In your mid-twenties and beyond, the sound of summer isn’t an acoustic covers album or whichever ubiquitous Ed Sheeran track is doing the rounds: it’s the inevitable electronic chimes of a Facebook notification or Whatsapp alert, as you realise you’ve been added to yet another hen do group chat. And with every ‘Hey ladies!’ message thread comes the sinking realization that you’re only a few pleasantries away from being asked to part with a couple of hundred pounds for a long weekend of the sort of ‘activities’ you’d steer well clear of in your everyday life (here's a genuine question: does anyone actually enjoy cupcake decoration as a group activity?). In fact, that might even be a conservative estimate: a new study has suggested that attending a hen or stag do abroad could set you back almost £1,000.
The poll of 2,000 UK adults, commissioned by Hotels.com, found that the average pre-wedding festivities cost attendees £998. While that figure might initially seem a little on the extravagant side, expenses soon add up: the survey estimated that £125 goes on accommodation, £136 on flights, £78 for taxis and £64 for trains. Food and drink for the trip typically costs £101 and £119 respectively, with £67 budgeted for extras like fancy dress. It’s not hard to see why 80 percent of the survey group described the inflated costs of overseas hen celebrations as ‘staggering.’
It’s this financial drain that makes many women feel so conflicted about hen dos. On one hand, an invitation is the sign of the strength of your friendship – and it’s an excuse to have a good time with what’s hopefully a group of your closest pals (or at least, someone else’s closest pals). But at the same time, the high costs coupled with a sense of social obligation (only 29 percent of those surveyed by Hotels.com stated that they turned down an invite due to the cost) can cause problems.
'It’s all very exciting when you get invited on a hen do abroad, but as it gets closer to departure, you start to realise just how much this very short trip is actually costing,’ says Toni, 27. ‘Buying all the hen do gear, from fancy dress to colour co-ordinated bikinis to the ‘Team Bride’ merch, really adds up, then there’s flights, accommodation and the usual holiday expenses – nails, hair, waxing, taxis. And you haven’t thought about what you’ll wear to the actual wedding yet!’
Even celebrations closer to home can still prove costly. The research found that the average UK stag or hen costs £464 in total. ‘When I was invited to a friend’s hen do this summer, I was genuinely relieved to see that the bridesmaids weren’t planning something abroad,’ says Marie, 26. 'But in the end, I think I probably spent more money than I’d usually allocate for, say, a European city break, just on travel, a pricy Airbnb rental and ‘food costs’ that were never really broken down for us. I ended up having a good time, but there was still the lurking feeling that I’d have to sacrifice another trip further down the line to balance this out.’ Indeed, one third of those surveyed said that they’d had to make cutbacks elsewhere in order to attend, sacrificing holidays, clothes and other social events.
Hen dos should be a celebration, not a source of financial stress and anxiety. Perhaps it’s time to recalibrate our expectations and rein in the spending a little.
Look back at royal wedding dresses throughout history in the gallery below...
Queen Victoria, 1840
Queen Victoria is one of just two British Queens to have married while reigning (the other is Queen Mary). For her wedding to Prince Albert at St James' Palace, the young Queen chose a simple off-the-shoulder style in white satin, with a flounce of Honiton lace at the neckline. Instead of a coronet, she wore a simple orange blossom garland.