HistoryA party has been given to the bride to be before the wedding ceremony for centuries. Although we can go further back to the 1600’s – when the bride to be spend the evening before her wedding day going over details of her dowry – that’s the financial and material aspects she would be contributing to the marriage (yawn!) Initially the hen night was probably more of a formal dinner. But the modern form of hen party in which we know and love is thought to have begun during the sexual revolution and equality movement of the 1960’s.
TimingsTraditionally held on the evening before the wedding, although the thought of this fills many with dread (grazed knees, bruises and a raging hangover is not a good idea on your wedding day!) Nowadays both the stag and hen nights are kept at a safe time distance from the big day itself – at least by a month (we recommend leaving about as much time as it take for an eyebrow to grow back!)
OrganisationTraditionally, the maid of honour will take up the job of organising the hen celebrations. This was originally all very secretive and a surprise for the bride to be, with the maid of honour often ‘hosting’ the party herself. However, it is becoming more common for the bride to have more of an input in the organisation, sometimes dealing with it solely. Participants are often all women, obviously including the maid of honour and bridesmaids. It is now commonplace for many females who are close to the bride – being it family or friend to be present at the hen party. Earlier on too, the costs of the party would be attended to by the maid of honour, although now hens prefer to share the costs. (We think this is only fair!)
Traditional ElementsThese pre-wedding get-togethers according to Wikipedia often involve ‘displays of sexual freedom, exchanging intimate secrets, drinking alcohol and inviting a male stripper’ (very presumptuous!) A toast to the bride and her happiness in her up-coming marriage is nearly always announced. As well as showering the bride to be with small gifts (hence the name bridal shower!) Sometimes, these are chosen to embarrass her presenting her with sexy lingerie, sex toys and guides! (We’re blushing just at the thought of opening these in front of your mother in law to be!)
Around the WorldThe ‘hen party’ is referred to a ‘bachelorette party’ in the USA – deriving from the brother term ‘bachelor party’ or what we know as a ‘stag do’. It seems many different countries have their own weird and wacky pre-wedding traditions.
It was a tradition in Argentina, which if you were a woman and about to get married you are stripped naked and driven around town (presumably to show the other men of the town what they will be missing!)
Closer to home in Scotland, there is a tradition of ‘blackening’. This happens for both the groom and bride to be – sometimes together. Blackening involves physical dirtying and visible humiliation with the throwing of all sorts of goo (such as sauces, eggs, juice and rubbish…..ew) over the brides head….nice. The then ‘decorated’ bride is paraded around town… the purpose of this we cannot even fathom!
In China the women take part in a crying game… although in stark comparison to the laughs we have in the UK it is still considered celebratory. It starts with the bride to be crying, then her mother joins in, along with Granny, followed by sisters, cousins, friends and any females close to her. This ‘weeping song’ can go on for weeks!
One hen tradition we do like the sound of…certainly the opposite of your stereotypical bride to be dieting! In Mauritania, the bigger the bride the better! On the months leading up to the wedding the bride stuffs herself with all sorts of deliciousness in order to live up to this ideal. (Get me to Mauritania and bring me chocolate!)
India’s bride to be’s also spend the run up to wedding prepping the way they look. Often hosting Mehndi parties in which they paint their arms, legs and hands in beautiful henna tattoos – which will last for weeks!
Modern TraditionsNow, we see the hen party taking up its own modern traditions including drinking games and fancy dress! Generally, hen parties are more and more becoming ‘hen weekends’ with a whole host of activities for the girls involved – day and night. Although still centred within the UK, parties are becoming more adventurous with groups trying out dance classes, pamper parties, adventure activities, evening events and a whole manner of creative and unique experiences. Interestingly there has been a rise in the interest in male strip shows as entertainment rather than the usual run of the mill male stripper. UKGirlThing have got this covered with their live music and cabaret range here.
For more information or inspiration on our hen party range, take a look at our hen party ideas page!