The Hen Party

Hen Party – two words that usually result in a Jade-shaped hole in the nearest wall. Armies of women intimidate me, and hen parties are armies: the matching pink uniforms, the war paint, the formation marching in heels and the clear agenda for attack : raucousness, mayhem and a drunk bride at any cost. I’ve always imagined my hen party would be a Chinese takeaway and the Back to the Future trilogy. I’ve been scared of hen parties. Then I got invited to Brighton for a hen weekend. The bride is very dear to me; and there’s no way I was going to miss her celebration having been invited, but I had my trepidations. I only knew the bride and her sister, I’m not a club kind of girl, I can’t dress to impress, can’t walk in heels, can’t manage shots, and well, like I said, I find girl armies rather intimidating (which I guess is the point).
I arrived late, having to travel to Brighton after school on the Friday, and I knew the party would already be in full swing. I rang the doorbell with a certain degree of nerves. Who was I going to meet? Would they like me? Would they accept me? Would this weekend be alright? The bride’s sister answered the door in her pyjamas and I was immediately enveloped in a massive hug. The bride was right behind her: ‘I’m so glad to see you, you look really well, come in, we’re playing a game.’
A little background: the bride is the sister of my ex-boyfriend. When he and I were together I got close to his wonderful family; and his sisters and I became friends on our own terms. I was invited to the wedding while he and I were still together and invited to the hen party after we broke up. This broke my heart, in a good way. It broke my heart that while I was no longer officially part of the family, I was still part of the celebrations and had been considered. I was scared walking into a room of pyjama clad ladies all in the middle of a game – but they were wonderfully warm and welcoming. My fears of ‘The Hen Party’ were already starting to allay. The maid of honour is the bride’s only sister and she had planned the whole weekend. Everything was sorted and organised. Saturday we were to be visiting the Brighton Pier and enjoying the rides and slot machines. Saturday night was the big night; a meal (already booked and paid for) and then various bars ending up at Brighton’s best club. The bride is a classy lady and had obviously told her sister what she wanted and my goodness did she deliver.
I’m not sure just what I was expecting that weekend, but I got more and saw more. I saw a younger sister completely focussed on making sure her sister had a memorable time. Jen was in control the whole time and while she was making sure her guests had fun, her main focus was undeniably on her elder sister. The bond between the two was obvious and glorious, and it reminded me of the bond I have with my sister. The brides were out en-force that Saturday night. Cheryl (our bride) literally bumped into many other brides out celebrating their lives and their choices. One of the most remarkable moments was seeing Cheryl and another bride hug and exchange shots. It’s not about being away from men, it’s about taking a little time to enjoy being a woman. There were ten of us, and not one of us was single. We talked about our men, we texted and phoned them. We thought about them, loved them and missed them, but there’s something to be said about them not being actually present. It was a ladies- only zone, and when bed-time came, we talked some more. We rubbed each other’s feet, poured each other’s drinks; we took care of each other.
Then it occurred to me: it’s not about the stilettoes, the veil or the shots; it’s about women coming together to celebrate the choice one has made, to celebrate her life, to celebrate her. I was terrified of hen parties, until I saw one done right. I used to be scared of the Hen Party Army, until I was part of one. We were an army, we were Cheryl’s army; a band of ladies who will always be there for her, no matter what. It was a chance to drink, to talk and to dance to the future of this one wonderful woman. I’m in Cheryl’s army, I always will be, and I still have my gold glittery nail varnish on.