Forget sex and strippers: how stag nights are turning into hag nights

The 'Friends' generation abandons drink-fuelled romps and opt for mixed outings before they wed
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The Independent Online

Bladdered in Blackpool, tied to a lamp-post in Tenby, larging it in Lithuania, or arrested in Amsterdam - for years this has been the traditional pattern for hen and stag parties.

Bladdered in Blackpool, tied to a lamp-post in Tenby, larging it in Lithuania, or arrested in Amsterdam - for years this has been the traditional pattern for hen and stag parties.

But the days when a last-night-before-the-rest-of-your-life binge ended in a headache at best, or the British consul liberating the bridegroom at worst, are numbered. Hen and stag parties are going co-ed. The traditional single-sex shindig is being replaced, for all but the youngest couples, by mixed outings attended by friends of both the bride and groom.

So fast is the trend for "hag" nights, as they are called, growing that a quarter of people in their 30shave already been to a joint party. And more than half had either invited or intended to invite both sexes to their final celebrations as singletons, according to a survey of 4,000 young British adults by Warner Breaks.

Most who attended a "hag" party preferred it to the sex-and-stripper-fuelled hen or stag night, and party venues are welcoming the trend. Traditional stag and hen nights, characterised by drunkenness, raucous behaviour and visits to lap-dancing clubs, have been blamed by cities such as Dublin and Edinburgh for rising numbers of fights, rapes and acts of vandalism.

Holly Lowe of Redseven Leisure, which caters to the lucrative pre-nuptial party business, said: "Hag nights have become increasingly popular over the past year and a half." She said it was less about excess "and more about friendship. Our customers are in their mid 20s to late 30s. People are getting married later on in life, their friends are in couples and the women have male friends."

A rise in the average age of marriage has boosted "hag" parties, and Dean Yardley, managing director of online wedding forum, believes the increasing phenomenon of female "best men" has had an effect.

He said: "Couples choose less adrenaline-filled weekends but split up during the day, maybe golf for the men and pampering for the women. Groups are perhaps a dozen or so of either sex and they'll meet up again in the evening and go to restaurants and clubs."

One such pair, Rakesh and Jackie Chauhan, both in their early 30s, organised a weekend near Alton Towers for their "hag" party. "It wasn't a drunken tie-someone-up do," Rakesh said. "Everyone's kicking around 30 and we have such a wide bunch of friends who hadn't mixed before. We just figured it out as we went along and it was very easy."

As the customary pre-wedding celebration has developed into a full weekend of revelry for men and women together, many are heading to European destinations including Amsterdam, Prague and Barcelona to misbehave away from home. According to research for Morgan Stanley, 3.3 million Britons will spend £532m this year on pre-wedding antics - an average of £365 each before they have even glanced at the wedding list.

A joint venture which integrates the sexes is the ideal antidote to the growing public disaffection with the rowdy, violent crowds that storm town centres each weekend, identifiable by their matching nurses' outfits, name badges, wigs and whips.

Dublin was first to reveal its frustration in 1998, when 34 pubs and hotels banned stag and hen parties. The move followed a report which revealed that these visitors were putting off tourist business, and costing the city £57m each year.

Edinburgh is also suffering the side-effects of the stag and hen influx. In 2002 a member of a stag party attempted to rape a 17-year-old girl in a pub toilet, and police blame this year's 50 per cent increase in reported rapes on binge-drinking and the culture of stag and hen celebrations.

Blackpool announced a 15-year "masterplan" last month in a bid to reclaim the central no-go zone that has been inundated by drunken and aggressive revellers.


Alton Towers and board games

Brideand groom: Jackie Chauhan, 33, project manager, and Rakesh Chauhan, 34, management consultant, both from Haslemere

Where they went: Rented a house for three days near Alton Towers.

What they did: Pub on the Friday evening followed by a day at Alton Towers. A night in with drinks and lots of board games on the Saturday.

How many guests: 23, including five single people.

Cost: £100 per head for accommodation, Alton Towers, food and drink.

The verdict: "We needed to do something which was suitable for lots of different people and it was really good having one place to stay. It wasn't the traditional thing, but I think everyone did enjoy it."

Health spa, karting and tapas

Bride and groom: Helen, 32, from Manchester and Mark, 34, insurance underwriter, from Warwick. Both live in Bermuda.

Organised by chief bridesmaid: Katrina Taylor, 33, sales manager of an adventure company in Surrey.

Where they went: Weekend staying in a four-star hotel in Nottingham.

What they did: Clubbing on Friday night followed by a day at a health spa for the women and mud-karting for the men. Tapas and winein the evening.

How many guests: 18 women and 14 men.

Cost: £175 per head including accommodation, all entertainment, food and drink.

The verdict: "After the really healthy day we felt deserving of going out and getting pissed. I'd definitely do it this way again."