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How stag and hen nights have evolved since far-off days of the Ancient Greeks

Whether it's a night down the pub or week-long booze-fuelled trips to Vegas, Ella Walker proudly dons her wedding veil and squad T-shirt

The images conjured up by the words 'hen do' and 'stag' are often L-plates, rude straws and strippers. However, it's thought the practice of having one last party before tying the knot originates with the Ancient Greeks.

The act of 'proaulia' would see brides-to-be preparing for their marriage ceremony at home with female friends and relatives, while also asking the gods for the blessing of children (and not too much trouble during childbirth itself) - although the phrase 'hen' to denote women was first coined in the 1800s. Today's stag and hen dos are both a pretty recent phenomenon and a tad more extravagant, with trips abroad practically the norm. Here's how things have changed...

1970s and 1980s: Your local pub

The habit of embarking on stag and hen dos appeared to kick in during the 1970s, as people heading towards their nuptials rode the wave of the free loving Sixties and the sexual revolution. In 1976, The Times first used the term 'hen do' as we'd recognise it today, but the events weren't exactly four-day binges in Benidorm. In fact, hen and stag dos back then took place with work colleagues down the pub a couple of days before the wedding, with it being recognised that brides-to-be, in many cases, were switching work for wifeliness and motherhood.


By the late Eighties and early Nineties, stag dos were increasing in popularity and both hen and bachelor nights were moving into clubs. Venues also started realising they could cash in, offering fancy dress nights and drinks deals for groups looking for a great time. Certain cities became iconic for their popularity with stags and brides-to-be...


With Dublin being the home of Guinness, the city continues to be a hit, mainly with stag dos, thanks to being easily accessible, cheap to travel to, and chock-full of stag-friendly pubs (particularly the Temple Bar area) to happily stumble between.


Between the beach, the pier and the bars, Brighton offers all sorts for groups, and in the Nineties, it was pretty cheap to boot. It's still hounded by pre-wedding partiers today.


We can blame the Noughties for the astronomical rise in stag and hen do costs, as package deals and weekend trips replaced the classic drunken night out.


Yep, during the early Noughties, we started handing over entire weekends to mates preparing for their nuptials, booking flights to the likes of Tallinn in Estonia (very popular with stag dos - the city seems to be designed for them, offering a proliferation of lap dancing clubs and activities from ice fishing to snowmobile trips); Magaluf (for the sheer number of bars and nightclubs, foam and boat parties, and beaches on which to recover); Ibiza (where Wayne Rooney took his stag group in 2008) and Amsterdam - where you're still likely to come across numerous stag weekenders in matching T-shirts, trying to get their bearings in the red light district.


When we say America, we mean Las Vegas. Blame the release of The Hangover in 2009 - it triggered a trend for ditching UK haunts in favour of the bright lights and casinos of Nevada.


While the likes of Amsterdam and Tallinn are still going strong as stag and hen do hotspots, increasingly, hen dos are going down more cultural and classy routes in terms of destinations. Stag dos are doing so less content-wise, but are upping their location game too, with trips to festivals and cities that aren't exclusively dominated by bar crawls and beach clubs.

Festivals and spa days

It's no longer unusual to spot stag and hen groups at summer music festivals - Glastonbury is, of course, top of the list, showing a return to locations that don't require a budget flight somewhere. See also, spa days in the British countryside - the ultimate hen do alternative to three nights in Tenerife.


For hens and stags looking for a more sophisticated pre-wedding jaunt, the likes of Madrid, Paris and Budapest are all proving more prominent picks. Who knows where we'll be heading come the 2020s?

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