"I Can't Afford To Come To Your Overpriced Hen Do - And I Won't Feel Guilty"
Words by Catherine Renton
I went to my first hen party at age 19, a boozy trip around Newcastle that cost us £50 each.
But in recent years, hen dos have escalated from a day at the pub with your friends to lavish weekends reserved for those who are lucky enough to afford the trip.
Last year I realised I'd reached peak hen and decided to opt out of the bachelorette frenzy altogether.
It was the one that required a flight overseas, a huge deposit on a private accommodation and a three-page dietary questionnaire from the house's live-in chef that tipped me over the edge.
It wasn't the first time I'd been invited to an expensive hen do - but it was the first time I'd had the courage to say no.
I'd assumed the bride was kidding when I first saw the weekend itinerary. But when I realised she was deadly serious, I had to put my foot down; I simply couldn't justify spending more on a weekend away than I had on my last holiday.
I told the bride this felt like a trip designed purely for showing off on Instagram and trying to score points against her sister, whose own hen had been a lavish sun-kissed weekend abroad.
I said she might want to rethink her plans because she was excluding a lot of our friends who don't have the money to splash out on private chefs and fancy villas.
This led to a massive row that we've yet to recover from. I was labelled a "fun sponge" and a "wet blanket" - and promptly uninvited from the wedding.
Hen dos are almost as important to a wedding as the dress, cake or venue. As soon as a friend gets engaged, the WhatsApp group chat starts with bridesmaids throwing around ideas for the hen party.
Over the years I've taken part in trips around the UK, cocktail masterclasses, days at the races, dutifully donning every penis deely-bopper and personalised t-shirt I've been given.
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I naively thought that fully committing to these hen dos would serve as proof that I was a great friend. Which is how I ended up on a weekend abroad that plunged me into debt and made me wary of ever taking a group trip again.
It started out simply enough: cheap flights, three nights in a reasonably priced hotel and one big night out at a club. The maid of honour quoted us a couple of hundred pounds for the entire weekend which sounded reasonable, provided there were no hidden extras. Money was tight and as much as I loved the bride, I also loved being able to pay my rent and eat.
But as the weekend approached, the costs began to creep up. It transpired were now going on a boat trip and the club night had become a VIP package costing the same as three nights in a hotel. And the maid of honour had "forgotten" to mention that we were all chipping in to pay for the bride's holiday as a present to her.
It was too late to back out, so I just agreed to all the extra costs, hoping for no more surprises when we got there.
On arrival at the hotel we learned we'd have to pay a "hen tax" as the owners had been badly damaged by previous parties; another €100 euros, which would be returned if we didn't wreck the rooms.
We managed three whole hours in the hotel before we lost the security deposit when one of the hens burned a hole in a carpet with her GHDs.
Hidden costs were everywhere. The hotel was in the middle of nowhere and a taxi to civilisation was extortionate. Our 'VIP package' at the club didn't include drinks, with even water costing €10 a bottle.
I was scared to go to the toilet in case I had to pay to pee. I was so anxious about the mounting costs that I couldn't enjoy myself and just wanted to go home.
By the time our trip was over, the weekend away had cost almost three times the original estimate. When I tried to speak to the maid of honour about the extra costs I was told to "stop being such a spoil sport".
I came home full of regret and debt, vowing to stand up for myself in the future and learn to say "no".
I love my friends and I'm happy to celebrate with them, but I can't condone the escalation of hen dos from a day celebrating a forthcoming wedding to a trip that costs more than my monthly rent.
My worth as a friend shouldn't be based on how much I can afford to spend on a hen do. I refuse to feel guilt for opting out - and if a friend can't understand that then maybe we shouldn't be friends anymore.
Featured Image Credit: Catherine Renton