Marriage is usually one of the biggest events people go through in their life, and throughout the ages, people have celebrated their upcoming nuptials in a range of different ways.

Hen and stag dos are often viewed as the bride and groom’s last night of freedom. But where do the terms ‘stag do’ and ‘hen do’ come from and what is the meaning behind them? Keep reading below to find out everything you need to know about the history of hen and stag parties.

The History of Pre-Wedding Celebrations

Throughout history, pre-wedding celebrations and rituals have been determined by gender roles. In the past, the groom would focus on the loss of his bachelorhood while the bride would spend her time preparing for the upcoming occasion. Some of the things the bride may have done included:

  • In Ancient Greece, the bride and her close female relatives would spend time making sacrifices and offerings to the gods who may try and ruin their wedding day. One of the gods they were trying to appease was Artemis, the goddess of childbirth and chastity.
  • In ancient history, the bride would traditionally use the time before her wedding to get ready for losing her virginity.

When Were the Terms ‘Hen’ and ‘Stag’ Parties Introduced?

Hen and stag parties aren’t modern creations. In fact, they’ve been around for years. Etymology shows that in 14th century English the word stag used to mean a male of any species, so a stag party related to an all-male party. Likewise, the world hen pertained to a female of any species. Therefore, a hen party related to an all-female party. 

The terms hen and stag parties were first introduced in the mid-19th century, although they weren’t solely linked to weddings at this time. Instead, the terms hen and stag parties traditionally referred to events that were attended by only women or only men.

Here are some examples of the types of activities that would take place at a male-only stag party:

  • In the Victorian era – stag parties involved activities like oyster suppers, fishing, and magic shows.
  • In 1860 – a stag party was made up of a group of 16 married gentlemen who wanted to enjoy a supper, a sleigh ride, and have a good time.

In the 1870s hen parties started to grow in popularity. Some of the activities that took place at hen parties included:

  • Dancing
  • Singing
  • Afternoon tea
  • Genteel amusements
  • In 1907, a newspaper stated that cigarettes and liquors were also shared at hen parties

When Did The Terms ‘Hen’ and ‘Stag’ Party First Refer to Pre-Wedding Celebrations?

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Even though hen and stag parties were first introduced in the 1900s, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that they became more apparent. This was arguably due to the sexual revolution, which allowed women to act more freely in spirit and nature.

When they were first introduced, hen and stag parties referred to all single-sex parties, birthdays, theatrical shows, celebrations, and frolics. But by 1960, these terms were no longer linked to any single-sex party and were instead linked with single-sex pre-wedding celebrations.

Hen and Stag Parties in the ’90s

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By the end of the 90s, stag and hen parties were deemed of equal importance, and they were now seen as an almost essential part of getting married. Women were no longer expected to spend their hen party preparing for the wedding and instead were allowed to enjoy themselves with their female relatives and friends. Fancy dress costumes, stretched limousines, and strippers were all popular choices for hen and stag parties in the 90s.  

Hen and Stag Parties in the Millennium

The millennium saw hen and stag parties move away from the fancy dress costumes and stretched limousines. Instead, the majority of them chose to travel abroad to celebrate their upcoming wedding day. Party locations like Las Vegas, Magaluf, and Ibiza were extremely popular at the start of the 20th century. While abroad, hen and stag parties would often attend foam and paint parties, board a boat party, and down shots.

Hen and Stag Parties Today

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of hen and stag parties choosing to travel to classier destinations like Barcelona, Paris, Milan, and Prague. But that doesn’t mean that everything has changed. In fact, the obligatory bride to be sash and pretend veil are still the most popular accessories for a hen party.

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We’ve also seen an increase in the number of people choosing to have a more relaxed pre-wedding party. Many stags and hens now choose to celebrate their upcoming nuptials by having a restaurant meal, afternoon tea, chocolate-making lessons or a Mixology class. Spa treatments have also increased in popularity over the last few years.

We’ve also noticed a rise in the number of people playing games at hen and stag parties. One of the most popular games played at hen and stag parties is a game of Mr and Mrs. If you’re planning a hen or stag party, then check out these Mr and Mrs questions from For Better For Worse. This game is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and is a brilliant way to break the ice with people you may not know. You can find other wedding-related facts and inspiration on the same site. Hen and stag parties are now more popular than ever. Where will you choose to have yours? Will you go abroad, or will you choose to book a meal in a nearby restaurant? Whatever you choose, we hope you have an amazing time.