August 2nd, 2018 | Alexis Forsyth
If the sunnier climes up North this summer have given you a taste for the sun drenched, carefree life, then we have the perfect styled shoot for you today, as we transport you to California to provide inspo for that other big day in your life – your hen do!
Led by Natasha, stylist and creator at planning and styling company Want That Invite, the shoot is a dreamy, colourful affair bursting with fun factor – everything we could want from our celebrations with our girl squad in tow!
There are gorgeous prints, palm trees (of course), rainbow bright cocktails, balloons and cake pops to get the party vibes in full swing. And it all takes place in a back garden in the North West of the UK, no less – so no airfare required! We’re just wondering if we even need the excuse of hosting a hen do to recreate this beauty ourselves?!
natasha says: We decided to create this shoot to show our clients what can be achieved in their own back gardens. With the help of us at Want That Invite, and our dream team of suppliers we can transform any space to suit their needs.
California is a popular hen party destination, but this is not always easy to get to (think money, flights and getting everybody to commit). So, instead, we decided to bring California to the UK!
Our colour scheme was inspired by Palm Springs’ architecture; think pastel pinks paired with geometric shapes. The shoot’s overarching theme is California dreaming with a ‘party in Palm Springs’ concept.
We wanted the party to be relatable and to show what’s possible with the help of a planner and stylist. We selected a colleague’s garden as the venue for the shoot, which was fairly neutral with pastel grey fences and no bold flowers or decor. We knew it was the ideal spot for our shoot as we loved the different areas available. There was a grassed area for the picnic, decking for a seating area and also a great long fence for the Photo Booth (supplied by Vivalabooth) to go in front of. It wasn’t overpowered by bushes or trees, which meant our styling was the focal point.
A variety of styling elements were taken into consideration when designing this shoot – from the patterns on the picnic rugs, to the colours of the placemats and cushions. Modern elements were introduced with the use of gold cutlery and Perspex name-tags and signage, with stationery supplied by Ever After Paperie and favours from Team Hen.
Beautiful fresh florals were introduced to add pops of colour to the picnic table, the drinks cart and even in the bride-to-be’s hair, supplied by the talented Milly Davey Flowers. Even the desserts, crafted by Honeywell Bakes and Polka Pops, were styled to match with the theme – think palm trees and pineapples.
We wanted the attire for the shoot to be relaxed, fun and realistic to what would be worn to a garden party. But we wanted to add a statement piece, which is why we decided to get Bee Davies Illustration involved. She created a bespoke denim ‘Miss to Mrs’ jacket to add to the relaxed atmosphere.
September 29th, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth
The historic city of Durham is famous for its cathedral, castle and picture-perfect setting by the River Wear, not to mention its first-class university, which attracts students by the hordes. And the good news is that where there are students, there is typically a plethora of bars, restaurants and other activities all awaiting us visiting hens!
A charming destination steeped in heritage, with glorious bridges and cobbled streets, Durham certainly offers hens something more quaint and compact than the much larger neighbouring cities of Newcastle to the north or York to the south.
The city is also the perfect base for hens keen to get out into the Durham countryside and enjoy something altogether more relaxing. Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up some of this fabulous location’s best bits, guaranteed to make your hen weekend one to remember…
Durham is an affordable destination with a variety of options when it comes to overnight accommodation. You have stylish hotel staples in the heart of the city, such as Radisson Blu and the Marriott Hotel Royal County, and on the cheap and cheerful end of the scale, look out for the likes of Travelodge or Premier Inn.
Want to venture out of Durham for a slice of luxury? Look no further than Ramside Hall, a swish four-star hotel on the outskirts of the city set in 350 acres of stunning grounds, complete with an uber-modern spa and Fusion Restaurant.
A river cruise on the Prince Bishop is the perfect way to soak up the city’s beautiful landmarks and serene surroundings. This tranquil escapade along the Wear lasts a full hour and includes a live commentary, with a sun deck and bar onboard to boot. Alternatively, explore the river at your leisure and hire your very own traditional rowing boats from Browns Boats – just make sure none of your hens drop their oars!
If sublime pampering is more of a squad goal for the weekend, the city is close to a number of fabulous spas including our earlier top accommodation pick, Ramside Hall. This is the ultimate spa resort, with a thermal suite and five pools – including a stunning, Insta-worthy infinity pool.
Is a live performance your vice? Then make a date with the Gala Theatre, which plays host to everything from music and dance to comedy and opera. The perfect outing to kick-start your weekend celebrations and switch things up from the usual bar crawl.
July 11th, 2017 | Alexis Forsyth
image source, photography by Brittany Griffin
Planning and organising a bride’s hen do can (almost) be as stressful as the big day in question. Bringing together a host of school and university friends, family members and work mates – who are almost always dotted in various locations across the UK – can be an arduous task.
And then comes the really tricky part – deciding on what you’ll actually do to celebrate the bride’s final soiree as a ‘single’ woman – and in turn claim the crown as best bridesmaid ever (it’s true, we’re all secretly vying for this accolade).
These days, it’s become the perfect excuse to jet away for a weekend in the sun, but for the hen do staying closer to home, there are lots of fun and creative activities to choose from too, that promise something a touch more sophisticated and memorable than a clichéd night on the tiles.
As such, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite alternative hen party ideas, perfect for the bride-to-be up north and her devoted squad of besties.
We love a throwback or two, especially when it involves retro skates, neon lights, a glitter ball and classic pop tunes. Cue the roller disco, which has seen a revival in recent years, with everyone from Kylie Minogue to Kate Middleton getting their groove on in the roller rink. If your bride was born in the 80s, then you can’t fail to impress with this choice! Manchester is a hotspot for roller discos, with Newcastle also recently dabbling in a pop-up rink at city centre venue, The Boilershop.
Another activity that harks back to our youth is the classic slumber party – the ultimate girls’ nights in! Of course, you’ll want to pick a sumptuous setting that’s extra special – think an urban penthouse, private roof terrace (we love The Light Aparthotel in Manchester’s Northern Quarter) or even a beach house or castle (Kate and Tom’s have curated a fabulous selection of UK venues) – and pair the evening with bubbles, pampering sessions and delicious treats.
Zen parties are now a thing, offering hens a blissful, chilled out session in each other’s company. For something a little different from the norm – House of Voga fuses yoga with 80s dance, offering classes up north, in Edinburgh. Meanwhile Secret Yoga Club run private parties that blend yoga with live music (we’re talking the violin, cello and even chamber ensembles), a candlelit three course feast and a post-yoga activity such as life drawing, reiki or floristry workshops. A truly inspired combination, we think!
Cocktail making is like so five years ago, don’t you know? Instead, get crafty in the kitchen with a macaron workshop, which will be sure to hit the sweet spot on your hen do. We’re a little taken by Mademoiselle Macaron, a kitsch little café based in Edinburgh that offers private classes to hen parties, where you can bring along your own drink and even dress up in a Marie Antoinette wig!
May 25th, 2015 | Rachel Parry
While some brides are looking for a modern city in which to spend their so called last night of freedom others will prefer a location with a little more depth in terms of history and culture for their pre-wedding partying with the girls.
But historic doesn’t have to mean boring, and certainly not when it comes to the gorgeous walled city of York. There really is something for all here making it a particularly good choice for hen parties made up of varying aged ladies and those with differing interests.
Within its walls ladies will find a fantastic mix of culture, shopping and entertainment as well as both traditional and cosmopolitan places to drink and dine.
So rally up the girls as we talk a hen party in York!
where to stay
Ladies wanting a weekend of luxury should check in to The Grand Hotel & Spa which overlooks the city’s walls. This five star hotel boasts seven different beautifully designed room types giving you and your girls several choices when it comes to how much of the budget to blow on accommodation. Meanwhile in the hotel’s vaults ladies will find the spa, for hours of relaxation and pampering.
Those wanting to embrace York’s history by staying at some of its more traditional spots should also look up Guy Fawkes Inn and The Lamb & Lion Inn. Both are situated in desirable locations and are brimming with character. Hearty, unpretentious food can also be found at these classic inns.
If it’s more of a boutique feel you and the gals are after The Judge’s Lodging and Hotel du Vin should both tick boxes. Situated in the heart of the city The Judges Lodgings is surrounded by the city’s shops, restaurants, bars and historic sites, though once you’ve settled into one of its attractive rooms, dined in its gorgeous restaurant or enjoyed a glass on fizz on its outdoor terrace, chances are you won’t want to stray too far. Meanwhile the city’s Hotel du Vin is tucked away in the Mount area in a Grade II listed mansion house which retains its 19th century charm whilst enjoying the chain’s signature style. During their stay ladies can indulge in delicious French cuisine at the hotel’s elegant bistro.
Finally for hens on a smaller accommodation budget there is the modern Hotel 53 (handily located near Topshop for those last minute party outfit purchases) which is a little superior to the city’s cheaper options such as Ibis and Travelodge.
what to do
Shopping in York is different to many other cities such as Manchester, Birmingham or Newcastle in that it doesn’t have a large retail centre and instead its shops are situated in historic buildings with stunning architecture along the city’s cobbled streets. But fear not, that doesn’t mean you can’t get your fashion fixes here as the quaint city is home to the likes of French Connection, The White Company, Zara, Hobbs, Mango and Topshop as well as department stores Fenwicks and Browns, plus lots of quirky independent shops.
For bargain hunters the York Design Outlook is on the outskirts of the city which has a great range of designer labels at discount prices, from Ted Baker and Kurt Geiger to Calvin Klein and Fred Perry.
If you and your gang easily tire of the shops you could explore York’s past at one of its numerous historic sites or museums such as York Castle Museum, York Minster or, of course, the city walls. Those with a sweet tooth might want to make time to visit York’s Chocolate Story which educates visitors on York’s most famous chocolate-making families and their finest creations, including the Chocolate Orange and the Kit Kat. Walking and bus tours also provide different options to see the city’s main sites.
If your group is looking for something more thrilling (and chilling) York is also famous for its ghost walks with many of its historic buildings and streets said to be haunted. Some of the tours stop by ancient pubs that have had strange encounters – handy for those that need to build up a little courage with the help of a gin or two.
But if that all sounds like hard work a spa visit might be more your group’s cup of tea. As previously mentioned in the city centre there is The Grand Hotel & Spa which is also open to non-guests for £25 a day, though bookings must be made in advance. While some ladies might be quite happy lazing by the pool and Jacuzzi others might like to indulge in a treatment to enhance their experience. Alternatively, a little outside the city centre there is Middlethorpe Hall & Spa, which offers spa health and beauty days and half days which include use of the luxurious facilities, refreshments and treatment options.
Depending on the time of year you choose to have your hen party there are some fabulous seasonal activates in York too, such as its maze during the summer months and Winter Wonderland, complete with ice rink, around Christmas. Again depending on the dates your group can do, a day at York Racecourse could be a winning option – a great reason to dress up, plenty of prosecco and the possibility of pocketing some cash, what more could a hen party want?
where to eat & drink
A hen do to York just wouldn’t be complete without afternoon tea at the famous Betty’s tea rooms – a quintessentially English treat for you and your girls, complete with dainty sandwiches and cakes and a glass of fizz.
Meanwhile for evening meals there are the chains you would usually expect to find in citites, such as Zizis, Ask and Pizza Express, as well as traditional pubs serving up hearty dishes and fine dining options too.
Located in the Old Engine House on the edge of York’s Museum Gardens The Star Inn The City is a great location to enjoy casual brasserie-style dining with seasonal menus and daily specials to pick from. For fans of global dishes there are also numerous Chinese, Indian, French and Italian restaurants. Though some of the independents are quite small in size there is the likes of Jamie’s Italian, which can cater for larger groups.
Meanwhile the atmospheric Lucia Wine Bar & Grill, situated on Swinegate Court East, is a great place to go for early evening nibbles or a meal and cocktails before exploring the city’s nightlife. Missoula Bar on Bridge Street, previously The Living Room, is a great place to go for American ranch style cuisine and exciting drinks menus. The bar is also known for hosting events such as spirit tasting sessions and cocktail schools which could provide another activity for your fun-filled weekend.
When it comes to drinking York is best known for its traditional pubs so you and the girls could have two very different nights out – fashionable bars one night and ‘real’ pubs the other. If you do choose to embrace York’s pub scene top places to order a pint (or a half) include The York Tap, The Lamb & Lion and The Maltings.
In terms of bars many are clustered close together along Swinegate, Stonegate and Grape Lane in the city centre. These include cool underground bar Sotano, the lively Kennedys bar and cocktail and champagne bar The Vudu Lounge which boasts a menu of more than 150 cocktails, plus DJ and dancefloor. And if it’s late nightlife you are your hens are up for, historic York houses a few nightclubs to, including Kuda on Clifford Street meaning you can eat, sleep, rave, repeat!
March 27th, 2015 | Julia Braime
This morning, our big debate is one for the hens. We’re wondering whether your hen party will be a stretched out celebration or a one day affair? Grab a coffee (or hey, if you’re on Rachel’s side, why not make it a cocktail?), it’s time to open the floor…
rachel says: make it a weekend
I know, I know – it’s too much time away from home, it will be expensive, people will struggle to get time off work, but it will also be one heck of a good time! In my eyes if you can stretch a birthday across a few days why can’t the same be done with a hen do? After all, you only live once!
If the trip is planned in advance and well thought out so your gals have plenty of forewarning about what’s coming they will have time to save and make necessary arrangements work and family wise meaning weekend-long celebrations aren’t out of reach for all.
Indulging in a full hen weekend away not only gives you quality time with the leading ladies in your life, but it also gives you lots of time to really explore your chosen location and to let down your hair after all that stressful wedding planning – girl you earned it!
Agreed a weekend hen do is undoubtedly going to cost more than a one-night knees-up but hens can choose to make it a budget or blowout affair. For example, great value hen party packages are available with accommodation, activities, and in some cases, food and drink, all in. There are also some fab cheap breaks abroad which can work out cheaper than remaining in the UK and will give you and your girlies the opportunity to catch a tan before the big day. Meanwhile for those sticking to home turf there are some gorgeous rural retreats and city centre apartments available for groups to hire and take their own food and drink along to save money. If you take up the rural option you can also make your activities cheap too – think chilled out walks (to the pub), sunbathing (if the weather is kind), DIY pamper sessions and afternoon tea.
If push to comes shove and some girls are governed by work, family or budget restrictions it might be that they can just join you for part of the celebrations (if you aren’t travelling too far from home that is). Having different people arriving at different times can also help freshen up the group and mix people together more gradually.
When all said and done, just like your wedding should be what you want, so should your hen do and if that means a weekend away your gals need to get packing!
julia says: one night only
I have three little words for you: Three. Day. Hangover.
That’s what my last weekend long hen do did to me (and all the other ones before that). Girls, in the days of Deliciously Ella and Reformer Pilates, it’s just not the done thing to be sweating vodka on a Tuesday morning.
Ok, I get it. Your hen weekend is your last big hurrah with your girls (and if he’ll believe that, he’ll believe anything), an excuse for a bit of R&R (or G&T) in a fabulously glam city location or a chance to get away from wedding planning for three glorious lost days. But, I’m here to argue the side for less is more – a side I’m not usually sitting on – and like everything I do, I’ll sure as hell give it my best shot.
These days, I’m a bit of a convert to the mind-set that if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing really, really well. Why even try to keep the excitement going over a three day session? Why not concentrate all your spa bliss, glam-up enthusiasm, cocktail quaffing stamina and dance floor energy into one perfect 24 hours that you’ll remember forever as a brilliant burst of fabulousness.
No awkward, used all the conversation up yesterday, pauses. No splitting of the group. No hungover activity drop outs. No latecomers turning up on day two and wondering why the rest of you are all feeling a little flat.
Just a perfect day of all your best girls (or guys) together, doing something fun, and doing it with fully committed gusto.
It’ll be cooler, cheaper (something your hens will all be secretly pleased about) – and you’ll have saved yourself 24 hours of “down time” to recover before diving headlong back into
the wedding planning, er, work, on Monday morning.
Think about it. And spend the saved night’s accommodation on a knock out, one night only ensemble.
That’s chicomics for you.
what you said on facebook:
Kerri: “Blow out in Amsterdam with my closest friends and then going to have a meal in the UK so that everyone can come.”
Sophie: “I think the key is to keep it flexible so as many people as possible can join in as much or as little as their budget and family commitments will allow.”
Allison: “I’m having a meal & cocktails on the Saturday night then spa day on the Sunday. Staying at home though, just less expense for everyone & everyone has a choice if they want to come to meal or spa or both.”
Rachel: “Blow out in Barcelona, day out in York and work friend drinks… so I’d say I’m blowing out!”
March 16th, 2015 | Rachel Parry
For our next hen do hot spot we’re shining the spotlight on the cool city of manchester.
Perhaps most famous for its elite football teams, the city has so much to offer those who venture further than Old Trafford.
By day ladies can enjoy some serious retail therapy and fun daytime activities before the city really comes alive in the evening with different areas for groups to explore. Quirky bars, cosmopolitan restaurants and swanky clubs – it really has got it all.
Hens could also be lucky enough to spot the odd celeb with members of the Corrie and Hollyoaks cast, not to mention a WAG or two, living close by.
So pack the ‘L’ plates ladies as we go west!
where to stay
There is accommodation to suit all groups of ladies in Manchester’s bustling city centre. In order to make the right choice for you and your gals, you’ll need to look at the location, price range and setting that’s most desirable.
Those looking for a grand hotel with historic charm will adore The Midland, ideally located in the heart of the city centre on Peter Street. During its 100 year history, the hotel is said to have played host to kings, queens presidents, prime ministers, rock stars – and no doubt a few hens.
A haven of relaxation can be found at the Macdonald Manchester Hotel & Spa on London Road or the Radison Blu Edwardian Hotel on Peter Street. Both boast tranquil spas, ideal for hens who want to unwind during the day before hitting the bars hard at night. Radison’s Sienna Spa located in the basement includes a sauna, steam room, gym and swimming pool while Macdonald’s signature thermal suite features a hot rock sauna, infra-red sauna, eucalyptus scented steam room, sensation shower, ice igloo and heated loungers.
Keeping at the luxury end of the budget the Great John Street hotel is a top pick for many who visit the city. A former Victorian school house located in walking distance of Deansgate, this is a stylish hotel with quirky features, including separate boys and girls staircases to its roof top playground. Here hens will find a terrace, hot tub, sun lounges and bar – what more could a girl want?
For those not wanting to splurge as much on accommodation The Crowne Plaza Hotel located on Shudehill close to the city’s Northern Quarter offers modern rooms at a modest price. Alternatively hens might like to book into Princess Street’s Roomzzz Aparthotel – serviced apartments with a stylish finish. The rooms boast quirky touches such as four-poster beds and all have a well-equipped kitchen, which could save you some money on your meals.
what to do
Undoubtedly Manchester is one of the very best destinations in the country for shopping (hello Selfridges!) and therefore a spree is a must for hen parties. In the city centre ladies will find both independent fashion retailers and high street favourites including Zara, Whistles and Reiss as well as designers like Vivienne Westwood, plus top department stores Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.
And if that’s not enough, groups can always allocate a day of the hen do for some serious retail therapy at the Trafford Centre. Located five miles out of the city centre, the famous shopping complex houses more than 200 stores meaning you can literally shop ‘til you drop.
Groups looking for a fun and competitive activity might like to visit to Manchester’s All Star Lanes for a spot of boutique bowling. The Deansgate venue has a private bowling room perfect for hens that comes complete with two bowling lanes, a private cocktail bar, seasonal canapé menu, staff and even the option of karaoke.
Hens worried about breaking glasses with their singing voices however might prefer a dance class. The Manchester Dance Centre offers groups the opportunity to learn a routine of their choice, from the fierce moves of Beyoncé to musical favourites, such as Dirty Dancing and Chicago.
Or for something different altogether, ladies could book to play Breakout Manchester – a live escape room where groups of friends are locked into a room for an hour and have to solve a series of puzzles to escape. Sounds very Crystal Maze to us!
After a heavy night on the tiles, a visit to a spa may well be in order and fortunately there are two fabulous options tucked away in Manchester’s city centre: Spa Satori and Bali Health Lounge. Here hens can indulge in spa and beauty treatments including massages, facials, manicures and much more.
where to eat & drink
Different areas of Manchester’s city centre offer different types of nights out.
Hens looking for a cool and quirky scene would probably be best suited to The Northern Quarter. Bursting with character the area is known to have some of the city’s very best independent bars and pubs. Prepare for some highly stylish as well as weird and wonderful décor.
For cocktail fans there is the cosmopolitan Montpellier’s Cafe & Bar which claims to have an ever changing cocktail menu, or the 1950s inspired Hula Tiki Lounge with more than 100 different rums behind the bar. Dry Bar is the perfect place to go for drinks and dancing with its DJs playing everything from indie to 80s electronica. Hens not keen on a heavy meal before a night out should look up the Wood Wine & Deli Bar which offers delicious cheese and meat sharing platters along with a glass of vino. For something a little different groups should book into Abel Haywood for brunch where you can design your own bloody Mary to wash down a Manchester fry up.
Deansgate is known for the more trendy bars in the city – an area where people like to be seen. Top picks for drinks and eats would be The Botanist, The Living Room and also Elixir Tonic & Treats. Meanwhile for clubbing there is the swanky Suede Nightclub – a VIP super club – and the Bijou Club, which is said to attract the city’s celebs.
Keeping things sophisticated, Spinningfields has become a more upmarket area of the city that has attracted numerous stylish cocktail and champagne bars. Australaisa is a sleek venue known for its signature cocktails and Australian cuisine with Southeast Asian influences. Popular haunts including The Alchemist and Artisan can also be found in this area.
Chain bars such as Revolution and Pitcher & Piano are located in the Deansgate Locks area while late night options for hard-core hens include Tiger Tiger at the Printworks and the Black Dog Ballroom in the Northern Quarter. For a little bit of cheese (after all it is a hen do) there’s also The Birdcage located in Manchester’s Arndale Shopping Centre which hosts cabaret performances by drag artists, showgirls and male dancers (think Magic Mike), plus DJs playing disco classics so groups can still hit the dance floor.
Never mind a weekend, you might need a whole week in this city ladies!
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