Dubai woman launches ser­vice to help brides plan the per­fect hen do

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE - David Dunn

Some brides en­joy or­gan­is­ing their big day so much they’re in­spired to be­come wed­ding plan­ners. For Sher­rie Hig­gins, it wasn’t so much ty­ing the knot as plan­ning her best friend’s hen party that be­came the cat­a­lyst for a busi­ness. “I’ve al­ways en­joyed par­ties and plan­ning events,” says Hig­gins, 28, who is from Glas­gow, Scot­land. “But I didn’t ex­pect to dive head first into all the lit­tle de­tails that brought the week­end to life.

“Once it was done, I still had so many ideas and couldn’t wait to do it again. I started writ­ing things down, de­sign­ing other themes and, be­fore I knew it, had a busi­ness idea.”

Recog­nis­ing the cre­ative chal­lenges and po­ten­tial pit­falls of de­vis­ing the ideal pre-wed­ding party led to How to Hen, an on­line tips, sta­tionery and at-venue help ser­vice launch­ing in Jan­u­ary. The in­spi­ra­tion came last year when Hig­gins was asked to be a brides­maid – and hen week­end or­gan­iser – shortly be­fore mov­ing to Dubai. “An­other brides­maid and I worked out a lot of ideas be­fore I moved. We knew the bride loved mu­sic fes­ti­vals and would have gone to Coachella [in Cal­i­for­nia] if she’d been able. So, we de­cided to build a ‘fes­ti­val’ around her. It took eight months’ plan­ning, in­cluded weekly Skype meetings, a Pin­ter­est board, two bul­let jour­nals of to-do lists, days of craft­ing to make dec­o­ra­tions, and a monthly countdown an­nounce­ment Face­book page.”

Hig­gins, who lives with her air-traf­fic con­troller hus­band at Al Habtoor Polo Club, has ex­pe­ri­enced eight hen par­ties be­sides her own, so had firm ideas of what works and what doesn’t. “I’ve been for­tu­nate in that I haven’t at­tended any hor­ri­ble hen nights,” she says. “My own hen week­end was bril­liantly put to­gether by my best friend. I gave de­tails of the venue I wanted, but ev­ery­thing else felt really per­sonal.

“My favourite thing about par­ties has been va­ri­ety; the tra­di­tional par­ties … and also a week­end in a car­a­van with close friends just play­ing games, eat­ing junk food,” she says. “The best way to ex­e­cute a hen week­end is to make sure you keep the bride in mind at all times. I have heard sto­ries of girls who planned things they wanted to do without con­sid­er­ing the bride – like tak­ing a bride ter­ri­fied of heights to jump from a cave into a gorge.”

On one hen do, a meal planned for 20 nearly didn’t hap­pen when brides­maids went ahead to dec­o­rate the restau­rant only to find it had closed down. Hig­gins says she also learnt from her own hen. “While my week­end over­all was really fan­tas­tic, part of the out­door sec­tion re­quired us­ing a space hop­per to bounce around a small out­door maze,” she says. “My brides­maids hadn’t tested how dif­fi­cult this would be, so when peo­ple started try­ing to com­plete it, many couldn’t be­cause it was too ex­haust­ing.

“It didn’t im­pact the week­end, but it’s a good ex­am­ple of why you should make sure you test the things you or­gan­ise in ad­vance.”

While Dubai has a vi­brant nightlife, Hig­gins ad­mits she was un­cer­tain how vi­able a mar­ket it would be for How­to­hen.com, not least amid cul­tural sen­si­tiv­i­ties. “I was def­i­nitely con­cerned about this at first, but the more I go out in Dubai, the more I see groups of girls on hen nights. Other than peo­ple who live and get mar­ried here, there is also is a cer­tain type of bride who’d love to come and ex­pe­ri­ence the glam­our as­so­ci­ated with hav­ing her hen in Dubai.”

That said, Hig­gins’s ser­vice is de­signed for event or­gan­is­ers any­where. De­vel­op­ing it has taken a year, from test­ing ideas at net­work­ing events and writ­ing con­tent to es­tab­lish­ing sup­pli­ers and de­sign­ing a web­site. She of­fers sev­eral themes – in­clud­ing par­ties based around a fes­ti­val, uni­corns or mer­maids – and has a dozen more planned.

“My 12 types of bride were in­spired by sto­ries I heard of women who’d de­cided not to have a hen week­end be­cause they had pre-es­tab­lished ideas of what one is, and it didn’t suit their per­son­al­ity. One of the most im­por­tant things I stress with How to Hen is that any­one can have a hen party. I want ev­ery­one from body builders and book­worms to spir­i­tu­al­ists and so­cialites to be able to log on and find some­thing they would en­joy with friends be­fore they get mar­ried.”

There are four pack­ages to se­lect from, start­ing with the ba­sic at Dh125, for which one can ac­cess in­for­ma­tion and ideas, print­able pre-de­signed ma­te­ri­als and games. An­other of­fers reg­u­lar con­sul­ta­tions with Hig­gins about venues, games and “deal­ing with tricky guests”. A Dh5,000 VIP pack­age adds photo booths or can­did pho­tog­ra­phy, movie post-pro­duc­tion and venue dec­o­ra­tion as­sis­tance, as well as per­son­alised sta­tionery and a full week­end pro­gramme, wall quotes and cus­tomised cock­tail cards.

“Since my web­site is ac­ces­si­ble from any­where, I stress users must con­sider and be aware of laws and cul­tures of the coun­try in which they’re host­ing their event,” says Hig­gins. “There will al­ways be some­thing that goes wrong. It’s just im­por­tant to have backup plans and be will­ing to roll with the punches.”

Sher­rie Hig­gins, founder of on­line plat­form How to Hen, says its clients must con­sider the laws and cus­toms of the UAE

How to Hen is launch­ing in Jan­u­ary

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