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Behind the Scenes at Butler Bookings: Hen Party Inspiration and More!

Where Did the Hen Party Come From?

Hen Party   /   May 4th, 2018   /   0 COMMENTS   /  A+ | a-

Whether you’ve been on one, organised one or been the focus of one, most of us have had dealings with a hen or stag party at some point. The hen party or hen night is the ladies’ celebration before the wedding and is a bit like a female version of the bachelor party. But there’s a lot more to do it – so where did the hen party come from?

Ancient pre-wedding celebrations

The idea of special celebrations or parties before the wedding itself isn’t a new one. In Ancient Greece for example, the wedding was made up of three parts. One of those was the Proaulia where the bride and her female family members gathered for a special ritual (read party in modern language). This actually pre-dated the first mention of the male pre-wedding gathering by some 1300 years so there’s a good case for the hen do being the forerunner of the stag do, not the other way around!

Hen = woman

We have the 1600s to thank for the idea of a woman as a hen. Back then the term was used as slang for a woman and by the late 1800s, there was use of the term ‘hen party’ in a publication called The Deseret News. This was a ‘time-honoured idea’ that women got together for tea and ‘chitchats’ before the wedding. Here’s the first mention of the classic hen party involving drink and lots of gossip. Hen parties didn’t always just mean there was a wedding around the corner either. Sometimes they were just gatherings of women. Politician and activist Eleanor Roosevelt was said to have had a ‘hen party’ at Christmas in 1940 when cabinet wives and ‘ladies of the press’ got together to have a good chat.

The bachelorette party

We have the ladies in the US to thank for the modern adaptation of the hen party – which they call the bachelorette party. Back in the 1960s, they started to have parties before the wedding with drink and fun. And by the mid-1970s there was an association between the ‘hen party’ and pre-wedding fun. But it wasn’t until the 1980s where it started to become a more common custom and not until the 1990s where the bachelorette party became the standard pre-wedding celebration.

The modern hen party

Since the 1990s, things haven’t changed that much with the hen party. The idea of male strippers has been refined to buff butlers who host a party while the drinking has broadened to include lots of cocktails or sometimes something a little less more sober, depending on the bride and the party. Hen parties of the 1990s often involved just a pub crawl but the modern hen party is often a weekend-long event that can include shopping, outdoor experiences, spa days and fine dining. Just as we have all found new things to do with our social time, so too the hen party has evolved beyond just getting drunk – although there’s still a lot of that goes on too!
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