Wedding Windfall

From the moment the lucky guy gets on bended knee and pops the big question, Dana Minkin, owner of Gloss Day Spa in New York City, wants to be part of the planning and preparation. Gloss's 12-month Bridal Star package ($1,950) includes a year's worth of treatments—even a post-honeymoon facial. For brides-to-be who don't have a full year, there's an abbreviated six-month package ($1,400), as well as an intense four-week Bridal Bootcamp ($390). For the day before the big day, Gloss offers a quick-fix Runaway Bride package ($490), which includes a facial, an upper-body massage, teeth whitening, brow shaping, and body bronzing, plus separate packages for the maid of honor, bridesmaids, and groom. Meanwhile, an on-site wedding planner is on hand to consult with the entire wedding party and offer style and image suggestions.

You could say that Minkin is a fool for romance. Then again, maybe she's just a smart businesswoman. Between brides and bridal parties, weddings make up about 35 percent of the overall revenue at Gloss, and that's not even counting all of the bachelorette parties she hosts. "A wedding is one of the most important days in a woman's life, so she wants her skin to be in great shape," says Minkin. "Then as the date gets closer, she wants waxing, bronzing, teeth whitening—you name it. If a bride starts months in advance, she could end up spending $2,500."

More than two million weddings will take place in the U.S. in 2006, at an average price of $26,800. And if a bride is willing to plunk down more than $700 on a cake, $400 on wedding favors, and $200 on corsages, how much do you suppose she'd be willing to spend to ensure she looks and feels fabulous?

The answer: plenty. According to a just-released survey by the International Spa Association (ISPA) and, 69 percent of the 725 brides surveyed plan to visit a spa before their wedding, spending an average of $350. Multiply that figure by the two million brides walking down the aisle this year, add in their bridesmaids who also want to look and feel their best, factor in the jittery groom who could use a stress-busting massage, and it's clear that weddings are a lucrative market.

"Bridal parties are not only responsible for significant sales, but just as importantly, they introduce new clients to us," says Vivian Moore, managing vice president of Mitchell's Salon & Day Spa, which has five Cincinnati locations. "There isn't anything within reason and the client's budget that we won't do for brides if it helps make their time with us amazing." The company, which did almost $100,000 in bridal business last year, employs two people whose entire jobs are dedicated to planning bridal spa parties.

Basic Services Sell Best

Most spa directors say that basic spa and salon packages are most popular with wedding groups. For example, Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea in Maui, HI, offers a dizzying array of bridal options and packages, including his-and-her henna tattoos (one spells out "Just Maui'd"), a traditional Javanese pre-wedding lulur ritual, and a five-hour extravaganza that costs $530. But with all those options to choose from, most bridal clients opt for the spa's simple 90-minute shampoo, blowdry, and manicure and pedicure for $150.

"We sold eighty-five of those packages last year," says Cecilia Hercik, director of spa sales and operations at Spa Grande. "In fact, our luxurious five-hour package may be too long. Brides are on a tight schedule, and they want to relax with the rest of the bridal party—not be on their own." As Hawaii's largest spa, Spa Grande served 1,435 wedding-party guests last year, representing $125,000 of revenue.

Bridal Parties Like to Party

When it comes to bridal needs, basic does not mean boring. Increasingly, spas are finding fun and innovative ways to market nail and makeup services to brides and their attendants. At The Ritz-Carlton, Huntington Hotel & Spa (Pasadena, CA), the four-hour Bridal Party Celebration package includes manicures and pedicures and makeup application, plus everyone takes home a T-shirt with their initials embossed in Swarovski crystals. "The bride and her friends can have the party at the spa or by the pool bar, or they can rent our Tournament of Roses Suite or one of the guest cottages on property," says Kim Kessler, director of public relations at The Ritz-Carlton, Huntington Hotel & Spa.

At the Spa at Stoweflake (Stowe, VT), the Salon Party Package lets the group take over the entire salon, and for two to four hours, the salon becomes their private function room. "While they get their treatments, we deliver cheese, crackers, and fruit platters, along with wine and mimosas," says spa director Chris Pulito. "They have a fun party with visitors coming in and out, and it's profitable for us because they pay for renting the salon. It also brings in a lot of food and beverage revenue, plus they spend money in the retail store."

At Andre Chreky, a large spa-salon in Washington, D.C., the bridal party books manicure and pedicure parties in the spa's "Club Room," or, if they are staying nearby, the spa staff will come to their hotel suite. "We bring in food for the ladies, and the bride gets a complimentary 'Bridal Survival Kit' containing aspirin, a bottle of water, a manicure kit, a pen, hairspray, nail polish, Dr. Scholl's shoe inserts, pocket tissue, breath mints, and deodorant," says co-owner Serena Chreky.

Guys Enjoy Grooming, Too

"We also launched an advertising campaign two years ago titled, 'We even groom the groom,'" Chreky adds. "We provide haircuts, waxing, and nail services to make sure the guys look their best at their wedding."

Indeed, many spas have found that grooms are a profitable revenue source. "Grooms and their best men love massages," says Debbie Agnew, director of marketing for L'Auberge Resort in Del Mar, CA. "There is always stress associated with the 'big day,' and a massage gets the kinks out. Manicures are also popular. This might be the one time in their life they try one, as they want their hands to look nice with their new rings."

The Spa at Stoweflake has packaged Groom's Parties, but they are more about golf than good grooming. "We do many half-day Groom's Parties the day before the wedding, which include a round of golf on the spa's nine-hole executive par-three course, a bucket of balls on our driving range, and a massage," says Pulito. "It's a day for the guys to bond and relax."—Maryann Hammers