The Ultimate Handmade Hen Do

One of my oldest and best friends is getting married in September this year and earlier this month was her hen do, which I spent the past couple of months organising and coordinating. The bride-to-be, Kellie, wanted a relaxed, non-boozy hen do where everyone would be able to have fun playing games, eating lots of sweet treats and generally chilling. She was pretty keen for a bohemian picnic in the park, so that’s what we set out to deliver. The other bridesmaids and I wanted to send her off in real style so we devised the ultimate handmade hen do, which was too pretty not to share. I hope you like getting an inside look into my non-rag rug related life 🙂

The Ultimate Handmade Hen Do:

I was incredibly chuffed by how pretty the final picnic turned out. We set it up in Clarence Park in St. Albans and were lucky enough to have absolutely ideal weather on the day.

Chilled and colourful hen do in the park bohemian decorations and picnic

The hen do picnic looked so cute with colourful cushions, apple crate tables and rag rugs scattered around.

Pallet table outdoor picnic in the park with flowers and afternoon tea cakes

The bride-to-be, Kellie, has a massive sweet tooth so we made sure that there were plenty of sweet treats at the hen do.

Cheap hen do picnic in the park with flowers and bohemian decorations

Everyone helping themselves to homemade elderflower cordial and pink lemonade.

Hen Do Flower Crown and Place Setting with Tea Cup and place name and picnic wares

The bride-to-be had a different flower crown to the rest of us, made of cottage roses. Here you can also see one of my handmade rag rug napkin rings.

Cute picnic hen do with flowers and wooden pallet tables outside

We were so lucky that the weather was perfect and it was pleasantly cool in the shade under the trees.

Handmade Picnic in the park hen do with pallet tables

The ground was really hard because of the weather, so it was actually pretty difficult to put the bunting up!

Colourful Hen do Cake with Tropical leaf

The centrepiece of the table was a beautiful cake made by Helena from @neighbourhoodbakes – the date on the cake is the date of the wedding.

Cute cushions at hen do picnic in the park

All the flowers were picked the night before from my parents’ garden.

The ultimate handmade hen do picnic

We were going for a real vintage / eclectic mix of decorations.

Fun hen do picnic in the park with flowers and crates etc...

Everyone getting stuck into the pretty picnic.

Bride and hen do organiser in handmade flower crowns made of gysophilia and roses.

Me and my bestie, the bride-to-be, Kellie.

Table made out of crates and pallets with food and cake stands and flowers for a posh picnic for a hen do

Cake cake cake…

What would a hen do be without the traditional “Wedding Dress Game”.

Hen do wedding dress game with dresses made of toilet roll and silver foil.

I think I got off quite easy with my dress designer Ellen considering how hilarious my friend Jasmin looked.

British Hen Do in St. Albans Park with wooden apple crates and a picnic

The throne at the end of the table was for the bride’s sister, Lauren, who is 8 months pregnant. Next to her is my gorgeous Godmother and Mother of the Bride, Alison.

Behind the Scenes:

Rag Rug Napkin Rings:

I really wanted to sneak in at least some rag rug creations into the hen do, so I decided that cute flowers would be the way forward. I started out by rag rugging a set of 16 flowers in a mix of blues and pinks. The flowers had short loopy rag rugging in the centres and shaped shaggy rag rugging around the outside. I varied the sizes and shapes to keep from getting bored 🙂

Rag Rug Shaped Flowers in pink and blue on hessian with loopy and shaggy rag rugging

Shaped rag rug flowers for the napkin rings.

Once the flowers were all rag rugged, I cut them out of the hessian, glue gunned ribbon to the backs of the hessian and covered all my workings with a circle of the same white velour I’d used to loopy rag rug the centres.  I then tied them around the napkins, knives, forks and spoons for the picnic. They looked like this in the end…

Rag Rug Napkin rings with cute rag rug flowers in pink and blue for a picnic

This was how the cute rag rug napkin rings turned out…

That was it by way of rag rug creations for the hen do, but it just goes to show that you can inject a bit of craft into any event.

Elderflower Cordial and Pink Lemonade:

Homemade Elderflower Cordial:

I’m certainly no baker, so I kept well away from any of the tasty treat prep, but one thing that I can make well is elderflower cordial. I decided that cute jam jars of elderflower cordial would make particularly good hen do favours, so this is how I made them.

Firstly, I rooted around for my mum’s ancient elderflower cordial recipe. It has had splashes of elderflower cordial spilt over it over the years and my mum has pretty terrible handwriting so I’ve provided a translation below…

Traditional British elderflower cordial recipe

Good luck to whoever tries to read this!

Ingredients:

  • 3 pints of cooled boiled water
  • 3.5 lbs of granulated sugar
  • 2 oz of tartaric or citric acid
  • 3 lemons (sliced)
  • 1 orange (sliced)
  • 20 heads of elderflower (set these aside for a minimum of half an hour for any creepy crawlies to escape.)

You will also need:

  • A big bowl
  • Muslin cloth (for straining)
  • Large jug
  • Bottles / jars to decant the cordial into

Method:

  1. Dissolve the granulated sugar and tartaric / citric acid in the cooled boiled water by stirring well.
  2. Place the elderflower heads into the bowl along with the lemon and orange slices. The lemon and orange slices help to keep the elderflower heads submerged for best flavour.
  3. Stir the concoction and mash the lemons and orange up a bit to release the flavours.
  4. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave overnight for the flavours to get to know each other.
  5. In the morning, sterilise your glass jars or bottles either in the oven, with boiling water or in the dishwasher.
  6. Stir your elderflower cordial mixture to make sure that any sugar that has settled overnight is dissolved once again.
  7. Using a muslin cloth, strain the cordial mixture into a large pouring jug. Make sure to squeeze the lemons and oranges so you get a good amount of the juice.
  8. Pour the cordial into the bottles and jars.

Storage and Enjoyment:

Our homemade elderflower cordial will last two months in the fridge, but I recommend freezing some in plastic bottles so you can enjoy homemade elderflower cordial throughout the year. We generally serve the cordial with sparkling water for a refreshing summer drink, but at the hen do we made Hugo cocktails by mixing it with prosecco and soda water, and serving with mint.

Unfortunately, elderflower season is over now, but there’s always next year. Elderflowers can be found all over the UK (sometimes in the most unexpected places) in May / June. If you join us for a rag rug workshop at our Ragged Life Hertfordshire HQ this summer then you can enjoy some of my homemade elderflower cordial 🙂

Homemade elderflower cordial brewing in a jam pan with lemons, oranges and elderflower sprigs

My homemade Elderflower Cordial

Homemade Pink Lemonade:

I’m not a pink lemonade expert (in fact, I don’t think I’d ever had it before), but Kellie mentioned that she liked it it so Isa and I made a batch the night before the hen do (yes, we ended up going to bed pretty late!). This involved Isa peeling and squeezing 16 lemons, which started to dissolve her skin away, but it was all worth it as the pink lemonade tasted absolutely delicious. This is the recipe we used although we did double quantity and used frozen raspberries rather than fresh.

Handmade flower crowns:

The night before the hen do, my friend Isa came over for various last minute handmade hen do activities. Isa is one of the few people who has known Kellie as long as I have (we all went to primary school together), so it was an absolute riot catching up. Isa is super creative and arty, so she filled in the creative blanks. We spent a couple of hours the night before the hen do making ten flower crowns out of wire, floristry tape and gypsophila (Isa had already made a few out of dried flowers in Portugal where she’s currently living). Here are a few of the behind the scenes photos:

When Isa arrived, she had already created the hoops for the flower crowns out of wire covered in floristry tape:

Green Flower Crown Rings Made of Wire and Floristry Tape

Flower Crown Rings

We then sat outside and gradually taped small pieces of gypsophila to the wire hoops by winding the floristry tape diagonally around the rings. Once we finished the flower crowns, we gave them a little spritz with water then hung them up to dry slightly in the larder.

Making Flower Crowns for a Hen Do

My friend Isa was the mastermind behind the handmade flower crowns which we finished off the night before the hen do.

Drying Handmade Flower Crowns made with flowers from the garden in a vintage larder

We put the handmade flower crowns to dry in the larder.

Drying Flower Crowns for bohemian festival hen do

The flower crowns looked very cute hanging on the hooks.

The only flower crown that we left until later was Kellie’s Bride-to-be crown. We wanted Kellie’s crown to stand out from the crowd with cottage roses but we were worried that the roses would drop all their petals overnight.  We therefore finished that one off first thing in the morning. This is what it looked like…

Rose and gypsophila flower crown at handmade hen do bohemian and vintage

Kellie’s rose and gypsophila flower crown was the prettiest of all of them.

The Illustrations:

As I mentioned, Isa is super arty so we put her in charge of illustrating some of the activities on the day. She knocked up these gorgeous cards for every time we needed to pick teams:

Hen do cards or illustrations to choose teams rice attendant, flower girl, wedding crasher

The illustrations Isa made were so cute!

One of the other bridesmaids, Claire, made a super awesome quiz for the day, which Isa illustrated the answer sheets for…

Illustrated Hen Do Quiz Answer Sheet with Wedding Cakes

Isa drew these awesome cakes…

Hen Do Quiz with Drawings of Bride and Groom

The second half of the quiz had a music round and hilarious French and German wedding traditions (as the wedding will be in France and the groom-to-be is German).

The Instax Board:

I really wanted to make use of Kellie’s Instax camera (like a Polaroid) at the hen do, so I created a board where everyone had to replace the cards in the frame with photos. It was so much fun tracking everyone down to take the photos and they got more and more ridiculous as the day went on (these ones at the beginning were pretty tame).

I made the Instax board by getting an old frame, painting it blue and mounting foam board inside. I then taped twine across the board and used little pegs to clip the cards to.

Instax board frame for a wedding or hen do displayed on a vintage ladder

This is how the Instax board started its life.

Even the cards themselves were personalised for Kellie. The tops were cut out of a vintage German grammar book as Kellie’s fiancĂ© is German. I then stuck them to pieces of same size card.

Instax board cards with vintage book tops for handmade hen do

People at the hen do could practice their German with the Instax board cards.

This is what the board looked like on the day:

Replace your name with an instax frame for hen do with mini pegs

Our Instax board was a big hit at the hen do.

Kellie later put the photos into a gorgeous personalised hen do book that we’d written our best wishes in on the day. We bought this gorgeous hen do book here.

Beautiful personalised hen do book with vintage sheet pen holder

You can just about see the personalised hen do book we bought for the event…

The Cake:

The fabulous marbled cake in the centre of our picnic was made by Helena from Neighbourhood Bakes, a local Hertfordshire / London cake company. Helena and I actually used to play sport against each when we were at school and I’ve been following how her business has been going from strength to strength on Instagram ever since. It’s always nice to be able to support small businesses, particularly ones as talented as the team at Neighbourhood Bakes.

Hen Do Cake by Helena from Neighbourhood Bakes with tropical leaf and flowers

The amazing salted caramel and chocolate cake was made by Helena from Neighbourhood Bakes in Knebworth, Hertfordshire.

The Glitter:

I really wanted the hen do to feel like a small festival, so I brought along some biodegradable glitter. Not only was it so much fun putting it on, but it also looked so cute!

Face glitter at bohemian hen do in the park with flower crowns

The glitter made things so fun and frivolous.

A Few Hilarious Hen Do Fails:

When we were packing the van the morning of the hen do, I didn’t realise quite how much stuff needed to be transported and how much of it was fragile. This meant that we were a little bit squidged to say the least. We were soooo cramped in fact that Isa had to ride with the vases of flowers in a tray on her lap, the cake wedged carefully between her legs and an R2D2 cool box strapped into the seat next to her. When we stopped for petrol, we did have a giggle about how ridiculous we looked! It was even funnier when the water from the flowers sloshed all over the place when I braked a bit too suddenly… ooops!

R2D2 cool box in van

Isa was a little bit crushed in the van.

Isa and I were in such a rush in the morning to make sure that everything was set up in time for the hen do that we didn’t put any make up on and Isa wasn’t even dressed in her gladrags when we set off. The park’s public toilet was pretty dire and didn’t even have a mirror inside so Isa and I ended up doing our make up by leaning out of the van’s windows and using the wing mirrors. It all turned out fine in the end, but I did accidentally give Isa some of my make up that was far too light for her so she did look like a ghost for a while. All’s well that ends well though as we both looked nice in the photos…

CONNECT WITH US:

So, that was the first (and possibly last) hen do I will ever organise. I hope you found it interesting to see what we got up to and if you’d like to be the first to hear about what other hairbrained things we’ve been up to, why not join our Rag Rug Community on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/RagRugCommunity/ or join our fortnightly newsletter here.

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As always, happy rag rugging!

Elspeth x

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