My alcohol-free hen do

Jenni | August 2021 | 7 minutes

Jenni decided she'd rather not drink on her hen do, but how did that go down with her friends and family? In this blog, she shares her experience and advice.

Planning a wedding during the pandemic has been an interesting experience to say the least. Not only have I had absolutely no idea if or when we would be getting married, but the pre-wedding traditions my family usually enjoy have been… well, tricky to do. I am very aware of my privilege when I say this, but by now I would have enjoyed shopping trips looking for dresses, pamper days and had a lovely weekend away with my mum and sisters, but sadly none of these things have been possible. So, I was thoroughly delighted to find that I could have a hen do. So long as it was outdoors. With a limited number of people. And we had to, mostly, abide by social distancing. But still, I got to have a hen!

Then a different kind of reality struck – am I going to look odd having this hen sober? Will I be sober-shamed by my family and friends? In my previous life as a teacher, a big boozy night out was to be expected. Partying till the wee hours, followed by a horrendous hangover lasting all the next day and suffering the crippling ‘hangxiety’ was weekly routine. So, this is how my friends and family might be expecting me to celebrate now that it was my turn to wear the ‘Bride’ sash. Alcohol was socially expected at hen and stag dos. But I didn’t want to drink. I had come so far, collected so many little teacups on the Try Dry app, and wanted to stick to my rule of only drinking two days a month. And, honestly, I didn’t want my hen to be one of those days. I wanted to be fully present, clear-headed, and hangover-free the next day.

"I prepped my family in advance, explaining that it was the occasion that was important, not the alcohol; and I chose to drive, just as a back-up excuse."

I took our lovely Lauren Booker’s (consultant at Alcohol Change UK) advice from Try Dry: The Official Guide to a Month off Booze and had my elevator pitch ready. I prepped my family in advance, explaining that it was the occasion that was important, not the alcohol; and I chose to drive, just as a back-up excuse.

In reality, it didn’t make one iota of difference. My family did not treat the occasion any differently at all. Not only did I enjoy the whole day without once being quizzed on my lack of a G and T, but I was supplied with alcohol free goodies by my parents and aunt. Several other hens chose to not drink and so I was in excellent company with others requesting a ‘Nosecco’. Not one moment of sober shaming was endured during or after the hen.

"I can only hope that others feel the overwhelming acceptance and comfort I have been afforded by my amazing family and friends in choosing to celebrate sober."

“What on Earth do you do on a sober hen?” I hear you ask. Well, the games and activities were great fun. No drinking games needed! We played ‘pin the ring on the bride’, ‘Guess the Guest’ (where each person supplies a card with a clue to a memory or how they know you and the bride guesses the author), had raffles and, as it was book and cat themed, ‘Guess the Book’ from a quote. Everyone enjoyed the food and delicious cakes as well as catching up with family and friends after a long, stressful year of not seeing each other. I find alcohol-free alternatives helpful, although they are not for everyone, so was happy with my glass of alcohol-free fizz and the occasional alcohol-free beer. Had I not had those choices, I might have opted for a lime and soda or simply a cup of tea.

I have three more hens coming up, and while I may use the ‘Drank as Planned’ function on Try Dry for one of those, I also feel strongly encouraged to collect a ‘dry’ teacup instead. I can only hope that others feel the overwhelming acceptance and comfort I have been afforded by my amazing family and friends in choosing to celebrate sober.