What Is A Hens Party: Our Ultimate Guide For A Great Event

bachelorette hens party

What Is A Hens Party? The Ultimate Guide To The Bride’s Big Night Out 

A hens party (or hen party, or hen’s night) is a bride-to-be’s last big celebration before becoming a married woman. It’s an opportunity to have fun with a group of friends (especially the bridesmaids). Although the party can be as sedate or as wild as you want it to be, conventionally, there’s a bit of drinking and a lot of laughter. Keep reading for the answers to all your questions about the big day (or night), plus a few that might not even have occurred to you.

What Is The Purpose Of A Hens Party?

Aside from having fun, the purpose of a hens party is for the bride to come together with her friends and say goodbye to the single life–it’s a sort of informal rite of passage.

Why Is It Called A Hens Party?

In 14th-century English, the word ‘hen’ was used for any kind of female bird, so it’s not surprising that it eventually became a slang term for a woman (around the 1620s). By 1887, a hen party was a term used for a gathering of women. Hence: ‘hens party’.

what is a hens party

What Is The Origin Of The Hens Party?

Ancient pre-wedding rituals for brides go back (at least) to ancient Greece, but the modern hen night, typified by women getting together and celebrating raucously, is fairly new. The hens party became specifically identified with celebrations before marriage, as opposed to just any celebration among women, in the 1960s and 70s in the English-speaking world. Maybe it isn’t a coincidence that the hens party took off in Australia around the same time that women were first allowed to drink in pubs.

What Are The Girls In A Hens Party Called?

All the girls in a hens party are usually called ‘the hens’ or ‘the hen party’. The bride is one of these hens, but she’s just called ‘the bride’.

Is A Hens Party The Same As A Bachelorette Party?

Yes, a hens party and a bachelorette party are two terms for the same thing that vary in usage depending on where you are: it’s usually called a bachelorette party in the US and a hens party in Australia or Britain.

How Long Before The Wedding Is A Hens Party? 

Although the hens party is often described as a ‘last night of freedom’, it’s a terrible idea to hold it the night before the wedding just in case any of the participants drink too much–it wouldn’t be that great if the bride were hung over at her own wedding. It’s better to hold it on a weekend at least a couple of weeks or maybe even a month before the big day.

Who Arranges The Hens Party?

A hens party is traditionally arranged by the maid of honour, often with help from the other bridesmaids. The bride has enough on her mind and isn’t usually expected to contribute (but it’s a good idea to make some discreet enquiries about what she actually wants and really doesn’t want before arranging some racy entertainment like a male stripper).

Who Pays For A Hens Party?

It customarily falls to the bridesmaids and other hens party guests to pay for the party, and they’ll also usually pitch in to cover the bride so she doesn’t have to pay for herself.

Who Should Be Invited To A Hens Party?

A hens party usually includes the bride (of course), all the bridesmaids, and a group of the bride’s other, usually female, friends. No one should be invited who might make the bride uncomfortable, like ex-girlfriends of the groom. On that point, no matter how quiet the hens party actually is, it’s supposed to be an opportunity for the bride to let loose, so there shouldn’t be anyone she feels she has to be on her best behaviour with, either–maybe invite the future mother-in-law to the bridal shower instead, if you’re having one.

Can I Invite People To The Hens Party But Not The Wedding?

Probably not–this is generally considered a big faux pas because it sends the message that the person in question is fun to have around on a night out but not important enough to come to your wedding. Of course, if someone you’d love to have at the wedding won’t be able to make it for whatever reason, it’s fine to invite them to the hens party if they can get there.

When Should I Start Planning A Hens Party?                                      

You might want to start planning at least 4-6 weeks ahead of time, depending on what you want to do. Remember, you’ll need to come up with ideas, negotiate a date when everyone you want to come can make it, and book in advance if you want some activity or venue that needs to be booked. Remember, too, that the hens party itself should take place at least a week or two before the wedding.

Do You Pay For The Bride At A Hens Party?

Yes. Usually, attendees at a hens party will pay their own costs per head and chip in a bit each to cover the bride.

bachelorette hens party

What Should You Wear To A Hens Party?

What to wear to a hens party depends on the setting (or settings–they often move from one location to another). What’s appropriate will vary depending on whether the location is a hotel, a series of nightclubs, a boat party, a rural retreat or some combination thereof. If there’s going to be a bit of travel from one venue to another or the party is going to go from day to night, you might want to think about wearing separates that you can dress up or down, maybe bringing some lightweight partial change of clothes or planning a pitstop for a full outfit change to avoid discomfort.

Should You Give The Bride A Gift At A Hens Party?

Often the other hens will give the bride a small gift. This is usually nothing fancy, and sometimes it’s a gag gift of a risqué nature. If you’re going to be one of the hens, try to ask the others what gifts they’re bringing to give you some idea of what will fit the mood. If there’s not going to be a kitchen tea or a bridal shower (see below for an explanation of what these are), it may be appropriate to give the bride a slightly bigger (i.e., fancier) hens party gift. If you could do with some hens party gift inspiration, see our article.

Does The Bride Give The Guests Gifts At A Hens Party?

Yes, often at hens parties, the bride will give the guests a small gift or even a little bag of party favours, like what you used to get at children’s birthday parties, except with more adult content.

What Is The Difference Between A Bridal Shower, A Kitchen Tea, And A Hens Party? 

Kitchen teas, bridal showers and hens parties are the three main types of pre-wedding celebrations that are held for brides. If you’ve ever been confused by these wedding-related terms, here’s an at-a-glance guide.

Kitchen TeaBridal ShowerHens Party
What is it?A kitchen tea is an event held by female relatives and friends of the bride to celebrate her upcoming nuptials. There’s a strong emphasis on setting up a new home–gifts from guests to the bride are traditionally items for the kitchen.A bridal shower is a celebration of the bride's upcoming marriage, originating in the 16th century when brides too poor for dowries (or whose families didn’t like the groom) would be ‘showered’ in gifts to set up a household by family and friends.A hens party is an event celebrating the bride’s wedding with the theme of having a last taste of freedom. It’s usually either held at night (the reason it’s sometimes called a hen's night) or begins in the daytime and continues into the night.
Who attends?A kitchen tea is suitable for all ages, and older relatives like mothers and grandmothers often attend. It’s traditionally women-only.A bridal shower is usually suitable for all ages, including older relatives. It’s traditionally women-only, but mixed-sex wedding showers where the bride and groom are both present are becoming more common.A hens party is almost invariably adults only and all female—usually bridesmaids and other female friends of similar age to the bride.
Who arranges it?A kitchen tea is usually arranged by the bridal party or the bride’s family.Traditionally, a bridal shower is arranged by the maid of honour and specifically not the bride’s family.A hens party is usually organised by the maid of honour and other bridesmaids.
Does the bride take part in arranging it?The bride doesn’t usually participate in arranging a kitchen tea.The bride doesn’t usually help plan a bridal shower, but it’s probably best to ask her a few questions about what she wants (unless she’s said she wants a surprise).The bride does not usually help arrange a hens party, and the event's specifics may even be a surprise to her, but it’s important to make some discreet enquiries to ensure you’re not planning anything she’d really hate.
Who pays for it?A kitchen tea is paid for by the person or people hosting it, usually the maid of honour or another bridesmaid or close friend.A bridal shower is usually paid for by whoever’s hosting it, which will generally be the maid of honour and possibly other bridesmaids.Usually, the bridesmaids and other guests at the hens party kick in to pay for the event, including the bride’s costs.
Where is it held?Traditionally, a kitchen tea is held in the home of the bride or her mother’s home if she’s moved out.Usually, a bridal shower is held at the host's home or that of a relative or close friend of the bride. It can also take place at a venue like a park, hotel or winery.Hens parties are held at a huge variety of locations. They can take place over a few different pubs or nightclubs, or as a party at one location like a hotel or a boat you’ve booked. You can combine a few different experiences–for example, start with a river cruise during the day and then continue to the clubs at night. Just be sure to plan your itinerary and make the necessary bookings in advance.
When is it held?Traditionally, a kitchen tea is held two to three weeks before the wedding, but bear in mind the timing of any other events that are happening before the wedding, like a hens party.Usually, a bridal shower is held between five and two weeks before the wedding. There should be enough time after the wedding announcement for the bride to choose bridesmaids and for guests to make arrangements and choose gifts.A hens party usually happens at least a few weeks before the wedding. The hens party should come after a kitchen tea or a bridal shower since it’s supposed to be a last big celebration before the bride gets married.
What’s the food and drink?A kitchen tea usually features vaguely afternoon-tea-type food and drinks like tea and coffee, cakes, biscuits, cupcakes and scones, plus hors d’oeuvres and other savoury finger foods.Food and drink for bridal showers tends to be similar to that at kitchen teas. Champagne or cocktails may be served, but it’s supposed to be a tasteful event, so there is an expectation no one will overdo it.There aren’t any 'traditional' foods to eat at a hens party; it’s really more about the drinks, although there’s no need to go overboard.
Any gifts?Guests at the kitchen tea give the bride a gift to help set up a new home after marriage (even if she already has a home of her own), so gifts will usually be things for the home, especially for the kitchen.Bridal shower guests give the bride a gift, and there may be a gift registry with suggestions. If not, something for the home is traditional or any nice gift that suits her personality and that she won’t mind opening in front of the guests at the shower.Guests at the hens party often give the bride a gift, but it’s usually something small and may be some kind of gag gift. The gift to the bride may be a bit bigger if there aren’t any other pre-wedding events like bridal showers making the hens party the only opportunity for gift-giving. If you’re invited to a hens party, it’s a good idea to ask the other hens what they’re giving so your gift hits the right note. The bride may also give gifts to the hens, often in the form of gift bags with little party favours.

Can A Bride Have A Bridal Shower, A Kitchen Tea And A Hens Party?

A bride could have all three of these or multiple of one type of event (for example, two bridal showers), and this might be a good idea if she has a few different friend groups who don’t know each other. But she may want to avoid inviting the same guests to two bridal showers or two hens parties, or at least make it clear they aren’t expected to give a gift twice. 

What’s A Good Gift For A Hens Party?

What constitutes a good gift for a hens party depends on who you are, what other events have been held before the wedding and what the consensus is among the other hens. For the confused, we’ve put together a handy image to help brides and hens alike decide on hens party gifts.

Note: it’s always a good idea for the hens to consult each other about gifting. You don’t want to be the only person at the party who brought no gift, or the show-off who brought an inappropriately lavish gift…

Bigger Gifts For The Bride 

These ideas might be good if the bride isn’t having a bridal shower or kitchen tea, where slightly bigger gifts are given. Unlike those events, where the gifts are usually centred around building a home, gifts for a hens party should be something a bit more indulgent, just for the bride, like these:

Piyama Short Kimono Robe - Vintage Palm - Sunset
A robe she can wear the morning of the wedding
silk pillowcase
A silk pillowcase (maybe in a set with other silk items like this one by Violette Casa)
wine glasses or champagne flutes
A set of wine glasses or champagne flutes, possibly etched with her name or the couple’s names
a small piece of jewellery with initials on it
This is definitely one for all the hens to chip in for: a small piece of jewellery with her initial on it (or initials, plural, especially if you know she’s changing her last name)
luxury scented candle
A luxury scented candle
passport cover
A passport cover for the honeymoon

Smaller Gifts For The Bride

Here are some gift ideas under $50 for the low-maintenance bride (or the bride you already dropped a small fortune on at the bridal shower):

personalised dish
 A personalised dish for the couple’s wedding rings
A personalised mug
A personalised mug
insulated champagne tumbler
An insulated champagne tumbler
A single-use Kodak camera
A single-use Kodak camera
A planter with the couple’s names and wedding date on it
A planter with the couple’s names and wedding date on it
Personalised coat hanger
A coat hanger with her name on it to hold her wedding dress or robe on the big day

How To Make Party Favours Full Of Hens Party Supplies

If you’re the bride (congratulations, by the way), you can pick up some empty goodie bags on Amazon that fit the style of your party and fill them with a selection of bits and pieces to help your hens through the party on the day, as well as some little treats.

What To Put In A Hens Party Goodie Bag

You don’t have to include everything here (if you did, they’d be pretty big goodie bags), but these lists should give you some ideas.

Things To Help Them Get Through The Party:
  • Phone numbers for emergencies: numbers for other hens, for where you’re staying if you’re all staying in a hotel, or for taxi companies
  • An itinerary for the day/night
  • Band-Aids
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Tablets for indigestion
  • Paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Foldable shoes for emergencies
Fun Things To Wear
  • Name tags or badges (good if not all the hens know each other)
  • Sashes 
  • T-shirts
  • Plastic tiaras
  • Sunglasses (for the morning, if you stay out all night)
Food And Drinks
  • Bottles of water 
  • Gum or mints
  • Little boxes of nuts
  • Muesli bars or nut bars
  • Lip balm
  • Samples of perfume or cosmetics (you may be able to get these free from department stores or big cosmetics stores)
  • Hair bands
  • Hair clips
Games And Novelties
  • Glow sticks
  • Sparklers
  • Bubbles
  • Novelty straws or drink stirrers
  • Party poppers

Hens Party Games

Games can be just what a hens party needs to help strangers in the bridal party get to know each other and keep the party mood going. Here are a few classic hens party games, listed (roughly) in order of how early in the party you should have a go at them.

bachelorette hens party games

Ice Breaker

If some of the hens don’t know each other, you can begin the festivities with a game to break the ice. Have each person introduce themselves to the group by saying their name, how they know the bride, and their favourite thing about her or their funniest memory involving her.

Drinking Games

Any party game can be a drinking game if you use your imagination, but for starters, you could try Two Truths and a Lie. This is basically what it sounds like–everyone has to state three ‘facts’ about themselves, and the others have to guess which one is a lie. Everyone who guesses wrongly has to take a drink.


Always a favourite, karaoke is best once the night has gotten well underway and all the attendees have loosened up. 

Truth Or Dare

An adolescent classic, truth or dare involves players being asked in turn if they’d rather give a truthful answer to a question of the asker’s choosing or complete a dare. If they refuse both, you can make them take a drink (we told you anything could be a drinking game). This is another good way for previously unfamiliar hens to bond, but best once everyone’s a bit further into the celebrations. There’s a huge bank of truth or dare questions here.

Hens Party Decorations

If your party is going to be in one place for at least part of the time, you’ll probably want to decorate it to create a real party mood. You don’t have to have a flair for design to make the place festive; keep it simple by sticking to two or three colours to keep things unified. You can find packs on Amazon with all the decorations you need in a few different colourways.

hens party decorations
hens party decorations

Where Should A Hens Party Be Held?

When you’re choosing the venue for your hens party, you might have difficulty deciding between a few ideas. Should you have a sedate daytime event? Book a hotel so you can be loud and silly in private? Party in a nightclub (or three)? There’s one option for your hens party venue that combines the best of all possible worlds – a party cruise on the Gold Coast.bachelorette hens party

Why You Should Book A Hens Party Cruise With Party Cruises Gold Coast

A hens party cruise is incredibly versatile; at least, it is with us. If you want a sedate daytime hens party in the sunshine, taking in the incredible views of the Gold Coast waterways, we can do that, complete with a catered barbecue lunch to fortify you for the night ahead. If you want a cruise in the evening with the lights of Surfers Paradise twinkling from the shore, we can do that, too. If you book for long enough, you can even do both.

A Day (Or Night) To Remember

Our pontoon, the Mirage Sun 33, can accommodate 16 (not including our captain) with room for dancing, a stereo system and a karaoke machine so that you can experience the party atmosphere of a nightclub and the privacy of a hotel room at the same time, all with a stunning backdrop. Whether your whole hens party takes place on the water or you step back on shore in the city and continue the party into the night, hiring a boat with Party Cruises Gold Coast will make your hens party one to remember.