Who throws the bachelorette party (hen’s party) for the bride?

An American bachelorette party, with the bride-to-be wearing a veil, at left

A bachelorette partyhen’s partyhen’s night or hen(s) do, is a party held for a woman who is about to get married. The terms hen party, hen do orhen night are used in the United Kingdom and Ireland, while the terms hens party or hens night are common in Australia and New Zealand, and the term bachelorette party is common in the United States and Canada. The terms stagette and hen party are sometimes used in Canada. It may also be referred to as a girls’ night out or kitchen tea (South Africa in particular) or other terms in other English-speaking countries.

The bachelorette party is modeled after the bachelor party, which is itself historically a dinner given by the bridegroom to his friends shortly before his wedding. Despite its reputation as “a sodden farewell to bachelor days” or “an evening of debauchery,” a bachelorette’s party is simply a party, given in honor of the bride-to-be, in the style that is common to that social circle.

History

Prior to its usage as a term for a pre wedding party “hen party” was used in the United States as a general term for an all female gathering usually held at a hostess’s residence. In 1897, The Deseret News noted that “hen party” was a “time honored idea that tea and chitchats, gossip smart hats, constitute the necessary adjuncts to these particular gatherings”. In 1940 Eleanor Roosevelt was described as hosting a Christmas time “hen” party for cabinet wives and “ladies of the press”.

The bachelorette party is consciously modelled after the centuries-old bachelor’s party, which is itself historically a dinner given by the bridegroom to his friends shortly before his wedding.

Although the practice of giving a party to honour the bride-to-be goes back for centuries, in its modern form, the bachelorette party may have begun during the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It was uncommon until at least the mid-1980s, and the first book on planning bachelorette parties wasn’t published until 1998. Its cultural significance is largely tied to concepts of gender equality.

bachelorette-party-2A woman dancing on the bar at a bachelorette party in the USA

Initially, parties in honour of the bride-to-be that were labeled as bachelorette parties often involved displays of sexual freedom, such as trading intimate secrets, getting drunk, and enjoying male strippers. Parties that honored the bride-to-be without these elements avoided that label. Now the term is used for a wide variety of parties. Pop out cakes are a common accoutrement.

Bachelorette parties were especially popular around the turn of the 21st century and frequently appeared in the news.

The phrase “Hen Party” mirrors the male “Stag Party” in referencing social stereotypes of each gender at the party.

Entertainment

bachelorette-party

Topless butlers serving guests at a hen party

Many different kinds of entertainment are selected, depending on what the organizers think will best please their guest of honor. While notions of a bachelorette party as a night of drunken debauchery persist in some social circles, it is becoming widely seen in America as an opportunity for female bonding. According to etiquette expert Peggy Post, “Whatever entertainment is planned, it should not embarrass, humiliate, or endanger the honoree or any of the guests.”

When held in a private venue, such as the hostess’s home, the party may take any form that pleases the hostesses and honors the bride-to-be. Dinners and cocktail parties, which provide comfortable opportunities for participants to talk or to give intimate advice to the bride-to-be, are common. Other hostesses choose a themed party, such as a “pamper party,” with guests indulging in spa treatments, or a cooking class. While proposing a toast to the bride-to-be is common at most bachelorette parties, some center on drinking games.

Many companies sell products aimed at the organizers of bachelorette parties, including packs of themed games, pre-printed invitations, decorations, novelties, and sex toys. A common theme of parties is male nudity. In North America, it is common to hire a male stripperand/or attend a male strip club, where as in the UK, a naked butler or chef has become a common theme and a popular hen party idea. “Nude life drawing” (sketching a nude model) is another recent popular trend.

Organization

Participants are often all women. Bridesmaids (if any) are typically invited, but any of the bride’s close friends may be included.

This party is typically hosted by one or more members of the wedding party, although it is possible for any friend to host a party in honor of the bride-to-be. Formally, a party in honor of the bride-to-be is never hosted by the bride-to-be, although she may participate in its planning. While it is normally the duty of a hostess to pay for the entertainment she gives her guests, it is common in most English-speaking countries for participants to share the costs of this event. Whether the bride-to-be pays her share, or whether her share is divided between other participants is something to be determined by the organizers and the bride-to-be during the early stages of the planning process.

Participating in a bachelorette party is always optional, and many brides decline these parties altogether. Neither bridesmaids nor other friends can be required either to attend or to pay for any part of this party.

Since it is derived from a formal dinner, a bachelorette party is properly held in the evening, usually about a week (or at least a few days) before the wedding, and usually includes dinner, although alternative approaches are not uncommon.

Alternatives

A more traditional alternative is the bridesmaids luncheon, hosted by friends of the bride’s mother or mothers of the bridesmaids, usually give the day before the wedding. Attendees include the bridesmaids, their mothers and close female friends and relatives; the event is often multi-generational including mothers and even grandmothers of the bride and groom. At a bridesmaids luncheon, the bride often presents a small gift to each bridesmaid. The purpose of the luncheon is for the bride to thank her attendants and includes presenting them with bridesmaid gifts. It is also when the bridesmaids’ gift is customarily given to the bride. If there is a cake, it frequently contains good luck charms.

If a significant aspect of the party is presenting small gifts to the bride-to-be, then the event is properly called a bridal shower. For the convenience of the bride-to-be, bridal showers are usually held earlier than a bachelorette party.

A stag and doe party, also called a “Jack and Jill”, “buck and doe” or “hag” (hen + stag) party, is a similar party that includes men and women. It may combine aspects of a drinking game with fundraising.

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