Anyone who has passed through a British airport in the past 15 years must have noticed them: groups of lads in identical T-shirts and brassy females bearing L-plates. Yes, there’s a boom in stag and hen nights and the travel industry laps them up, offering stags a sordid cornucopia of booze and strippers, paintballing and go-karting. Hen demands are often remarkably similar, we understand.
But what of those of us getting married for the second time round? What do we do?
Unsurprisingly, ‘second staggers’ tend towards sybaritism rather than depravity. And as the divorce rate grows, so does the market.
“Our average client’s age is early thirties, but we’re getting increasing numbers of enquiries from second-time-around stags,” says Joe Lavers of Redseven, a hen and stag company. “They opt for sophisticated itineraries with quality cuisine and relaxing activities.”
From castles to karaoke
Lavers gives second staggers his Barcelona King of the Castle package (three nights in a castle outside the Catalonian capital with 24-hour minibus, private luxury yacht for an afternoon and nightclub entry) or the Edinburgh Whisky Warmer, a weekend whisky tour with two nights’ accommodation and entry to two nightclubs.
So there is still excess, but with a shade more delicacy. Rather than brave a fleapit with half-hour rooms, second staggers rent the top-dollar self-catering accommodation. “We have a selection of large houses and we’re receiving more enquiries from older stag parties,” says Emma Seymour-Sloan of house-let agency The Big Domain.
The activities are a mixture of sensation-seeking and sedate. At Kinnettles Castle in Scotland, for example, stags can golf or fly-fish – or go tank driving. Carrington House in Norfolk has a disco room with a karaoke machine including a six-foot cinema screen, indicating that second staggers prefer to lose the plot in private.
A new activity always helps with a second stagger, particularly if it’s kind to knees. AdventureTemples offers a break in the forests of Fontainebleau with horse-riding, cycling and bouldering (like rock climbing, only lower and easier).
The Crowne Plaza Marlow in the Thames Valley has a second-stag-friendly Adrenalin Polo break: one night’s accommodation, breakfast, then a full day of polo at nearby Hawkins Farm.
In Kent, master forager Fergus Drennan has found a new market for his foraging days out: second hen parties. “They’re interested in food and lovely people,” he says.
Top three stag destinations
According to flight comparison site Skyscanner, the top five stag destinations remain the sleazebags’ favourites: Amsterdam, Prague, Barcelona, Berlin and Dublin. But second staggers go to more interesting places: Belgrade in Serbia, Valencia (think football, the stag’s favourite) and Llubljana in Slovenia.
A little bit of culture helps, and they don’t need destinations awash with booze and bars. Riad Farnatchi in Marrakech is set up for second stag house parties, holding up to 18 people in nine suites.
British owner James Wix can help the party go with a bang by hiring belly dancers, acrobats, storytellers, drum lessons and a champagne balloon ride for 12 over Marrakech.
Also in Morocco, Fleewinter takes bookings for older stags at Rebali, a six-bed riad in the village complex on the Atlantic coast, south of Essaouira. Golf, quad biking and a camel picnic are privided: “Senior stags are not willing to share a room but they still want stag-holiday activity,” says a spokesman.
Whatever the seniority of participants, most stag and hen nights are still single sex: that is the point, after all. But industry insiders have witnessed an interesting move towards mixing the sexes.
“In the last year, we’ve had a 13 per cent increase on joint hen and stag dos,” says Lynsey Hamp of The Stag Company (and spin-off company Hen Heaven). “We think it’s due to couples sharing friends.”
Rather unfortunately, the company dubs this type of thing a ‘Hag’ weekend; Skyscanner calls it a ‘Sten’ do. Whatever it’s called, and whatever the participants’ age, it surely presages a civilising tendency for the nation’s pre-marital holiday market. For the peace of our departure lounges, that’s not a bad thing.