Pamper the bride

Three ways a bride-to-be can unwind before the big day

Henna artist Kimberly Allcock paints the hand of Dana Nollsch, the photographer’s daughter.

Henna artist Kimberly Allcock paints the hand of Dana Nollsch, the photographer’s daughter.


Planning a wedding is no picnic. There’s buying the dress, hacking away at the guest list, and trying to balance the wedding visions of family members with those of the betrothed. By the time the dress, flowers, cake, location and hairdresser are all booked, the bride-to-be could use a little pampering. Here are three ways she can unwind before the big day.

Get hennaed

With careful strokes, Kim Allcock paints vibrant, reddish-brown swirling patterns on her feet. They twist toward her ankles, staining them like a lace sock run amok.

The dye and the process of applying it is called henna, or sometimes mendhi. It comes from the henna plant, Lawsonia inermis. When the leaves of the plant are finely ground and, liquid—water, tea, essential oil, and lemon juice are common—is added, it creates a burgundy paste used to stain skin, as well as hair and fabric, for weeks.

The sort of “temporary tattoo” Allcock is giving herself has been used for good luck for all manner of celebrations since about 3000 BC, particularly in East Asia and the Middle East. It’s been especially popular for weddings, with brides getting the most complex patterns to signify support for their greatest joy and best wishes for luck.

“The color itself—that red color—is supposed to protect against evil eye, and the henna plant is thought to be protective,” says Allcock. Through her business, Henna Blessings, brides-to-be, expectant mothers or anyone looking for some interesting adornment can have their body part of choice “hennaed.” Traditionally, it’s on the hands and feet, where the stain also tends to be darker and last longer than other, thicker parts of the skin. But as henna has migrated into other uses and across the West, people have done trails of vines down their shoulders, or across their chest or pregnant bellies, or as a bridal garter belt.

“The application is a nice ritual of everyone getting together and spending time together,” says Allcock. “It’s a time-consuming process. It’s really a chance for the bride to be pampered—sitting and having someone work on you is not too dissimilar from getting a manicure, so it feels like a special treat.”

In a traditional Indian wedding, for example, the henna would be applied a couple of days before the wedding, and women would get together to decorate the bride and each other. The custom is that the bride wouldn’t have to do any housework until the henna wore off. Allcock says there are stories of people staying up at night to retrace the design for that reason.

“A classic Indian style of bridal henna will be a massively intricate design that looks like elbow-length lace gloves and knee-length lace stockings,” says Allcock. “Something like that should take all day. Bridal henna can take eight hours on one person.” And Jewish bridal henna has been known to take four to five days to complete.

Brides may not have that kind of time and can opt for something a little less intricate that could be applied within an hour or two. The paste, which has a mud-like consistency once dried, has to stay on the skin for at least four hours before being scraped off, leaving behind the stain. Allcock advises keeping water off the design for a day or two to allow it to set in and last longer. The dye disappears as skin exfoliates, so depending on your skin type and the placement of the design, it could last anywhere from one to four weeks.

If reddish brown isn’t in the wedding color scheme, Allcock offers a couple of other ideas for henna body art. One is to make the design with a glue made for the skin, to which she can add a cosmetic-grade glitter or mica powder that sparkles. Another idea is to apply the henna design but then glue crystals and other adornments at strategic points along the design, “so you get some bling with the traditional henna,” she says.

“The whole significance is blessings on the skin, the idea of conveying favor on the person wearing it.”

Photo By

Henna Blessings, 972-1362,, $65 per hour.

Soak it up

The best cocktail in Reno is not at a bar, but at a nail salon. At least that’s according to readers of RN&R’s 2009 Biggest Little Best of Northern Nevada poll, who praised Soak Nail Salon’s Pink Drink. It’s a vodka-based concoction of passion fruit, blood orange and mango with a sugar rim. A cocktail is a nice way to unwind all by itself. Add a foot-soaked pedicure, pretty nails, a quaint, 1920s bungalow setting, and your wedding party’s best girls to the mix, and you’re set for a stress-relieving afternoon.

“Some bride groups will come in the morning, and you can tell they’ve been out all night because they don’t talk,” says Soak owner Shannon Dunlap. “They just drink the Bloody Mary and deal. There may be uncomfortable tensions because sometimes that happens during weddings. So we try to lighten the mood and take care of it. Some are just great because they haven’t seen each other for ages. I think my staff is good at making everyone feel comfortable during what can sometimes—even though it’s a joyous time—be an uncomfortable time for them.”

Soak’s large staff can accommodate large or small groups. They’ve hosted parties of up to 60 people, which can include a massage chair, catering from Back of the House (or parties can bring their own food) and nail service for nine people at a time. If a bride’s nails smudge or chip before the wedding, she can come back in, and they’ll fix it at no charge.

“We’ve done tons of weddings and tons of brides, so we have a lot of different twists on the regular French manicure so your nails can look a little bit unique,” says Dunlap.

Soak, 628 W. Second St., 324-7399. Adult mani-pedi starts at $49.

Spa day

A sure-fire way to relax is a massage. L’Essence Day Spa is one local place to get it. From its Victorian home setting, brides and grooms can choose from a Swedish, hot stone or chakra massage, all of which take at least an hour. The building contains three levels, with hair, makeup and retail on the ground floor. The quieter, upper levels are where manicures, pedicures and massages take place. The third level is called the atrium, where people can wait between treatments during a long day of beauty, sip a glass of wine, or have lunch. L’Essence can order lunch from the nearby The Cheese Board. Brides are also welcome to bring in champagne, muffins and bagels for the bridal party. The spa offers a five-hour, “special occasion day of wellness” package that includes a trial hair and makeup session before the wedding date and the day of the wedding, which includes a mani-pedi, facial or massage for $357-$365. Packages for grooms and bridal attendants are also available for $190-$210.

“We do a lot of brides, so we’re very experienced,” says Suzanne Iremonger, front desk manager. “It’s overall, a nice, relaxing, happy place to be.”

L’Essence Day Spa, 242 W. Liberty St., 323-2040. Massages from $80-$90.