NOT so long ago, concessions towards ‘health’ on the average hen do meant mixing your vodka with cranberry juice (so very cleansing) or splitting your portion of cheesy chips with a pal. Yet in recent years, spin classes, events such as Tough Mudder and even personal training sessions have become a hen do norm. So what’s driving the rise in healthy hens?
In many ways, the change simply reflects developing tastes among women in their twenties and thirties. Bridesmaids traditionally choose a hen activity the bride loves and nowadays serious exercise is a way of life for many young professional women. The flourishing ‘healthy hedonist’ trend means exercise and partying are no longer seen as incompatible but as endorphin-raising bedfellows.
‘We encourage riders to cut loose and even enjoy a drink or two post-ride,’ says Naomi White, an instructor at boutique spin franchise Boom Cycle (boomcycle.co.uk), which has been offering hen packages since 2016.
‘The atmosphere in the studio is always electric. We offer hens the opportunity to pick a theme for their ride — anything from Beyoncé vs Christina to boy band classics — and this adds a nice personalised touch.’
For Shara Tochia, co-author of new book The Healthy Hedonist’s Guide To London (whateveryourdose.com), exercise can be a great ice-breaker within hen groups, which often contain unfamiliar clusters of friends.
‘I’ve attended or organised many hens that start with a healthy activity,’ she says. ‘I created a sports day for a group in the south of France, which was fun, and I did a fancy dress game of Rabble (high-intensity team games, joinrabble.com) in the park. I’ve also been asked by a friend to teach a spin class for their hen do. The best thing about exercise classes is the mood uplift. They’re a guaranteed feel-good experience to start the day, and help you to bond with strangers.’
Gym chain Frame has been doing ‘alternative hen parties’ since it opened nine years ago.
‘The most popular choices are dance workshops with a specific theme,’ says its PR manager Jayne Robinson. ‘Beyoncé is a firm favourite and Single Ladies has been popular for a couple of years. Any classes we offer on the timetable can be booked as a hen, so people who like things a little more low-key may choose a yoga workshop, while for fitness fans boxfit might be the one. We can also supply some post-class bubbles and nibbles on request.’
The traditionally debauched hen can also be tricky to navigate for the increasing number of people who don’t drink or drink only in moderation. More than a quarter of under-25s are non-drinkers, according to the Office For National Statistics.
‘We have definitely seen an increase in bookings for more healthy alternatives to the stereotypical weekends,’ says Josh Mason of event party planners Hen Heaven (henheaven.co.uk). ‘Some of our stalwart activities in the past have been alcohol-based, like cocktail-making and gin-tasting but activities like these have seen an 18 per cent drop in bookings this year, alongside increased interest in active options.’
The spiralling costs of modern hen dos and weddings may well also be a factor. An average UK hen costs £434 per person, according to figures from Hotels.com, and this rises to nearly a grand for weekends abroad. With that kind of financial outlay, it’s no wonder many hens are no longer interested in spending half their weekend drinking mystery punch out of fishbowls, and the other half with their head down a toilet.
And if you’re worried it’s all squats and bleep tests for modern hens, rest assured that fun yet healthy activities like surfing and dance classes are very much in the mix.
‘It’s A Knockout is now officially our bestseller,’ says Mason. ‘Bookings for it have increased by more than 100 per cent in the last couple of years. It’s basically a giant inflatable assault course. But you have to be a pretty fit bunch to want to have a go at that!’
Three more alternative hen ideas
The aerial one
With 32 locations around the country from Kidderminster to Glasgow, Go Ape’s Tree Top Adventure is ideal for anyone up for a spot of the wilder, outdoor life. Prepare for two or three hours in the trees, tackling wobbly obstacles, zip wires and giant Tarzan swings up to 40ft off the ground. And as Go Ape says, leave your egos behind because ‘nobody can land a zip wire gracefully, so getting woodchip in your knickers is inevitable’. Enquire directly for a quote, goape.co.uk
The one with naked men
It’s art! Hens In A Pear Tree hold life-drawing classes at the London Fine Art Studios in Battersea and provide you with an intimate candlelit dinner too. Set up by two sisters, one an artist and the other a chef, it allows you to legitimately hang out with a naked man, then scoff delicious supps. Bravo! From £45 per head with food (£25 without). supperinapeartree.co.uk
The one with animals
How about going on safari… in Wiltshire? This year, Longleat has launched VIP guided tours with a specialist ranger in one of its zebra-striped 4X4s. Up to six guests can get off the beaten track to get up close and personal with the animals. Sometimes it’s even possible to hand-feed deer from the vehicle. From £85 per person, longleat.co.uk