Last Sail Before The Veil
It’s a real rite of passage to have a final get together with your friends before getting married – a last fling before the ring.
Here in Ireland, we know it as the Hen Party, or “Hens”, or “Hen Do” or “Hen Night”. In the good ol’ US of A, it’s a bachelorette party. Canadians have a stagette and South Africans celebrate with a kitchen tea. In India you’d enjoy your Mehndi party, and an old Scottish tradition is called ‘blackening the bride’ which involved being pelted with buckets of eggs, flour, sauces and suchlike, and then paraded around town – still being pelted with foodstuffs – until she was permitted to finally hit the town with her friends.
Whatever you call it, whether it involves intricate henna hand-painting or becoming part human, part pancake batter, it’s a real rite of passage to have a final get together with your friends before getting married – a last fling before the ring.
A Little Bit Of Henstory
The name ‘hen’ has been used for the female of the human species since the 1620’s, and a ‘hen party’ – a term first recorded in 1887 – at first referred to any gathering of a group of women.
So while the name ‘Hen Party’ may be a relatively recent phenomenon, the idea of a girlie get together before tying the knot goes all the way back to Ancient Greece and the ‘proaulia’ which consisted of the bride hanging out at home with her mum, her gal pals, her aunties and cousins, bffs and … slaves … in order to party.
The bride and her posse would get a bit smashed on some olive-based spirit sweetened by honey and offer up tat such as her old clothes, toys and locks of hair to the goddess Artemis to say thanks for all the goddessing through childhood and please hang in there for a bit because I’m going to have to start squeezing babies out soon.
And if you think this sounds a wee bit crap, then spare a thought for poor Spartan brides who spent the night before their wedding having their head shaved, dressing up like a boy and sitting alone in the dark waiting to be kidnapped by the groom. Good times.
Journey Through Time and Space
What was once a Babycham with Betty the receptionist, was now a mini break in Malaga
Well, not quite space – yet – but on to the 60’s and 70’s when hens and stags really took off as a concept. Married women weren’t allowed to work, so it became common for groups of workmates to dress a bride-to-be in a veil and pop out for an after work shindig to bid the single, working days farewell before the best day of her life – which was actually the start of an existence of domestic drudgery and potential future child rearing coupled with a complete lack of financial independence – but still, best day of her life and all that …
What began as a cheeky Harveys Bristol Cream soon burst out of the snug and into the disco in the 70’s and 80’s. Wading through a sea of L Plates and Feather Boas, we then hit the 90’s when hen partying became a proper industry – costumes, stretch limos, party buses. By the turn of the century what was once a Babycham with Betty the receptionist, was now a mini break in Malaga, a week in Ibiza or even a once-in-a-lifetime to Vegas – go girls!