What is a Hen Party? Celebrate in Style with Our Complete Guide

From tennis at Wimbledon to the plays of Shakespeare, and a bizarre fascination with tea, here in the UK, we have eclectic tastes. We do love a good wedding though, and the bride-to-be traditionally kicks off her celebrations with a hen do. 

So, what is a hen party? Grab your tiaras and I’ll tell you all about it…

What is a Hen Party? A Brief History

Hen Party Vs Bachelorette Party

They may be from different sides of the pond but the US bachelorette party and UK hen party share common traits. Both occasions are for the bride-to-be and her nearest and dearest to celebrate forthcoming nuptials by spending time together and having fun. 

Why Is It Called a Hen Party?

Back in Medieval UK female birds were often known as “hens,” regardless of their species. The phrase carried over to the early 20th century when it was used as a term of endearment for ladies “flocking together.”

Despite its association as a Brit-born tradition, the hen party also has Middle Eastern, Asian, and North African origins. Traditionally, women would gather at the Mehndi party on the day before the wedding to apply henna (a dye used to decorate the skin), hence the term “hens.”

Hen Parties Then and Now

Initially, a group of women getting together for a chat over a cuppa, the humble hen party has come a long way. The 60’s brought with it an era of liberation and by the 1970’s women were ready to embrace the notion of the “last night of freedom” hen party.

Nowadays ask the question what is a hen party? And you’ll be told it’s a bash for the bride-to-be, with activities loosely based on her tastes, be that quad biking and afternoon tea by day, to dancing, knocking back champagne, and plastic willies on a raucous hen night. 

What To Do on a Hen Do & Hen Night

Beautiful girls celebrating a hen party

The options are pretty much endless when deciding what to do on a hen do. However, it may be that modern hens may be moving on from the days of a boozy party ’til you drop.

According to insights from GoHen.com, the UK’s largest hen party providers, inquiries for nightclub entry and bar crawls have dropped significantly since the pandemic, whilst inquiries for glamping retreats, yoga classes, and spa vouchers are soaring.

“Wellness hen parties are definitely on the rise,” said Ellie Silk, Head of Events at GoHen.com. “After weeks of stressful wedding planning, brides are in need of a zen do, rather than a hen do, and I think it’s a lifestyle change that reflects the modern bride.”

However, at the end of the day, you have to consider the bride’s likes and dislikes before deciding on a hen party theme or activities. A bride with a fear of heights won’t thank you for an afternoon of indoor rock-climbing. Think about the bridal party too, what’s likely to go down well?

With these trends in mind, here are a few hen party ideas to get you started…

Wet and Wild

Get out on the water, be it splashing in the sea, sailing on a boat down the river, or drinking cocktails at a pool party, getting wet and wild is always a winner. 

Spa Serenity 

Whisk the bride-to-be away from wedding day planning with a spa day. We’re talking massages, hot tubs, steam rooms, and taking it easy with a glass of bubbly. 

Outdoor Adventure

The great outdoors brings a wealth of hen party opportunities. You can hike, bike, or rock-climb, or enjoy a leisurely picnic. You can even go on a road trip or camp out under the stars.

Brunch, Lunch, Afternoon Tea or Dinner 

Everyone loves grub, from a leisurely brunch to a fancy lunch with wine, or a traditional afternoon tea to dinner and cocktails, good food will bring the hen party together. 

Bar Crawl and Boogie

Have a hen night to remember (unless you down too many shots) with a bawdy bar crawl. Karaoke is usually a great hen-do go-to and you can round off the evening with a boogie at a club.

Party at Home or Away 

If one of the hen guests is fortunate enough to have a fantastic home, maybe they’ll be kind enough to donate it for the hen party. If that’s not an option how about staying in a hotel or renting an apartment, cabin, or house for a night (or weekend) for hen party games and lots of partying? 

MODERN MOH TIP: Look for rental accommodation with special features such as a pool, hot tub, or bar. Make it extra special by hiring a chef to whip up tasty treats, or a cocktail waiter to ensure you’re all thoroughly shaken and stirred. 

To Theme or Not to Theme?

It’s not usual for a hen party to have a theme, which can involve decorations (for your chosen venue), props, and costumes. You can go as classy or cheesy as you please! You can stick to something simple and traditional such as the hens wearing LBDs, and pink sashes, and the bride-to-be dressed in white with a veil. 

Alternatively, you can push the boat out and opt for something more full-on such as cowgirls or 1990s retro ravers. For my best friend’s bash, we went for a racier vibe with “uniforms” and we caused quite a stir strutting around as a police officer, nurse, army sergeant, pilot, etc!

How to Plan a Hen Do

The Maid of Honor (known as the chief bridesmaid in the UK) usually takes charge of the hen do, often assisted by the bridesmaids, and sometimes by other key bridal party members. The MOH and bridesmaids typically chip in to pay for the bride-to-be, and the hen party guests might be asked to contribute too. 

It’s lovely to surprise the bride, but make sure you book a hen day/night she’ll enjoy. When it comes to the when and the who, the bride-to-be needs to be involved, so get together to decide on a date then sit down and hash out a guest list. 

Once you know what you’d like to do, when, and with whom, you can set about looking at transport and accommodation (if needed) and dinner reservations, booking of activities, etc. Get the schedule as watertight as you can upfront to make sure everyone knows where they need to be and when. 

Make sure you know your budget too – guests need an approximate idea of what they’re going to be spending. A kitty can work well – if everyone’s happy to put in a kitty is a useful way to make sure people pay their fair share.

MODERN MOH TIP: Setting up a group chat is a quick and easy way to reach all the hens. It makes for easier planning, and organizing payment and also provides the hens with the opportunity to get to know one another a little better before the celebration. 

Hen Party Etiquette

We don’t want to bore you with rules, but there are a few hen party do’s and don’ts to keep in mind if you want to make sure the hen party goes with a bang. Arguably the most important is to make sure the focus remains on the bride, it’s the run-up to her big day and she should stand out from the crowd. Make sure her expenses are covered and make sure she has a hen do to remember (for all the right reasons).

While keeping the bride happy is key, it’s also a good move to try and appease the other hens too. This means organizing a hen party that’s affordable and suits the audience. You might not be able to please everyone, but offering a couple of different activities is a good way to gratify hens and mix things up. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Beautiful Young Women at an Outdoor Hen Party

We’ve given you a brief background on hen parties, filled you in on what they are, and provided you with a few details on how to plan the perfect do. Check out our FAQs for more info. 

How can you plan a hen party on a budget?

Managing the bride-to-be’s (and hen’s) expectations can be tricky when you’re on a budget, but it can be done. Seek out affordable hen party options, such as a bottomless brunch, or chocolate-making class. Local drinks in your fave bar, or a party at home with freebie hen party games can be great fun. 

What are unique hen party games? 

Hen party games can break the ice and provide plenty of laughter too. You can purchase games online or at a store, or if you’re feeling creative have a go at making your own. Popular games include hen bingo, prosecco pong, bride true or false, and naughty clay modeling (prepare for playdough penises in all shapes and sizes)! 

Who Let the Hens Out?

What is a hen party? A great way for the bride-to-be and her friends to let their hair down before the big day. Celebrations can be pared back or revved up, but planning is imperative if you want to make sure everyone has a wonderful time. Hens of a feather flock together, so flap your wings and get organized. 

Pin for Later!

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UP NEXT: Who to Invite to the Bachelorette Party? The Complete Guide

About the Author

A freelance writer for over ten years, Emma Miles lives in the UK. When she’s not writing (usually about love, sex, and marriage) you’ll find her out walking with her family and crazy Border Collie, or getting cozy by the fire in a traditional country pub.

What is a Hen Party? Celebrate in Style with Our Complete GuideWhat is a Hen Party? Celebrate in Style with Our Complete GuideWhat is a Hen Party? Celebrate in Style with Our Complete Guide

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