Catering to Brides

Being a royal bride in Java traditionally entailed receiving soothing and nurturing bodywork each day for the 40 days leading up to her wedding. Today's bride doesn't go to this extreme (although surely it wouldn't take much to convince her!), but she does look into every last detail of her special day-and is willing to pay for it. According to Jerry Monaghan, president of the Association of Bridal Consultants, there are an estimated 2.5 million American weddings per year that average about $30,000 in total wedding-related spending. This figure varies up or down depending on geographic location and includes six months before and after the wedding day. Travel-related companies have built up a nice segment of their businesses on these figures. Would you like to? Although at first glance resort spas look to have the most to gain from the booming bridal scene, there's room for even the smallest spa to have a piece of the nuptial pie. And some have already taken a bite.

Relaxing Getaways

The Homestead Spa (Hot Springs, VA), for instance, has just added a Spa Suite that can cater to bridal parties. Says spa director Christie Ford, "It's a whole separate area on one level that's devoted to one party. What a bride and her attendants can do is book the suite before the wedding. The entire party can have lunch, get their makeup done, and enjoy a relaxing beauty facial." Since this is separate from the main spa, there's no need for the guests to be quiet, a bonus for a bridal party that's likely to be excited and talkative. "The suite is just like a small day spa," says Ford. "When you walk in there's a huge open reception area with four wicker chairs and a couch. To the right is a pedicure station for two with big, cushy chairs and two manicure stations. There's another couch in the back for bridesmaids to sit and chat while they're waiting for services, and two private rooms for facials, massages, or a spa pedicure. There's also a hair station."

Opened this past April, the spa suite has already hosted one bridal party (as well as a sorority party and a birthday gathering). The cost to rent the spa suite is $3,000 for a whole day and $1,500 for a half, not including services. Ford says that cost is often not an issue with the brides that come to her spa, which is located in an area that draws a lot of destination weddings. The Homestead hosts about 25 weddings per year that range from 10 rooms per night per wedding to 150 rooms, with an average being 30 rooms. Does the spa see some of that business? "Yes," says Ford. She says that even before the spa suite was built, most of the brides visited the spa to get their top-selling facial, Flash of Beauty, which is a Sothys Institute treatment. "It makes the brides' faces glow," she says. "They key to the facial is vitamin C. It brings out that almost-pink tone." In addition to the beauty facial, they also get their hair and makeup done. The bride books a trial run for her hair and makeup about a month before the wedding (the facial is packaged with a makeup application). "All in all, weddings have been very lucrative for The Homestead Spa," says Ford. In addition, the spa offers adjoining rooms for couples massages and treatments as well as romance packages in conjunction with the resort (such as a carriage ride, champagne, a hydrotherapy soak in the resort's hot spring pools, and facials for two. Ford says that the spa pulls in about 10 percent of total sales from bridal parties and services.

Another resort spa that reports success with brides is The Spa at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans. Spa director Cecilia Hercik says that bridal parties spend between $900 and $2,000 at the spa and that the spa has recently doubled the number of parties scheduled. "The treatments most requested are manicures, pedicures, hair, and makeup, but sometimes the bride will have a bath as will her mother," says Hercik. The spa offers a Wedding Party Indulgences package for the bride and a separate one for the bridesmaids. The bride's costs $395 and includes a milk bath, a massage, a full-body application of moisturizer, spa cuisine, a manicure and pedicure, an updo with veil, and a makeup application. The bridemaid's package, which costs $175, includes a manicure and pedicure, an updo, and a makeup application. "Our business with brides has been very consistent every month, and we have scheduled more bridal business from February to June," Hercik says. "Most of our guests are local, but we are also catering to brides from Baton Rouge, Mississippi, and Texas."

The Body Sage Spa at The Rusty Parrot Lodge in Jackson, Wyoming, also does a good bridal business. "We certainly do see many brides- and grooms-to-be, and entire bridal parties for packages prior to their weddings," says spa founder Heidi Harrison. "Couple's massage and spa packages are also very popular wedding gifts, so we do see them coming in throughout the year." Although The Rusty Parrot Lodge hosts many out-of-town wedding groups, honeymooners that live nearby also stay there. "Locals tend to come in for their couples sessions later in the year rather than immediately after their wedding. Rather than gifts for bridal showers, we see more people giving couples packages as wedding gifts," Harrison says.

Bride for a Day

Some day spas, such as A-Deva Day Spa in Spartansburg, SC, prefer not to encourage non-client bridal appoint-ments. "Our spa does not market to brides to be. We love our current clients and enjoy taking care of them for their special event. We have not had the best luck with outsiders. Either they cancel at the last minute, don't show up, or are impossible to work with!" says owner Jerrie Hughes.

Carolyn Helms, the owner of the Bell Tower Salon Spa in Wyomissing, PA, also feels that when it comes to spa treatments, it's more trouble than its worth trying to schedule a bridal party. In addition, she has a big resort near her day spa that does a lot of marketing to bring in the bridal clientele. "I just can't compete," says Helms, whose spa business in general has grown on its own much faster than she ever though it would. Helms does, however, do a good business in bridal hair and makeup in her salon.

Other day spas have been catering to bridal clientele with great results. Judy Hohn, owner of Serenity, The Rejuvenating Day Spa in Overland Park, KS, offers a Spa Party package for $85 per person. "Each person receives two thirty minute services, a hand paraffin, and snacks," says Hohn. "This is popular for showers, and as a bride's thank you to her bridesmaids and family members." Hohn says that at her spa they have brides and grooms come in together for massages and other services before the wedding and have grooms and best men come in the day of the wedding.

DePasquale The Spa in Morris Plains, NJ, has several packages geared towards the bridal party. The Beauty Bus, $232 per person (not including cost of transportation), offers a private bus or limousine to transport the party to the spa, refreshments upon arrival, a full-body massage with steam, a facial, a manicure, and a paraffin hand treatment. Their Beauty For Mom package, $217, includes an upper body massage, a facial, a manicure, and a pedicure. Experienced in the spa's signature suite, the And for the Couple package, $295, includes a soak in a Japanese tub with essential oils, herbs, or Dead Sea salts; an Italian rain shower; and side-by-side candlelight massages.

Having once been a wedding consultant, Laura Osuna, owner of La Dolce Vita Spa in Long Beach, CA, addressed the bridal scene from the moment she opened her business five years ago. Listing her spa in a local bridal registry, Osuna was able to reach brides a year in advance of their weddings-the perfect timing to implement a skincare regimen to assure beautiful skin on the big day. Another benefit for being on a local bridal registry is that-much like a bride picks out china and tableware and guests purchase parts of the set-brides can list expensive spa treatments, such as a series of microdermabrasion treatments (which at La Dolce Vita is $2,000 for 20 sessions), and guests can chip in. Bridal clients make up 15 percent of Osuna's business. "And many of our brides and bridesmaids become regular customers," she says.

Osuna and her staff also work with an M.D. (sometimes he'll come to the spa, or they will go to his office) on the post-operative treatment of cosmetic procedures. " A lot of brides get cosmetic surgery for their wedding. Liposuction on the arms and stomach is the most-requested," Osuna says. "These things you have to plan well in advance. The bride has to heal, scars have to be minimized." Botox is another bridal favorite. "It helps the wedding pictures come out nicer. To ensure that just the right amount is used (so no drooping occurs), it would be best for the bride to try it six months in advance of the wedding. Then after three to five months she could do it one more time, and this would last through the wedding and honeymoon. The bride could then choose whether or not to maintain it," says Osuna. Chemical peels, as well, especially some of the deeper ones, would require a bride to have several weeks of conditioning. "It really takes a full year before you see the final results," Osuna says. In addition, La Dolce Vita does bridal hair and makeup both on site and on location and hosts bridal parties for relaxation days (facials, body scrubs, massages). Osuna books these on her spa's off days. "That way, the party has the entire spa," she says.

Weddings On-Call

Spa Radiance day spa in San Francisco wanted to accommodate bridal parties but didn't have the room. Their solution was to take the spa to the bride. "Spa Radiance realized that due to our compacted schedule of eight treatment rooms, it was often difficult to accommodate bridal parties," says Randy Schreck, vice president. "Generally, there weren't ever enough rooms open at any one time, much less at the same time, for bridal parties to come in. This, coupled with the fact that brides like to be together with their friends during these anxious times, made us re-think our approach to accommodating them."

The spa has now begun to send out a traveling esthetician to see how this works for the business as well as the clients. "Treatments can be set up in any room (home or hotel), as long as there is some form of electricity as well as running water and a place for the clients to lay down," says Schreck. Along with bowls, towels, waxers, and other equipment, the estheticians bring Sothys's packaged facials and treatments and always wear their uniforms and carry a cosmetic case to present a streamlined image. "Mostly we do facials, as well as eyebrow waxing and shaping, and makeup. No massage therapists have accompanied our team yet, but it is a great idea," Schreck says. They charge $100 travel fee and 25 percent above rate card prices for services. Retail products are sold at the regular retail price. "Spa Radiance has done two off-site events thus far, which have yielded great results-happy clients and solid retail sales," says Schreck.