Super-duper Hen Do

I’m afraid this post is a little late (sorry Kim!) since my hen do was actually 2 weeks ago now but things have been a bit busy around here. I can’t believe the wedding is next Saturday! A friend at work went to a 3 day wedding last week and the planning that must be involved in that is unimaginable to me.

Fortunately I had zero planning to do for the hen party as my fabulous maid of honour did all of the work and everything was a complete surprise to me. And what a lot of work she did too! Our group convened just before 2pm on Saturday and got home around 2am on Sunday after a four part party! Amazing.

Kim, planner extraordinaire, had been careful to make her hints about the day as cryptic and worrying as possible. For example, when I asked her what sort of clothes I should wear she answered that it would have to something I could bend down in for the daytime event. Hmmm… She did say she wasn’t going to make everyone wear something stupid… except for possibly me. Fortunately I escaped with a main ‘costume’ of a circlet veil and a ‘Bride To Be’ sash. She did make us look stupid though…

So part one of the hen do was bowling! This was not something I would have guessed since I knew we were staying in town and I didn’t know town had a bowling alley. Apparently it’s only been there a month or two. So off we went to All Star Lanes in the Great Northern which was appropriately American themed.

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It’s been a while since most of us had been bowling but we valiantly pressed on with the sides down. I got an impressive 9 on my first roll, only to follow it with 5, 5!, gutterballs. But once we got going the points started pouring in. We like to tell ourselves that anyway.

Kim

Kim

Susie

Susie

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Mom and I

Mom and I

Mom (who will now tell me off for putting up this picture of her.)

Mom (who will now tell me off for putting up this picture of her.)

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Annie

Annie

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Cris

Cris

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Katie

Katie

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She just had to go one better than the rest of us.

She just had to go one better than the rest of us.

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Kim had also prepared a variety of games, challenges and forfeits for the day. None of us were allowed to say the name of my fiance, Chris, which was made all the most amusing by having Cristina (who usually goes by Cris) in our group. We each had a name badge, her’s said ‘She Who Must Not Be Named’. Yes my friends are also geeks.

No one slipped up on this until after we had finished bowling but we didn’t make it out of the centre without me mentioning the cursed name. That was when I got the forfeit:

Possibly not my sexiest look.

Possibly not my sexiest look.

Kim had also arranged a less embarrassing forfeit for anyone who lost a game. I guess that is why she worked so hard to win at the bowling.

Bowling may not be our talent but it sure is fun.

Bowling may not be our talent but it sure is fun.

As the lowest scoring bowler my mother’s ‘Partner In Crime’ Annie had the forfeit:

I think she looks very glamorous.

I think she looks very glamorous.

After the working up an appetite bowling we headed down the road to Opus One for one of my favourite things, High Tea!

Kim and I have been here a couple of times before so we know they do a good spread.

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Most of us went for the traditional afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and a variety of cakes. I think the scones were my favourite part of the meal, light and sweet. Cris had the gentleman’s high tea which has things like pork pie and mini fish and chips instead of sandwiches. It looked good although sadly I didn’t get any pictures of it. It looked so good that Kim commented to me that we should bring Kieran (her partner) and Chris out for one. Ooops…

She actually ended up using the 'C' word more than I did!

She actually ended up using the ‘C’ word more than I did!

To keep the fun flowing Kim also had a game for us to play during our meal and pulled out some post-its and pens from her bag of tricks. We played a hilarious game of couples Guess Who I Am while we waited for our food. I think the winner got theirs within four or five questions but there were several occasions of people using their 20 questions and being none the wiser. Katie got the glasses for this game having the only historical couple in the game. I was the only one who wrote a fictitious couple which I thought was interesting and Kim got the only non-romantic couple whom I had never even heard of.

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We did take the moustaches off to eat after I tried to drink with mine and failed miserably.

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I just thought the glasses would add something.

Since Kim had not made everyone wear something that made it obvious we were a hen do she insisted I came to the ladies’ with her as ‘context’ for her moustache. For the record, it is a very nice bathroom with real towels and everything.

Kim also used her sticky notes to have everyone write down a date for Chris and I, they are secrets and whenever we need a date after the wedding we can draw one at random. We then have to follow the instructions. I hope none of them say ‘Go to Spain’ because that could be tricky for a mid-week date.

Since we were on a hen do I also got a special present from the management.

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The chocolates were a rich fudge-like treat and I adore strawberries with melted chocolate.

We found this in the restaurant/hotel lobby. After all, what would a hen party be without one?

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After lunch it was time for a quick trip home to change into evening wear before heading out again (5 women, 1 bathroom, you do the maths!). Sadly Katie had to go home at this point but were joined by my lovely soon to be mother- and sister-in-law.

For our evening festivities we went to Manchester 235, the casino in the Great Northern. I think this was a great choice as it is a very glitzy, hen partyish thing to do. Also I have never been to a casino so it was very exciting!

When we arrived there we were ushered into the VIP lounge for our own private cocktail making class. Those of you who have read previous posts will know that Chris and I both enjoy making, and drinking, cocktails so this was particularly cool. Since Kim enjoys drinking the cocktails we make I guess it wasn’t an entirely self-choice of activity :p.

Anyone who has ever been out with me knows I am a complete lightweight so when they started me off on a shot of something strong and strawberry I was already well on my way. It may help explain the following pictures if I point out that Mom is as bad as I am and also that we made A LOT of cocktails so that even the hardiest drinker was giggling.

We started off with a cocktail everyone made.

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The first cocktail was strawberry vodka and amaretto topped up with bubbly and garnish with a strawberry. Yum yum. So good in fact that when Annie wasn’t looking Mom started drinking her’s as well!

For the other cocktails the guys teaching us would make a sample one and pass it round then ask for a couple of volunteers to try it themselves.

Firstly we had a cosmopolitan. As the bride (and someone who likes cosmopolitans) I thought I should be first to volunteer. This round was a straight up contest between Sandra (Chris’ Mom) and myself. She won and got to have a shot as her reward. I got to light a piece of orange peel though which was quite exciting.

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See the cosmopolitan in the front? I'm sure we took pictures of the cocktails up close but I don't seem to have them, they must have been on someone else's camera.

See the cosmopolitan in the front? I’m sure we took pictures of the cocktails up close but I don’t seem to have them, they must have been on someone else’s camera.

The next cocktail on the list was Kim’s favourite: the Mojito! My Mom and Susie took on this challenge as Kim wanted to taste both and be the judge.

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I'm not 100% sure how it got a moustache.

I’m not 100% sure how it got a moustache.

After this the challenges got more tricky with Sandra and Cris competing with Annie and Kim to make a coffee cocktail… only using one hand each!

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Next up was a Hudson/Hardman duo competition with Sandra and I competing against my Mom and Sandra’s daughter Vicky. To make it more interesting Mom and Mum were both blindfolded and Vicky and I had to guide them. They couldn’t decide which Sex on the Beach was best so we all got shots.

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They also made a personalised cocktail for me after asking my hens for some of my characteristics.

It was passionfruit, spiced rum and strawberry puree muddled together then chipped ice was added and the cocktail was topped up with champagne. While they were making it the manager came through and told them to use the good Crystal champagne which we later found out was £365 a bottle! This was definitely the most expensive drink I’ve ever had. It was good too. To top it off the hollowed out passionfruit skin was filled with 65% proof rum and set on fire and a strawberry was added to garnish. And, if that’s not enough pizzazz for you, cinnamon and sugar was sprinkled on top causing a whoosh!

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You can't see the flames as well here but Annie and I's reaction should speak volumes.

You can’t see the flames as well here but Annie and I’s reaction should speak volumes.

As well as the one they made Annie and I also made this cocktails. Annie put the correct 1 measure of rum in her’s. I couldn’t remember how much went in so I asked and was told ‘whatever you want’ so I put in two O:-).

There were so many names suggested that I couldn’t pick so I amalgamated them into one: Raunchy Rachel’s Fairy Cup of Tea on Fire! Delicious.

But the alcohol didn’t end there (sorry liver).

I believe this is called a Jaeger train? You lift the end cup and...

I believe this is called a Jaeger train? You lift the end cup and…

... the shot glasses end up in the larger cups, how clever is that! And I could even do it decidedly tipsy.

… the shot glasses end up in the larger cups, how clever is that! And I could even do it decidedly tipsy.

Many thanks to our good natured teacher, one of whom even ended up wearing a ‘I said Chris’ moustache over his real moustache.

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After the cocktail class we stayed at Manchester 235 for a 2 course dinner (with wine of course, we had free drinks vouchers after all).

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The food was very good as was the dinner time game of ‘I have never’. Amusing the ‘loser’ at this game was Chris’ Mum and the ‘winner’ was mine! My mother really is a child of the 60s and 70s.

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During dinner several other people had to wear the moustache (thank heavens, Kim and I were getting tired of our monopoly after several failures each).

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Adventurous moustache!

Adventurous moustache!

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But the evening wasn’t over yet!

Kim had also booked us in for a gambling lesson plus we had vouchers for a £5 bet each. As I said I had never been to a casino so this was a new and fun experience. The guy teaching us how to play was also excellent so I would highly recommend the casino.

First we learned blackjack, at which I was doing alright. Unfortunately finding a £2 in table after the lesson was hard, most of them were £5 in.

He even gamely wore our glasses.

Then we had a lesson in Roulette.

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I played a few real games of roulette as well and managed to turn my free £5 into £15 so I was pretty chuffed. Mom did significantly better at the fake game unfortunately, winning a fake fortune.

My winnings.

My winnings.

Susie won a pound but it was a fortuitous pound since on the way back from cashing it a random man playing blackjack bought each of us a drink. Win. Thank you random man.

So overall we had a great and hilarious night. Thank you to all my hens, you are so much fun! I hope you had as good a time as I did. And mostly a huge thank you to Kim who orchestrated everything perfectly.

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Comedy Store

If you are in Manchester any time and looking for a fun night out I would definitely recommend a trip to The Comedy Store. We’ve been twice now (see, it must be good, we went back) for family birthdays and have always had a really good evening.

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We went on a Saturday for the “Best In Stand-up’ night which meant we got a variety of 4 or 5 comedians including the MC which means if someone doesn’t tickle your funny bone there are plenty of others who will. Overall Chris and I have found that the standard of comedy is pretty high and always has me giggling. I particularly enjoy watching hecklers get ripped to shreds.

The theatre itself is two floored (although the bottom floor has been the only one open when we were there) and quite cosy but not claustrophobic. The smoke blowers and the ‘comedy store’ lights make for a cluby atmosphere which works well on a Saturday night. It is also a good place to people watch between shows as quite a variety of people come.

They do a 7pm and a 9:30pm slot so it makes a nice after dinner entertainment still leaving time to go out on the row of bars next to it. Just don’t fall in the canal outside!

You can make a real evening of it and even eat there, which is what we did both times and then went to the later show. With 2 courses for £14 in their downstairs restaurant or a selection of bar food upstairs there is some selection and I can vouch that the food in the restaurant is pretty good.

Wild Mushrooms in garlic and cream on toasted ciabatta

Wild Mushrooms in garlic and cream on toasted ciabatta

Thai Fishcakes with a chilli and coriander salsa

Thai Fishcakes with a chilli and coriander salsa

Chicken... I can't actually remember what kind >_<

Chicken… I can’t actually remember what kind >_<

Homemade Steak and Ale pie with chips, vegetables and gravy

Homemade Steak and Ale pie with chips, vegetables and gravy

Chicken again! My memory is awful.

Chicken again! My memory is awful.

Italian Meatballs in a plum tomato and basil sauce with garlic bread

Italian Meatballs in a plum tomato and basil sauce
with garlic bread

Red Thai Chicken Curry with rice and naan bread

Red Thai Chicken Curry with rice and naan bread

Chicken wrapped in Parma Ham stuffed with Mozarella with roasted new potatoes and garden peas.

Chicken wrapped in Parma Ham stuffed with Mozarella
with roasted new potatoes and garden peas.

I had the mushroom starter and the red Thai curry and both were delicious, although in fairness I love anything with mushrooms!

After dinner a member of staff escorts you to your seats for the show which is a nice touch, we have always had good and attentive service there.

If you do go to the comedy store one word of warning: Don’t sit in the front row!

Bridal Shower

Being a child of two nations I have always gotten to celebrate both American and British traditions (or, where conflicting, pick the best one!). For example I celebrate July 4th and St. George’s Day although I have learned that the British just aren’t as good at celebrating things as Americans are. I think I probably celebrate the British things in a very American way.

Last weekend was another example of this as my mother threw my an American style bridal shower. Next weekend my maid of honour is throwing me a hen party (I have no idea what style this will be since it is a surprise, all I know is that I need to wear clothes I can bend over in :s concerning).

Last year when we were in the States we were going through a box of pictures and newspaper clippings my Grandma had and found a delightful article talking about a bridal shower she had been to which listed the ladies present, the games played and which lady won which game. It was beautifully quaint. The article also listed when the bride and groom would be honeymooning and their address… where all of their wedding presents would be… unattended. Different era. I think those clippings were from the late 1920s maybe early 30s.

Mom decided to throw a 1950s style bridal shower for me but other than some foods and fashion changes it appears to be very similar. Certainly more civilised and pretty than a British Hen Party (or American Bachelorette party, I told my American aunt I was having a hen do and had to repeat it several times and explain before she stopped giving me a confused look).

The first fun part was of course trying on lots and lots of clothes to find a suitable 1950s outfit. I ended up going with a dress I already had but the trying on is always a must. Chris got me the below a couple of years ago because the shape really suits me.

And here comes Chloe in the background. Isn't the bunting on the gate cute? This is the closest dress I had to a 1950s shape plus it is just plain cute. From Sohos in Afflecks if you want to know.

And here comes Chloe in the background. Isn’t the bunting on the gate cute? This is the closest dress I had to a 1950s shape plus it is just plain cute. From Sohos in Afflecks if you want to know.

My maid of honour Kim came across from Manchester with me and, as a guest in our house for the first time, helped make lunch. She had a genuinely vintage dress which was black lace over a bright pink, very cute. My sister also had pink and black so the three of us were unintentionally co-ordinated.

Also in this picture our friend Annie, who also came as a guest, who also helped make lunch, bless them both!

Also in this picture our friend Annie, who also came as a guest, who also helped make lunch, bless them both!

Kim and my sister, Chloe

Kim and my sister, Chloe

The prize for best outfit definitely goes to my Aunt though who went to great efforts with the below:

She also had a scarf in her hair and little bows on her socks, so cute!

She also had a scarf in her hair and little bows on her socks, so cute!

The house was decorated with lots of bunting and a pink and grey set of shower things that Mom had bought, it looked great.

We got this bunting at the church Christmas fair. My mother thinks ahead! I had pink cup cake and teapots. I am sure we can use this again.

We got this bunting at the church Christmas fair. My mother thinks ahead! I had pink cup cake and teapots. I am sure we can use this again.

This took some work to get it to stay up.

This took some work to get it to stay up.

Chris had to walk through Grimsby town centre carrying this and a bunch of purple stocks. He got some comments.

Chris had to walk through Grimsby town centre carrying this and a bunch of purple stocks. He got some comments. The plates and cups also had this design.

Mom even co-ordinated the toilet paper.

Mom even co-ordinated the toilet paper.

Overall we had 12 ladies plus my mother and I. Since Mom and I were not allowed to win prizes that left the other 12 potentially lucky women the chance at these:

The lilac are the winners' prizes with pink booby prizes.

The lilac are the winners’ prizes with pink booby prizes.

We just about all fit into our front room but I enjoyed the coziness, it meant you could see and speak to everyone.

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Mom had arranged several games for us to play, some just fun and others with a wedding theme.

The first game was not bridal specific but fun, we had to match the pseudonym (wow I got the spelling correct first time!) with the real name. I discovered that I am better at men’s names than women’s and we had a laugh trying to pronounce some of the original names, no wonder celebrities change them sometimes!

Next we had a wordsearch of wedding related words. This was ongoing during gaps between the other games. Overall I did ok at this but did manage to find some words that were not on the list but should have been such as ‘Wed’. I also think most brides will agree that ‘Fat’ is something that preoccupies them for months before the wedding!

Next was a game that was definitely biased towards the happily already married as it involved matching wedding anniversaries to the present for it e.g. 1st paper, 25th silver, 50th gold etc… Apparently electrical appliances is now an anniversary thing. I want to know what got bumped off the list to make way for that! As unwed ladies Kim and I were hopelessly confused by this but now I know what Chris needs to be buying me each year!

The next would be a fun game for any party: a list of things such as ‘types of flower’ or ‘cities’ down the left hand side and a name across the top (you may use your own, you don’t have to use mine like we did). People then have to try and think of an example from the left hand column which starts with the letter from the top. So for RACHEL you could have Rhododendron, Apple blossom, Carnations, Heliotrope, Evening primrose and Lilac for flowers. If no one else in the room has the same item in any given box you get a point. Of course I can think of them now, at the time I had a mind blank!

Lastly we had a brief game of Mr and Mrs. Everyone got a number and whoever had the number correlating my final score won. Chris and I got 9/15 which isn’t bad. One question neither of us knew the answer to so I don’t count that one! I got a couple wrong and he got a couple wrong *cough* date he proposed *cough*. He’ll never live that one down! But it was a laugh.

Following the playing of games and the winning of prizes we had a lovely buffet prepared by my Mom, Kim and Annie.

Mom made red velvet cupcakes and lemon cupcakes. The lemon were a trial run for the weddng cake. Both were fantastic!

Mom made red velvet cupcakes and lemon cupcakes. The lemon were a trial run for the weddng cake. Both were fantastic!

How cute.

How cute.

All the food!

All the food!

One of our guests made some truly delicious bakewell cupcakes, yummy!

One of our guests made some truly delicious bakewell cupcakes, yummy!

The lemon cupcakes are pink, the red velvet are purple.

The lemon cupcakes are pink, the red velvet are purple.

Egg and cress, ham salad or cheese and mango chutney sandwiches.

Egg and cress, ham salad or cheese and mango chutney sandwiches.

Devilled eggs. Apparently a must for this era's parties.

Devilled eggs. Apparently a must for this era’s parties.

Celery with cream cheese. Can you tell my foodie best friend had the camera?

Celery with cream cheese. Can you tell my foodie best friend had the camera?

Pretzels are of course and American favourite.

Pretzels are of course and American favourite.

I learned that Doritos were the new big thing in the 50s-60s.

I learned that Doritos were the new big thing in the 50s-60s.

Look at that delicious feast. We also had a fruit (non-alcoholic) punch.

Look at that delicious feast. We also had a fruit (non-alcoholic) punch.

After much eating and much chatting I opened my gifts.

Mom displayed my gifts in an umbrella in the entrance hall. A great idea especially when you have run out of table space.

Mom displayed my gifts in an umbrella in the entrance hall. A great idea especially when you have run out of table space.

Mom said they used to have three showers, one from the Mother of the Bride, one from the Mother of the Groom and one from the Maid of Honour. There would be different kinds of showers such as personal showers or showers where people bought specifically kitchen or house gifts.

Since Chris and I already have a house which is pretty well equipped I had a personal shower. Gifts are supposed to just be very small, inexpensive things but I have to say that some of our guests did go a little overboard. I’m not complaining, I got some wonderful things. Some designed to help a stressful bride relax such as bubblebath, cream soaks and even a book ‘keep calm for brides’. Also a book ‘don’ts for wives’ which was a very short volume!

I also received some very personal gifts such as night dresses and underwear, I’m sure Chris will enjoy those on the honeymoon as well 😉

Kim gave me a very thoughtful gift of a memory box into which I promptly put some of things from my shower.

All of the gifts had to have a ribbon on it. This had a dual purpose. The idea is that however many ribbons break as I remove them is how many children Chris and I will have. My Mom had wrapped her gifts oddly tightly! In the unwrapping process I ripped one ribbon and one broke completely in half so I guess that is two kids for us. We then took the ribbons and pulled them through a paper plate to make a ‘bouquet’ that I can use for our rehearsal.

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I also got the gift of advice. Each lady wrote a piece of advise on a slip of white material which was then attached to a pillow which said ‘love’ via a heart shaped button.

Before everyone left we had a little favour for them as well which my mother had hung on a tree in the hallway.

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I want to thank Mom for throwing me such a beautiful and fun bridal shower, you’re the best. I also wish to thank Kim and Annie for helping us pull it off! Also all of the wonderful family and friends who came: thank you for the presents and thank you even more for coming over and making it such a lovely afternoon.

So on a closing note, if you are a bride-to-be, have a shower and a hen do. Two very different entertainments and both very worthwhile having!

P.S. Always say ‘at the shower’ never ‘in the shower’. We learned this the difficult way.