A bachelorette party, hen(s) party, hen(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 or hen night are common 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 term stagette is 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.
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 hostesses 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.
Initially, parties in honour of the bride-to-be that were labeled as bachelorette party 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.
The phrase "Hen Party" mirrors the male "Stag Party" in referencing social stereotypes of each gender at the 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. In North America, it is common to hire a male stripper and/or attend a male strip club.
In the UK, a naked butler has become a common theme and a popular hen party idea. The naked butler is often dressed in just a collar, dickie bow, cuffs and a short apron. He will wait on the hen and her party including serving drinks and food as well as hosting or taking part in hen party games and entertainment. An extension of this concept that has also become popular in the UK is the hiring of a naked chef to cater for the guests often accompanied by a naked butler to serve the food and drinks.
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.
A more traditional alternative is the bridesmaids luncheon, hosted by the bride and/or her mother during the day, usually several days or a week before the wedding. At a bridesmaids luncheon, the bride often presents a small gift to each bridesmaid.
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.
- Barber, Katherine, ed. (2004). Canadian Oxford dictionary (2 ed.). Oxford [Oxfordshire]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-541816-6.
- Post, Peggy (2006). Emily Post's wedding etiquette (5 ed.). London: Collins. pp. 183–184. ISBN 0-06-074504-5.
- Post, Emily (1922). Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home'. Funk & Wagnalls Company. pp. 335–337.
- The Invention of Teenagers: LIFE and the Triumph of Youth Culture
- Gridiron Visited by Santa AP Reprinted by St. Petersburg Times December 15, 1940
- And Too, How Much Should Wives tell husbands? Sarasota Tribune September 6, 1951
- Dorothy Dix Says: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 10, 1947
- Hen Party is Great Fun The Deseret News December 18, 1897
- Montemurro, Beth (2006). Something old, something bold: bridal showers and bachelorette parties. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 0-8135-3811-4.
- Hughes, Kathleen; Carolyn Gerin (2004). Anti-Bride Etiquette Guide: The Rules - And How to Bend Them. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. pp. 90, 92. ISBN 0-8118-4458-7. "Squealing girls and strip clubs full of dancing, oily-chested men with socks stuffed in their banana hammocks are becoming a thing of the past. Bonding with your gals is what the bachelorette party is all about, not calling attention to how drunk and tarty you look in public."
- Fox, Sue (2007). Etiquette For Dummies (For Dummies (Psychology & Self Help)). For Dummies. p. 294. ISBN 0-470-10672-7. "Bachelor and bachelorette trends vary from coast to coast and are changing fast in many social circles. Most every type of party is acceptable..."
- Benczes, Réka (2006). Creative compounding in English: the semantics of metaphorical and metonymical noun-noun combinations. John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 95. ISBN 90-272-2373-4.
- Kristen Finello; Bridal Guide Magazine; Diane Forden (2005). Bridal Guide (R) Magazine's New Etiquette for Today's Bride. New York: Warner Books. pp. 28–29. ISBN 0-446-67822-8.
- Berry, Margaret (20002-09-04). "Don’t Be Rude: Part III, Socializing by Margaret Berry". The Morning News. Retrieved 2008-08-23. "Don’t throw parties in your own honor. Throwing a birthday party, a shower, or an anniversary party for yourself lacks humility. It also suggests that the party is a poorly camouflaged push for gifts, instead of a heartfelt expression of affection from a dear friend."
- Martin, Judith (1999). Miss Manners on Weddings. New York: Crown Publishers. pp. 136–137. ISBN 0-609-60431-7. "Contrary to rumor, bridesmaids are not obliged to entertain in honor of the bride, nor to wear dresses they cannot afford."
- Vanderbilt, Amy; Tuckerman, Nancy; Dunnan, Nancy (1995). The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette. Garden City, N.Y: Doubleday. pp. 364–365. ISBN 0-385-41342-4.
- Media related to Pre-marriage party at Wikimedia Commons
- The dictionary definition of bachelorette party at Wiktionary
- HALFWAY TO PARADISE: HEN PARTY (1989) (archive film about a hen night in Glasgow - from the National Library of Scotland: SCOTTISH SCREEN ARCHIVE)