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Nashville Girls Retreat

There are lots of things I didn't know when I launched Epiphanie. But one thing I was sure about was our branding. From the beginning, I had a very clear picture of what I wanted our company to be about: travel, adventure, and the idea that life was waiting for you to go explore it. I think it's because at the time, that's what I was craving for myself. So last year, I planned a series of shoots in distinctive locations from Phoenix, to NYC to California to Paris. I did all of them within the span of ten weeks. It was the surreal experience of a lifetime. I met the most inspiring people, and I'm so grateful for it. 

The summer was also naturally riddled with real life stresses and at points, super overwhelming. So by the time the holidays came, I was in Full Hermit Mode, intensely guarding my calendar. Anything that meant I had to get out of my sweats, or wash my hair had to be damn worth it. And that's how my life has always been; a pendulum swinging between extremes. I don't know if it's "right", just that I have a propensity for it. Eventually enough time passes, and I'm ready to wash my hair to go play outside again. 

This is where I was a few months ago when I started planning the next Epiphanie shoot. My adorable (insert every lovely adjective here) friend Alli had agreed to be our next model. Each shoot is based on a particular region. And since she lives in Tennessee, I knew I wanted hers to feel very rustic with a country vibe.

So I started googling log cabins. 

Then I found this

Then wheels started turning. 

The house was gorgeous and perfect and COULD SLEEP 14 PEOPLE. Which is all I needed to read before I knew I was going to make a girl's trip out of this. Who could I lure into the woods with me? Since I met Alli at the Mighty Summit, it seemed natural to invite the same people. So literally five minutes after finding that cabin the evite was sent out. 

Like that, I hit "send". Then I realized I had just voluntarily taken on the planning of a weekend for four.teen.people: what was I thinking what if no one shows up why do I always complicate my life what the hell am I getting into.

I'm a little bit addicted to doom-thinking.

But I'm more addicted to the adrenaline of planning fun events. So that's what I did. I planned and planned and planned, and googled like a maniac. I became obsessed with details and caterers and flight schedules. And as the weekend took shape, it went from being a fun idea, to a labor of love. 

When it finally came, I wanted to make sure we were (freakishly) prepared. So Lauren (My Friend and I Might Die Without Her / Helper Of Everything Person) and I flew in the day before everyone arrived. We got there just in time for Nashville to spank us on the ass. HARD. Five minutes into driving our rented unfamiliar vans, we were greeted with a MONSOON. People driving 5 miles an hour on the freeway, my windshield was WHITE. I couldn't see cars, or lines in the road, or my hood. We barely found the exit to make our way off the freeway into a parking lot, where we sat talking to each other through windows until we found the courage to take the backroads to our hotel. *Side note: maybe it's because we were just happy to be alive and everything seemed sweeter, but the Hutton Hotel is one of the best I've ever stayed in. If you're ever in Nashville, I highly recommend it. 

So we got to our room, cleaned up, and decided that it was only responsible for us to go check out the downtown strip. We were going to have dinner, scout out a few spots for the weekend, then come back to the room and work. Yeahhhhh.

We did go to dinner. We did scout locations. We even took cheesy tourist pictures with Elvis. 

Then we decided to have one drink. At Tootsies. Because it's a Nashville Icon, and we had to

But we all know one drink is never really one drink. In fact it was maybe five or six, and no one's driving so let's have another drink. The next thing you know Lauren and I are screaming Sweet Home Alabama from our barstools until 2 in the morning. 

Which meant that I, who had planned on leaving the hotel at 8am, slept 'til 9, had a head ache 'til 10, and barely got my ass out at noon. And that meant I had about five minutes to get everything ready at the house I had never been to. 


Untitled from maile wilson on Vimeo.

I raced to find a Target, I power-shopped for everything from milk to extra tampons and razors and candles. I found a grocery store that Tennessee doesn't let sell wine. Which meant I had to scramble to find to find a liquor store, get lost ten more times, lug 32 bags of food and preparations up a massive flight of stairs. Running behind, texting Lauren (who was picking people up at the airport) to "please take your time", "please go the long way, I still have to make the gift baskets!"  

Inner Martha was in FULL FORCE. 

But, I have to say that putting these together was my favorite part of all the preparation. All I could find at Target were easter baskets. But when I posted this on twitter, a few people asked what was inside. I can't take the credit because the contents were a result of obsessive googling. But if you're interested, it was lotion, a candle, snacks, a monogrammed notepad, tea, water, a magnet, and most importantly glow sticks. 

All sweaty in 42 degree weather (pretty!), I finally got stuff put together. Then I took a minute to be astonished by where I was and by what I was doing.

The result of my impulsive evite, and weeks of obsessive planning was finding myself in the middle of obscenely beautiful nowhere, waiting for some of my favorite people to come meet me there. 

Worth it. 

I wanted to take in every minute, every bit of conversation, every spark of connection. And as a result, didn't get that many photos. But here are a few.

I'd planned a picnic. I ordered blankets (which *TIP: $20 quilts from Walmart are way cheaper than actual $70 "Picnic" Blankets. But they sat in the corner as it rained. So we moved our ideas indoors. And the awesome troopers from Tin Can managed to lug their adorable trailer up our massively dirty road to bring us cupcakes and old time-y treats. Who knew Tennessee was this adorable?

I'm not sure they knew what they were in for, looking that cute in a room full of bloggers and photographers. 

They also let us use their sweet trailer as prop. 

*Note about Alli's outfit. In another things-don't-always-go-as-planned-moment, the clothes I'd pre-ordered for her didn't work. But then Magical Princess of Styling Erin Loechner came to the rescue. See that orange belt? It's actually a pair of tights that she MacGyver-tied into a knot, right before she plucked that floral pin out of thin air. She is a Renegade. And we made the shoot happen despite the rain, also thanks to Leah for randomly having an umbrella. 

We also fit 13 people into a rainy 6 person hot tub. 

When the lightning struck, we took the party to the bathtub.

And yes, I know we should've used plastic glasses, but look how pretty they were in the morning. 

One night we hired a cheesy limo to take us into town. Because it's not Nashville until you ride a mechanical bull, and rock out the karaoke stage

It was so much fun. And I couldn't have done it without Lauren The Great (Thank you LL!) You are a truly bionic woman. 

Leah blogged more photos here and here. My favorite part of what she said was this:

"Here's the truth of it: Blogging facilitates closer, faster friendships because even if we don't all read each others' sites regularly--if at all, because who has the time?--the mere fact that we have that quirk in common means it's easy to move past the smalltalk in short order and find ourselves doing intensely personal things like giving each other permission to say and think and do things we might not think we can or should say, think, and do, whether it's as innocent as using certain swear words or as deep as feeling things about our lives, our loves, our wants and needs that we might never have dared to feel without someone from the outside saying, "It's okay."

That, for me, says it all. 

Love you girls. 

Reader Comments (10)

i love this. i want to do this someday. your pictures are so beautiful. thanks you so much. :)
April 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermelina wallisch
Thank you for sharing! Secretly jealous of the awesome friendships you have.
April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina C
Oh, I'm so glad you got to experience Nashville! It looks like you had a great time and got some great shots. Those gift baskets are fabulous!

I moved to Nashville 10 years ago and haven't stopped loving it (monsoon rains and floods aside). You missed the sun and warmer temperatures by just a few days though! Our Springs are a little rainy but May through November are gorgeous here. And, the Hutton is the best - we actually eat lunch there all the time because their 1808 Grille is awesome.

Again, glad you had a great time in Nashville! If you come back and need another photo shoot place, try Marathon Motor Works for a vintage industrial look or Cheekwood Gardens for gorgeous gardens and mansion shots.
April 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEva Maria
So awesome! Big all-women get-togethers are the best. Especially when they're such lovely and talented ladies. :) Yet another reason why I heart blogland so much! Congrats on pulling off such a great getaway!
April 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTrude
OH maile you amaze me!! All the time!! This is so awesome. You inspire me. It looks like you all had an amazing time.

xoxo Leah
April 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeah!
This made me all misty-eyed on a rainy Friday morning! When I first moved to Northwest Ohio to teach (then met and married my husband) I had a serious lack of girlfriends. Now, eight years later, I am part of a tightly-knit group of dynamic women I adore. We fight like sisters, laugh like teenagers, support each other like the oldest and dearest of friends...and love scoping out cute-butt repairmen at work. We finally had our first "girls evening out" a few weeks ago-our busy mom schedules never allow for this. It was pedicures, sangria, and tapas. Let me tell you, we fairly glowed for days after. Reading this has inspired me to plan something fun for my fall birthday weekend with my besties. Yay for girl weekends!
April 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen
I hate the word "amazing" sometimes because it is so entirely over-used.

But so often no other word seems to fit.

And the gift baskets... Did you do the calligraphy on the name tags?
You must have. Maile... I spent what, a year trying to hone my calligraphy
talents? And you spontaneously pick up a felt tip calligraphy pen and crank
out (with a hang-over) (and in heated haste) a level of perfection I've simply
given up hope of ever achieving.

Here it comes. "Amazing."
April 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMa'
April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen Heff
Oh, this makes me so happy. You are such a generous person with such a generous spirit. The pleasure of calling you "friend" is entirely ours. Thank you, again, for everything.
April 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteragirlandaboy


(happy sigh)
April 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlli Worthington

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