Cock-a-doodle do! If you made it here, it’s because you’re ready to throw a great hen party for a special bird. Whether you’re the bride-to-be herself or her first-hand gal, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to planning and throwing a memorable hen party that will leave the bride and her entire flock of friends clucking.
We'll help you understand what to put in hen party bags and more, let's get started.
What is a hen party?
A hen party is an event thrown for a woman who is about to be married to help her bid farewell to her maiden days. Referred to as a “bachelorette party” in the United States and sometimes as a “stagette party” in Canada, these parties can range from low-key outdoorsy getaways to debaucherous all-night affairs, and most often veer toward the latter, with the most raucous of parties involving drinks, dancing, and at least a few penis-shaped accessories. If your group of girlfriends is the type to get really wild, you might even expect a visit from a policeman who, within moments of arriving, will reveal himself not as a law enforcement officer responding to a noise complaint, but a hunky stripper ready to give the bride a special show.
Whichever direction your hen party goes, check out our ultimate hen party guide below to throw a hen night that’s full of laughs, new and old friendships, and special moments that your bride-to-be will treasure for a lifetime.
Why is it called a hen party?
There is some debate as to the origin of the term, “hen party.” Also referred to as a “hen do” or “hens night,” inclusion of the word “hen” is a common designation for these parties in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. But why?
One of the earliest references to a hen party comes from a 1897 article in The Desert News in which the author claims that “hen parties,” in all the raucous merriment by which we know them today, originated with actual fowl. Who knew!
Deviating from the age-old tradition in which women would gather with the bride-to-be to chit-chat and gossip over tea and biscuits, the reinvented hen party began when a young married couple decided to take up residence in the suburbs, and one of their friends noticed an abandoned hennery on their new property. Thinking himself quite the jokester, this friend communicated with three dozen of the couple’s other friends and arranged that on the next sunny day, the guests would meet at the railroad station nearest to the couple’s new home, each with either a hen, chicks, or a dozen eggs in hand. They then traveled together to surprise the bride and groom with a gift of 36 installments for their new hennery. Of course, much rowdiness ensued, which the hosts managed by serving refreshments, playing games, and listening to the guests’ stories about how they procured their fowl--the funniest of which was awarded with a prize from the groom.
While it’s safe to say that there are very few modern-day hen parties that involve the gifting of egg-laying birds, if you have an upcoming hen party to attend, you can certainly still expect to lose a few feathers flapping about with your flock.
What to put in hen party bags?
No hen do is complete with the proper gift to get the party started! From goodies to games, we’ve compiled a list of thoughtful hen party goodie-bag items that will help your gaggle of guests feel welcome and get your friends into the partying mood.
But before we get to it, first things first: the bag! Whether you want to save time and buy pre-made hen party bags or add the personal touch of customized bags, a quick search will reveal several charming and creative options for bags that will help the bride thank her hens for celebrating.
Every hen party bag should contain the basic essentials to help everyone have a safe and fun time.
- Itinerary: Include a copy of the night or weekend’s itinerary, including the address of important landmarks, restaurants, and your hotel or accommodation.
- Emergency contacts: Give each guest a list of the other bridesmaids' phone numbers and the contact number for wherever you’re staying.
- Taxi numbers: Make sure to include the contact info for taxi companies, especially in cities without ride-share options.
- Map: If you’ll be partying in a big city, include a small city map and a map of the public transit system.
Give each of your hens a small bottle of bubbles and kick off the festivities with a toast to the bride! Pink prosecco is usually a hit, especially when paired with a novelty straw.
What better way to loosen up the group than with some games? Click through the options below to find some great printable games that are sure to start the night with laughs.
- How Well Do You Know the Bride?: A great game to break the ice and get your bride giggling, check out One Fab Day’s favorite game, How Well Do You Know the Bride? Pass out copies of this free printable to the bride and all of her guests and see who knows her best!
- Guess the Dress: Bring some color to the night with this fun and free printable game from Something Turquoise. Give a game card to each of your guests and distribute colored pencils or crayons to have each guest draw what dress and accessories they think the bride will wear on her wedding day.
- Wed-Libs: Remember before the age of Netflix comedies, when you and your friends got your kicks from Mad Libs? Well, Something Turquoise just turned this beloved game into a hen party favorite with nine, free, hilarious printable Wed-Libs that will have the whole party cackling.
- Mean Girls Trivia: What group of girlfriends hasn’t spent hours quoting Mean Girls? Combine your love of Tina Fey with your love of trivia to play this fun game from Mockeri and discover which guest is the most “fetch.”
- Would She Rather: Best played in teams, this game of Would She Rather from Party Delights is sure to help everyone get to know the bride and each other a little better.
What’s a goodie bag without the goodies? Stock up on snacks both sweet and savory and give your guests something to munch on throughout the night. Whether you want to add some chocolate hearts, popcorn, or even some adult treats (we hear you can get prosecco-flavored gummy bears now!), you can never go wrong feeding your friends.
Including a personalized sash or outfit in your hen do party bag is a great way to include everyone in the festivities--and keep track of your gaggle of girls when you’re out on the town. Some standard options are sashes that distinguish different members of the bridal party, or you could go all-out and get customized t-shirts made with the bride’s name and wedding date, to add a really personal touch to the event.
Other options for wearables include:
- Hen party badges
- Temporary tattoos
- Headbands or flower crowns
- Girls’ night name tags
- Funky sunglasses
If you expect your hen party to get extra rowdy, then a hangover kit is an absolute must-have in your goodie bag. Don’t leave your girls hanging--prepare them for the morning after with these essentials:
- Ibuprofen or paracetamol
- Breath mints or a mini bottle of mouthwash
- Energy shots
- Granola bar
Whether you’ll actually get any sleep the night of your hen do is debatable, but in the event that you find your way back to the accommodation and into bed, it helps to have a few of the comforts of home. Add a personal touch to your hen party goodie bags by including some of these sleep aids in your gift bag:
- Ear plugs
- Eye mask
What to write in a hen party memory book
It’s no secret that hen parties tend to get wild and debaucherous, but you can ensure it’s a night to remember by including a hen party memory book at your party. These books are great for recording different memories and funny stories from the night, as well as a place where hens can include thoughtful messages and advice that they want to share with the bride leading up to her big day.
If you’re unsure what to write in your bride’s hen party book, just follow the two cardinal rules of letter-writing: be yourself and speak from the heart. Let your friend know what her friendship means to you or how happy you are for her upcoming marriage. Share funny memories from the early years of your friendship. If you’re a married hen, maybe you want to share some of the best relationship advice you’ve received throughout the years.
In either case, this book is a great place to record memories--old and new--that the bride will be touched to have this book as a keepsake that she’ll cherish once her hen night is long behind her.
Follow these tips and add a touch of personal creativity and you’re on your way to planning an unforgettable hen party that your bride and her hens will look back on for years to come.