The Ultimate Stag & Hen Dos With Last Night of Freedom

TOAST talks 21st century stag and hen dos with Last Night of Freedom founder, Matt Mavir

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, lively stag parties and lavish hen dos form an integral part of today's 21st century wedding. TOAST talks to Matt Mavir about his specialist stag and hen company Last Night of Freedom, and gleans his indispensable expert advice if you’re organising one yourself.

OK so I might be showing my age a little bit here, but I remember the days when a hen party consisted of a night out on the tiles with plenty of Sambuca, the obligatory ‘L’ plates and a tacky veil, whilst a stag party was usually a modest but almost definitely messy night spent in the local pub. Oh, how times have changed…

Stag and hen parties in the modern sense date from the 60s and 70s, and the move into fancy dress and strippers became popular in the 90s, with the film The Full Monty really reflecting the times...” explains Matt Mavir, MD and founder of the UK’s leading specialist stag and hen planning company, aptly named Last Night of Freedom.

Nowadays, hen and stag dos are a BIG deal and the possibilities are endless; strippers are out and snowmobiling is in. They are expected to be unique, unusual, imaginative, extravagant and generally expensive. Why go clubbing in Bognor Regis when you relax in a luxury spa in Budapest? Forget camping in the countryside – it’s all about a Northern Lights jeep tour in the depths of Iceland.

“The idea for Last Night of Freedom began during my student days - I set up a website in 1999 offering advice and inspiration (just to stag groups, initially) on how to have the ultimate stag night. People then constantly tried to book events through me so I thought rather than say no, I would do it!” explains Matt.

“My success was recognizing then that people wanted to take the party abroad - with destinations in Greece and Spain. The noughties saw the rise of city breaks to Prague, Barcelona and Paris - no longer reserved for the jetset, they were going mainstream.”

Last Night Of Freedom Snow

Bake With A Legend Pilot Web 102

Shortly after getting stag weekends off the ground, Matt moved into hen dos too.

“It began with a small offering and just snowballed from there. If you had told me back then that 17 years later we would be approaching a £7 million turnover with 50 staff, I would have said you’d been drinking too much!”

Which is, as we all know, something that often goes hand in hand with celebrating one’s so-called ‘Last Night of Freedom’...

Based in Gateshead, right on the Newcastle quayside, Matt’s company now has a whopping 25,000 successful stag and hen parties under its belt, and the selection that it offers it quite mind-boggling. Pick your destination and then add on accommodation, travel and transfer options, plus a whole host of activities.

We currently offer over 65 locations across the world, from the UK to the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe to Las Vegas. We even offer the North Pole, but no one has been quite brave enough to take us up on that one yet!” laughs Matt.

Yet despite offering a wide range of packages and parties throughout various European cities and some more exotic locations, Matt has in fact identified that the trend has gone ‘full circle’, with popularity instead returning to UK destinations.

“We are definitely seeing a significant rise in bookings for UK-based parties that I have not seen since the millennium - we have dubbed this the rise of the stag-cation and the hen-cation), where people opt to have their weekend here in the UK. The falling value of the pound and Brexit are likely contributor to this,” explains Matt.

“In the late 90s, the UK was seen almost as the lesser option, but people are now tuning in to just what amazing activities and cities we have right here. Newcastle, Liverpool and London are enjoying a resurgence in popularity and justly so. Newcastle, where we are based, remains a mecca for stag and hen dos, so it is the perfect location for us - we are very much proud Geordies!”

And once you’ve picked your destination, be it in the UK or abroad, you’ll then need to choose a few activities in order to keep the entire party happy, entertained and hopefully out of trouble,

“Packages come and go in popularity but ‘Bake with a Legend’ is the latest big news, where people can bake with a former Great British Bake Off contestant. Our “Play with a Legend” is also definitely a memorable one for me - allowing you to take to the pitch with one of your sporting heroes!” enthuses Matt.

“But we have over 5,000 activities across the world, so there is plenty to choose from. The traditional girly hen activities are as popular as they’ve ever been, but there are equally as many hens going for adrenaline-fuelled adventure activities, such as paintballing and quad biking. I think what people might find surprising is there is now much less disparity between stag and hen activities these days, which we think is fantastic!”

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If you’ve ever been in charge of organising a hen or a stag yourself, you’ll be all too familiar with what an absolutely nightmare it can be. Trying to keep everyone happy, constantly considering what the stag or hen might enjoy whilst keeping the ever-increasing budget to a minimum, and then trying to get everyone to pay up! In fact, just establishing a date that everyone can do is enough to induce a mild nervous breakdown.

There is SO much more to organising events than people realize - you can do it alone and those who have, usually have a horror story to tell. Get it wrong and it can break relationships just at the point where we are supposed to be celebrating them!” explains Matt.

“Many of us have been on that trip where the organsier has no idea of what to do and it’s a big responsibility. Despite perceptions, fewer people are seeing these events as an excuse for drinking excessive alcohol – people want an experience to remember for all the right reasons. We know our customers only have one last night of freedom, so they can just sit back, relax and let us do all the graft.”

When it comes to graft, Matt is of course talking about all the brainpower and the intense amount of admin that goes in to organising a party to remember. Last Night of Freedom has a dedicated events department who can provide ideas, inspiration and expert advice, as well as a friendly personal travel service too. They have also set up an online payment system for the whole group to use, so that no one has to chase people for money.  

The logistics involved in sending out invites, taking individual payments, organising rooming lists, arranging meals, dealing with allergies, co-ordinating flights, sourcing accommodation, procuring activities, sorting transfers, printing t-shirts, being on call 24 hours a day – the list is endless. Imagine how hard this can be for one event and you have an insight into the challenges of delivering thousands!” laughs Matt.

“We understand how personal a hen or stag night is, which is why it’s not a case of ‘one size fits all’. The world is now going ‘hyper-personalised’ with demands for new, unusual and bespoke products and services. We started life as a bespoke service and this remains what we excel at - this allows us to tailor the weekend exactly to client specifications, from serene spa retreats to sun, sea and sand, glamorous city breaks to full-on party resorts!”

And whilst glamorous city breaks do of course sound appealing, one of my main bugbears with today’s hen and stag offerings is often the cost…sometimes an expensive weekend packed full with activities that in reality you have little interest in doing can be difficult to swallow.

Yes some events are expensive, but it depends what you want. Days of a drink with your mates down the local are gone, and costs have increased accordingly; but as a former student, I am still of the view that you shouldn’t have to break the bank in order to have a last night of freedom to remember!” enthuses Matt.

“An event in the North Pole can cost £25,000 per person but from that extreme, there are hundreds of more affordable options. No one wants to price their friends out and our range of options reflects that desire not to test people’s pockets.”

As well as helping thousands of hens and stags organise their raucous send offs, LNOF is now the number one provider of stag and hen costumes and accessories in the UK too. So in addition to their busy offices, there is also now an onsite warehouse capable of dispatching over 200,000 items, as well as a photography and film studio for capturing new products. So how does Matt continue to provide the personal service that he prides himself on?

“I think the key is, I have tried to keep the ethos the same as it was when I started. It was great fun and as we have grown in size that fun has been something we have worked hard to retain. I think that’s something customers recognize and appreciate,” explains Matt.

“All of us love what we do and remain committed to giving our customers the ultimate last night of freedom, in a straightforward and stress free way. We take what we do very seriously, without being too serious about it! It’s all been a whirl of late nights, trial and error but it’s been worth it. 17 years after it all began; I feel that we are the company I have always wanted Last Night Of Freedom to be.”

Last Night Of Freedom Guys

LNOF Girls Hostesses

LNOF Girls Baking

This year, with two of the top three stag destinations now UK-based for the first time in 12 years, it’s going to be another big year for Matt and his team, and if you’re the one planning someone’s Last Night of Freedom then make sure you read Matt’s indispensible Do's and Don’ts on TheEdit now. 

For more information on Last Night of Freedom and to book their services take a look at their profile in TOAST's Little Black Book

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