The Hen Night is now recognized to be a pre-wedding celebration and is a night out for the bride, the bride’s maids and her female friends. This can take place as a private function or part of a general night out for the Girls. A parallel with the Men’s Stag Night, it has taken over many of the Men’s features, the fancy dress (bridal veils, garter belts and frilly garters), the excessive drinking, the performing stripper and the general heartiness.
Noisy and boisterous, it represents the last opportunity for the Bride to let her hair down and celebrate the final time that she can be uninhibited, vulgar and sexually brazen before she conforms to Society’s rules and strictures for a wife’s behavior. Hen nights are as meticulously planned as the wedding itself. They are no longer the surprise they used to be, the Bride having a say in the planning, the location and the fancy-dress accoutrements as much as her companions. A small industry has grown up for the manufacture of these decorations, including false plastic breasts, frilly knickers and blue garters. Hen and Stag nights do not necessarily have to be on the same night.
The crueler features of the older established Stag Night has not permeated into the Hen Night, Brides so not find themselves on a non-stop train to Glasgow, handcuffed to lamp-posts with their knickers round the ankles or locked out of the hotel in the nude.
The Hen Night is a late 20th Century tradition and grew out of the American Bridal Shower, where the Bride is presented with presents that appertain to to her forthcoming status. The Bridal Shower traditionally happened in the Bride’s bedroom and did not involve the alcoholic content or noisy behavior of the Hen Night. It is a peculiarly British take on the rite.
The joyous farewell to maidenhood has almost none of the Male equivalent roughness or slightly cruel ritual. Surprisingly, the Hen Night has yet to include the ballroom elegance, long dresses and gloves that the Americans bestow on their “Party Showers”. The emphasis is on the raucous, the sea-side postcard humor and the earthy fun of a Donald McGill postcard or a Beryl Cooke painting. The male stripper has become a feature of the Hen Night. The token male at the beck and call of the assembled females has a high psychological factor. Women strippers, long a feature of Male Stag Nights, have not the high regard or fun factor as the Men on Hen Nights.
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