BRIDESMAIDS MAY spend hundreds of dollars on a dress, bridal shower, gift, and bachelorette party.
How can a bride show appreciation? Treat them to a day of pampering or a grown-up girls' tea party.
Days of Beauty
Most salons are happy to schedule appointments for bridal parties, but few have room to accommodate more than a couple of people in each service area at one time. Here are spas and salons that have the experience, the space, and the staff to do so with grace. All allow you to bring in lunch, Champagne, or refreshments.
* George at the Four Seasons Spa Salon, Georgetown; 202-342-1942. Makeup artist Carl Ray has won accolades for his work with brides. Take turns getting your makeup done while the rest of the bridal party gets hair and nails attended to. Ray charges $80 a client; nails cost $18; updos, $75, $100 for the bride.
* Bellacara, Alexandria; 703-299-9652. This bath-and-body boutique in Old Town can arrange a "pamper party" for up to ten people. For $50 each, Bellacara will shut its doors and give you run of the shop. Play at the makeup station, which includes names like T. LeClerc and Paula Dorf. Give yourself a pedicure; give a friend a facial. Parties are held in the evenings and last two to three hours. Participants take home product samples.
* Andre Chreky, Downtown DC; 202-293-9393. Parties of 12 or fewer can hang in the private Green Room in between services, which might include pedicures ($45), manicures ($18), and updos ($75, $175 for bride).
* Jolie, Bethesda; 301-986-9293. At Jolie, which offers a full range of hair, makeup, and body treatments, four women can get pedicures at one time, while eight can get their manicures together.
* Elizabeth Arden, Friendship Heights, 202-362-9890; Vienna, 703-448-8388; Pentagon Row, 703-373-5888; Reston, 703-467-8488. This salon is well versed in serving bridal parties. The Wisconsin Avenue location can accommodate up to 16 at a time, with groups of four getting nails ($23 for manicures, $45 for pedicures) or hair done (updos start at $65); only two can do makeup ($55). The Vienna location can average ten people together at a time; the most Pentagon Row can accommodate is four at a time doing the same thing. Reston can accommodate up to six women for updos, which are $85; it's four for nails and two for makeup.
* The Spa at Lansdowne, Leesburg; 703-729-4036. Get together eight to ten people and the intimate space might close for your party. Manicures start at $33, pedicures $50, updos $60, and makeup $50.
Teas & Luncheons
Afternoon tea with the girls is a good way to unwind before the big day. These places serve full English tea, which includes scones, finger sandwiches, and sweets.
* Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Galleria, 703-506-4300; Pentagon City, 703-415-5000; West End, 202-835-0500; Georgetown, 202-912-4100. Delicious formal teas start at $26 a person and run to $38 with Champagne. Tysons has several private areas (minimum 12), where you'll get your own waitstaff and choice of music for $50 a person including tax and tip; strawberries and Champagne add another $10.
* British Collection, Alexandria; 703-836-8181. This Old Town nook specializes in tea, for the nice price of $12.50 a person. While there's no private room, the cozy parlor accommodates 16. Tea is served Tuesdays from noon to 5 and Wednesday through Sunday from 10 to 5.
* Four Seasons, Georgetown; 202-342-0444. A private room can fit 23 guests, but you'll pay $250 for the privilege. In the main dining room, up to eight can sit at one table. The $25-a-person charge for tea includes strawberries. Or, you can arrange a three-course luncheon for $35 a person. Tea is served from 2 to 5 daily. *
* Renaissance Mayflower, Downtown DC; 202-347-3000. Tea at this formal hotel costs $23.95 a person and includes the Mayflower's signature banana bread; if you prefer seclusion, a private room that accommodates 28 is an additional $150. Tea is served Monday through Saturday, 3 to 5 PM, Sunday 3:30 to 5:30.
* Jefferson Hotel, Downtown DC; 202-347-2200. The lounge in this boutique hotel offers cozy corners for intimate gatherings, while a private room seats up to ten; price upon request. The $28-a-person tea includes fruit tarts and is served 3 to 5 PM daily.
* Bailiwick Inn, Fairfax; 703-691-2266. The British owners serve a proper tea, with a fruit-and-cheese plate and a sherry aperitif. Tea is served two days a week, Tuesday ($22) and Sunday ($27). Accommodations in a semiprivate parlor for 16 people can be arranged at no extra charge.
* Morrison House, Alexandria; 703-838-8000. This Old Town hotel offers traditional English tea for $30 a person; an elegant room accommodates 14. Three-course lunch menus start at $32 a person.
* Hotel Lombardy, Downtown DC; 202-857-3918 (ask for JoAnn). Looking for a girly place to have a bridesmaids' lunch instead of tea? In winter months, the Venetian Room, a private space with rich jewel tones and velvets, is a good choice--though it costs $400 to rent. The bright and feminine Fortuny Room has no charge. Each accommodates 40. Three-course luncheons can be served buffet-style or plated and run $20 to $40 each.
Now You're Cooking
* McCormick & Schmick's, McLean; 703-848-8000. Like to cook? At the Tysons outpost of this seafood restaurant, the chefs will host an informal hands-on cooking class, demonstrating how to make the menu you've chosen. You'll be set up in a private room tailor-made for 10 to 25 guests. Three-course menus start at $40, and include entrées such as salmon stuffed with crab and brie.