• Kat Atkinson

Zen Parties

We've all heard the gossip about some of the shenanigans which groups of girls get up to on hen weekends: strippers, dare cards, the Maid of Honour holding back the Bride's hair while her head hangs over the loo - that kind of thing. And while that sounds like the results of a pretty legendary night out for some, for others it might be their worst nightmare. I mean, who wants to watch their Grandmother get a lap dance anyway?

So, what other options are out there for a Bride who wants a low key gathering of her best girls before tying the knot? The answer, my friend, is to have a zen party. A new concept to some, zen parties are the perfect way to spend time relaxing and reflecting with your favourite girlfriends, or perfect for a home hen with friends and family when you want a chilled vibe. I've pulled together a little list of three of my favourite ideas for zen parties in Northern Ireland to give you a taste of what is out there.

Lakeside Lodge Retreat at Finn Lough

Finn Lough is a secluded gem, hidden away in the Fermanagh Lakelands and it's the ideal spot for a tranquil getaway with your hens. Only a few miles outside of Belleek, on the shores of Lough Erne, the 100 acre resort is the epitome of zen, offering luxury short breaks with a range of accommodation options and activities to enjoy.

Photo Credit: Finn Lough Resort

The Lakeside Lodges at Finn Lough are perfect for you and your girls to call home for the weekend, with a clean, elegant interior and exceptional views across the lake. They sleep up to 6 people, with a master bedroom and two twin rooms in each. There are a number of Lodges available, so the option is there to hire more than one if required, or extra guests can stay in one of the hotel's beautifully appointed suites, which are adults only - absolutely perfect for hosting Mothers, or soon to be Mother-in-laws if they like to retire to bed early.

The Resort is filled with woodland walks and also features a marina as well as a restaurant. There are a range of activities available to guests including bicycle hire to explore the 100 acre site, pedal kayaks to play on the water and row boats to explore the lough. There even options for enjoying an elegant afternoon tea, learning some new skills with a cocktail making class and the Sundowner experience where you can soak up views of the sun setting over the lake while sipping Prosecco by the cozy fire pit, perfect for those insta-worthy photos of your visit.

Photo Credit: Finn Lough Resort

A definite must is the Element Trail Spa which is exclusively yours for two hours, allowing you to make your way through the private walk and experience the relaxing and restorative float bath, Finnish sauna, aromatherapy sauna, salt scrub station and hydrotherapy pool all of which is dotted with beautiful viewpoints and vistas, making it a truly tranquil experience. This can be booked along side your stay for an additional fee.

I'm a little bit obsessed with Finn Lough's two person transparent Bubble Domes which are the most incredible way to sleep under the stars. Featuring a four poster bed, armchairs to relax in, a bathroom and complete privacy, they offer a unique and very romantic glamping experience in Northern Ireland, ideal for an earlymoon with your sweetheart prior to the wedding.

Photo Credit: Finn Lough Resort

Why we love it: Tranquil, relaxing surroundings make this the perfect place to escape the stress of wedding planning and connect with nature. Great for a small group of your closest friends to go and get away from it all ahead of your big day.

Price: Weekend breaks in a Lakeside Lodge are priced at £680 per lodge (based on 6 people sharing).

Duration: 2 nights, longer stays are available.

Location: Letter Road, Aghnablaney, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh

To book: Visit https://www.finnlough.com/en

Flower Crown Afternoon at PETAL

For those of you who have not already heard about PETAL it is a creative business in Conway Mill, Belfast, which is all about beautiful flowers and botanicals. Abigail Bell and her equally creative husband Ryan know more than a thing or two about design, and are on hand to help you and your hens create your own stunning flower crowns.

You and your guests are treated to a delicious lunch as soon as you arrive, indulging in antipasti, smoked salmon, cheeses and freshly baked homemade wheaten as well as some sweet treats from The Lily Pink Bakery. Once you have finished lunch you will be expertly guided through the class by Abigail, crafting your own fabulous floral headpiece - one for each of the group. They can also arrange for you to have specific flowers on hand to include in your creation if you want to give a nod to your wedding bouquet or have a favourite bud. The experience lasts for 4 hours, which is plenty of time to perfect your crowns and create some amazing memories before you depart. You will even get a professional photograph of all of your #BrideTribe bedecked in blooms to remember your afternoon at PETAL.

Photo Credit: PETAL /Abigail Bell

Bookings for this Flower Crown afternoon are available from September 2018.

As well as Flower Crown parties, PETAL offer a range of other activities including workshops with other artisan producers, and they also offer a bridal flower design, working with a limited number of engaged couples each wedding season who want flowers to be a key feature of their wedding day. They specialise in creating arrangements for small intimate gatherings using locally grown, hand selected seasonal blooms and the results are simply stunning.

Photo Credit: PETAL / Abigail Bell

Why we love it: It's a great chilled out afternoon of creativity and everyone can take part, even older relatives. You get to keep something stunning which you have made at the end of the class - you will be bragging about for weeks. Also, Abigail is friendly and lots of fun so chilled vibes all round.

Price: £49.50 per person (minimum group of 10). All materials provided.

Duration: 4 hours including lunch

Location: Conway Mill, Belfast

To Book: Visit https://www.petal-studio.co.uk/flower-crown-parties

Photo Credit: PETAL / Abigail Bell

Jewellery Making Morning at Gobbins Crafts

There is something amazing about handcrafted jewellery - it's tactile, a great keepsake and hopefully beautiful to look at too. So how amazing would it be to learn how to craft your own piece of copper or silver jewellery? Well, I think the idea is great, especially for Brides who want to involve their Bridesmaids in making something special for their big day. And as luck would have it, we've found a cute little workshop in Co. Antrim where you can do just that.

Nestled just off the Antrim Coastline in Islandmagee is Gobbins Crafts where experienced Goldsmith Heather teaches small groups how to produce stunning pieces of metal jewellery in her restored stone built pig shed. Even if you are a complete beginner you will be guided through the process of creating a piece of jewellery and come away with something you've lovingly made which you can wear for years.

They offer a range of classes, from evening workshops to half day courses, they also offer a couple's class where you can make each other's wedding rings, which quite frankly for me is a must! All tools at the classes and tuition is included, as is materials such as copper and solder, but there is an additional charge for precious metals should you wish to work in those. Photo Credit: Gobbins Crafts

Why not continue your day by exploring the nearby Kilcoan Gardens which are open to the public from April to September, or walk the Gobbins Cliff Path along the dramatic cliffs and caves of the Antrim Coast? Both are within a short drive of Gobbins Crafts.

Why We Love It: Creating something beautiful for your bridal party to wear at your wedding seems like a really special way to spend an afternoon. Heather is a very experienced tutor and talented jewellery designer in her own right so you're guaranteed to learn some great skills in the intimate workshops.

Price: £40 per person (maximum of 4 people). Additional cost for materials if working in silver.

Duration: 3 hour morning class (10.30 - 1.30)

To Book: Visit http://www.gobbinscrafts.com/contact-us

Photo Credit: Gobbins Crafts

There are endless possibilities out there for Brides who want something more relaxed for their hen party in Northern Ireland, we've only mentioned a few of them here. No doubt, we'll be back with some more Zen Party ideas soon, including some activities from slightly further afield.

In the meantime, why not check out some other fun stuff we've been sharing on The Creative Wedding Blog.

#ZenParty #NorthernIreland #ThingsToDo #Blog

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