Elegant Wedding: Trends: Party with the Girls

IT’S TIME FOR THE EVENT YOU MAY HAVE BEEN LOOKING forward to almost as much as your ceremony — your bachelorette party. We’ve scouted some of the top places for the big night before your Big Day and talked to the experts about what you can do to make it the time of your life, whether you’re looking for a relaxing weekend with your closest girlfriends or an all-night party. Use this as a big hint for your maid of honor — feel free to highlight where necessary, tear out and let the planning begin.

Say ‘Ahhh’ at the Spa

You’ve been planning your wedding for months and you hate to admit it, but all you really want is a weekend of pampering and maybe a night of debauchery in the city with the girls. You can have it all at The Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia — book a room for the weekend, have a party at the Richel D’Ambra Spa & Salon and eat a fabulous meal at The Grill before your limo takes you around to some of the hottest clubs in the region.

From manicures to martinis, this spa makes everything simple. With one phone call you can set up a single appointment to speak with spa owner Richel D’Ambra and representatives from the hotel and catering to work out every detail for your weekend. Are you looking for an intimate party with the girls? Done. “Right across the hall from us is a room where we can create a spa atmosphere and accommodate any size group,” says D’Ambra.

While you’re there, indulge in treatments like an aromatherapy exfoliating scrub perfect for brides (and totally customizable), says D’Ambra. Or try her favorite pedicure — the Ocean Mist ($95), which incorporates Italian muds and aromatherapy before ending with an effleurage foot massage. The spa can arrange catering and drinks for your special event and will even book your rooms for you. For the most customized package, be sure to book at least a month
in advance.

After you’re completely relaxed and glowing, get your evening started with a glass of Veuve Clicquot and fresh sushi at The Rotunda at the Ritz. “Come into The Rotunda around 6 or 7, have drinks for an hour, then go to The Grill and have dinner,” says John Christinzio, food and beverage manager. If you want to keep your exclusive party vibe alive, reserve the semi-private dining room at The Grill ($150 for a group of up to 12), where you will feel like a star with your own private entrance and a special menu prepared just for you and the girls.

If the dancer inside you wants to get her groove on, take a limo down to Old City and hit up some of the hottest spots in town. Try Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar for a night of salsa dancing and tantalizing mojitos, imported cerveza and yummy pisco cocktails.

Wind Down with Wine

IF THE IDEA OF PARTYING IN THE CITY GIVES YOU A HEADACHE, we recommend a mini road-trip to the Mercersburg Inn for a weekend of wine tasting and gourmet food. Sometimes getting away from the hustle and bustle — and your wedding
planning — is all a girl really needs.

Head to the Georgian-style mansion, about two and a half hours from the city, on a Friday night and get started with a wine tasting hosted by Dick Rosano, wine critic for The Washington Post. “When someone says ‘I’m tasting cherries in this wine,’ I don’t get it,” says Jim McCoy, who owns and runs the Inn with his wife, Lisa. “Dick can explain to you how to taste the different flavors by comparing wines.”

Before dinner, Rosano will start you off with six wines — his goal is to let your palate experience what wines and grapes from different regions offer. He’ll also guide you as to which wine would complement your dinner selection from the menu at the Inn’s restaurant, Byron’s Dining Room.

On Saturday afternoon, Rosano preps you with eight wines for the big tasting that evening: “It should be fun and entertaining and informative, and is designed to be a bridge between what they learned on Friday night and what they’re going to tackle Saturday night,” says Rosano.

Although there isn’t a formal test at Saturday’s five-course chef’s dinner, expect Rosano to ask you which wine you should choose with your meal. Before each course, taste two wines and show off what you’ve learned over the past two days. Rosano will be there to make sure your oenophile instincts stand out.

While this weekend may sound busy, you will have more than enough time to do things besides drink and eat. “There is plenty of time to get away,” says McCoy. “There’s antiquing and golf in the summer, skiing six miles away, a state park with a sandy beach on the lake about 10 miles away and outlet shopping 15 miles away.” Book at least three months in advance.

It’s Party Time

HEAD DOWN THE SHORE FOR A WEEKEND OF VIP TREATMENT at the Foundation Room at the House of Blues in Atlantic City. Although this private club and lounge is members-only, with the right planning you can bend the rules for your special occasion.

Ally Boshinski, special events sales manager, can help you plan a night tailored to fit your party. “You can rent a private Prayer Room where you would have your own personal cocktail waitress, hang out in the main lounge where there is a private deck, and have a private dinner at Durga,” she says.

Once you pass through the large guarded doors of the club’s entrance, it’s like stepping into a foreign land. Plush velvet chaises and round couches are scattered about the main lounge, along with life-size sculptures and global art, and a long, carved wooden bar lines one side of the room.

After your group gets cozy and has a cocktail or two in your Prayer Room — choose from the Shiva, Raja, Buddha, Ganesh or Oba rooms — you can head to Durga (an ultraexclusive private dining room) for a four-course meal before joining the rest of the crowd in the main lounge. Try the heirloom tomato salad with gorgonzola crouton and balsamic vinaigrette as a prelude to Boshinski’s top pick — wild king salmon roasted with leeks, potatoes and thyme. “For dessert, I recommend the raspberry berry crème brûlée with chocolate ganache,” says Boshinski. Book at least one month in advance.

Although the VIP treatment will never get old, if you and your friends want to get a little wild, check out Club Worship on the third floor of the House of Blues, which hosts a male cover model revue every Saturday. “We can make a booth reservation for your group and handle getting your tickets ahead of time,” says Boshinski.

If that sounds a little too wild for your party, you can enjoy live music or a DJ on any Friday or Saturday night in the Foundation Room main lounge after
10 p.m. The best part about Atlantic City is you can do whatever you want — stay up all night and party or have a classy get-together with the girls who will be by your side on your Big Day.

Whether you’re ready to crawl into bed at 11 p.m. or 5 a.m., book a room at one of the House of Blues suites, at Showboat the Mardi Gras Casino. With 22 suites available, you will have plenty of options to keep everyone happy, comfy and entertained.

Take It Outside

If you’re looking for more of a weekend adventure, there are plenty of fun outdoorsy activities in the Poconos. A good resource for planning your trip is the Pocono Mountains Vacation Bureau in Stroudsburg. With more than 400 packages to choose from, there’s something for everyone — from white-water rafting to hiking to mountain biking. If all of the options leave you feeling dizzy, the bureau can help you tailor your trip so you can have all the excitement without any of the frustration.

The Inn at Jim Thorpe has tons of packages for you and your thrill-seeking girlfriends. The Bike & Stay package includes two nights at the Inn, a bike rental, a 25-mile bike ride through the Lehigh River Gorge, breakfast both mornings and dinner one night. If you want to explore trail, mountain or road biking, the Inn works with Blue Mountain Sports & Wear, also in Jim Thorpe, to make sure you get in a good workout, cruise to your own pace or battle the hills on Rt. 903. The Raft & Stay package includes a full day of rafting along the Lehigh River Gorge and is perfect for all experience levels. Breakfast, dinner and a two-night stay are also included in this package (package prices start at $189 on the weekends).

For dinner, try a delicious Mediterranean-inspired vegetarian meal at Café Origins, only a few minutes from the Inn. Try the Hawaiian citrus salad made with fresh greens, pineapple, coconut, banana chips, oranges, pecans and marinated tofu with Waldorf dressing. End your meal with a decadent halvah (a flaky dessert made of crushed sesame seeds) with pistachio nuts and chocolate sauce, and sip a soy chai tea to rejuvenate you after your long but exciting day.