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What is a Hen Party?

By Kate Monteith
Updated May 23, 2024
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A hen party is a festive celebration held before a wedding, and attended by the bride and her female friends. These parties are basically the female equivalent of the male bachelor party or stag party. Known as "bachelorette parties" in the United States, and "stagette parties" in Canada, they are called "hen parties" or "hen nights" in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia.

This type of party is usually planned by the brides’ closest friends, often the maid of honor or bridesmaids. The festivities can be held in a public place, such as a restaurant or bar, or may be held in a private home or rented room. The location often depends on the amount of exuberance expected of guests. Some celebrations can get quite wild, with frenzied dancing and inappropriate behavior. Alternately, a day of drinking champagne at a day spa would be considered a tame version.

Unlike a bridal shower with young girls in attendance, the hen party is strictly for adult women. Bringing a gag gift is de rigueur, with lighthearted male-bashing a favorite theme. Gifts are meant to cause a bit of blushing and gales of laughter, if possible. Drinking of alcohol and freeform dancing may be encouraged as the party unfolds. The women will “let down their hair,” but generally watch out for one another to see that no one is ever in danger.

There is a wide range of options when it comes to planning the entertainment for a hen party. The general idea is to celebrate the last moments of single life and the new life that will unfold. Planners will be wise to listen carefully to the likes and dislikes of the bride, and let the nature of her personality set the tone for the festivities.

An afternoon cocktail party with a few naughty games will suffice for some brides, while others prefer a wild night of dancing and slamming shots. On the other hand, some brides will completely shun the idea of a raucous night of drinking in favor of a spa day with the bridal party, including soothing massages, manicures and pedicures, and other lavish pampering.

The word “hen” in the title is a reference to female chickens. In the U.S., the term is considered somewhat derogatory toward women, and the time of sexual equality, any gathering of women and girls might have been classified as a hen party. The parties held by today's women have nothing to do with the innocent quilting bees of old, except for female bonding.

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Discussion Comments
By fify — On Mar 05, 2013

My hen party was in the UK, I had a party organizer take care of it for me. It wasn't very expensive and they came up with so many unique hen night ideas and activities we could do. I just picked what I like. They organized the whole event and even had free gifts for us. It's worth the trouble to plan yourself in my opinion.

By bear78 — On Mar 04, 2013

@ysmina-- There are so many fun and naughty hen party games. They're relatively easy to come up with too, just use your imagination.

Locale and food can be the major costs involved with a hen party. But many restaurants offer special fixed price menus for parties. You can even have the party at home if you want to save money.

My sister-in-law did a house party for her hen do and we had a beautician come over and give us facials and makeovers. Then we played games, watched our favorite films, ate and drank. It was a lot of fun, we didn't get stressed out and it was also a sleep-over so no one had to worry about driving home. It was genuinely a great night.

By ysmina — On Mar 04, 2013

What can I do for a hen night party on a budget?

The attendees will all be adults so it can be a little on the naughty side. I certainly don't want to bore people. It can't be too crazy either though because I don't know some of the ladies who are invited. Please help!

By anon261634 — On Apr 16, 2012

Naughty-shaped piñatas are a fun trend which takes "lighthearted male-bashing..." to a new level.

Papier-mâché or cardboard moulds covered with brightly coloured paper, piñatas are typically filled with sweets and beaten with a stick until the contents come whizzing out.

Fun for a hen party, phallic-shaped goodies, jokes, condoms and sweets are hilarious. Look online for inspiration.

By anon231717 — On Nov 26, 2011

We love hen parties. In the US they are bachelorette parties, which is the term they use.

By anon151522 — On Feb 10, 2011

@naturegurl3: it is good you know what you want. Now just find what will be enjoyable. You could opt for an afternoon tea in London or maybe wine tasting and a spa.

By yournamehere — On Jul 26, 2010

@naturesgurl3 -- Oh wow. You can really go a lot of directions with hen party accessories.

Kind of like hen parties themselves, the accessories span the spectrum from very innocent to quite naughty.

If you're looking for pretty tame ones, you might consider getting your sister a veil or a fun tiara. Some places even sell sashes that say "Bride to Be" or "Hen Party".

They also have accessories for the friends, like little bottles of bubbles, t-shirts, boas, you name it.

That way she can feel special, and you guys can have fun without getting too crazy.

By naturesgurl3 — On Jul 26, 2010

What are some good hen party accessories?

My sister is getting married and I want to throw her a mature, but not too boring party.

Any ideas?

By CopperPipe — On Jul 26, 2010

Some people even go for a whole hen party weekend!

That way they can get in a day at the spa, a night on the town, and have the morning after to recover.

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