Hen’s and buck’s nights are supposed to be an engaged couple’s opportunity to have one ‘last big fling,’ but that doesn’t mean there aren’t rules around what behaviour is – and what is absolutely not – acceptable, nor that the word ‘fling’ be taken literally. Strategic Therapist and relationship expert Phil Owens shares his advice on how far is too far at your pre-wedding celebrations.
“The key to pulling off a hen’s or buck’s night that nobody will regret is ensuring you know how far is too far and making sure everyone else knows and respects that, too,” says Melbourne-based Phil, whose business Reflective Resolutions specialises in helping couples address any anxieties, fears and relationship issues, particularly in the lead-up to their wedding day.
Whether you’re a bridesmaid or groomsman arranging a hen’s night or you’re the actual bride or groom about to dive into one, ask yourself: How can I make it an event to remember, but one that doesn’t take things too far?
“One of the biggest things get couples into trouble is that no one has even thought about, let alone discussed, what is considered ‘too far”
Buck’s and hen’s nights have changed dramatically over time. Initially a way of instructing and inducting young men and women into the world of responsible married life, they are now more an excuse to ‘party’ or have a final ‘wild night’ before settling down.
“These days, there is a lot of pressure and expectation placed on the organisers of hen’s and buck’s nights,” adds Phil who counsels hundreds of people every year. “Movies like The Hangover encourage us to believe the night needs to be outrageous and very much about pushing boundaries and taking risks.
“Who hasn’t seen first hand or heard wild tales involving handcuffs, tattoos, strippers and prostitutes, theft or vandalism? And that’s hardly an exhaustive list of the shenanigans that can can and have taken place at a hen’s or buck’s night.”
If this is the ‘norm’, the best man or bridesmaid must be wondering what they need to do to not only meet this standard, but create a day or night that is memorable.
This is, after all, their chance to ‘shine’, so going all out to create a brilliant pre-wedding celebration for the bride or groom can be their chance to be the hero.
However, if it gets out of hand or goes too far, there can be lasting consequences, broken friendships and even cancelled weddings – and what seemed like a good idea at the time can end up a disaster.
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How far is too far?
You may have heard the old adage ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ and, though it usually means anything goes, you could turn it on its head and see it as an apt guide for setting the boundaries and limits around what should not happen on the buck’s or hen’s night.
Simply put, anything that has consequences that go beyond ‘Vegas’ (the event) is too far. The only thing that should be carried over to the next day (apart, perhaps, from a hangover or two!) are fabulous memories.
To put this into context, when things go too far, results are created that stretch well beyond the event, such as:
• Injuries and scars
• Shaving ‘incidents’
• Court cases
• Police records
• Fines and repair bills
• Broken friendships and marriages.
• Career damaging YouTube videos or photos
“Anyone planning or participating in the hen’s of buck’s night, can use this as a test,” says Phil, “Will it stay in Vegas, or will there be consequences that will linger?
“Always remember that there are no secrets – with the number of smart phones around, there is always photos and videos which can be on the internet and social networking platforms in seconds. If friends and family were going to see what went on, how would they feel?”
If you want to keep the party from going too far, what can you do, either as the organiser, or the bride or groom?
Be clear of the expectations
“It is the bride or groom’s big night,” says Phil. “If you are concerned things may go too far, make sure you are ‘crystal’ clear what their expectations are.
“If you are the bride or groom and afraid of what may happen, then get on the front foot with your best person to ensure they know, and can meet, your expectations.
“Setting the frame of what is acceptable and what is not still allows your organiser to be creative and design a fun, memorable night.”
Delegate wisely, share broadly.
Even if you have things set up to perfection, some of your party guests can still take control and rapidly force things off the rails.
Delegate tasks for the evening wisely (you probably know from past experience who may go over the top), and share with attendees the expectations and plans, so that more people are on the same page. This is the best way to stop the unexpected ‘takeover’ of plans which can lead to everything going off track.
Set a circuit breaker
“On the night, select a member of the group (who you do trust!) who will not be going over the top to act as your circuit breaker,” says Phil. “Tell them your boundaries and expectations, and even if you are too far gone, or caught in the moment, this person has veto. Looking out for a mate is one of the best gifts a relative or friend can give the bride or groom if it can ‘keep things in Vegas.'”
Watch for escalation
Often things start out nice…and one thing after another happens until things get off the rails. If you see a pattern of things building towards unwanted levels, slow things down.
Don’t agree to anything that puts you or your guests at unnecessary risk
Often people are goaded or challenged into doing something they’re bound to regret purely thanks to peer pressure.
If the group is doing something – even if it is inappropriate or dangerous – there is a high likelihood that individuals who wouldn’t partake in such activities normally will end up going along with it just to fit in.
It should be a great night for everyone, so ensure you look after all the guests and make it clear that it is OK to say “no”.
Always stay together
Often it is when groups get split up that someone gets into trouble. Agree to stay together, play together and ensure people that leave can do so safely (put in a taxi, for example).
“Yes, your hen’s or buck’s night is supposed to be a fun and memorable night, but not a night that’s memorable for the wrong reasons,” says Phil. “Remember to keep whatever you’re up to ‘in Vegas’ – and ensure everyone has a great time.”
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