Weddings: Spa Takeover

San Bernadino, California
San Bernadino, California // Photo by FiledIMAGE/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images


The James Hotel Group
The James Hotel Miami was redone by The James Hotel Group and debuted in December 2012 with a huge splash.

The countdown to the big day is on. But how to relieve months’ worth of clenched-jaw tension, so that you can relax and enjoy the special soiree? Increasingly, wedding parties are choosing to privatize a luxury spa for some pre-nuptial mellowing moments. The bride and groom indulge in pampering and preening in the company of good friends and family, often with free-flowing champagne and tasty nibbles. Spas are meeting the challenge by offering customized treatments and a magical mise-en-scene. From California to Collins Avenue, here are some of our picks for spas that roll out the red carpet for wedding parties. 

In San Francisco, the Mandarin Oriental completed a transformative renovation project in 2012. Designed by San Francisco-based BAMO, the new look is a departure from the hotel’s original red, black, and gold palette, which emphasized the brand’s Hong Kong roots. The finishing touch was the spa’s debut in October. In line with the hotel’s new contemporary design scheme, the third floor-haven is decorated in natural hues with potted orchids and impressive Asian art (like the towering statue of Kwan-Yin, the Goddess of Mercy). The minute you kick off your shoes for the welcoming foot ritual, you’ll be embraced in Zen-like calm. 

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The sky’s the limit when customizing half- or full-day programs for wedding parties. But the Mandarin team offers a word to the wise: Don’t get a facial right before you have to walk down the aisle. Developed in consultation with specialists in traditional Chinese medicine, an array of holistic treatments are administered by highly trained therapists. Luxe products by Aromatherapy Associates play a starring role. Recommended: The signature, 60-minute Oriental Essence massage, which targets the neck, shoulder and lower back areas. There’s also a dedicated manicure/pedicure lounge for grooming of the hands and feet. The cherry on the cake: The wedding party is privy to special touches, like couture cocktails that reflect the season; scented oshibori towels; and food that complements the treatments (using the same ingredients, like lavender, also present in the essential oils). 


Rooms At  Auberge Du Soleil
Rooms At Auberge Du Soleil are done in pastel hues and ooze warmth and coziness.

The Mandarin tacks on perks for nuptial festivities, like a free Quintessence Body Scrub treatment when you reserve a 50-minute massage for both the bride and groom. The more the merrier: The spa offers a 10 percent Wedding Party discount for the entire group when two to nine guests in the party reserve a treatment, and 15 percent off when 10 or more guests make bookings. Note: It’s also possible to bring the spa to the hotel’s function rooms, with mobile manicure and back massage chair stations. Grooms can order whisky or wine tastings, and brides can create a build-your-own tea or champagne cocktail bar. For assistance with bookings, contact Spa Director Kristy Whitford.

Another headturner is renew the spa, managed by Laura Kain ([email protected]), at The James Royal Palm in South Beach. Just a stone’s throw from the beach, the Art Deco landmark on Collins Avenue was reincarnated by The James Hotel Group, and made a splash when it opened in December 2012. Renew distinguishes itself in the Miami market with an original spa menu focused on salt-based treatments curated by wellness consultant Dr. Oz Garcia, an expert on healthy aging. The spa’s star attraction is the outdoor deck with cabanas overlooking the Atlantic


Auberge Du Soleil’s Saint-Tropez Deluxe Private Garden Room
Auberge Du Soleil’s Saint-Tropez Deluxe Private Garden Room boasts outdoor soaking tub and rain shower

For wedding parties, the spa can be privatized for two, three, or four hours. Of course, the bride could spring for a round of tension-targeting massages for the group. But there’s also the nourishing hair treatment with Moroccan oils; bright eye treatment with collagen; and the renew silk scrub with pink clay and ocean salt infused with rose and Ylang Ylang. Gents may opt for the Muscle Fatigue Massage or Sports Pedicure. If the couple craves a minute of calm before the storm, they can retreat to the VIP suite for side-by-side massages followed by a salt water soak in the hydrotub. 

The signature renew massage deserves a special shout-out. Guests select a base, like Shiatsu, deep-tissue, hot stone, or lomi lomi, then choose additional modalities based on individual preference, like aromatherapy, reflexology, accupressure, or stretching.  

Post-pampering, the wedding party can head to the outdoor deck to pop the cork on the bubbly and nibble on light bites like fish sandwiches, grapefruit-Guajillo ceviche served with pumpkin seed-corn salsa, and the “Royal” Palm: a salad comprising hearts of palm carpaccio and micro-macro sprouts topped with orange vinegar and brazil nuts.


James Club Bar
The James Hotel Miami’s The James Club Bar serves classically inspired cocktails, beer, wine and small bites from Florida Cookery.

Auberge du Soleil is a long established destination for Napa Valley weddings. Spanning 33 acres of vineyards and olive groves in California wine country, this romantic retreat is intimate in size (just 50 guest rooms) but offers Michelin-starred cuisine and a 7,000-square-foot spa. The cottages—decked out with fireplaces, soaking tubs, and fridges filled with Napa treats—have terraces for taking it all in. The Auberge Spa also makes the most of its setting—with sweeping views and house-made lotions and potions ripe with anti-oxidant rich grape seeds, Napa clay, and herbs plucked from the garden. 

The wedding party can kick off their pampering session with the water ritual, following a circuit of three soaking springs on the outdoor deck. Treatments run the gamut from meticulous manicures to anti-aging facials. For couples or small groups, the Melisse Suite is a firm favorite. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame lovely Napa Valley views, and the outdoor garden has a heated private pool. Reach out to Spa Director Amy Wilson-Moghina ([email protected]; 707-963-1221) with questions.


Mandarin Oriental San Francisco’s Couples Harmony Spa Suites
Mandarin Oriental San Francisco’s Couples Harmony Spa Suites provide an ideal setting for rejuvenation.


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