Heaven for hen nights

NO longer is a night on the town in Ipswich enough for many husbands and brides-to-be. As stag and hen nights get ever more ambitious, features editor TRACEY SPARLING finds the vodka in Warsaw is proving more popular.

By Tracey Sparling

NO longer is a night on the town in Ipswich enough for many husbands and brides-to-be. As stag and hen nights get ever more ambitious, features editor TRACEY SPARLING finds the vodka in Warsaw is proving more popular.

ONE in three marriages may end in divorce these days, but hen and stag parties are a wedding market that's booming.

In fact growing numbers of groups are opting to make a weekend or even a whole week of it.

There are now dedicated companies who organise all-inclusive hen and stag weekends, with far more than strippers and cocktails on offer. Activities from hot-air ballooning to health spas and paint-balling to white water rafting can be indulged.

Dan Sharp, managing director of Playaway Weekends based in Bath, ssaid although UK breaks are still popular, low cost airlines are enabling the trend for parties abroad to flourish.

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He said: “We find people are prepared to go a bit further to do something different. They seem to follow the low cost airlines and find they can get further within their budget.

“We are seeing lots of bookings for Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, Riga, Vilnis and Talinn, plus Warsaw and Krakow as well as what are now the longstanding favourites of Prague and Budapest. Stag parties tend to like the cheap beer, specialist clubs and lap dancing. Shooting is proving very popular because it's not clay pigeon shooting like in the UK, it's using semi automatic hand guns and AK47s. Riga also has a bob sleigh run which you just can't find in the UK.”

He said choosing to go away for a weekend rather than a week works better for large numbers, as people don't have to take much time off work if they travel Friday to Sunday or Friday to Monday.

Dan added: “We are also seeing older guests about to get married for the second time round who are probably not as adventurous but have more to spend.”

Stag and hen nights also appear to be keeping local landlords busy. One East Anglian nightclub owner recently claimed hen nights now account for ten to 20 per cent of his business come the summer months.

Weblink: www.playawayweekends.co.uk

SARAH Gillett was among a group of 13 girls who jetted to the Chamonix region of France for a friend's hen weekend in January.

They stayed at a luxury chalet in Les Houches and the weekend was packed with thrills and spills as even the non-skiers ventured on to the piste.

Evening Star reporter Sarah, 25, said: “I suppose skiing in French Alps was quite an ambitious idea for a hen night, but in fact the bride lives in Geneva so she didn't have far to go. We went from Thursday to Sunday and spent two whole days skiing.

“It was the first time I had been skiing, but luckily a few of the other hens were beginners too so we were able to have lessons while the skiers went off on the red runs and came back covered in bruises! The pisteurs had to rescue them at one point.

“I wouldn't recommend booking a ski lesson for the night after après-ski though - we only got to bed at 4.30am and were tackling snow plough turns at 10.30am.”

Although such a break can turn out to be pricey, Sarah said the fun they had outweighed the cost. “You have to be prepared to spend but if you've got the budget go for it. We will have the memories to last a lifetime.”

The girls later prepared a scrapbook of the holiday, which they were able to give the bride at her wedding.

Barcelona was the destination for Fiona Wilkinson when she went to her sister-in-law's hen do.

She said: “Ten of us went, we all flew in from different airports so we were a bit worried about all getting to the same place on time! But it all went to plan.

“We stayed in a great apartment just off Les Rambles, we did all the usual tourist things, the tour bus, the Gaudi park, Sagrada Familia.

“The first evening we had a lovely meal then headed for the nightclubs, we got there about 10.30pm and were surprised at how quiet it was. We soon realised that nightlife in Barcelona doesn't start until about midnight! We finally got back to the apartment about 7am - needless to say we didn't get much sightseeing done that day!

“I wasn't sure how it would work trying to go along with ten peoples' ideas but we split up a few times so people could do their own thing. We were lucky that one of the girls had lived in Barcelona for a year so she knew all the best places to go and everyone got on really well. It was a brilliant weekend and I would recommend it to anyone.”

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