Maid Of Honour, you are in for a task and a half. Planning a bridal shower or hens party can be a lot of work. We recently planned a hen’s party at the Hunter Valley in NSW, Australia, so we thought we’d share some tips and save you some time, especially if you want to venture into wine country!
Images: Jennifer Lam Photography
Booking a destination hen’s party requires lots of planning so make sure you give yourself at least 4 months to lock everything in. Pick a date that is not in peak time for example a concert, fair or long weekend. This will push up the price, make it harder to book and prevent all your guests from being able to make it.
It is also a really good idea to get one trusted friend to help. It will take some of the pressure off, give you someone to talk through ideas/issues and help you with the running of activities on the day.
We’d suggest booking a tour bus if you have a large group. If only a small group then consider a limousine. If you're looking at Hunter Valley, there are loads of package tours available; however you may prefer to book your own bus/wineries to keep the costs down. There are loads of different options available.
Aim for no more than 4 wineries in the day plus a stop for lunch. Some wineries will have a per head charge (usually $3-$5) so contact them in advance. It may not seem like much but you certainly do not want guests fumbling for change on the day.
Ask the winery about their facilities and tasting room. You want to be sure you have a lovely environment to taste and may prefer somewhere with seats rather than standing tastings. Some wineries are much better at this than others. Our pick was the Audrey Wilkinson winery as it had wonderful friendly staff, they were really keen on embracing the hen’s party fun, and the room was set up nicely.
Arrange your accommodation and the bride-to-be’s accommodation. We don’t suggest you arrange ALL the accommodations. This is a massive job and you’ll have enough to think about.
Give the group three options of where to stay (expensive, middle range and cheap) and let them decide. Advise everyone on where the bride-to-be will be staying as usually most people will want to stay as close as they can to her.
Have only 3 collection points. Ask each guest to notify you on where they plan to stay so you know how many will be getting on the bus at each stop. Then, check with the driver as to the times you can be at each collection point and put this on the daily itinerary.
Book somewhere reasonably priced for lunch. Opt for a one-course lunch rather then multiple courses as you will not have the time or stomach room after wine tasting all morning! In Hunter Valley, we like Blaxlands or Peterson’s Champagne House for lunch and costs around $30 – $65 a head plus alcohol.
Most hire companies will base their total price on a full bus not per head. Therefore, you will not know the final cost until each girl RSVP’s. We’d suggest giving everyone a budget range e.g. $100 – 200 for the wine tour, brides costs, accessories and contingencies. Advise them that you’ll give them the final price once numbers are confirmed. That is why it is very important they RSVP quickly and you’ll be able to confirm the total cost per head.
Allocate a little extra budget for contingencies such as extra wine or food on the day. We’d suggest adding an extra $10 per head to cover this.
We'd suggest you hire an amazing photographer to take photos of you all enjoying this special day. It is a lovely gift for the bride-to-be and a wonderful keepsake. Hiring a photographer will also mean your friends can just enjoy the day and feel a little extra glam as they pose for the paparazzi! We worked with the incredibly talented Jennifer Lam Photography for our most recent hen's weekend away (as featured above).
Send out an invitation at least 3 months before the event. Over email is a terrific option - you can easily keep the group updated on any changes. There are plenty of online sites that allow you to create e-invites if you want something a little more formal.
Give an RSVP date and a payment date. Include bank details and a breakdown of the cost (if possible). State that if payment has not been received by that date then it will be taken that they will not be attending. Might sound a bit like tough love, but this will save any confusion and ensure you are not left out of pocket. Organising a party with a group of people you may not know can be very hard, so we'd suggest that you be kind but firm!
Once you have locked everything in then send out a final itinerary 2 weeks before the event. That way everyone knows where to be and if there are any special requirements, such as dress code or secrets! It will also be a friendly reminder so they don’t forget about the party!
Attendees & Bride-To-Be Pack
Set a budget for:
- Cost of the brides accommodation
- Brides tour
- Bridal pack of goodies
- Guest goodies
For the bride, you may like a fresh flower crown (check out our instagram @kissesandcakeweddings to see the flower crown florist details!), sash, feather bower or wine rack. For your group you may want hens party sash, crowns. There are so many possibilities of hen’s party accessories. Just keep it as tasteful as possible as you’ll be going into public places during the day!
Leave plenty of time to source the items and put the packs together. It may be easier if you order online. However, like any online purchase there can be items sold out or postal delays so get in early.
Activities & Decoration
Include these in the total budget and share amongst the group. We think it is a really fun idea to decorate the bride-to-be’s hotel room and the inside of the bus. You can hang pompoms, streamers or signs. You may also want to get some champagne, cute cups and straws for the group to enjoy on the bus in between stops. Just check with your bus driver first.
If you are planning on wine tasting for the party, you may also want to organize one activity on the day such as giving the bride cheeky tasks or asking the group to write down one memory of the bride. We’d suggest you only pick ONE activity as you’ll be busy wine tasting and it is a lot of work to be coordinating multiple activities whilst hopping from vineyard to vineyard.
Handing each guest a little pack with a goodies bag in at the beginning of the day is a nice way to get everyone in the spirit. You may even want to pop a bottle of bubbly on the bus!
Pay in advance
If it is possible try to pay all the bills in advance. If you cannot pay ahead of time then put together a schedule of costs before you go on the tour. This will make it clear what needs to be paid at each stop and any extra budget you may have for contingencies. After a few wines you don’t want to get it wrong!