Right, hands up – who got engaged over the festive hols? Congratulations! Research shows that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the most popular times of the year for getting engaged, followed closely by New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and then Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s because there are more people around – friends and family you want to share the moment with; everyone is in a more relaxed frame of mind and there’s much celebrating going on anyway. There’s just something incredibly romantic about a Christmas proposal, maybe it’s all the twinkly lights, the magical feeling in the air, the excitement and that – and what a gift – an engagement ring!
What this means for us is that from January usually through to March we are particularly busy taking bookings for hen weekends. We do get a lot of interest from stag parties too, but not all of our properties have the necessary planning permissions for all male groups, in the same way that some aren't allowed to accept corporate bookings.
Our large group holiday homes sleep 8-30 people and whilst they certainly aren’t party houses that’s not to say you can’t have a jolly good weekend away with your besties, and with all the great ideas we have on our Extras pages, you can certainly have a lot of fun. Let’s just say we prefer a more sophisticated gathering of girls (and sometimes boys are included too, let’s not be old fashioned!); if your idea of a good time is pushing the bride to be down the street shrieking in a shopping trolley, with you all wearing L-plates and sporting corsets and risqué accessories, then Sleeps12 is not for you!
But you can still let your hair down without being raucous, and you can be sure of totally relaxing together; most of our properties have a swimming pool, usually indoors, so it doesn’t matter what time of year it is or what the weather's up to. The majority have a hot tub and increasingly popular in our big holiday cottages are saunas and steam rooms, so if you pick the right property you can have your very own private spa break – book up one of our mobile beauty therapists to come round to give some holistic pampering to top it off.
If your leading ladies are an active bunch we have suggestions for all kinds of adrenalin-fuelled pursuits from rockclimbing, kayaking and caving, to paintballing, off-road karting and clay pigeon shooting. If you like walking then you’ll be glad to know that nearly all of our large holiday houses are in gorgeous rural locations in Somerset, Devon, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire, and Hampshire, with walks of all lengths right from the door. You can have a hike on Exmoor, in the Quantock Hills, in the Forest of Dean, along Offa’s Dyke, or in the New Forest; all surrounded by spectacular scenery with far reaching views; pack a feast of a picnic, or find a welcoming country inn for lunch. If you like the buzz of the city have a look at our imposing town house in Worcester; if you like a distinct French flavour, you’ll love our dreamy chateau near Poitiers.
One thing that often gets booked hand in hand with our hen weekends is pony trekking; most equestrian centres we recommend do led group rides through beautiful countryside, often rounded off with afternoon tea and Prosecco back at base. If you like the vintage scene you can book a carriage on a steam train with the West Somerset Railway and have tea on board, on your way to the seaside. Or have an elegant tea party on the lawn at your English country cottage; hire vintage china, play croquet, order a cake in for the occasion, and flowers and balloons to give a real air of celebration.
Hire professional caterers from our list – all are tried and tested and come highly recommended. We think this is a fabulous idea whether you’re planning afternoon tea, a sizzler of a barbecue, a candlelit three course dinner, or cocktails and canapes in the drawing room. Talking of cocktails, that’s another thing – how about having your very own private cocktail bar tender, or a cocktail making class with a cheeky Butler in the Buff? Now that'll get you all giggling!
You might plump for a class of some sort – cupcake decorating, life drawing, or having a GBBO star in for a Bake at Home package – all in the comfort of your Sleeps12 large group holiday accommodation. Or how about shakin’ your hips and strutting your fancy stuff in a dance workshop? Get one of our instructors in, push back the furniture, or get out on the patio, and have a go at flamenco, Bollywood or belly dancing, complete with music and sometimes even extra dancers – lots of laughs, lots of fun.
What’s important is that you all have time together making some very happy memories, doing things to give you plenty to talk about at the wedding and for years to come. One very good way of capturing those memories is to bring in our highly skilled portrait photographer; wonderful reminders of a wonderful hen weekend. So you see, lots of things to think about, and don't forget you can reserve a property for 2 days before confirming your booking, giving you time for a final check with everyone. Take a look now and see what's available - happy times ahead!