Why Is It Called A Hen or Stag Party?

Quad biking and archery

We go into the history books to find out the origins of the “Stag” and “Hen” party and why they are called that with this article from “The Sun”.

It’s often dubbed a man and woman’s ‘last night of freedom’ before they get hitched.

But where do the terms ‘hen do’ and ‘stag do’ for a pre-wedding celebration actually come from, and what do they really mean?

It sounds like stag dos – or bachelor parties, as they’re often referred to in the States – have always been boozy affairs.

The Origins Of “Stag” Party

Numerous sources suggest the male pre-wedding celebration dates back to the fifth century in Sparta, a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, where a raucous feast was held in order to toast the groom-to-be.

The term stag has obvious strong male connotations – the animal is a strong leader of the pack.

In Wiccan religions, Celts worshipped a horned God called Cernunnos – sometimes referred to as Herne the Hunter.

The term ‘stag do’ for a party held for a man getting married could well have been influenced by Cernunnos’ connection with the stag in rut, which led him to be associated with fertility.

The first record of a stag party getting out of hand was that of Herbert Barnum Seeley – grandson of American politician P.T. Barnum – whose stag party in 1896 was raided by police tipped off that a belly dancer was performing naked.

The use of the word ‘bachelor’ in the context of ‘an unmarried man’ is found in Chaucer in the late fourteenth century.

Its earliest meaning in English, which dates back to the thirteenth century, is a “young knight who followed the banner of another”.

The Origins Of “Hen” Party


Meanwhile the phrase ‘hen do’ reportedly dates back to the 1800s, where it was a term used to describe a gathering of women – though originally there was no pre-wedding context.

In America, The Deseret News noted in 1897 that a hen party was a “time honoured idea that tea and chitchats, gossip smart hats, constitute the necessary adjuncts to these particular gatherings”.

In 1940, politician and activist Eleanor Roosevelt was described as hosting a Christmas time “hen” party for cabinet wives and “ladies of the press”.

By looking at Google’s N-gram tool, which shows the rise and fall in popularity of keywords and phrases across five million books, use of the phrase grew from the mid-1960s onwards.

It was first used in its modern-day wedding context in inverted commas by the Times newspaper in 1976.

It featured in a story about a male stripper fined for behaving in a “lewd, obscene and disgusting manner” by Leicester Crown Court.

Sounds like nothing much has changed…

Stag and Hen Offers

Adventure Britain hosts a range of different alternative Stag and Hen Party ideas for outdoorsy and adventurous types, most popular weekends include canyoning, quad biking, caving, climbing and mountain biking among others.

Read more about our special offers at the moment such as Free Beer For Stags and Free Prosecco For Hens.

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