How to...throw an eco-friendly stag or hen party

hen party
With the wedding season in full swing, hordes of stags and hens are coming out to play each weekend. Valentina Jovanovski has the low-down on how to make your prenuptial party, an eco-friendly one

From clubbing to weekend getaways, the hen or stag do has become as much a part of wedding tradition as cake and miles of white lace. And who can blame us? With the endless decisions about who to invite and which flowers to have, planning a wedding can be an exercise in heart-pounding stress so it's not surprising that brides and grooms to be feel the need for a last hurrah before taking the plunge. But fun though they might be, stag and hen parties can do serious damage to both the planet and your wallet.

The average cost of a wedding in the UK is over £21,000 but stag and hen parties aren’t cheap either. A survey of wedding guests commissioned by insurance company Sheilas’ Wheels found the average stag or hen do costs £63 to attend and 35 per cent of guests don’t go because they can’t afford it. With lashings of booze, mini-breaks abroad and polyester veils all involved, the cost to the environment is also significant. But throwing a great party doesn’t have to mean ditching your green approach and there are plenty of ways to let your hair down without making a mess of the planet. Here's how.

The drinks
Whether it's cocktails, champagne or just good old-fashioned beer, it's rare to happen upon a stag or hen bash that doesn't include a drink or two - just ask Mike Tindall. But the wine industry has a serious carbon footprint that includes 1lb of waste and 16g of sulphur dioxide  released into the atmosphere for every bottle produced. Worse still, the wine business is one of the biggest consumers of chemical fungicides in the world. Make drinking greener by choosing organic wine, which doesn’t require chemicals to produce. Stellar Fairtrade Heaven-on-Earth Sweet Muscat from South Africa and the Millton Vineyards Te Arai Chenin Blanc from New Zealand (both at Vintage Roots) are tasty but inexpensive options. Also worth checking out is online retailer Wines Naturally, which has a wide selection of organic wines and some ales, lagers and ciders. If you want to go a step further and include wine tasting in your party weekend, make it green by staying in the UK and choosing an organic or biodynamic establishment. Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard, located a few miles from Battle in east Sussex, also offers wine tasting packs that you can get delivered to your home and includes a selection of its organic and biodynamic wines.
The food
Lily Allen celebrated her hen night by taking her friends out for a meal to the Savoy Grill, one of the restaurants at green London hotel, the Savoy. Like Allen, if dining out is your idea of the perfect party, choose one of the country’s many organic and vegetarian eateries. In London, try Arthur Potts Dawson’s Acorn House in King’s Cross or Saf in Shoreditch - one of the city’s prime vegetarian eateries located in a great area if you fancy a few cocktails afterwards. Due South in Brighton and Bordeaux Quay in Bristol are also wonderful eco-friendly choices. For parties closer to home, try an eco friendly catering company that serves locally produced, organic cuisine. The organic, vegetarian Cafe Maitreya in Bristol will cater lunch or dinner menus at £10 per person for a minimum of 12 people. Alternatively, a wedding-themed potluck works well for the cash strapped. To liven things up, set up a homemade cocktail-making station where guests can make their own drinks. The Organic Spirits Company produces Juniper Green organic gin and Utkins UK5 organic vodka, both of which are available at Able and Cole. Team with freshly made organic juices or Whole Earth’s green take on coca-cola.

The venue
To ensure your party’s carbon output is as low as possible, go for a local venue that serves organic food and alcohol or exercise your best hosting skills and have the party at home. But if organising the event is adding more anxiety to your pre-wedding stress, a weekend away might be just what you need before the big day. The Swan Inn in Hungerford and Bangors Organic in Bude are just two of the dozens of eco friendly hotels and bed and breakfasts across the country. Both venues are set in beautiful cottages surrounded by countryside and serve organic, seasonal dishes with ingredients sourced from their own gardens or farms. Keep transport green by taking the train.

The entertainment
A pub or club is usually on the agenda for many stags or hen parties. Consider heading to an eco friendly pub such as London’s Duke of Cambridge or the world’s first eco friendly club Bar Surya, where energy is generated from the dancing clubbers thanks to a unique energy harnessing dance floor. Another option is to try crafty activities such as baking or a jewellery-making workshop. Plenty of companies offer jewellery classes or weekend courses that can be hosted at your home or another venue. These workshops generate few emissions and the personalised jewellery will be wonderful mementos of your day. Spa days are another popular option for hen parties, so try a green one on for size. The eco-friendly Yu Spa at the Apex City Quay Hotel in Dundee uses organic spa products along with energy-saving pool lights and offers special hen party packages. Or go for a relaxing hydrotherapy session at the Titanic Spa, which uses solar photovoltaic roof panels and an on-site energy efficient laundry system.

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