Throughout the pandemic, chances are you probably know someone – or are someone – who has had to cancel, postpone or re-arrange a wedding.
For many couples, lockdown has been a trying time as a day of celebration and one they may have been looking forward to for a long time have been put on pause.
If you know someone in that predicament, we’ve already got you covered with small gifts you can send as a thoughtful present here. Although on 23 June prime minister Boris Johnson announced small weddings of up to 30 people can now take place in the UK, it still might not be the day some people had originally planned.
But for others, it's become a time to revaluate everything and eschew a big day for something more intimate in order to just get married.
And with cancelled weddings come cancelled hen-dos. As one of the few parts of the wedding traditions that the bride doesn’t typically have the stress of organising, it’s a chance to have fun and celebrate with friends and family ahead of the big day, whenever that might be.
As the government tightens restrictions on meeting people from outside our households once again – from Monday 14 September it will be illegal for people in England to gather in groups of more than six – drinking games, a big night out or a weekend trip abroad are still off the table.
Rather than commiserate plans falling through because of coronavirus, there are still plenty of ways you can mark the original hen-do date at home, no matter how geographically spread apart your guests are.
From cocktail-making classes to sharing a fine-dining experience together over Zoom, you can still make the most of it with our guide to creating virtual hen-do from your sofa.
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Send out invites
Invitations are a way to make it feel much more special, rather than just another day at home, or another zoom quiz.
Paperless Post allows you to create a virtual invitation with from a variety of designs and email them out to your guests, so you can save yourself a trip to the post office, or scrabbling around for stamps.
We love this Hampton liberty design, full of flowers and easy to customise with different backgrounds, fonts and details, you can even add a zoom link.
For premium designs, you pay in coins, the Paperless Post currency, and you’ll receive 25 coins for free when you register, an additional 10 coins if you download the app and a further five coins if you like its page on Facebook. Premium cards cost two coins per recipient.
There’s plenty of free designs to browse too, so you don’t need to splash out if you’re on a budget.
The sun is shining and a heatwave is approaching, which would usually be the perfect weather any couple would want to enjoy over the weekend with their bridal party and guests.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t recreate getting together with the help of online cocktail-making classes, led by the experts, you can master the art of mixology and concoct your very own at-home bar.
Chelsea cocktail club, GOAT, offers 90-minute classes every Saturday from 7.30pm, where you’ll learn how to make four cocktails, each based on a different spirit.
The class costs £8 and as many people in your household can join in. For bigger groups spread around the country, there are also private zoom party bookings available for three households for £75.
Every class you’ll need the same equipment: a cocktail shaker (or anything that fits ice and then ingredients, and has a sealable lid so when you shake it, it doesn’t go flying – a large jar is good for this), ice, a strainer, a measure, a bar spoon and a lemon squeezer. All that’s left to do is find a time that suits everyone and get stuck in.
For something a little more refined, try an online cheese and wine tasting evening (Loki Wine, from £55).
Hosted by wine experts at Birmingham-based wine tasting house, Loki Wines, you’ll get three 750ml bottles, one white wine and two red wines for the tasting which will focus on different countries such as France and Germany each time.
This would suit a smaller group best and will make drinks over a zoom call a much fancier affair.
Instead of a luxurious evening meal at a high-end restaurant, bring the fine dining experience to you and your guests as some of the best restaurants in the UK have pivoted to takeaways.
You can tuck into your favourite dishes from great restaurants without lifting a finger while still marking the occasion. Mayfair Indian restaurant, Jamavar, has launched a new delivery menu called The Royal Kitchen.
It's a five-course menu, made up of a selection of its signature dishes from northern and southern India, costing £90. Plates include adraki lamb chops, Old Delhi butter chicken, saag paneer and freshly baked breads.
Or try the six-course tasting menu from innovative restaurant Six By Nico. Its menu centres around a location, memory or experience, and changes every six weeks, so your party can enjoy a truly unique meal, even if it's over video.
It’s recently launched its Home By Nico series, to bring its dining experience to your dinner table. It opens pre-orders every Friday, available only through email, and costs £50 for two people or £80 for four, offering four courses and a bottle of wine.
Currently, it is offering delivery (within a five mile radius) and collection from its Glasgow, Edinburgh and Belfast venues and in Manchester and Liverpool, it is operating a collection only service. Delivery costs £3.
Belting out your favourite tunes, albeit questionably, fuelled with wine is a classic hen-do activity, and lockdown doesn’t need to put a stop to that.
Download Smule now for your next meet up to celebrate while confined to virtual platforms. There are 10 million (yes, that’s right) songs to choose from, so even the most avid user won’t get bored with the song choice.
You can sing socially with groups, or practice your favourite solo song on your own before you share it with others. It’s a great activity to organise for a hen-do, especially when a zoom quiz just won’t cut it.
We could all do with a bit of escapism from reality at the minute, and escape rooms are a go-to for groups who love a challenge, but due to the coronavirus outbreak, all of them in the UK have closed their doors for the foreseeable.
But in the past few weeks, escape rooms have come online instead to make socialising with your friends adrenaline-pumping.
As with physical escape rooms, the mission is as the name suggests – to escape the room – through a series of problem-solving missions and teamwork. Harry Potter fans will be pleased to hear about this Hogwarts Digital Escape Room, available for free, created by an American librarian in Pennsylvania
You can explore the school of witchcraft and wizardry without leaving the sofa. The game starts right where it should, as first-years who have just been assigned to their houses.
There are team-building exercises, trivia questions to answer and puzzles to solve that you can do as an individual player, or in a team with your friends. Hen-dos can often end up very expensive so this will help any budget-conscious bridal groups.
If you live close-by to your attendees, you can also play games in person, as long as you socially distance.
For smaller parties, head to your nearest park and play cards against humanity (WHSmith, £28.49) for hours of laughs.
The premise is simple, each round one player asks a question from a black card, and everyone has to answer with their funniest white card.
You can also download it for free online and play over a video call too.
Who in the room party game (Oliver Bonas, £18) is another option that can be used in person or online.
There are 330 questions to ask each other such as, "who in the room would survive the least amount of time on a desert island?" or "who in the room has the best voice for radio?". It’s a mix of funny, personal and interesting questions to ask of each other.
Watch a comedy gig
If you had grand plans for sitting front row at a comedy gig as part of your hen-do, you can still get in on the action without physically being there. Get your fix from Soho Theatre, who has taken its comedy productions and made them available on its streaming platform, Soho Theatre On Demand.
Signing up is free, and you simply rent the shows you want to watch, and you can watch it as many times as you like over the space of two days. Tickets cost just £4.
While we’ll definitely be signing up to Mae Martin’s Us, there are also comics Jessie Cave, Jordan Brooks, Desiree Burch, Jen Brister, Dane Baptiste, Adam Hess and Panti Bliss to laugh your way through too. Make sure you check the website regularly to see added shows too.
You can donate to Soho Theatre to help it through the financial struggles closure has brought, and it’s also streaming to raise funds for UK charities on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the website, all proceeds (less taxes and processing costs) will be distributed to charities including The National Emergencies Trust (NET), NHS Charities Together and Acting For Others, as well as the newly launched FLEABAG SUPPORT FUND, which will distribute grants of £2,500 to freelancers working in the UK theatre industry affected by the crisis.
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