When my first friend got engaged, we were all genuinely delighted for her.
Everyone wanted to hear how he proposed and, of course, see the ring. Several months on and things are now heating up and the infamous girly rite of passage -- my first hen night -- is upon me in May.
I have heard stories and I laughed my way through the 2011 film Bridesmaids, but I know nothing will prepare me for the event.
We all accept that it's a weekend of either debauchery or girly pampering, or both, and some time for bonding.
Whatever it is you choose to do, organisation is key. Here are my top seven tips:
Most likely, there is already a good idea of who in all circumstances must attend, and, equally, who under no circumstances should attend.
Getting contact information and also getting a response from people will be initially stressful. Most people have email or Facebook, which is great, but the bride's mum or aunts -- if she wants them there -- might not be, so you need to phone them with the information.
Location, Location, Location!
When deciding this, as well as thinking about budget, you need to be creative yet realistic in terms of everyone's finances and personal commitments (children and work). Knowing that the location is the backdrop for all your hen party shenanigans -- you want it to be a good one. The bride-to-be probably has a few ideas of where she would like to go; shortlist these with a few ideas of your own.
Alternatively, hens can easily be hosted in someone's house but make sure expense for drinks, food and entertainment or even party plates and decorations are shared out evenly between all the participants.
Timing is everything
This will be tied in with location and availability -- can everyone attend at this time?
There is no point starting off at lunch-time on a Friday if most people will still be in work. You want everyone ready and raring to go from the start of the hen.
COMMUNICATIOn is key
You've some great things planned, but you must also ensure that everyone knows what they need to bring with them. You need to let your chicklets know in advance a rough estimate of money to allow and if a costume is needed. You should also remind everyone to bring their cameras.
Remember to add an element of surprise. No matter how controlling the bride-to-be is, make sure you have a few tricks up your sleeve.
Itinerary and activities
In terms of activities and entertainment, it's always good to organise an event rather than just assuming everyone will be happy to sit around eating and drinking all day. Here are some examples: get a dance instructor in to teach you the routine to one of the bride-to-be's favourite songs -- think cheesy Britney Spears or Michael Jackson's Thriller or sexy belly dancing lessons (www.bellydance.ie).
Life drawing always brings a giggle. For models, check out www.lifedrawing.ie.
There is nothing better than heading out for the night with your make-up done professionally. Tara O'Farrell provides an excellent service. For a hen party, she charges €250 for a group of 10 onwards, so €25 each, or for smaller groups, €100 for three people. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org
For Shellac nails done in the comfort of your own home, Michelle Burke is excellent. Shellac is from €25. Call 086 233 2827.
Patricia Loughlin (087 620 9892) does angel card readings and Patricia Weston (087 684 6024) does tarot. For group bookings, expect to pay €20 a head for 15 minutes each.
The Hen is finally here
Breathe a sigh of relief -- you've put all the effort in to ensure that the hen party is a total hit and it's almost time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Start the day with a little toast reminding everyone why you are there -- make the bride feel really special and remind everyone that it's her day and you are all here in celebration of her and her upcoming wedding.
Not only will this create a brilliant atmosphere, it's also a great opportunity for those in the party that don't know each other to be introduced on common ground.
From the start of the hen to the very end, the bride should always be looked after and be the centre of attention.
This weekend is all about celebration and congratulations -- be sure that everyone gets a chance to have a proper catch-up with the bride -- it will keep the momentum and excitement of the whole weekend going, as well as giving her lots of special moments to remember.
Tidying up after the party
Unfortunately, it's not over until the last bill is paid. Make sure that every account is settled and that there are no monies outstanding.
Make sure everyone paid up and finally give yourself a well-earned pat on the back.