What is a hen party? A detailed guide

What is a hen party?

Usually when you’re trying to work out the meaning of a word or phrase, you’ll head to the English Oxford Dictionary but for this one, we’re heading to Urban Dictionary. You better believe it. According to Urban Dictionary, a hen night is “a girl’s night out laid on for the bride getting married the next day”. While hen parties now tend to take place a few months before the big (except for those in Eastenders), this definition definitely sounds about right.

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Hen parties are often said to be a classy version of a stag do but whoever said that has obviously never been to good one. In reality, a hen party can involve anything from cocktails and chit chat, to witnessing someone’s quiet sister be sick all over herself after getting off with the bouncer. Cute. Either way, many countries around the world have their own traditions but all tend to focus on a party given in honour of the bride-to-be, pre-wedding. Good times with your friends: necessity. Strippers and slut drops: optional.

Why is it called a hen party?

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Back in the day, ‘hen’ was used to describe the female version of any bird. So a hen party was used to describe a party that was strictly girls only. So, it seems that hen parties aren’t as new a creation as your nan would have you believe but actually they go pretty far back. Although, we don’t think life drawing classes and fishbowl cocktails would be on the itinerary in the 1920s.

A history of hen parties

Wherever you go, there’s always a group of women wearing pink sashes, cowboy hats and of course brandishing something penis-related. Yet how did they get so big? (We’re talking about hen dos here!)

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Are you ready for a history lesson? Because we’re about to give you one. Hen party roots began years ago but it wasn’t until the 1970s that popularity really began to increase. Experts have put this down to the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

While the phrase ‘hen party’ has been around since the 1800s, it wasn’t until many years later that these words began to have any context. Google’s N-gram tool searches keywords used in millions of books and shows an increase in the use of ‘hen party’ from the 1960s. And, it wasn’t until 1976 that the Times Newspaper first used the phrase ‘hen party’ in a story. But, it was about a badly behaved male stripper. Naughty boy.

The more you look into hen parties, the more it’s obvious this is a recently new phenomenon. Three million years ago, if you fancied someone, you got down to business and began hunting with them. There were no worries about side chicks or naked pics. So, ultimately marriage was no big deal.

Yet as animals and plants began to gain importance, the ownership of land and women did so too. Women soon became something that could be traded and marriage was seen as a celebration. However the hen party tradition that we know and recognise today, would still take a few years to come around.

What happens at a hen party?

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When it comes to a hen party, there’s one thing that’s certain - there’ll be tears, tantrums and horrendous pictures. So it’s just like any ordinary night out but with way more glitter.

  1. You’ll take ages to get ready and probably won’t even wear that £150 dress because your mate’s New Look one looks so much better.

  2. Pre drinks will begin and someone will make a boomerang video with the prosecco cork. So much fun.

  3. You start taking pictures and realise how ugly you look and cry, making yourself even uglier.

  4. Someone’s boyfriend hasn’t text back and he’s out with the lads. Is he serious? Doesn’t he know how rude that is? He’s probably copped off with that lass down the pub. Oh that’s it, you’re done. It’s been a whole 4 minutes.

  5. A stripper arrives and the bride has to pretend she’s not enjoying it because her mother-in-law’s there. That’s not what you were saying in Magaluf 2K10 Sarah.

  6. You’ll all get kitted out with the classic hen party accessories. Woo.

  7. The taxi arrives and you can’t find Katie. Where is she? Oh she’s crying in the loo.

  8. You arrive at the club and make your grand entrance. Kim K ain’t got nothing on me.

  9. You all head to the dance-floor. Slut drops are always so sexy, right? Wrong. Completely wrong.

  10. Someone starts crying because she’s never going to get married.

  11. You lose the bride and think she’s gone off with a randomer but then find her cuddling the loo.

  12. You gather everyone together and head to the kebab shop because 6 months of dieting for the big day have all been forgotten about.

Hen nights and bridal showers, what’s the difference?

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They both celebrate the same thing but there’s a big difference when it comes to hen nights and bridal showers. While a hen party is big and brash, a hen shower is classy, elegant and PG-rated. A bridal shower is often hosted at the bride’s family house and games such as ‘Pin the Bouquet on the Bride’ are played while nibbling cupcakes and sipping rose tea (Okay we made the last bit up). Opt for a hen party and you’ll be slathering baby oil on a stripper and shoving a donna kebab in your gob. Although, here are some classier hen party ideas if that's what you're after. 

Another difference is cost. Hen parties are usually paid by all the hens. A bridal shower often works out cheaper and the bride’s family will usually foot the cost. In addition to this, at a hen party, the hen’s are usually given gift bags filled with novelty items. At a bridal shower, guests are expected to bring the bride presents, similar to a baby shower.

How do you plan a hen party?

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Planning a hen party can seem daunting so we’ve put together a step-by-step guide to help you out.

  1. Speak to the bride. Find out what she wants and whether or not she wants to go abroad. While you probably want to keep the celebrations a surprise, asking these questions will definitely help you out.

  2. Create an invite list. Again, it’s probably best to work with the bride on this one. You don’t want to see her face drop when she realises her favourite cousin hasn’t been invited.

  3. Set up a group chat. The simplest way to arrange budgets, dates and activities is to create a group chat. Plus you’ll be able to send all the photos over after the weekend.

  4. Decide on a location and find accommodation.

  5. Plan activities. From cocktail making, nude life drawing classes, multi-activity days or a trip to the theatre, it’s important to fill the hen party with fun things to do and see.

  6. Create a kitty. Often large groups use a kitty when heading away but it can also be useful when booking things beforehand. Having a joint money pot is not only easier to keep track of who has paid what but will also stop that tight mate from missing a round. You know who you are.

  7. Plan the finer details. Organise hen party games, outfits, party bags and more!

  8. Send an itinerary out to everyone a week before and don’t forget to have fun!

So, whether you’re the bride-to-be or a hen party planner, hopefully we’ve answered all your hen party questions. For the ultimate do, why not get in touch or take a look at these top tips for the best hen party preparations.