Don’t tell anyone but the UK stag do as we know it may be changing. Ask most people what springs to mind when prompted with this pre-nuptial ritual and you’ll likely hear outrageous outfits, drunken misbehaviour and extreme pranks. Whilst this portrait is not entirely inaccurate in the here and now, there are signs that times might just be a-changing.
The increase of anti-social measures targeting stag weekends, the rising age of grooms and a trend for more fulfilling experiences amongst men has started to fragment the £500m industry. A new group of more mature and sedate stag parties are emerging, opting for a slower paced bonding experience than alcohol fuelled misadventure. Think Sideways more than Hangover.
Last year saw councils from three popular UK stag & hen destinations – Blackpool, Torquay and Tenby – announce measures to crack down on activities which may have a ‘detrimental effect’ on the quality of local life. Blackpool, the most high profile of the trio, has followed the lead of Newquay who introduced on the spot fines for inappropriate or lewd outfits in 2009. Specifically targeting the now infamous mankini, local leaders at the south-coast destination reported a drop in anti-social behaviour by over 100% since the introduction of their no-nonsense approach.
The measures, imposed by Blackpool Council cabinet member Gillian Campbell, are part of a governmental initiative to hand greater control to local authorities as part of a programme to tackle anti-social behaviour. Clearly Blackpool aren’t the only ones keen to apply these powers and based on the results of their coastal cousin it seems likely that other UK stag favourites may follow.
Marrying later in life
But whilst a stick approach may be an effective short term solution to tackling the remnants of rowdiness, there is an underlying trend that is likely to put wind in to the sales of Ms. Campbell’s initiatives. You see, although it may not be immediately apparent, the modern stag is changing. He’s growing up. The average age of a groom in the UK in 1981 was 25.4 years. In 2009 that figure increased to 32.1. On Shakespeare’s great stage, famously featured as part of the Seven Ages of Man, he is no longer ‘The Soldier’ but a ‘Judge’. The swagger of youth, ‘sudden and quick in a quarrel’, is slowly being replaced by ‘wise saws’ – that’s wisdom to you and me.
Older, wiser and more mature, this new wave of Best Men are career minded, socially aware and comfortable in their own masculinity. They value individuality, are tolerant of diversity and are of course always connected. Add in to the mix greater affluence and reduced time and it’s easy to see why this group are seeking more diverse and fulfilling experiences.
New stag do activities
Vineyard tours, bushcraft weekends, fishing trips and recording studio sessions are all examples of new activities creeping on to the stag do radar in place of traditional favourites like paintball, clay pigeon shooting and go-karting. “I’ve done all of that stuff before,” says recent best man David Armstrong of London. “I’ve been on stag dos in the past and spent an entire weekends blind drunk. I can’t do that anymore! And to be honest, I don’t much want to either.”
Instead David opted to take a road trip from London to Le Mans for a motoring extravaganza.
“The groom has always been a big motor fan so I wanted to do something a bit different than the standard go-karting. We had a few drinks of course but was more a case of wine at dinner followed by a few sociable beers than a big blow out.”
With the trend for both sexes marrying later in life remains on an upward trajectory you can expect to see an increase in the proportion of modern day Judges. Comfortable enough in their own skin not to follow the traditional path, and seeking increasingly unique experiences, don’t be surprised to hear about stag weekends of the future consisting of more than mankinis and mud wrestling. Something Blackpool chiefs will be very relieved to hear.