A Stylish Hen Night That's Not Embarrassing? Yes, It IS Possible

Stop us if this scene sounds disconcertingly familiar: L plates, straws and whistles in the shape of willies, and costumes plucked from the Ann Summers catalogue. Yep, it's just your typical hen night, guaranteed to cause eternal Facebook mortification (thank goodness for the "remove tag" feature) and more than a few eye rolls.
Of course, not every celebration of a woman's last single days on earth needs to end with your maid of honour courageously holding your fake veil/tiara combo in the ladies' toilets at Infernos. If you're not that keen on matching corsets, tacky toys, and package deals that promise little more than a bowl of pasta and entry to the city's lamest comedy club, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
We've asked some of our favourite fashion gals and party planners — some single, some hitched, some about to walk down the aisle — for their tips on throwing an epic hen night that's a bit outside of the box. And not a single willy straw in sight — promise!
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Anne Kapranos, owner of Kapranos PR

"I'm all about a Deep South/Nashville-themed hen night. I am a HUGE fan of country music and have recently been indulging my ultimate guilty love for rhinestones, Stetsons, and an unhealthy amount of heartbreak by watching Nashville religiously. There has been a recent trend in London for hearty, sticky Deep South cooking, American craft beers, and dirty pop-up dive bars that play the best blues, rockabilly, and country music. I am not into L plates and willy memorabilia, so this theme is the perfect alternative, being super-cool but retaining a fun albeit slightly cheesy element!

"First of all we’d head to Beyond Retro, London’s best vintage shop, to pick up an outfit. They do a lot of great cowboy boots, denim shirts, and, if you’re lucky, you can find an amazing suede fringed jacket — the perfect look for our night out! After we have the clothes, it’s time to complete the look. Right beside the Soho branch of Beyond Retro there is a plethora of craft and dressmaking shops, where we will be able to buy some rhinestones and fringing to customise our denim shirts, gingham tops, suede jackets, and jeans. It’s all about adding some proper Nashville bling. Once we are kitted out in dazzling double denim, we will head to the nearest nail bar and ask for bandana nail art (available by custom request at WAH Nails). If we have time, we will get our hair blow-dried as big as possible, perhaps with some frosted pink lipstick to match?

"Then it’s time for dinner at Joe’s Southern Kitchen and Bar, which has just opened in Covent Garden. We will sample cocktails with names like Redneck Popper and Night in Jail before tucking into dishes like beer can chicken, mac 'n' cheese, and pressure-fried chicken — all authentic food from the Deep South. If Joe’s is all booked up, then it’s Pitt Cue Co. or Duke's Brew and Que. If we’re really feeling the effect of the cocktails, then it’s time for Lucky Voice, where we can belt out some Dolly Parton. As a party favour, I will give everyone a ukulele and a cowboy hat, just so we can accompany whoever is singing. Then we’ll go to the Southbound party for some 1970s country and American rock. Hopefully the night will end with us all singing "Stand By Your Man" at the top of our voices!"

Images: Anne Kapranos; Western shirt, from £20, available at Beyond Retro; ukulele, £65, available at Duke of Uke; fried chicken courtesy of Joe's Southern Kitchen and Bar
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Tolula Adeyemi, model and actress

"The ultimate fantasy hen day and night would be all about relaxation, fun, and laughter. Ideally it would be on a small exotic island or even out in the desert and riding camels or walking along gorgeous beaches, swimming the sea pretending you're a mermaid, and watching the stars. We would be staying at a place similar to the place the Sex and the City girls stayed in when they went to Dubai.

"Start the day with a breakfast and watching the sunrise, then possibly go running or do yoga and meditation on the beach. You know you're going to over-indulge before the wedding day, so might as well get in some exercise! Then a two-hour massage with fragrant oils, top-to-toe beauty treatments, strange mud wraps, and all the trimmings would be perfect.

"Obviously you would need a disco nap siesta to prepare for the evening, just like we did when we were 19 and spent the summer in Ibiza and Formentera. We would play some board games while we are poured champagne and decide on our outfits. The theme of our looks are classic Holllywood screen divas from the golden age, so we are putting on blonde wigs and making Josephine Baker-style waves in our hair. After the games, a speedboat would pull up to take us to the mainland to a party at a chateau, quite similar to the famous Chateau Marmont. We are welcomed on the boat with more champagne, oysters, kale chips, red quinoa, and fruit. After dancing at the decadent chateau, we would finish the evening at a local dive bar in the town singing karaoke, then meet the speedboat just in time to take us back to the desert island. On our beds would be silk pyjamas and on our pillows would be lavender-scented silk eye masks for sleeping in late!"

Images: Tolula Adeyemi; Sex and the City box set, from £31.99, available at Amazon; Monopoly board, £14.99, available at Argos; dream destination Chateau Marmont; Holistic Silk eye mask, £46, available at Holistic Silk
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Dana Karlson, fashion editor for Glamour.com

"My top tip is to think of treating the bride instead of embarrassing her — unless she’d get a kick out of it — and keep things in perspective. The best parties are spontaneously awesome, so don’t stress over pre-planning (that’s what a wedding’s for, and you don’t want to overshadow the Big Day). The most enjoyable hen parties I’ve been invited on are essentially a glorified night out/weekend away spent doing what you’d do if you were all together sans partners. So if the bride’s a foodie who loves yoga, schedule a group class and then book a table at the tastiest place in town where reservations come few and far between — she’ll be impressed.

"Think about how you’d plan your own. Mine would start with a boozy brunch (at somewhere that serves French toast), some kind of group dance class, Japanese for dinner, finished off with a show at The Box. If you’re stretching it out over a weekend, resist over-scheduling as you’ll drive everyone else mental; keep it easy and flexible so you can go where the night/days take you with some hot spots in between."

Images: Dana Karlson on her wedding day; The Box Soho; Chandrasana yoga leggings, £24, available at Sweaty Betty; Silver Polaroid Camera Set, £120, available at Urban Outfitters; Cow Slip Manicure Maintenance Kit, £19.50, available at Cowshed
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Charlie Brear, bridal designer

"Turn your house into a spa with treatments including four-handed massages, shellac manicures, and detoxifying wraps.The ultimate in hen party luxury!

"The house would be decorated with beautiful ivory and pale pink roses and peonies. Diptyque candles would be burning to give the house a beautiful aroma. Dermalogica and Sunday Riley would be the beauty products used for the treatments, while lunch would be sushi and sashimi delivered from Roka on Charlotte Street, plus Laurent Perrier rose champagne for celebrating!

"Finally, I would give all of the bridal party a Charlie Brear 'Luck' necklace in rose gold."

Images: Charlie Brear; Luck necklace, £170, available at Charlie Brear; Roka lunch; Diptyque Gardenia candle, £40, available at Space.NK
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Rosie Wonders, designer and illustrator

"I love themes that remind people of their childhood; something nostalgic is great for a party and gets everyone in a good mood. I’ve always loved Russian dolls, so this would have to be my theme. My business is actually sort of based on Russian dolls, as one of the first cards I designed was a row of nesting dolls. This was a best seller for a long time and they will always feature in my work somewhere. I have been known to dress up as them, too! For your pal, do some digging and find out what she loved as a child.

"Think outside the box in terms of venues because they’re so important for setting the scene. I love Drink, Shop & Do on Caledonian Road. It’s very retro '50s and they do amazing cocktails. It combines what every hen do should involve: drinking and shopping! Ditch the cheesy matching t-shirts and instead have fun adorning each other with temporary tattoos. My unicorn style gives a nod to fairy-tale weddings, whilst at the same time channelling your inner rebellious streak, pride intact.

"Everyone loves a goodie bag. Pack the ultimate one for your bride-to-be with wedding day essentials and tell her what a "fine bird" she is. Wrap the bag up in my nostalgic ABC paper and relive childhood memories with a game of pass-the-parcel, with her gift at the centre. Lastly, hen nights don’t need to cost the earth. If you’re on a tight budget, ask everyone to bring a dish and make up your own chocolate- or vanilla-flavoured vodka for games."

Images: Rosie Wonders; Unicorn Temporary Tattoos, £6, available at Rosie Wonders; Drink, Shop & Do; Matchbox Organic Shopper, £9.99, available at Rosie Wonders
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Paula Goldstein, founder of Voyage D'Etudes and digital director of Purple.fr

"My tip for the perfect hen is to really think about your bride-to-be and who is she deep, deep down. Think good ol' #TBT as your theme.

"For example, I'm an Essex girl without much of an accent, so it's not always the most obvious aspect to my personality, but my friends held dear to my roots and took me home The Only Way is Essex-style. They rented a footballers' wives-esque mansion, and even got us VIP treatment at the infamous Sugar Hut. They sought plenty of advice from my sister, the only other bona fide Essex girl they knew. It was the perfect way to let loose and laugh both at myself and particularly at the reactions of my friends with a very chic gamine french girlfriend of mine loudly coming to terms with the concept of extra-thick fake lashes having to be worn in public and a very dapper gay bestie losing his trousers dipping too low to some '90s R & B. I know that not everyone is from Essex but we all have some strange childhood theme, be it your home county, pony club, an overly intense obsession with the Spice Girls...you name it."

Images: Paula Goldstein; Katy Perry for Eylure Cool Kitty lashes, £5.95, available at Boots; Moët Personalised Champagne, price upon request, available at My Moët; Rollei Superpan Single Disposable Camera, £7.49, available at eBay