially taken care of. In our experience, hen parties work best at smaller festivals - in Ireland, our favourites are All Together Now, Another Love Story, Body and Soul, and Sea Sessions, while in the UK, we like The Great Escape, Green Man, Wilderness, End of the Road and How the Light Gets In.
5. Rent a Luxurious Country House
If your hen appreciates the finer things in life, a night or a weekend away in a sophisticated countryside manor, complete with private, gourmet dinners, long chats by crackling fires, country walks and maybe even a few outdoor pursuits, is a clear frontrunner. Our favourite thing about a country house retreat, is that, if you pick your venue carefully, the heavy lifting will be done for you. Our very favourite spot for a countryside hen party getaway in Ireland is Roundwood House in Co. Laois, but we've put together a list of chic country house rentals in this handy post.
6. Pay Homage to a Beloved TV Show or Film
OK, so willy straws and night clubs may not float your hen's boat, but there should be room for silliness at even the most sophisticated hen parties! If your hen is fanatical about a certain TV show or film, you can find fun ways to incorporate this into her pre-wedding celebrations. You don't have to build a replica of Monica's apartment in Friends, it can be as simple as playing a themed game before dinner, or encouraging guests to channel their favourite characters through their outfits, but of course, you can go all out and book a private cinema for a screening, or jet off to a famous filming location for a tour. We would love to see what a bridal party might deliver with RuPaul's Drag Race, Game of Thrones, The Greatest Showman, or Sex and the City as their theme!
7. High-End Glamping
Most hen party guest lists are a mixed bag of adventurous, outdoorsy types, dyed-in-the-wool party animals, and shameless lushes who would rather pay a premium hotel rate than set up their own tent (guilty!). Glamping is a firm favourite of ours because it works for all of these personality types, so long as you find the right venue. The highest-rated and most luxurious glamping spots in Ireland and the UK, including our ultimate fave Rock Farm Slane, boast accommodation options to please even the pickiest of guests, and packages to suit every kind of group, from foodies, to beauty buffs to yoga fans.
8. Do a Wine (or Beer! or Gin! or Whiskey!) Tasting
For a lot of brides-to-be, the perfect hen party requires ample quantities of their favourite tipple, but a proper tasting can really take things to the next level! There are a couple of ways to make a tasting work. If you're having a casual, at-home hen party, you can set it up yourself, making sure there's enough pretty glassware for everyone, or you can book an expert who offers mobile tastings. Vineyards, breweries, distilleries and specialist bars often offer private tasting services, too, and most will offer non-alcoholic alternatives for non-drinkers. In Ireland, we like Ely Wine Bar's tastings, Listoke gin school, and The White Hag International Brewery Festival while, in the UK, you might like to pay a visit to Furleigh Estate, Buckfast Abbey, or Hampshire Wine School, or book in for a Humble Grape wine tasting or The Little Gin Company tasting.
9. Go to the Races
You don't have to be a horseracing aficionado to get on board with this one - in fact, it can actually be more fun if you've never been to the races before! There's something electric about the atmosphere at a racing festival, which provides a great excuse to get glammed up with your gals. Lots of racecourses offer VIP packages, but you could also combine your race day visit with an overnight stay in a luxurious spa hotel. In Ireland, there are races throughout the year in Leopardstown, Punchestown, Fairyhouse, The Curragh, Naas Racecourse, Galway Racecourse and Limerick Racecourse, while, in the UK, your options include Cheltenham, Ascot, Aintree, and Newmarket Racecourse.
10. Go on a Relaxing Yoga Retreat
There's never a bad time to stretch your muscles, and for a lot of brides-to-be, a yoga or exercised-based hen party is the ideal way to decompress in the run up to the big day! For big groups, you can either rent a house for a weekend and hire an instructor, or go for a package deal, which may include meditation, country walks and/or beauty treatments. In Ireland, we like Lisnavagh, The Courtyard, Burren Yoga, Cloona Health Retreat, Cliffs of Moher Retreat, and in the UK, options include White Calm Retreats, The Clover Mill, and Sharpham Trust. There are also some incredible destination yoga retreats in Spain, Portugal, Greece and beyond if you fancy turning your bash into a mini sun holiday.
11. Step Back in Time (sort of!)
If your hen is a fan of period TV shows like Downton Abbey and Bridgerton, a bit of historical reenactment could be just the thing to get the party started! In Ireland, we love Victorian Escapade at Clonard House, where guests to the stunning manor house experience life both as early 20th Century domestic servants and their pampered employers, while in the UK, you could go on a Bridgerton tour in Bath, or try a murder mystery package like Miss Mapletree's Perfect Murder.
12. Get your Portraits Painted
There aren't too many opportunities in life to have an artist create a painting or illustration in your likeness, but, in our book, a hen party provides the perfect excuse! We love the idea of hiring a caricature artist, illustrator or painter to create custom portraits of the bride, bridal party and guests. In Ireland, Catherine Eager of The Goddess Collection offers a special package where she draws and paints members of the bridal party, puts their image on some gorgeous makeup bags, and fills them up with brushes and other goodies for guests to take home!
Still looking for the perfect hen party activity? You'll find our ultimate list of ideas here!