As wedding season approaches, the hen night or stag do is as traditional a statement as the big day itself. Sarah Ell indulges in a fling before the ring.
FOR THE LADIES
There's no need to put on a hot pink veil, drink shots and dance around your handbag in the Viaduct (unless, of course, you want one last burst of bad behaviour before tying the knot).
A pre-wedding get-together for the bride's friends can be a chance to learn a new skill, head outdoors or get creative.
For arty types, Mixing It Up organises the perfect marriage of painting ... and wine. They run regular "drinking and sipping" nights (yes, that's a thing) at bars and restaurants around Auckland, or you can arrange a private group session. All materials and a comely smock are included, and no experience is necessary - a "social painting tutor" is at hand to help you tap into your inner Picasso.
Another arty option - with a bit more nudity involved - is Strike A Pose, a mobile life-drawing group class, which will bring the model and the equipment to your chosen location.
Get a room and order Bitchin' Bingo - an R18 (not your Nana's calls, but hilarious and outrageous) comedy bingo show, which will come to your private party.
For something a little swanky and elegant, the Sofitel, at Auckland's Viaduct Harbour, has a Retreat Room overlooking the harbour. From the privacy of this luxurious sixth-floor pad, you can drink the finest Champagne and snack on a glorious high tea.
For a potential attention-grabber on the wedding night, your group could learn a pole-dancing routine or take a "twerkshop" in booty-shaking dance moves. Several Auckland pole fitness studios run special hen-party sessions (in case you're wondering, it's a lot harder than it looks on TV), and the Swing 360 studio is upstairs from Macca's on Queen St, so you can have a snack afterwards. Twerk It Out NZ hosts parties in a range of venues around Auckland or can come to you so your party can learn a routine to bust out at the reception, including the Handstand Twerk.
If going the full Miley Cyrus isn't your thing, exploring an unfamiliar cuisine at a cooking school makes a fun evening (and works well as a stag option too). Main Course in Beaumont St runs themed classes and can organise special group sessions, or take a cupcake-decorating class at Ponsonby's Cake & Co.
FOR THE GUYS
Drinking, shooting and fishing (not necessarily in that order) might be the typical male pursuits, but today's more enlightened groom wants to minimise the risk of a Hangover-type scenario. Instead of getting into trouble and losing an eyebrow, get outside and get competitive, or head indoors to get competitive, or ...
Get out on the water and work as a crew, or race another boat with Explore's fleet of former America's Cup boats (the non-foiling, less death-defying type) or a smaller racing yacht. Or experience a piece of yachting history on a Friday afternoon "rum race" on Sir Peter Blake's maxi ketch Steinlager II.
Escape Hunt in Takapuna has a rugby-themed challenge, which is great for rugby-loving men and women. For a day of shooting, throwing knives and golf shots, book a trip to Kauri Bay Boomrock in Clevedon. There are flower arranging and cooking classes on offer too.
Beretta at Bracu in the Bombay Hills offers a similar range of activities, and both venues have fantastic food, too.
If you're steering away from the tequila but still want to involve a bit of (civilised) drinking, head to Waiheke for a craft beer experience at the Wild on Waiheke microbrewery, where you can also take part in a round of Wildtag, described as paintball combined with dodgeball, using foam-tipped arrows and Mongolian bows. At EcoZip Adventures, you can whizz about high above a vineyard and native bush, with spectacular views of the city and gulf.
For those seriously into their beer, your group can crate their own wedding-day brew at the Brothers brewery in Mt Eden. After a guided tour you'll be taken through the whole process from mashing in, to cooling and pitching yeast, then enjoy a beer tasting. A month later and your boutique brew is yours to enjoy.