I love the idea of a snowy winter escape. It’s perfect for a laid-back bachelorette, or just a much-needed getaway with your girlfriends. Erin from Fuller Edge Photography had just such an adventure when she and a few friends took a girls getaway to Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada. The ladies started the day off with a brisk sleigh ride with Brewsters Adventures, which took them all around the lake, affording gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and forest. After a quick thank you to the horses and a turn on the ice, the ladies made a lunch stop at Baker Creek Mountain Resort. Sherrie of Oak & Meadow had packed an amazing picnic lunch (including spiked hot chocolate and whipped cream, of course), which they enjoyed around one of the resort’s roaring fire pits. Winter perfection.
Virginia wedding photographer Kim Stockwell is used to being behind the lens rather than at the center of the action. But for her bachelorette bash in Key West, Kim was blown away by the action-packed weekend planned by her closest friends. “Nine very important people in my life made me feel insanely loved and I am beyond grateful,” said Kim. Kim took a few moments to snap pictures of the gorgeous Florida beaches and their cute beach bungalow close to party-central Duval Street, as well as a group shot or two, which made the perfect thank-you gift to remind the girls of their weekend in the sun.
Check in to your house on Louisa Street, just a block off of Duval Street, the hub of nightlife and general revelry in Key West. This adorable cigar cottage is decorated in the quirky tropical patterns and bright colors typical of the Key West style, but the real draw is the backyard, complete with plunge pool, grill and patio setup perfect for a casual dinner. Serve drinks and dinner in the backyard one night, or for a casual dinner out, try Willie T’s.
No trip to Key West is complete without a Duval Street bar crawl. Sloppy Joe’s has a huge dance floor and Irish Kevin‘s in known for the great live music, friendly bartenders and generally fun and laid-back atmosphere. The rotating roster of performers are top notch, creating a nightly dance party. (Make sure to try the cinnamon toast crunch shooter.)
Sign up for the Fury’s Ultimate Adventure, an all-day boat trip that includes snorkeling, parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking and more. Breakfast, lunch and afternoon drinks are included in the price of the tour (and the cute crewmembers are an added bonus). A great deal for everything you get!
After a day on the water, head to dinner at the Conch Republic Key West, a beautiful open-air restaurant overlooking the marina (which happens to be right next to the dock you board for the Fury tour). Be sure to try Key West specialties here, like conch fritters, mahi mahi and key lime pie.
If you’re hoping to model your Key West adventure on that season of The Real World, try Dante’s, a giant pool party complete with floating beer pong and shot skis.
Head to 801 Bourbon Bar for their world-famous drag show (it’s been running for 25 years!). This raunchy, racy show isn’t for everyone, but the right bride will have a blast. Call ahead to book a table in front and to the left of the stage, where there’s plenty of room for a large group. The bride gets in free, but the $10/person cover for the other members of your party is well worth it.
After your night out, you’ll be in need of a restorative brunch at Louie’s Backyard Afterdeck. Enjoy a mimosa and tres leches French toast on the multi-level deck overlooking the ocean.
Bride Rebecca chose to have her “hen stomp” a few days before her wedding, which was held in a rustic finca in the middle of the Sierra de Las Nieves nature park in the Andalusian region of Spain. As many of her guests had traveled far to be with her, Rebecca wanted to show them more of the gorgeous region that she calls home. Her closest friends gathered in the mountain village of Yunquera, not far from her home, to go on a hike. The trek (led by Jacqui, a friend who knew the area well) took them along country roads, down a steep gorge to a lush valley, a huge dam and the Zarzalones cave, where the Rio Grande river is born. Afterwards, the group gathered at the bride’s favorite nearby restuarant and were joined by other women from her family for a night of delicious regional food, wine and laughter. Photographer Ruth Joy, a close friend of the bride, captured the beautiful countryside walk and emotional dinner party that followed.
From bride Rebecca:
I chose to have a long walk for my hen party because so many guests had come a long way to stay in this particularly beautiful part of the world, and I wanted to show them some special local places. As everyone had paid for their flights and accommodation, I didn’t want to ask people to start forking out for activities. My friend Jacqui, who knows the area well, led us along country roads and pathways, down a steep gorge to a lush valley, a huge dam and a cave called Zarzalones, where the Rio Grande river is born. We sat on the dam and enjoyed the surroundings with a glass of bubbly. A friend, Kayte, picked some wild flowers on the way and wove them into a crown, which I still have. A few women jumped off the dam into the crystal clear, very cold river water, to cool down after the hike. We then walked across the dam and into the cave, to find the source, where the river bubbles up from a deep underground channel. There were bats hanging from the roof, and a wonderful stillness and darkness inside. Some of us had a swim in the source pool, which was icy cold but very invigorating. This was one of my favourite moment of the whole day—bathing in the source pool while singing with some wonderful women.
After an hour or so at the cave, we made our way back up to the path, and walked the last five kilometers into the village, to a restaurant called Enara’s, my favourite in this area. The owners are so welcoming and accommodating. We had about ten more people than I’d booked for, but the lovely food just kept coming and the wine flowing. There we met the rest of the hen party—those who’d been unable to join the walk. We got changed and scrubbed up a bit in the loos, then sat down to a fantastic feast. My best lady, Steph, had prepared a Mr and Missus quiz, which got quite awkward at times because my Mum was there! Steph had also made a slideshow of photographs taken during our long friendship, along with pictures of my childhood, my family and—this part had me crying—my two daughters.
I’m so grateful to Ruth for capturing the magic of the day with her photography. We’ve been great friends for half our lives, and I admire her talent for capturing the beauty and essence of people and places.
How would you like to have an award-winning photographer shoot your bachelorette party—for free? Dina Litovsky’s bachelorette photography series has won international awards, including first place in the prestigious International Photography Awards (2011, Culture), for her exploration of this rite of female bonding and empowerment. Here’s how it works: Dina tags along on bachelorette parties in the New York and New Jersey area. (She’s open to other locations, but a travel fee may apply. Contact her for details.) The bride chooses which activities and events she wants photographed, be it just a couple of hours or every moment of the destination weekend. After all the festivities, the bride receives about 100 photos of the event, including group shots and details, and Dina uses one or two in her photography series. For further details, email Dina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Knowing that Dina has attended a lot of bachelorette parties, Ultimate Bridesmaid just had to ask for her take on what the bachelorette stands for—and how she got interested in photographing them in the first place!
UB: So, how did you first decide to start shooting bachelorette parties?
Dina: Even though I lived in NYC for more than 20 years, I never fully “Americanized” [Ed note: Dina’s originally from the Ukraine.] and I didn’t have a bachelorette party when I got married. I attended my first one shortly after and was really fascinated by it. Mixed with all the drinking and partying there were so many tender, emotional moments. That really drew me in.
UB: There’s this idea that the bachelorette party is a kind of “girls gone wild” event, often involving strippers and all kinds of craziness. Have you found that to be true in the parties you shoot? Or are we moving toward different kinds of bachelorette parties?
Dina: I have shot several parties with strippers, but I have also shot events with spa retreats and tea parties. I do see the bachelorette party’s main idea to push some boundaries. These boundaries are very different for everyone, for some girls getting a stripper is a natural thing to do while others would find it really unpleasant and getting a penis-shaped cake is as wild as they are willing to go. It’s really an individual decision.
UB: In your opinion, what’s behind the bachelorette party tradition or what should it be about?
Dina: It’s not a well-known fact but the bachelorette party actually has roots in the feminist culture of the 1970s. It is really the first culturally accepted ritual that celebrates a woman’s freedom and sexuality. Before this, women only had the bridal shower where they were given recipes, kitchenware and were advised on how to be a good wife. Men, on the other hand had the fun and wild bachelor party. Creating the bachelorette party evened out the playing field.
UB: All the personal photographs I have from bachelorette parties are notoriously terrible. It’s usually too dark to get a good picture or we’re in places that are way too crowded. Any tips for capturing great photos at night?
Dina: Flash is definitely a must when shooting an event like this. However I think most bachelorette parties are blurry or dark because everyone at the party is drinking! I can never take a good picture while drunk, that’s why I am the only one staying sober and shooting all the action.