A brood of hens

With the hen party industry on the rise, Rowena Crowley goes to her first one to see what they are all about. 

When you find yourself in fancy dress in the middle of the day, doing a painting of a nude male model and swilling another glass of prosecco, you can only be at a hen party.

This was the first hen that I had been to and it certainly was an education in this all-important rite of passage. Weddings are filled with traditions and these days, the hen party marks the beginning of these rituals.

While historically, this pre-wedding occasion involved the bride contemplating her dowry alone, the hen party has evolved into typically drink-fuelled, action-packed occasions with the bride’s female friends and family. These events don’t overly facilitate personal contemplation.

Hen parties are now standard practice in Ireland and they are big business taking in accommodation, travel, bars, restaurants, adventure activities and fashion expenses.

I wasn’t sure what type of hen I was going to- would it be the sentimental route or the stripper route to say goodbye to the bride’s unmarried life? It seems to all depend on how outrageous the bridesmaids are and how tolerant they deem to the bride-to-be.

I have to hand it to our bride; she was very open-minded. Fourteen of us headed down to Enniscorthy for the weekend where we were told we were renting cottages and needed 1920s costumes. Not everyone knew each other as the group was a mix between young and old, family, work and college friends and of course, the soon to be in-laws.

The Friday night started out quite civilised- we all settled into the cottages and then headed out to dinner in the town. Prosecco seemed the drink of choice for the weekend and several drinking games and forced personal confessions later, everyone felt like old friends.

The next day began with fancy dress. While Hen Parties typically involve dressing up as sexy bunnies, sailors or nurses, we donned traditional Indian saris courtesy of the groom’s family whose mother is Indian.

Once in costume, we were directed by the maid of honour to the garden, where a vintage tea party had been set up for us. Cue more prosecco, cucumber sandwiches and diabetes-inducing cup cakes. The bridesmaids had also put framed childhood photos of the bride on every rug.

This was the sentimental, classy part of the hen but the mood suddenly changed when we saw something striding towards us from the bushes. Filled with swagger, our male art subject presented himself to us…completely naked. This was ‘art class’ time we were told. Giggles ensued.

“I thought this was meant to be a girl’s only party?” said one of the hens as she pretended not to look through her hands.

We were given a canvas and paints and were instructed to paint our subject. Artistic abilities and size perceptions differed. “I can’t paint that in front of my daughter” laughed one of the bride’s aunties so she opted for the abstract route.

Once nudity had entered the equation, the hen escalated from there. We all got into our 1920s outfits, made the bride a wedding dress out of toilet paper and danced the night away.

The hen party was a success and it set everyone up well for the wedding. I am now looking forward to having my own hen once I have found that all elusive husband.

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