No one has more best friends than Jen Glantz. The 31-year-old entrepreneur works with anywhere between 20 and 35 brides per year since breaking ground on her business, Bridesmaid For Hire, in 2015. The gist of her pitch is remarkably simple: Glantz is not a wedding planner, she will not schedule the father-daughter dance or color coordinate the unruly groomsmen, but she will serve as the emotional fulcrum on the biggest day of your life by being the best bridesmaid she can be. Sometimes that job is easy. Sometimes all it takes is eating cake and breaking in the dance floor. But other times it means extinguishing long-simmering fires that flare up between newly ordained in-laws, or arriving in the clutch when a maid of honor drops out after an ugly meltdown. Consider it contract-based female solidarity, for around $2,000 a client.
Glantz tells me that Bridesmaid For Hire originated as a Craigslist ad, posted after serving as a civilian bridesmaid for countless friends. The hundreds of emails she received in response to that ad validated her suspicion that, within the titanic $72 billion wedding industry, there was room for a service that focuses entirely on the well-being of a stressed out, overwhelmed bride. Today, the business is how she makes a living. Glantz works with her clients anywhere from three months to a full year before their wedding date, after establishing a rate with them that hinges on what they want out of the service. She’s trained other women to be part-time bridesmaid engineers, written two memoirs, and has diversified Bridesmaid For Hire into a number of distinct verticals and financial plans. (If, for instance, you only need an hour of her expert counseling, you can schedule a “1-on-1 wedding vent session.”)
Some clients, says Glantz, are completely open about hiring her services, not caring who knows that they’ve brought on a professional bridesmaid to make the ceremony run smoothly. Others demand absolute confidentiality, which means Glantz often invents fictional backstories and fake names to seamlessly integrate them with the rest of the bridal party. Every wedding she works is a little bit different. Some brides hire her to create a buffer between the Problem Relatives, some are at a point in their life where they don’t have a ton of close friends, and some just want to inject a sparky personality in a staid social environment. We talked about all of that, as well as Glantz’s own upcoming wedding, where for the first time in her life, she’ll get a taste of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a bridesmaid’s tender love and care.
So how did you first come up with the idea of being a bridesmaid for hire?
So early in my 20s my friends got engaged, and they were constantly asking me to be their bridesmaid. Two things happened: I learned that behind the scenes at weddings, there was nobody whose job it was to be there for the bride. Sure there’s a wedding planner, but a wedding planner’s job is to set up the wedding. It’s not to deal with the emotional labor, and your friends can’t deal with all the ins and outs of your wedding. There was one day in particular where two friends asked me to be their bridesmaid on the same night, and my roommate said, “Jen, you’re a professional bridesmaid!” That got me thinking that if I could do this for friends, I could do it for the wedding industry.
How did the business pick up steam?
I had no business experience before starting Bridesmaid For Hire, so I thought the best way to test an idea was to put it out to the universe. I put an ad on Craigslist, and I got hundreds of emails from all around the world from people who wanted to hire me. From there I wrote tons of articles for a bunch of bridal magazines speaking out about the wedding industry, and being a bridesmaid, and that’s how the business took off. I never paid for advertising or marketing. It was strictly just word-of-mouth, and me establishing myself as someone who was very outspoken.
Were you surprised that there was such an interest in hiring a bridesmaid?
It didn’t surprise me but it validated the idea. I saw that there were so many areas that people needed help with in my friends’ weddings. Not the wedding planning, not picking out the flowers, but dealing with a difficult mother-in-law, and what to do when your maid of honor is quitting on the day of the ceremony. These were problems that couldn’t just be happening with my friends. I watched my friends fire bridesmaids, I watched grooms go missing, and I realized there was a business here after I worked my first wedding for a bride named Ashley. After I finished, I realized that this was a business that nobody had the courage to touch, and I was going to do something with it.
So when a client brings you on, what’s the conversation you have with them to figure out what they’re looking for? Is every wedding unique that way? Or are you generally able to follow some sort of formula?
Because it is such a unique position, a lot of it is figuring out if my client’s needs fit the business. We’re not a modeling agency, where we just send out humans. Some people contact us and say, “We need two bridesmaids that look like this,” and we say, “This is not what we are.” What we are is a service for women who need that support on the biggest day of their life, and beforehand. So a lot of it is interviewing the person, seeing what their needs are, and a lot of it is making sure that our personalities jive. If they’re hiring me to be their friend for a year before the wedding, we need to make sure that that relationship can exist.
If they are looking for something more like a wedding planner, I’ll refer them to that job. Because that’s not what we do. I’m not going to be able to pick your flowers out or taste your cake with you, but there are plenty of people who will.
How long is the terms of engagement when you take on a client? From getting hired, to going to the wedding, and finishing up the assignment.
Brides sometimes hire me anywhere between three months to a year for a wedding. I’ve been hired for two weeks before a wedding. It really depends.
How often is it someone who just wants a couple extra bridesmaids, just so they fill out a wedding. And how often is it someone that wants to build some more longterm emotional intimacy?
It’s mostly people trying to build that relationship. Everyone who hires me has a story. It’s the one time in your life where all of your friends and family are coming together, so when they hire me they’re not looking to fill a quota, or to have that tenth bridesmaid. They’re looking for someone to be there, to answer their questions for them. They rely on me for that truthful advice, unlike a wedding planner or anyone in the wedding industry, I have no incentives to lie or upcharge them. It allows me to be very honest with them.
What do you look for in someone who’s applying for a job with your company?
It’s definitely somebody who can deal with all different kinds of people, and has respect for all kinds of people. You need to be able to think on your feet, because a lot of times at weddings you’re running around putting fires out. And also someone that has some endurance. You’ll clock 30,000 steps in one wedding. Really simply, you need to have a strong, passionate love for people. That’s what gets me through the job.
What have been some of the more unique circumstances that you’ve entered as a bridesmaid for hire?
I’ve had people who had fired their maid of honor a month before the wedding because they were causing drama. I’ve gotten people who have reached a point in their life where they don’t have a lot of close friends. That’s a natural progression of life. I’ve had people who’ve had a very closed, private ceremony because a family member isn’t doing so well, and they just want to get through this fast. Every wedding comes with a situation, but they’re the same situations that everyone goes through. Nobody has a wedding without some sort of wrench getting thrown into it.
Have any of those clients become real life friends, past the parameters of your assignment?
There’s a handful of people. I’ve been doing this for five years, and there’s people that I still keep in contact with. I see my first bride, Ashley, quite frequently. But on the flipside, there’s plenty of people who, at the end of the wedding, I say, “Great to meet you!” And I never see them again. Because the relationship is what it is.
What it’s like for you to exist in a constant state of matrimony, where you’re constantly in the middle of some extremely high emotions?
That’s something I don’t think people realize about this job. I’ve had 30,000 people apply to work for me, and all their applications say, “I’d be great at this because I love to party.” It’s not a party; it’s an emotional roller coaster. There were some years where I worked 50 plus weddings in a year and I’d come home crying. It’s emotionally draining.
Weddings are not the best day of people’s lives. It’s often the most chaotic. It really affected my perspective on love and marriage, and also just friendship. It’s the kind of thing where you walk into a situation, and you never know what is going to happen. A lot of the chaos and drama falls on you. I’m the person the bride is screaming at. I’m the person the mother of the bride is screaming at. And, when I first started out, I saw some very intense things. The average person goes to 10 to 15 weddings in their lives. That was two months for me.
Have you become an expert at all in defusing wedding-day drama?
I always say that the qualification of the job is you use of humor to break up the situations. And also to see the future a little bit and predict these situations before they happen and stop them. But that’s absolutely the reason I’m there. To be that bodyguard.
How often do your clients want you to not disclose that you were hired for this event? Are people ever open about that at the wedding?
Over 75 percent will have me either sign some sort of agreement, or ask me to keep it a secret, with a backstory and a fake name. But there’s a handful of people who are like, “I hired Jen and I’m cool with it!” I respect both sides.
Do you come up with the backstory with the bride?
Yeah, because it has to be something that nobody is able to challenge. I always say like, “Who’s going to be there? Is there anyone who’s going to not be here from this part of your life?” And they’re like, “Yeah, you can be a friend from this hobby that I had.” But there’s a lot of work in maintaining and researching the back story. I have to know street corners I used to live on. It’s never determined before we talk.
Has anyone gotten suspicious of you at a wedding?
Oh yeah, sometimes a bride has hired me when she has eight other bridesmaids. They’re like, “Who are you? I’ve never met you before? You went to that grad school with her?” But I’m really good at deflecting. I don’t think they suspect that she hired me, but they’re wondering why they haven’t met me before. I’m the absent friend, so I come off as the bad friend.
Do you think anyone has just hired you for the fun of it?
I think maybe, but they haven’t outwardly told me. I’ve had situations where I’m like, “Okay! What do you need, what do you need?” And they’re like, “Just sit here, just dance.” I think some people do hire me just for the energy I bring to things.
So you’re getting married soon, which must be such a trip considering how you’ve spent so much of your professional life working on other people’s weddings. How does it feel to finally be at the center of attention at a wedding?
It felt impossible. Right after getting engaged I had a panic attack. That’s why I started Finally The Bride, which is where I’m inviting strangers to plan my entire wedding. That’s helped me relieve the tension. I want my wedding to not look like anyone else’s, and I’ve seen hundreds. One thing this job has shown me is the different dimensions of love, and I think that helped me get to where I am today with the right person. People spend too long planning the right wedding without considering the right person.
Will you be hiring bridesmaids for your wedding?
Well, currently I’m letting people vote on if I should hire my own bridesmaids. I’m planning on having complete strangers as my bridesmaids, and I’m planning on opening it up to strangers who have hired me in the past to come celebrate. (Each chapter of Glantz’s wedding is being documented in an online book.)
Is there any part of this job, where you’ve been a stranger entering other people’s weddings, that has affirmed a faith in the kindness of strangers?
Strangers are the most important people we can connect with. Sit next to a stranger on a park bench and you’ll tell them things you don’t tell anyone else. The core of what Bridesmaid For Hire is, is that people want to open up to people, but they’re afraid if they do that to their friends and family they’ll be judged. When you let strangers into your life, even when you least expect it, it can be one of the most life-changing things you can do.
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