Forget risque straws, rose gold sashes and prosecco pong, 2024 is set to be the year of the zen do.
The more wellness-minded sister of a spa weekend, a zen do sees the nearly-wed and their besties indulge in some seriously relaxing self-care ahead of the big day. Think crystal sound baths and breathwork sessions, yoga and qigong - with heart-to-hearts in the hot tub an essential too.
"A zen do goes beyond a sumptuous spa day, digging deeper to help alleviate as much stress as possible for the nearly-wed,” says Bobby Griffiths, manager of Cotswolds wellness hotspot Farncombe Zen Holistic Wellness Centre. “A zen do is the perfect opportunity to connect with loved ones on an even deeper level and spend quality time together in a beautiful setting.”
A zen do could even be in addition to a traditional prosecco-fuelled celebration; something to book in for just before the big day, when nerves are setting in and wedding stress is high…
My zen do experience
I was introduced to the idea of a zen do during a visit to the Zen Den on the Farncombe Estate in the Cotswolds. The estate is also home to the iconic Dormy House with its incredible spa, and The Fish and its treehouses. The Zen Den is the latest addition to the estate and I fell head over heels for it the second I stepped into the blissfully calm space.
My visit to the Zen Den began with yoga, followed by breathwork, which saw me and three others doze off as soon as David, who was leading the session, began talking. He had the most soothing voice, and though I knew I should be tuning into his advice for deepening my breath and slowing down my breathing, I was asleep immediately, a testament to how great he was at his job. “I always say, if you fall asleep, it's because you need to sleep,” David reassured us.
As we piled out of the studio, a fellow attendee noted she couldn't remember the last time she had a chance to simply lie down and relax, without feeling guilty about what she “should” be doing.
Her comment opened my eyes to how chaotically busy we all are, and made me think that perhaps we need to be forced to take time for ourselves - and surely a weekend celebrating our friend who is set to get married is the perfect opportunity for them to reset ahead of the big day?
"Women often feel a sense of guilt around doing things for themselves and feel the need to earn rest,” explains psychotherapist Anna Mathur.
"We need to find ways to honour and respect ourselves because really this is about self-respect," she continues, imploring the importance of taking time for ourselves. "We need to find ways to meet our needs and to get more rest before we collapse – and then maybe we won't have to collapse!"
A zen do can help reinforce our self-worth, with Anna adding: "Spending time on ourselves increases confidence, joy, and self-esteem. The more rest you get, the more you'll start actually valuing it and seeing that it isn't an indulgence."
Our time spent at the Zen Den definitely helped us to feel more joyful. After an exquisite lunch cosied up in The Fish, we returned to Elsker, a property on the estate which sleeps 16 in the most gorgeous surroundings - plus the kitchen is to die for.
Each room has an ensuite, most with a stand-alone bathtub, but it was the hot tub we had our eye on, hopping in for a heart-to-heart ahead of our crystal sound healing session.
Equally heavenly, sound healing is what I call 'meditation for lazy people'. You just lie there and let the otherworldly sounds wash over you. I find it ideal as my mind constantly wanders when I'm meditating in the traditional sense.
Decor-wise, the Zen Den brings the outside in, with bannisters made from branches and log beams inside the studio. It's heaven for someone who spends most of their time in the city, creating a pocket of calm in the busiest of schedules.
Our visit to the Zen Den concluded with a qigong session, a traditional practice from Chinese Medicine which saw us perform fluid, simple movements to optimise energy in our bodies, designed to improve wellbeing.
We all walked back to our real lives noticeably lighter, calmer and well rested, making the promise we'd spend more time looking after ourselves - and now I just need to persuade my engaged friends that a zen do is the way to go…