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With all the inevitable stress that goes into planning a wedding, brides can sometimes lose sight of what a joyful time it should be. The weight of decisions and the pressure of fulfilling a lifetime of expectations can seem insurmountable; that’s why it’s crucial for brides to take some much-needed (and deserved) time to relax and pamper themselves before the big day. After all, a wedding should be more than a sigh of relief after a year of stress; it should be a culmination of everything you’ve waited for and anticipated. In that vein, let yourself take a breath, be pampered, unwind and enjoy the engagement; it’s all about you, so let yourself feel beautiful!

The Ritz-Carlton Spa (921 Canal St., 524-1331) hosts parties for the bride and bridal party that include manicures, pedicures, mimosas and more. “Our facilities boast a full-service salon, massages, facials, body treatments, hydrotherapy and airbrush tanning,” says Daisye Suduran of The Ritz-Carlton. “The spa is more than 25,000-square-feet with 22 treatment rooms, a fitness center, resistance pool, whirlpool, private party room, steam rooms, saunas, five-head euro showers and gender specific relaxation areas.” The Spa offers several uniquely New Orleans treatments, such as the “Café Au Lait” massage, featuring the healing properties of coffee and milk, and the “Essence of Magnolia” bath and massage.

There are also several “Wedded Bliss Packages” offered, which include “To Do Before I Do,” a package of aromatherapy massage, a detox slimming wrap, a facial with an an add-on brow wax, a café lunch, a manicure and a pedicure; and “Groom the Groom,” a package centered on the man of the hour that includes a “Monsieur Massage,” a hot towel shave and a manicure.

The Azure Spa (2040 N. Causeway Blvd., Mandeville, (985) 727-7799) focuses on helping the bride take care of herself before the wedding. “It is very important to prepare your mind and body for such an important event as your wedding day,” says Kimberly Cunningham, licensed esthetician at Azure. The spa offers packages for both the bride and the bridal party, so a day of relaxation can be shared with best friends.

The “Deluxe Bridal Package” includes three signature facials with microdermabrasion starting three months before the wedding day, not to mention a massage, a body polish and a wrap. “This is the best time to make sure you’re using the correct skin care,” says Cunningham. “It is best not to wait later than this because you need to give your skin enough time to eliminate all impurities that have yet to appear on the outside surface of your skin. The “Deluxe Bridal Party Package” features a manicure, pedicure and signature facial, so you can relax and beautify in good company.

The tension of planning a wedding can actually manifest in physical weariness, tired muscles and fatigue. Spa Manhattan (1901 Manhattan Blvd., Suite 200B, Harvey, 365-7001) provides a wide array of massage styles to accommodate every bride’s need. “We have Swedish, deep tissue, organic indulgence – with the body scrub – aromatherapy and hot stone,” says Raina Boudreaux of Spa Manhattan.

H2O Salon & Spa (441 Metairie Road, Metairie, 835-4377; 3908 Highway 22, Mandeville, (985) 951-8166) offers a VIP suite area within the spa for small bridal parties to enjoy manicures, pedicures, massage and full spa services.

Laura Phillips of H2O recommends making a bridal spa day of it. “Bring food and alcohol, and we bring all the service providers to them,” she says. “It really works with a small party.” Phillips also recommends the bride consider a spa package as a post-wedding relaxation treat. “It’s a really great wedding gift,” she says.

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