Jen Glantz says brides secretly hire her to be a personal assistant, unofficial on-call therapist, social director, and peacekeeper for their big day.
Courtesy of Susan Shek
  • After being a bridesmaid for countless friends and family members, Jen Glantz realised there was a need in the wedding industry for a hired 'bridesmaid' figure for brides who might not have close, reliable friends to support them on their big day.
  • She started her business by posting an ad on Craigslist - and she got hundreds of responses.
  • For six years now, she's worked as a professional bridesmaid, hired by complete strangers to attend their weddings as a member of the bridal party and take care of any hands-on needs.
  • Glantz says the hardest part of the job is handling all of the drama that happens behind-the-scenes between the wedding couple, family members, and other invited (or sometimes not invited) guests.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

I became a professional bridesmaid by accident.

Early in my 20s, most of my friends got engaged - and I quickly became the walking, talking, pastel dress-wearing cliché of always being the bridesmaid.

I started to notice that weddings were filled with pockets of stress, anxiety, and loneliness for the people getting married. There wasn't anyone in the wedding industry whose official job it was to be there for the bride or groom during those heated moments. If there was a wedding planner around, they were too busy doing the hard job of setting up the wedding and working with the vendors to notice a crying bride, a missing groom, or a bridesmaid that lost their dress, moments before walking down the aisle. And if the person getting married did have close friends to stand beside them on their big day, those friends often had their eyes glued to the open bar and were focused on having their own night of fun.

But what led me to start a full-fledged business - where strangers could hire me to show up at their wedding, wear the bridesmaid dress, and pretend to know them from middle school - was one annoying Friday night.

Two distant friends called me up, both on the same night, and asked me to be their bridesmaid. It felt odd saying yes because we barely spoke anymore. I vented to my roommate who said the magic line that pushed me to start this business: "Jen, it looks like you've become a professional bridesmaid."

I decided, that night, to post an ad on Craigslist offering my services to other brides or grooms in need of a bridesmaid. I got hundreds of responses - and Bridesmaid for Hire was officially born.

Glantz's original Craigslist post.
Courtesy of Jen Glantz
When people hear that strangers hire me to be their bridesmaid, they think it's the most glamorous and fun job on the planet. The truth is, it's messy, filled with drama, blisters, and managing cold feet.

Here's an inside look at my life as a professional bridesmaid.

People hire me for two reasons.

Most of my clients contact me to be their bridesmaid for the same reasons. First, they don't have any close friends, which is quite common. According to YouGov, 1 in 5 millennials don't have a close friend. Or second, they do have a lot of friends, but they can't rely on them. They know their friends will give them constant headaches so they ask a professional (me) to join the bridal party and manage that stress.

I have the tough conversations with bridesmaids who are making the wedding all about them, and do the dirty work for the marrying couple so nobody else has to run around. This includes getting last-minute items, fixing the wedding dress when it gets damaged, and handling problems that would shake up the wedding if anyone found out.

Here's how it works.

I work weddings for strangers all over the country.

Working as a hired bridesmaid for strangers comes with perks, says Glantz.
Courtesy of Susan Shek

When people hire me, it's usually a complete secret. Often, they don't even tell the person they are marrying that they hired me.

I have a fake name and a back-story - such as we know each other from high-school, yoga class, etc. - and wear the dress, walk down the aisle, and sometimes give the maid-of-honour speech. I even pose in the wedding pictures.

Writing a maid-of-honour speech is quite easy because I'm a lifelong writer (I published two books and have written hundreds of articles) and I'm also a true romantic, so I draw on my skills as a writer and my love for love, and I'm able to create a powerful speech.

I'm like the personal assistant, on-call (unofficial) therapist, social director, and peacekeeper for the person who hires me. It feels like I'm doing a job that people need but are scared to admit they need. That's why they keep it a secret. I am proud of my work, even if it seems odd to others.

Only a few times have people caught on that I'm a hired professional. Once, a bride told her mom I was a friend from high school and then her mom opened the yearbook and didn't see me in it. That was awkward - and the bride had to admit I was hired to her mom only.

People think the job is extra fun because they think this job is just about the party - it's not.

I'm always sober on the job, often work with the person hiring me months before the wedding helping them with all the stress in their lives surrounding the wedding, and usually clock around 25,000 steps per wedding (in heels) to make sure the bride or groom has everything they need and the guests are behaved. I also have to kick out uninvited guests and break up fights. I've even stood between fistfights at lots of weddings.

The hardest part? Dealing with cold feet. I've been the go-to person for brides and grooms who want to back out of the wedding right before it starts. It's heartbreaking to be there for them during that decision, and they often find it easier to open up to a stranger rather than confiding in a family member or friend.

Some moments create lifelong memories and friendships.

Glantz's first time as a bridesmaid for her cousin's wedding in 2011.
Courtesy of Jen Glantz

People always wonder if I actually become friends with the people who hire me and the answer is that sometimes I do. That's the best part. I spend anywhere from a year to three months getting to know the person and I learn a lot about them. Often we really do click and remain friends after the wedding.

I'm still good friends with the first bride I ever worked with, who found me from the Craigslist ad, Ashley. We've gotten together over the years and recently became pandemic pen-pals.

I offer a range of bridesmaid-for-hire packages.

In addition to working with those getting married, I also work with maids-of-honour on writing their speech and planning the bachelorette party so they don't have to. My packages range from the Bridesmaid for Hire service which includes being there on the wedding day and optionally, the bachelorette party and bridal shower - that starts at around $2,500 (R42,000). The person hiring me also covers travel, accommodation and the dress. The maid-of-honour packages begin around $350 (R5,000) for speech writing and $500 (R8,000) for bachelorette party planning. Every wedding is different, so I often speak with the person who wants to hire me and create a custom package for them.

I'm no longer doing this alone.

Since starting the business more than six years ago, more than 50,000 people have applied to work for the company. I've hired people to work weddings for me, but also offer a training program where people can learn how to start a business like this on their own.

By now, I have way more dresses than the movie '27 dresses.'

Her closet is home to over 50 bridesmaid dresses.
Courtesy of Jen Glantz

The souvenir I get to take home after all these weddings are the bridesmaid dresses. Sometimes I get a new dress; other times, the person hiring me tells me what colour dress to wear and I pick from my collection. I have over 50 bridesmaid dresses. I've had many more in the past, but over the years I've donated them to different organisations and given them to friends who need dresses for weddings or events.

Working as a hired bridesmaid for strangers comes with perks.

You get to enter people's lives and be there for them during an exciting and stressful time. But it can also be hard and emotional, especially when the wedding gets called off last-minute.

In the end, I'm proud I was able to see a gap in the wedding industry and start a profession that didn't exist before and helps people out before and on their wedding day.

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