I was 22 years old when I became a bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding. I’d never been a bridesmaid before, and one of the biggest mistakes I made was not ordering my dress on time.
Thankfully, it came on the morning of the wedding, but I felt like I did everything wrong because I didn’t know how to be a bridesmaid. But after that experience, I got the hang of it.
By the time I was in my mid-20s, almost all of my friends had gotten married, and I was a bridesmaid at each of their weddings. At that point, I had been a bridesmaid almost 12 times and it became frustrating because I began thinking: Why is everyone making me their bridesmaid?
One night, in June 2014, two very distant friends asked me to be a bridesmaid on the same night. I was venting to my roommate, saying: “I don’t understand, why me?”
She said: “It’s because you’re good at it.”
At the time, I thought what I was doing was pretty simple. I showed up on time to weddings, I didn’t cause any drama. I went with the flow and did as I was told. I always made sure that when I showed up as a bridesmaid for my friends I made them feel comfortable and put their happiness above mine.
So, naturally, people started to think, “I’ve seen Jen at weddings and we’re distant friends, let me ask her to be my bridesmaid.”
That night, I thought: “If I could be a bridesmaid for distant friends, maybe I can do this for strangers?”
I decided to post an anonymous advertisement online, offering my services as a professional bridesmaid to strangers. I wrote that I would do everything for the bride, from helping them go to the bathroom with their wedding dress on, which is notoriously difficult, to dancing on the dance floor and getting the party started.
When I checked my inbox two days later, I had over 300 emails from people all over the world who had an interest in hiring me to be a bridesmaid. I was shocked because I didn’t have any expectations, and I honestly didn’t think anyone would respond.
I thought: “My goodness, this is crazy. But, maybe there is a business that I could make out of this?”
At the time, I didn’t have a business background. I was a poetry major in college and worked as a copywriter. But that gave me the skills to read through the emails and see exactly what people needed.
Two days after reading through the emails, I launched my own professional bridesmaid website overnight, and a week later I took on my first client: Ashley, from Minnesota.
I remember reading Ashley’s email and falling in love with her. The reason why I wanted to do this job was that I was fascinated by connecting with strangers and helping people, especially women.
In her email, Ashley told me her mom had passed away a few years ago. Her best friend was jealous of her getting married and trying to sabotage her wedding. Ashley fired her, but the wedding was in a month, and she didn’t have a lot of female support in her life. She wanted a cheerleader and a support system on the day.
Her email touched me because we’ve all been in a place in our lives where we’ve felt very lonely, despite having people around us.
So, in September 2014, I flew to Minnesota to be a bridesmaid for Ashley. The night before her wedding, we stayed up all night talking and getting to know each other.
On the morning of the wedding, I did everything that I would have done for a friend. I woke her up and we had a great morning together. I was with her when she got her hair and makeup done, I helped her get into her wedding dress and fixed the problems that happened.
During the wedding, her bracelet broke and I was running around trying to find a hot glue gun to put it back together. She had some moments where she was scared of some drama happening between family members, so I was able to step in and mitigate it before it got out of hand. This was eight years ago and Ashley and I are still in contact.
Sometime later, I was asked to be a professional bridesmaid for two guys who lived in Australia. Gay marriage was illegal in Australia, so they came to America to get married. They’d never been to New York City before and they wanted to get married in the middle of Times Square. I live in New York City, which made the wedding so fun for them.
What makes this interesting is that before the wedding happened, they wouldn’t FaceTime or Skype me. I thought that maybe they were catfishing me.
I remember showing up in the middle of Times Square, waiting for them to arrive, and standing by an NYPD officer in case of an emergency.
As I saw them come toward me, I realized that they were the real deal. They were also the sweetest people and we had such a great time together, even though I was their only bridesmaid. It was just such a memorable experience, and we still keep in touch.
Over the years, I have noticed that two groups of people hire me. Some people have no genuine friends, which may sound weird but is more common than we think. These people want a person who can show up and have their best interests in mind.
The other group of people have bridesmaids, but they are a disaster. They often cause the bride to be stressed and anxious. These brides need a professional to step in, have their back, and block them from the drama.
A lot of people think that this service is for people who want to fill up their bridal party with an extra bridesmaid, but that’s not the case. People don’t hire me because they’re short of a bridesmaid. They spend the money to hire me because they have a need that only a professional can fill.
What’s interesting is that the majority of the people who hire me don’t want anybody else in their life to know. So, oftentimes, I have a fake name and backstory, which is an interesting part of the job that I respect.
Being a good bridesmaid is more simple than we think. Having boundaries is a big part of that. Before you say yes to a wedding, ask the bride what is required of you specifically. Being very clear about expectations before you accept the role is key, that way you won’t end up resenting the bride.
If you are a bridesmaid, you really have to make sure that you’re putting some of your needs second. I often see bridesmaids crying and screaming because they don’t like the way that they look on the wedding day.
As a bridesmaid, try to be as easygoing as possible and try not to give in to drama during the wedding process. Whether it’s helping the bride figure out transportation for the wedding, or helping them stuff welcome bags, or helping them with party favors—find ways to make that person’s life easier.
In a year, I work 30 to 50 weddings. A lot of my services start at around $2,500 per wedding, and will increase depending on how many pre-wedding events the bride wants me to attend, and how long she may want me at her actual wedding. So, $2,500 is the baseline price, and then it will go up based on all of the other aspects of the role.
In 2016, after working on over 50 weddings in a year, I felt burnt out and low, so I started accepting applications for people to work for me. Since then, I’ve received over 100,000 applications from people who want to be professional bridesmaids.
Sadly, I can’t hire most of them, but I have hired people in the past to work weddings with me. I’ve also hired friends. It’s a tough job to hire for because it doesn’t matter to me if you’ve been a bridesmaid many times, or have never been one before.
What’s more important to me are some of the soft skills that you have. Are you able to get along with people of different personalities? Are you able to problem-solve? What do you do in very stressful situations?
Being a professional bridesmaid is a job that has a very high turnover rate. Most people work two or three weddings and never want to do it again. There’s a misconception that being a professional bridesmaid is very glamorous, but actually, it’s physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting.
I think it’s a job that requires you to have an extreme emotional capacity because you are showing up for a person during what should be the best day of their life. But so often, it’s the most stressful, hectic, and anxiety-ridden day of their life.
A lot of people think that weddings are perfect and everything goes well, but I have seen the opposite happen. I’ve seen people get cold feet and not want to get married, and back out of the wedding. I’ve seen fights break out at weddings. I’ve seen people tell the mother of the groom she has to leave or they’re calling the police. I’ve seen brides get drunk and have to go to the hospital on their wedding day. I’ve seen some really tough things.
Not only is that emotionally exhausting, but if I let it, it could mess with my view of love and marriage. At one point, it made me question if I wanted either. And when I did find love, it made me think: “How do I make sure this is the right person and what kind of wedding do we want?”
I absolutely love getting to meet strangers from all over the world and getting to learn about them. I’ve learned such incredible lessons about love, life, priorities, cultures, and friendship. These are lessons that I feel so grateful to have learned from strangers.
If I never had this job, I wouldn’t have met wonderful people like Ashley from Minnesota, or the sweet Australian couple. Because of that, I want to keep doing it.
Jen Glantz is a professional bridesmaid, entrepreneur, and author of The Wild, Weird, & Wacky Stories of Life as a Bridesmaid for Hire.
All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
As told to Newsweek associate editor, Carine Harb.
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