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Elaine Welteroth’s Pre-Wedding Retreat in Punta Canta

By Shayna Seid | Photography by 

Jhovanny Chavez

New York Times bestselling author, judge on the new Project Runway, and former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, Elaine Welteroth never wanted a typical bachelorette party—instead a tropical, spiritual retreat with her best friends was her dream pre-wedding celebration from the start. Before saying “I do,” she wanted to spend quality time and focus on wellness with the people she loves most in Punta Cana, a beach town in the Dominican Republic. Luckily, she hosted her weekend in early March, right before cities started talking about “social distancing,” due to COVID-19—and one week after marrying her now husband, musician Jonathan Singletary, on the stoop of their Brooklyn brownstone under a fantasy floral arch created by Lewis Miller Design, it feels like this girls’ weekend was a bit of a last hurrah before travel, events, and even hugging all became impossibilities. Here, she shares her itinerary and looks back on all of the fun that was had.

“Because we are all in our thirties now, living in different cities, and our lives are so full, the quality time we get to spend together is limited and sacred,” Elaine says. “I felt a responsibility in bringing everyone together…I wanted everyone to leave feeling re-energized on every level. From the very beginning, what I was envisioning was more a retreat than a party.”

Where They Stayed

To host their holiday, Elaine and her 12 guests stayed in Villa Akim, available on Airbnb Luxe. “To be honest, Dominican Republic wasn’t on the list of locales originally, but when this insanely beautiful home came up in my search, I fell in love at first sight and ruled out every other option,” Elaine says. “I knew THIS was IT. And it was a win-win because I LOVE authentic Dominican food, and Punta Cana is an easy commute from NYC.”

The five-bedroom haven features an infinity pool overlooking the water, hot tub, in-home gym, rain showers, and more, all in a gated community. There’s even a butler and a chef included! To move around the neighborhood, a six-person golf cart is also available.

What They Did

To kick off the first night, they planned on having a Project Runway finale viewing party, but first, the group discovered “the bodega” of gifts with all the essentials for a beach getaway that Elaine had gotten them from a big Target shopping haul beforehand. They had essential toiletries, games, sunscreen, floaties—the works.

Everyone ended up spending the evening pulling “animal spirit cards” and engaging in a deep conversation, all while sipping pina coladas. “It was the perfect start to a deeply connective and fun weekend where some of my closet friends from different parts of my life all became one big friend group.”

The next two mornings, a yoga instructor came bright and early to the house to lead a class for everyone with some pilates movements woven in between flows. And on Friday, because of the beauty of the house, they decided to soak up the sun as much as they could there. During the day, masseuses came to the house to offer relaxing massages on the sun deck—“It was dreamy!”

In the evening, they took a boat excursion around Punta Cuna during sunset and danced, ate, and sipped rosé until the sun went down. “The dance party continued back at the house around the pool until 2:00 a.m.!” Elaine says. “Everyone kept telling me they’ve never seen me THAT happy.”

The next day, the group had a chill beach day filled with lounging, swimming, playing card games, and snacking. And they ended their soirée in the sand when healer Deganit led everyone in a group meditation at sunset via FaceTime.

That night, some of the girls organized a shared cooking experience for everyone, where they broke into teams to make different traditional Dominican dishes together. “It was a fun bonding experience for everyone,” Elaine says. “And the food we made was delicious!”

Throughout the trip, there were intentional grounding moments that helped everyone tune in with one another and themselves. “One of my best friends, Chloe, organized a ‘blessingway,’ which is a Navajo ritual that is traditionally celebrated as a rite of passage for motherhood, but in this context it was designed to spiritually empower and honor a woman before journeying into marriage,” Elaine explains. “We all dressed up and sat on pillows by the water after sunset. Everyone held candles and went around offering their prayers and blessings for the marriage. It was really special. I think we all cried.”

After that, they sat around the fire pit in a circle and wrote down one thing that was no longer serving them. Each person shared it aloud and then threw it into the fire. “It was a really vulnerable exercise that instantly connected all of us.”

Elaine’s favorite moment of the retreat happened on the last night, when everyone was again gathered around the fire pit. She spontaneously shared “the friend love story” between her and every friend in the group. “It was completely unplanned and impromptu—every word came from the heart,” she says. “There wasn’t a dry eye that night.”

Of course, there were some great photo and video ops too! We especially love this dancing vid taken at the house to Jonathan’s new song “High Horse,” which had several references to he and Elaine’s relationship over the years:


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“With so much uncertainty shrouding our world right now, and anxiety taking hold in our bodies, I’m clinging to these sweet memories of sheer, childlike bliss spent with some of my best friends who wrapped me up in sisterhood…in preparation for a brand new chapter of life and love called marriage.”