In 2022, my wonderful boyfriend asked me to marry him. We were on holiday in Devon and he picked the perfect spot by a secluded waterfall. I, of course said “Yes!”, and we returned back to our shepherd’s hut and cracked open the Freixenet 0% (my favourite!) to celebrate. At the time of our engagement, I had been alcohol-free for only 4 months - it was still a very new thing. Well done to my boyfriend, for making sure we had some AF fizz to celebrate.
I would describe myself as an introvert, who often masquerades as an extrovert i.e. I do get a bit eek in groups, but I cover it up by throwing myself out there and talking a lot. I was 33 when I stopped drinking. It had been a heavy work night out and I was staring at myself in the hairdresser’s mirror the next day, looking and feeling like a train wreck with the crippling hangxiety to boot, even though I knew I hadn’t done anything “that bad”.
This is a cycle that happened to me every few months, tick along OK and then tip over the edge, bring it back fine for a few months, then tip over the edge. Try counting drinks, works for a few months, get relaxed do it again. So the cycle continued until this moment, when I finally kicked it.
When I first started to think about my hen and wedding, I did worry that I would have a rubbish time because I couldn’t drink and maybe everyone else would find my hen party really boring. I hope to convince you that this is definitely not the case. It was actually a complete validation to me that I don’t need alcohol, that I have really wonderful friends and that I am, maybe, even more fun without alcohol!
As a Sober Hen, I was able to do my party the day before my wedding without worrying about the train wreck situation mentioned above on my big day! This was perfect for a few reasons:
- It made life a lot easier for my friends who were travelling long distances to the wedding and also for those with kids!
- It meant I could relax with my friends and not be too nervous about the big day
- I have friends from lots of different places and it was a chance for people to get to know each other the day before the wedding, which worked out really well.
I chose to do a daytime Hen party. Firstly, to enable it to be the day before. Secondly, so that I didn’t run the risk of getting FOMO at my own hen party, as the only sober one. Even though I know in my heart that I’m happier not drinking, my mind still plays tricks on me like this from time to time!
My big sister was given the brief. I wanted something close to the wedding venue and although I love outdoor activities, I definitely did not want something where I might get injured and have a black eye for the wedding – maybe a Spa might work?!
Well my sister, did an amazing job. She organised a wonderful day at a Spa hotel near to our wedding venue. We basically had the whole spa to ourselves – a gorgeous pool with sun loungers, including treatments and a sumptuous afternoon tea on the terrace. She’d made sure there were mocktails, we played all the classic bridal games which was good fun. My only worry for the day was getting a horrendous sunburn, as it was one of the hottest days of the year – that definitely would have happened if I’d been on the booze! I had SUCH a wonderful time, that I was late for my own wedding rehearsal – my time-keeping can be problematic when I don’t have my husband there getting us to things three hours too early!
So, what are my words of wisdom for any other sober hens out there?
- This is all about you, so do what you want to do. Your true friends just want to make sure you have the best time and they will do that on the day. It’s so special to bring all of your favourite people together, so enjoy that moment in the way that you want to!
- Choose someone you really trust to organise your hen. I was very specific with my sister, but I also knew I could totally trust her to make sure it was right for me and that I didn’t feel like I was missing out on booze.
- For me, it really worked to do a daytime activity. Most of my friends and family have a great time with alcohol and so with an evening activity, there was always the risk of being the only sober one. I didn’t want to be holding their hair back at my own hen party, but I also didn’t want to impose an alcohol ban. Full disclosure – I am a people pleaser. Other sober sisters might be more confident to ban the booze if it stops you having the best time and certainly if it is triggering for you. I’m 100% behind that.
- Having the hen the day before the wedding was ideal for me. It meant that nobody wanted to drink too much and end up being hung over for the main event! It also meant I could relax, get excited and enjoy the wedding build up and not worry about table plans etc as that was all in safe hands!
- I’ve mostly always been to hen weekends before and never really to shorter ones. Honestly, I find it can be quite a lot throwing people who don’t know one another together for an extended period and so actually, a single day was perfect and even some new friendships were formed, which was lovely to see.
- For me, it makes a huge difference to have alcohol-free beverages. They reduce that silly FOMO thing I get sometimes when I’m stood with a lime and soda. If you’re the same – get your hen organiser to make sure there are some supplies for you.
- Another big perk of my style of hen, was that my mum and mother-in-law came along. They’re great fun, but a wild night out on the tiles would have been a bit much for them. It was lovely that they were able to meet and spend time with my friends both old and new.
The most important thing of all for me though is this… I’m not planning to have any more hen parties or weddings (unless my husband gives me the chuck, of course!). So for me, the most wonderful thing, is that I can now, four months on, look back smiling at my hen party and my wedding.
I love remembering every moment: from the look on my friend’s face after the over enthusiastic masseuse was done with her, laughing at our not-so-good manicures floating off in the pool, seeing friends from opposite sides of the country getting along so well, meeting my bridesmaid’s beautiful baby boy for the first time, who popped in to say hello and most of all, remembering feeling so relaxed and happy!
Written by Samantha Lewis
Sam lives in Surrey and works for the National Health Service on improving the healthcare system. She has been AF for 20 months and hopes that this blog and future personal blogs will help to empower others choosing a life without alcohol. Sam is happy to be contacted about this topic via her Instagram: @ahappierme_alcoholfree