Pampering the groom

Groom-to-be Michael Doustan, 29, who grew up in

Groom-to-be Michael Doustan, 29, who grew up in Roslyn, gets the "royal shave" from Master Barber Israel Leon, at The Art of Shaving on Madison Ave in Manhattan. Bride-to-be Joy Freed looks on. (April 19, 2012) (Credit: Bruce Gilbert)

Traditionally, it has been all about the bride on her wedding day. But since there wouldn't be a bride without a groom, it's only fair to acknowledge that it's his day, too. Which is why more and more guys are indulging in special services and treatments that guarantee they look as spotlight-worthy as the bride on their big day.

From a super shave to a mani-pedi, from customized fitness programs to tux fittings at the groom's home, more grooms-to-be are enjoying the same special attention brides have been getting all along.

Michael Arnot, founder of the online wedding guide GroomGroove.com, has seen more interest from men eager to treat themselves without fearing their masculinity is being compromised one bit. "Guys have always wanted to look and smell great. Nowadays, there are many more products and services for guys to do just that."

When Arnot got married in 2003, there weren't nearly as many choices. "Before my big day, I played a round of golf and had a steak dinner with my friends," he said. "There wasn't a suitable spa or shaving experience for guys back then. If there were, I would've done it."

What's out there? Take a look at some of the latest offerings for the well-groomed groom-to-be:

SKIN CARE AND THE SPA

Sure, he can go to his corner barber for a shave or even do it himself. But the ultimate in pampering can be found at The Art of Shaving. Depending on how indulgent a groom feels, he can choose between a traditional shave or the retailer's signature Royal Shave. Both use a classic straight razor, but the Royal Shave adds an aromatherapy skin treatment, after-shave mask and hydrating toner.

While sampling a shave last month, 28-year-old groom Michael Doustan talked about what prompted him to spend $55 on pampering. "Just like I go to the gym to get myself in shape, I am also prepping my skin for the upcoming big day -- it has to look healthy and feel smooth," says the equity trader who grew up in Roslyn and now lives in Manhattan.

The 45-minute treatment left Doustan so relaxed that he almost dozed off at The Art of Shaving's Madison Avenue spa (it also has an outpost in Roosevelt Field mall).

"It was my first time getting a professional shave," said Doustan, who is getting married in September in Houston, his bride's hometown. "The experience was great. It was the male equivalent of a facial."

To achieve the clean look Doustan wanted, barber Israel Leon incorporated the four elements of what he describes as the perfect shave: prepare, lather up, shave and moisturize. "The key when shaving is to always stretch the skin as you follow with your razor in order to get as close as you can to the root of the hair," Leon said. "The stretching of the skin takes off the dead skin and allows for a closer shave."

Doustan was confident his bride would be as happy with the results as he was. "She likes when I am clean-shaven. She likes the way it looks, and she likes the way it feels."

But shaving is only the first step. Next up: a half-day of pampering -- the sort of luxe treatment brides have been indulging in for years. Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spas are among those that borrow for the boys. Their spa package, called "Here Comes the Groom," includes a "gentlemen's facial," a deep-tissue massage, manicure and pedicure, and a spa lunch. And for those who may not have time for all the treatments, each service can be purchased a la carte. "Men want easy and comfortable," says Zdenka Olic, regional manager for Red Door Spa's Garden City, Woodbury and Bellmore locations. "It is customizing what they want."

If there's one service that strikes fear into the hearts of most men, it's the manicure, which conjures up images of "Guchi Muchi Puchi" pink. Not even close, Olic says. "Men think polish and don't even want to go there, but what we do is a nail buff. We buff the nails for a clean and healthy shine and do the same for the feet." And don't think of a mani as wedding fluff, at least not if you're planning to have close-up photos of your gleaming new wedding band.

GETTING 'GROOM' FIT

Gino Castellano's upcoming wedding was just the incentive he needed to get into shape. There was no time for excuses. He had 12 weeks to slim down.

Like other grooms, Castellano's busy work schedule and daily commute from his home in Miller Place to his job in Manhattan left him little time to get to the gym. "I wanted to lose weight and get as fit as possible in the time I had before the wedding," he said. "I needed a program that would fit my ability and time schedule."

When the computer software trainer learned about The Bridal Body Shop, a program that helps whip brides and grooms (and even entire bridal parties) into shape before the big day, he was intrigued. He also liked that a certified trainer could work with him at home.

Laurie Towers, co-founder of The Bridal Body Shop -- an offshoot of Physical Advantage, a sports and massage arts center that treats professional athletes from the Islanders and the Giants -- created a program for Castellano.

"We like our trainers to work on the weight training and the stretching," she said. "The client can do the cardio on their own."

Twice a week, Castellano trained with Towers at her Upper East Side studio, using a combination of free weights, kettle bells and kickboxing exercises. On the days he worked out at home, he did the cardio portion, using a treadmill, elliptical, bicycle and some mat exercises.

On Aug. 28, 2010, when he walked down the aisle at The Meadow Club in Port Jefferson, Castellano had winnowed 16 pounds and 7 inches from his body. "I actually got results beyond what I expected," he says. "I lost weight. I gained muscle. I had a lot more energy. And I fit a lot more comfortably in my tuxedo."

FIT FOR A PRINCE

There are lots of stores known for their custom work and superior customer service. But for grooms who don't have the time to shop, a growing number of haberdashers will bring the shopping experience to them. Groom Michael Braunstein, 30, and his father, Harry, 63, experienced the royal treatment when a crew from Marshs in Huntington completed the final fitting of their custom tuxedos at their home in Oyster Bay Cove.

During the visit, father and son stepped into their formalwear, Ermenegildo Zegna single-breasted tuxedos with custom detailing, including a single-button front, peak lapel, besom pockets and satin buttons. To complete the look, they opted for flat-front trousers in a tropical-weight wool and shirts made of Egyptian cotton with a French cuff and moderate spread collar.

"They both went for a sartorial fit, a slightly trimmer silhouette, which is a bit more stylish and modern," says Jim Foley, a Marshs sales associate whose team worked on every detail, down to the very last thread.

"It makes the clothing so personal," says Marshs owner, Chris Mitchell. "What better day to look the very best than your wedding day?"

In a nod to trends, both men chose a silk bow tie over a long formal tie. "You are seeing a resurgence of the bow tie," Foley says. "The Oscars set the tone for that. It is a little more cutting-edge."

During the fitting, Foley; Donald O'Connor, Marshs' head of custom clothing, and Theresa Baginski, the head fitter, made a few minor adjustments on the pant hems and the suit sleeves. "We call it 'tweaking.' The bottom of the pants are never finished at the factory. We finish them ourselves, since everyone has a preference of how they like the break to fall."

Michael, an attorney who splits his time between Manhattan and Long Island and often works weekends and long hours, enjoyed the convenience of the service and sharing time with his dad. "Having the final fitting in our home was really special. Somehow, it emphasized the importance of the occasion for both of us."

GIFTS FOR THE GUYS

Remember the gift you got when you were a groomsman for your best buddy?

We thought so.

Gregory Alerte didn't want to give his groomsmen another pen or iPad cover. Instead, he wanted something fresh. And so, the 29-year-old certified financial planner invited two of his friends -- the six other groomsmen were not able to make it -- to his parents' home in East Northport and treated them to a personalized style consultation to create the shirt of their dreams.

"The shirt is a lot more personal than a pair of sunglasses that might not be their style," Alerte says.

Deborah Scanlan, a J. Hilburn style adviser, took the measurements of each groomsman, starting with neck size and ending with shirt length. Once all 14 measurements were complete, each guy got to select a shirt style to suit his individual taste. Then, they viewed the results on a custom shirt configurator, a program that Scanlan explained would "help them decide which fit, collar, cuff would look best."

On this Saturday morning, both attendants chose a European fit. However, Jesse Bravata opted for a bolder color and pattern, a contrasting white, purple and navy check with a design on the inside of the collar, placket and cuffs. Groomsman Mike Mirarchi stayed with a more conservative look, a luxurious solid pink shirt that is perfect for the office.

To complete the experience, Alerte arranged with Scanlan to have the gifts delivered in plenty of time for his July 3 bachelor party. Bravata loved the idea of stepping out together in fancy new threads. "Let's do it!" he laughed. "I'm in."

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