View more photos in the slideshow above
Created by Alyson Bowman, Connecticut Magazine
Hosted by Kristen Cardilli, Delamar Greenwich Harbor
Styled by Kelley M. Ward, À La Carte Event Services & Consulting
Photographed by Julianna and Noah Ehlert, Tiny Human Photography
Story by Ann Loynd Burton
These days, the wedding industry is more digitized than ever. Did you come up with a witty Instagram hashtag? How about your wedding website? And don’t forget to log into your DJ’s online interface to create your virtual do- and don’t-play list. That’s why today’s bride is seeking alternative ways to celebrate in the weeks and months leading up to the wedding. Instead of a traditional shower, a group day at the spa can offer an opportunity for friends and family members to get together, disconnect from devices and celebrate the bride.
“The world is really busy and plugged in and, more than ever, people need time to decompress,” says Candace Engdall, director of marketing at Saybrook Point Inn & Spa. Stripped down to matching robes and slippers — a great photo opp, of course — a spa shower can take the pressure off of a group of women, some of whom might be meeting for the first time. “It’s an opportunity for the ladies who are supporting the most important person of the day to get to know each other,” says Tracy Lisee, general manager of The Red Door Salon and Spa at the Mystic Marriott Hotel. “Unlike a formal luncheon when everyone is dressed up and in heels, everyone is feeling really good, with their hair up in a messy bun, and on the same playing field.”
To plan a spa-day shower, brides must first decide on the size of the group they would like to host, which will impact the type of experiences, services and costs. Most spas consider more than four to five guests a special group, and can accommodate up to 20 patrons depending on the size of the facility. Ideally, this type of gathering would consist of a more intimate group of about 10 guests. “For a typical shower, you think 50 to 100 people with balloons and cake and flowers,” The Red Door’s Lisee says. “In the spa, we can host a tighter group of less than 15 for a ladies’ day.”
For larger groups of more than 15 guests, brides may want to consider a combined hotel and spa and restructure the idea as a spa/shower weekend. The bridal party and mothers of the bride and groom, for example, can come in on a Saturday, enjoy a day of services to bond at the spa, spend the night and host a traditional shower in the spa’s dining room on Sunday.
“A lot of people make a weekend out of it,” Engdall says. “Having it at [Saybrook Point Inn] gives them an opportunity to make more of an experience, and we can cross-sell all levels of the property.” At the Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, sales and events manager Allison Fodor offers group classes for larger parties, which can include sound healing, forest bathing, yoga and meditation.
Once the guest list is settled, the next step is to decide on the services for the day. Unless the group is particularly intimate (fewer than five or so guests) it’s best to select uniform service options like massages and facials to be enjoyed by all.
“We can customize packages,” says Maria Benson, owner of Body + Sole spa in West Hartford. “If everybody wants a little bit of something, we’ll do abbreviated services, like a mini pedicure or 30-minute massage.” Like most spas, Body + Sole offers a discount on services when they’re reserved for a whole group.
For food, many locations serve complimentary champagne and mimosas or coffee and tea with fruit and charcuterie in their relaxation room. This is the space where groups can gather between services, enjoy lunch or even exchange gifts. “We’ll do a prosecco mimosa and a non-alcoholic version and blood orange and cucumber spa water,” Benson says. “If it’s around lunchtime, we’ll do a big cheese platter with fresh fruit on it. We can always do little club sandwiches or custom options, but keep it on the healthy side.”
A day of hour-long services (or several abbreviated services) for a group of 15 typically starts around $2,000. If brides want customized services or extended food options, like a traditional lunch instead of the standard healthy snack option, spas can work with local caterers or an on-site restaurant for an added fee.
“When it comes to the spa, it’s not the cheapest experience, but the pieces we do to customize really add value,” says Saybrook’s Engdall, adding, “You can make a 48-hour event of what would have been a three-hour shower.” A $2,000-plus spa day, compared to the $5,000 or so a full shower for 40-some guests would cost, also comes with a lot of perks.
Larger spas, like the Heritage Hotel in Southbury, allow guests to take advantage of other hotel amenities. “We have a state-of-the-art health club tied to the hotel,” says Khim Neang, director of the hotel’s spa and health club. “Spa groups can make it a full day by taking a class in the health club or enjoying the sauna, steam room, hot tub and indoor pool.” Party favors may even be complimentary, as many spas will collaborate with vendors to offer a small organza bag of samples for each guest to take home.
For themes, the wellness concept speaks for itself, but brides are welcome to customize the celebration. Kristen Cardilli, Delamar Hotels’ marketing director, says bigger groups will have the place to themselves in the Greenwich location’s three treatment rooms or West Hartford’s four. “They can use the relaxation room as a gathering area for chatting, champagne and gifts,” she says. “We’ve had ladies fully decorate the relaxation room with a tropical theme. They can be quite creative, and it’s affordable‚ since we don’t charge a fee for these extras.”
Tiny Human Photography, Guilford. tinyhumanweddings.com Engagement, boudoir and wedding photography.
À La Carte Event Services & Consulting, New Canaan. alacarteeventplanning.com Full-service event coordination, design, and execution throughout CT and NY for life’s special moments or corporate opportunities.
Celebrations by Maria, Stamford. celebrationsbymaria.com Specializing in personalized gifts for all occasions, as well as wedding and party decor and digital invitations.
The LuLu Face Company, Litchfield. lulufaceco.com Custom skin care and cosmetic blends infused with botanical- and mineral-based cosmetics for clean makeup and skin treatments.
AnitaSomeMakeup, Fairfield County. firstname.lastname@example.org Bridal and special events makeup artist.
Lucky Plum Studio, Ridgefield. etsy.com/shop/luckyplumstudio Custom invitations and coordinating pieces, both digital and printed, for all occasions.
Delamar Greenwich Harbor, delamar.com Offering unlimited options on your wedding day. Traditional or trendsetting, festive or formal, intimate or grand scale, in a lushly appointed ballroom or set against a waterfront backdrop.
Lovely Cakes, Stratford. lovelycakes.net Custom wedding and celebration cakes. Winner of Food Network’s Cake Wars.
White Cottage Salon, Wilton. whitecottagesalon.com A full-service salon offering the latest in cuts, color, smoothing and styling.
Winston Flowers, Greenwich, New York and Boston. winstonflowers.com Award-winning team of design experts to successfully execute every detail of your event or wedding from custom floral creations to beyond.
John Casablancas Modeling & Acting Agency, Rocky Hill. jcmodelsct.com Premier talent agency in Connecticut. Featured bridesmaid models: Gretchen D’Amato & Kay Symone.
Hobbs London, Greenwich. hobbs.com Casual wear, pin-sharp tailoring or premium-occasion wear, elegance, sophistication and femininity are the cornerstones of every piece.
Chou Chou, Rowayton. shopchouchou.com Clothing, shoes and accessories for brides and bridesmaids.
Aurora Heimbach — Bride
Kay Symone — Maid of Honor
Gabriela Bochenczyk — Bridesmaid
Gretchen D’Amato — Bridesmaid
Elizabeth Arden White Tea Eau de Toilette Spray Exquisitely uncomplicated, with a musky-woody floral, sparkling Italian mandarin, sensual sea breeze accord and zen-like heart of white tea. For the woman who wants to immerse herself in the moment. 3.3 fl oz. $56, Elizabeth Arden. The Red Door, Mystic Marriott Hotel & Spa, elizabetharden.com
Bespoke Cream Blush, Lip Tint + Nail Polish These products from Litchfield’s LuLu Face Company illuminate the skin with a flush of color and a healthy glow. This sheer formula is infused with shea butter, white lily extract and evening primrose oil so it glides on easily and blends flawlessly. The plant-based creamy blush regenerates, protects and replenishes the skin. Prices vary, The LuLu Face Company, Litchfield. lulufaceco.com
Delamar Spa Greenwich Harbor:
Fern Green Dual Mirror Compact By Charles Mallory. Gold plated and richly colored artwork. $98, Charles Mallory London.
Priming with a Hydrating Fluid Instant moisture for face and body. Emollient and soothing action for dehydrated skin. $125, Valmont.
Masque Majestueux Votre Visage This luscious and luxurious cream mask provides the skin with long-term rejuvenation and replenishment. Its changing texture melts onto the skin for an ultimate nourishing and rejuvenating experience. $425, Valmont.
Sally Kay Vintage Bangle Made of 100 percent aluminum, measuring 1.15 inches wide. $300, Sally Kay Jewelry.
Personalized Bridal Party Wine Tumblers From the Celebrations by Maria Etsy shop comes this 12-ounce, vacuum-insulated, double-wall wine tumbler with lid and straw. Available in various colors. $19.95, Maars. celebrationsbymaria.com