Yes, the cost of hens parties is getting out of control

$100? $300? $1,000? How much are you willing to fork out to attend a hens party?

Compilation image of hens party walking down a street with pink sashes and hands counting out $50 notes.
Many Australians struggle to fork out for hens parties that they can't afford to attend. (Source: Getty Images)

Hens parties are a unique social phenomenon. When else do you find yourself in a hectic group chat with 18 numbers you don’t have saved, choosing between naked candle making and a wine tasting with Magic Mike?

Between being polled on everything from availability, to activities to budget and navigating a stranger demanding $200 for an event 14 months in the future, hens parties are a bit wild.

To make the money stuff even more confusing, these events are often planned by the bridesmaids.

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As an attendee, your financial fate is in the hands of the bride’s sister and a couple of high school besties… Yikes.

I’ve only been to a handful of hens in my time and, aside from the general expense that comes with a friend getting married, the hens have all been fairly reasonable in cost and duration. I did attend one that involved four nights in Portugal, but it was for my best friend who, to her credit, really didn’t have hideous expectations.

But somewhere along the line, we’ve collectively normalised the rinse-repeat routine of forking out hundreds of dollars to attend a hens party when we either don’t want to or can’t afford to.

I took to my Instagram community for a temperature check on hens party costs. Let’s just say people aren’t happy.

In a poll that asked whether people had ever been invited to a hens that they’d deemed too expensive, more than four in five said yes. Just under half said they’d actively declined hens invites because of cost, and just over half reported that they’d been involved in hens parties that carried cost-related conflicts.

How much is too much to pay for a hens?

One thing that complicates the financial conversation surrounding hens parties even further is that the amount people are willing to spend varies depending on a few factors. Firstly, how well you know the bride. We’re all generally more willing to splash the cash on our bestie than for a distant cousin we only see at family gatherings.

Many expressed that it could also depend on the activities planned. For example, the aforementioned naked candle making should cost less than a night away somewhere plush.

Ballpark figures submitted by my community, however, suggest that between $100 and $200 is reasonable for a one-day hens. For overnight hens, the most commonly submitted responses were between $200 and $300, though many noted the upper end of that scale really only applied to close friends.

Overnighters for randoms from work? Probably a nah.

Despite these figures, several shared accounts of hens that cost upward of $1,000. When you factor in things like decorations to on-the-day costs like drinks and transport, it’s not hard for a humble hens to blow out to a budget breaker.

Should the bride pay for the hens?

As I trawled through a barrage of DMs - each containing tales of financially fraught hens celebrations - I questioned whether the solution was for the bride to pay.

Savage? Perhaps. But I thought I’d put it out there. Many brides expressed that they’d contributed something to their hens already. Interestingly, the majority said no.

All right, now we’re getting somewhere. We are broadly willing to pay towards a hens – but the current norms aren’t working all that well. Many reported that resentment and tension continued to ripple through friendships long after the blow-up decorations deflated.

Making hens parties more financially inclusive

As I explored stories of happier (and more wallet-friendly) hens experiences, one commonality was a ‘pick and mix’ type approach to the activities.

Some bridesmaids opted to orchestrate a suite of hens activities that attendees could take or leave as they wanted. Many noted that those closest to the bride generally engaged in more of the celebration, while workmates, those who felt financially stretched, or those who were on their 15th hens of the season could choose to just come for a portion.

Other similar structures included an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic price option, ensuring non-drinkers weren’t forced to fork out big money for booze they wouldn’t touch.

Overall, I sensed a similar sentiment to the explorations I did around wedding gifting. That is, when the expectations of large contributions are removed, people are often happier to pay more than they would’ve been if adhering to a request from a highly strung bridesmaid.

And it got me thinking about another approach.

What if we normalised hens parties being ‘pay what you can’?

While I hadn’t seen this used, I couldn’t shake the viability of this idea. Instead of telling attendees how much they need to pay for their equal share, offer a tiered system.

Pay what you can, from a choice of three price points. And make it anonymous, so nobody knows what anyone else paid.

Of course, this relies on the bride’s involvement and willingness to pay the gap if there is one but, given it could offer a solution to harmonious henning, it might not be the wildest idea after all.

Seriously, have I just revolutionised hens parties forever? Probably not, but it’s a thought starter.

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