I was reading Julie's interesting post about Valentine's Day in Japan and it occurred to me that not everybody would know about hen nights. I didn't have one myself when I got married a million years ago, a stag night was traditional but not a hen night. It is something that has grown, like Topsy, and so I did a bit of Googling and share the following:
In Middle English the word hen meant any female bird, which established the hen night as a woman-only affair. The tradition grew during the reign of Charles II (1630-1685) where it became an opportunity for the bride to contemplate her 'bottom drawer', a dowry of precious things collected in preparation for marriage. In contrast to the parties of today, this bride-to-be would spend the evening quietly at home with her family.
The tradition of the stag night is said to date back to the Spartan soldiers of Ancient Greece. The men would gather the night before the wedding to feast and gamble, as a way for the groom to say goodbye to his bachelor lifestyle. It was also said to be his last chance to gamble and to hide away his winnings, because after his marriage his wife would control his purse strings. Despite such joking sentiments, marriage was actually very highly regarded in Sparta. In Ancient Britain, stag parties were held to ward off the presence of evil spirits before the big day.
In Victorian times, being a wife was seen as a natural role for a woman and the concept that she might entertain doubts before her wedding day simply wasn't considered. A traditional hen night, if it was held at all, was a small, private gathering where women talked and the bride contemplated her future duties as a wife.
Hens nights are often as riotous, if not more so, than stag nights, and, therefore, they usually don't take place on the eve of the wedding. Every bride wants to look her best on the big day, rather than bleary-eyed and hung-over. For this reason, the chief bridesmaid will organize the party a week or more in advance and takes responsibility for sending out invitations and arranging the venue. Popular venues for hen night activities can include anything from paint-balling and white water rafting, to a short city break of shopping and lunching, or a visit to a health spa. It should consist of all the things the bride enjoys and not cause her any embarrassment or discomfort, it is a night to celebrate with her and make her happy. from http://voices.yahoo.com/hens-night-traditions-2444976.html
Jessica's Hen Night will be a surprise for her, organised by the bridesmaids but with strict instructions from Jess that it is to " definitely be a very civilised affair, no strippers and no chocolate willies" - not like some of the drunken hen trips to Majorca that get featured on the television every so often, thank goodness!! Photos to follow, have a good weekend whatever you're getting up to.