"There will be no novelty straw or cakes," she stressed. "There will be no lacy unmentionables. There will be no hard liquor and there will be no tiara veils."

The 10 commandments of hosting a bachelorette party for a gal who is more of a Jackie than a Marilyn begins with, "Thou shalt swear off all that is tacky and perverse."

Ashlee Nicole is in her final year of medical school. Her husband is an attorney in his Georgia hometown. On her wedding day, her perch by the altar was flanked by her best friends - four fellow future doctors, one aspiring lawyer, an executive from one of the world's leading tech brands - and me, the Maid of Honor.

We wiped away tears when the couple exchanged "I dos." We were a stampede of stilettos when she tossed her bouquet. We hollered and cheered in a sea of sparklers when they darted to their chariot - a red convertible from yesteryear adorned with vines and roses - and embarked on a lifelong honeymoon.

Perhaps it was the weekend we shared in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains a month before, where secrets were spilled like glasses of Cabernet and giggles shook the foundation of our vintage villa that made this particular goodbye sweeter, stronger, and more profound.


Exploring Highlands, North Carolina | Dinner in the Old Edwards Inn Wine Room

Old Edwards Inn, a destination for North Carolina travelers since it opened as a boarding house in 1878, hosted Ashlee Nicole and her maids in late February for a post-Valentine's Day last fling before the ring. We occupied all five bedrooms of Hutchinson House, a farmhouse turned masterpiece mini-mansion erected at the end of the 19th century on the border of the Old Edwards property.

Morning coffee was enjoyed from porch-front rockers, our chairs overlooking grassy gardens and an endless expansion of forest fortress. We popped champagne in a kitchen fitted with the most distinctive of modern fixtures and divulged stories of post-adolescent debauchery while piled on antique couches and canopy beds. The idyllic lullaby of a babbling brook intertwined with midnight laughter and strips of winter sunlight streaming through shades and shutters served as a daily alarm clock.

The bachelorette weekend at Old Edwards Inn was punctuated with the sounds of the Blue Ridge Mountains - live bluegrass music in the romantically rustic atrium of the Hummingbird Lounge and the words "Y'all have a good time, now," echoing from the desk of the ever-present lobby concierge. Our afternoons smelled of eucalyptus luxury, wafting with intoxicating energy of relaxation from the award winning Spa at Old Edwards. Mealtimes were a menagerie of filet mignon, seasonal salads, decadent sweets, and a seemingly bottomless selection of expertly curated red and white wine. All the while, the shops and sites and residents of Highlands, North Carolina embraced our enthusiasm with intrigue, excitement, and opportunities for exploration.


Old Edwards Inn | Hummingbird Lounge at Old Edwards Inn


Hutchinson House

Not all bachelorette parties are defined by nightclubs and lingerie and too much tequila. Some are merely fueled by the fantasy of female friendship and an affinity for Appalachian adventures. For us, Old Edwards Inn served as a venue from which we could shed the uncertainty of early adulthood, escape the stress of graduate school study, metropolitan career ambition, and wedding planning, and shower a blushing bride with adoration in her final hours of independence.


Wine Tasting at Hutchinson House & Old Edwards Inn