You know what a hen's party is – you may have attended one or even planned one yourself, but where did this trend and name come from? The fact is that hen's parties are now practically tradition in the west, and stories about where they come from can be dated all the way back to ancient Greece.
In ancient Greece, weddings happened in three stages. The first was the Proaulia, which was a gathering and celebration for the bride, her female family and friends. This party was meant to be a feast, but also had an important role in spirituality. The bride and all the guests would make offerings of the bride’s old toys and clothes, and even her locks of hair! This was a symbolic way of showing that she had moved on from her childhood into womanhood, and these offerings were given to Artemis, the goddess of fertility.
This was the first recorded time where a woman would celebrate her marriage before the wedding itself, solely with her female acquaintances.
While hen's parties can be dated back to ancient Greece, where does the word ‘hen's party’ come from? The term has actually been around for much longer than modern hen's parties themselves. The word ‘hen’ was used to refer to the females of any species (with the male equivalent being stag) ever since Victorian times. In fact, hen's parties at the time didn’t have anything to do with marriage either. They were simply parties and gatherings for women, with food, tea and music. At this time, women did not have many rights, and their lives were controlled by men. Hen's parties were their only way of having a party where they could do whatever they wanted.
The most famous use of the term ‘hen's party’ was by Eleanor Roosevelt back in 1940, where she held a hen's party in the White House with all the wives of the US cabinet. This was also not related to weddings, but simply a party exclusively for women to show status.
In the 1970s, once society came across its social awakening, the restraints on women became much looser, and free, which meant that women could do what they wanted and that marriage was no longer the end of a woman’s working life. As such, because women would now only get married when they wanted, they would often be seen celebrating around the city, at pubs and bars, celebrating their pre-wedding status.
So who started hen's parties? The fact is that they have been around for quite a while, and celebration of a woman’s wedding has been set in history for a long time, and while every culture may not call it a ‘hen's party’, there are certainly a number of ways it was done. However, the first hen's party could be the tradition of Proaulia, while the modern hen's party could be a result of all the activities that came to rise in the 1970s with women’s freedom from society’s shackles.
Regardless of who started it though, we’re definitely thankful for it!