Ben Thompson was having trouble thinking of a way to thank the groomsmen in his wedding.
"I didn't want to buy something tacky or cliché," said Thompson, of Charleston, West Virginia.
Then he discovered that his local barbershop offered a package geared to grooms and their attendants, and he decided to treat his friends to a hot shave on the day of the wedding, earlier this year. The morning at Topps Off was a great success, he said, giving the men an opportunity to hang out, eating, drinking and playing pool.
"It was a good chance for them to bond," said Thompson.
Grooms and their wedding parties have created a niche business for many barbershops, said Connie Skaggs, who owns a barbershop in Columbus, Ohio, and is first vice-president of the National Association of Barber Boards of America. In addition to a shave with a straight razor and hot towels, the groomsmen packages may include a neck massage, facial and haircut. Some barbershops serve food, drinks and cigars.
Costs range from $30 to more than $150 per person.
Brent Nelsen added groom packages at his shop, Barbers of the Low Country in Bluffton, South Carolina, about three years ago.
"There was nothing out there for the guys," said Nelsen, a former wedding video producer. "I thought, we have an awesome service. We can package it up and create a great experience for the guys the day of the wedding."
During wedding season (spring and summer), Gino's Classic Barber Shoppe in Atlanta will do two to three groomsmen parties a month, said Alex Teyf, who handles marketing for the shop.
"It's a way for groomsmen to spend some time together doing something men do every day — shave," he said. "It's definitely something that resonates with them."
Going to the barbershop together adds to the festive mood, said John Anderson of nearby Roswell, who organized groomsmen outings for both of his sons-in-law at Gino's. "It relaxed everybody before the wedding," Anderson said. "It really contributed a lot to the celebration."
His son-in-law Garrett Schafer particularly appreciated the opportunity; he had the barber shave off his beard. "It felt better to be clean-shaven for the wedding," said Schaffer, who got married in November.
Most of his groomsmen had never had a hot shave, and they enjoyed the experience, he said.
"It was awesome," he said. "It also ensures all the groomsmen look good."
Brides appreciate the results, said Scott Spencer, owner of Topps Off Barber Shop, Salon & Spa in Charleston, West Virginia. He created several packages geared to groomsmen shortly after opening his shop in 2010. In addition to a shave and spa services, he serves the men food and beer or whiskey.