Last year, Frank Mupenzi, together with a group of close friends, organised a bachelor party for a friend a few days before his wedding. It was planned as a surprise for their groom-to-be friend.
A bachelor party, also known as a stag party, stag night, stag do, stag weekend, or a buck’s night. It is a party held for the groom to-be shortly before marriage.
It has become a growing trend in Rwanda and Mupenzi explains that it was meant to be his friend’s last night of freedom as a bachelor and an opportunity for him to bond with the boys.
“It is a ‘man’s thing’ and comes with a code of secrecy for the attendees, who are expected not to reveal details with third parties, including the bride-to-be,” he says.
A stag party is organised by the groom’s friends as the last free’ night with the boys.
But when, exactly, did bachelor parties first become a tradition? Bachelor parties are thought to date back as early as the 5th century B.C., with ancient Spartans celebrating the groom-to-be’s last night as a ‘free man’.
The bachelor party, however, goes back much further than you’d expect. Like many modern things, the concept is popularly traced back to ancient Greece. It’s rooted in ancient history, as early as the 5th century B.C., according to TIME.
It is believed that the ancient Spartans were the first to make a celebration of the groom’s last night as a single man. Spartan soldiers held a dinner in their friend’s honour and made toasts on his behalf. Since then, the event have generally grown wilder.
The bachelorette party, also known as the hen party isn’t a modern-day phenomenon. It is a rite of passage that has been in existence for centuries.
By the sexual revolution of the 1960s, women had launched their own version of the pre-wedding festivities: the bachelorette party. Prior to the late 19th century, women were limited to bridal showers, the main function of which was to acquire gifts to prepare them for marriage. Bachelorette parties allowed women the opportunity to express their own sexual freedom with drinking games and (male) strippers.
Bachelor and bachelorette parties, though different, are a time-honoured tradition, typically involving a wild night out shortly before getting married.
Bachelor parties are now as diverse as the bachelors involved, ranging from trips over-the-top destination, to a casual party with friends and/or the fiancée. These last hurrahs can be controversial, especially since the stereotypical bachelor party involves hard partying and possibly inviting strippers.
Why celebrate them?
Rwandans chose diverse ways to prepare a woman for marriage, and some of them have clearly changed over the years.
Some traditions in the stag and hen parties do not evolve and will always involve activities that are beyond common social gathering and party ingredients. It is common for them to include activities such as drinking alcohol, gambling, going to a strip club or hiring a stripper. Up to now, there are still some stags that believe their stag do will not be complete without some lap dancing.
Gone are the days, however, when bachelor or bachelorette parties meant just one evening of cocktails. Today, pre-wedding trips are the in-thing and are becoming a common reality, especially for many who prefer a more polite party.
“Many of my friends are not interested in strip clubs or untamed nights out their bachelorette weekends never involve any of these. Today’s couples are all about experiences, so it’s no surprise many brides and grooms-to-be (or their maids of honour and best men) are planning unforgettable trips for their pre-wedding getaways. You obviously want to experience something different from what your city or country offers. You choose the theme of the trip and truly enjoy the time before the busy wedding schedule,” shares Aime Kyshe who recently organised one for her friend.
She explains that it is wiser to see and experience a new place, instead of spending an excessive sum on just one party. Travelling with friends along, for her is definitely a more-fun choice.
For those that still chose stag parties, there are even some traditions that include like trials similar to fraternity hazing and pranks to play at the groom’s expense. These are performed like a rite of passage from being a bachelor to becoming a more responsible husband.
The stag party, is traditionally assumed to be a raunchy affair. Seeing as this is a man’s ‘last night of freedom’, copious alcohol consumption are assumed to be par for the course.
Although he didn’t throw a stag party for himself, Marvin Kagarama reveals that he has been to a number of such parties. He says that they tend to be rowdy and all sorts of things happen. He believes that since is alcohol is mostly involved, things can sometimes go overboard.
“Stag parties are meant to be a lot of fun, but there are a number of things to keep in mind. First, if stag do pranks are involved, make sure that no one gets injured or worse. Second, activities for the event should be activities that the stag will approve of. Also, it is alright to get drunk, but one should always be responsible for their behaviour during their drunken state,” he says.
The traditional version of a hen party was called “Guhana umukobwa”, and it would be organized to advise a lady who was getting married soon.
“It involved various forms of sex education for a young woman of marriageable age. This would last anything from a few weeks to months or even years. During the ceremony, the bride- to- be would sit together with aunts and female elders to share with her the tips on the new journey of life she was ready to start,” says 54 year old Georgina Barakagwira.
Hen parties are organised by the bride’s girl friends.
The birth sex aunts
However, perhaps because of the pressing need to talk candidly about sex and marriage, the bridal shower industry, the present- more conservative form of hen parties, has seen the emergence of the present-day sex ‘aunts’.
This is a person who considers herself a sexologist, and is paid to speak at the hen parties. Then there is the contemporary sex aunt who still takes the traditional approach to the topic of marriage and sex.
Nadia Kanyana who has attended a number of hen parties including her own, says the modern hen party is an eye-opening experience.
“I took home lessons, in regard to personal sexual fulfilment, feminine hygiene, and empowerment. During bridal showers, women openly share their sexual experiences, secrets and preferences,” she says.
She, however, wishes that the focus in many of the discussions could be shifted from learning ways to please future husbands, to finding ways to be fulfilled women, both emotionally and financially.