by Abby Parsons
At some point you got older, and the opportunities for time spent together became fewer and farther between. You moved out of the shared uni flat (where weekends together were unlimited, full of daytime cinema trips and 2-4-1 lunches) and migrated to different cities. You each got different jobs with different schedules and, gradually, your weekends started to fill with commitments to work friends and new flatmates. And now, despite an ongoing group chat, you can’t find a single weekend when you’re all free.
Until, a little while after the photos of the ring, you all receive the urgent message: save the date for the hen do! An appointed chairperson, a Facebook page and a Whatsapp group; deposits demanded and paid: this is what it now takes to pull off the feat of getting you all in the same room for a weekend. Over the next few months, you’ll agree to yet-to-be-revealed but dubious-seeming activities and regular bank transfers. Complex travel arrangements will be made and changed. But when you finally get there, stepping into an Airbnb decorated with balloons and carefully collected pictures of the bride, greeted warmly by her best-friend-since-forever, you realise what this weekend really is – a celebration of a girl you love, and a precious weekend painstakingly carved out to spend time with the most important women in her life.
“An appointed chairperson, a Facebook page, deposits demanded and paid: this is what it now takes to get you all in the same room for a weekend”
The bride tribe, it turns out, is a special thing. Made up of concentric circles of friends, some overlapping, some distinct, all of which played a part in making the bride who she is. There’s the old friends, the innermost circle around the bride. Loyal and longstanding, these are the organisers, and come intertwined with the bride’s mother and sister, who in turn bring with them the clan of cousins and aunts. There’s the home friends, the Welsh ones, who will sing the Welsh anthem at the top of their lungs and inevitably stay out the latest. And there’s you, the uni friends, the four of you who haven’t all been in one room since university, and who arrived together after work in a car smelling of shop-bought snacks and hastily applied nail varnish. You’re the outsiders, but are quickly welcomed into the circle, and bonded with over Never-Have-I-Evers (which we are apparently still not too old for) and old stories of the bride at her best-worst. With these stories comes the realisation that you all know the same girl, just slightly different parts of her.
On the night out, you encounter other hen-do tribes; you wonder if they’re having more fun than you, and decide that no, they’re only more pissed. There are cheap drinks and group photos, and all of the other activities that you’d anticipated – including the dubious ones. But there’s also an afternoon sat in the sun just chatting, and giddy hungover breakfasts, and earnest discussions with the mother-of-the-bride about honeymoon destinations. There’s a sleepy post-lunch taxi ride back to base, followed by a group nap. There’s even one of those much-missed getting-ready sessions, the room stuffy from the constant blowing of the hair dryer and thick with shower steam and your mingling perfumes.
The beautiful thing is that, on leaving, you do so in the knowledge that you’ll all be back together again in just a couple of months, for the big day. This time you’ll take an assortment of trains and coaches, arriving at the other end in the nick of time, a pilgrimage to see the first of your tribe head off into the unknown land. It will be the second time in the same year that you’ve all been in one place, but it could also, potentially, be the last – who knows? Maybe there’ll be more hens to come, maybe there won’t. But you’ll always be glad you had that weekend.
Abby Parsons | @abby_aap
Abby Parsons is a reader of all things, co-founder of Dear Damsels and works in publishing. She has three weddings in her calendar this year, which must mean she’s at ‘that age’.