The surreal life of a professional bridesmaid

Jen Glantz sat in her Manhattan apartment on a Friday night with a bottle of two-buck chuck, a keyboard, and years’ worth of frustration. 

She’d just hung up with two friends. Were they friends? She wondered. Neither had been in touch for years, but they came to her with the same request: Would she be their bridesmaid? 

She was 26, and she’d been a bridesmaid at least six times. For some friends, the role cost $700, for others $2k. She’d dipped into her savings, borrowed money from her parents to cover the costs. 

When she vented to her roommate, she responded, “They ask you because you’re so good at it, you could be a professional.” 

After a long night of bridesmaid-ing for a friend in her early 20s, Glantz puts her feet up. (Provided by Jen Glantz)

Glantz stared at the dregs pooling at the bottom of the wine bottle beside her. 

She typed out an ad on Craigslist: “Professional bridesmaid - w4w - 26 (NYC). Let me be there for you, this time, if: you don’t have any other girlfriends except your third cousin, twice removed, who is often found sticking her tongue down an empty bottle of red wine,” she wrote. “You need someone to take control and make sure bridesmaid #4 buys her dress on time and doesn’t show up 3 hours late.” 

And then she went to bed.

The Craigslist ad that kick-started Bridesmaid for Hire. (Provided by Jen Glantz)

The emails poured in. Hundreds of notes from brides in need. Interview requests from reporters who’d seen the ad. Marriage proposals of her own. 

In the ten years since that hazy night, Glantz has parlayed what began as a Craigslist lark into a fully fledged, six-figure business as the country’s most prolific professional bridesmaid. 

Cold feet

Standing at the back of a church in Staten Island, Glantz felt her body go numb. She’d heard the words “I can’t do this” before. She’d even helped end engagements. But here was a bride, minutes away from the altar, grabbing her arm and telling her she hated the groom.

“I said, ‘OK, we can get out of here, I’ll call an Uber and we can leave,’” she says. First, though, she told the bride she had to talk to him. She put them in a room together, set a timer on her phone, and waited. 

Ten minutes later, the bride walked down the aisle, feigning bliss. Glantz was the only guest who knew they’d decided to go through with the wedding for show but not the marriage itself — they’d broken up in that room. 

“After the ceremony ended, the groomsmen were coming up to me saying, ‘Thank you so much for fixing whatever argument was happening.’ They had no idea what was going on in these people’s lives,” she says. “I kept thinking to myself, we hide so much from the people in our lives that we claim to be our best friends.” 

It felt surreal. Then again, so did the rest of her life.

The Hustle

Nine months after posting the ad, Glantz was living a double life. Weekends were spent flying from state to state, popping bottles of champagne, running interference with relatives, delivering maid of honor speeches for couples she didn’t truly know. 

During the week, she was working as a copywriter at a tech startup. “I was pretending to go to doctor’s appointments but… going to meet with a client,” she says. 

She hit crisis-level burnout when she found herself crouched under the sink in an airport bathroom in Atlanta, still wearing the dress from a wedding the night before, crying because she wouldn’t make it to the next gig in time. 

When her boss at the startup called her into his office and told her she’d be laid off, she decided to go all in on her business. 

One critical bridesmaid task? Kicking off the dance floor. (Provided by Jen Glantz)

Still, years later, the pretending aspect never gets easier. 

When a bride reaches out, Glantz’s services start at $2.5k and go up from there, depending on how much support someone needs. Do they need unlimited texting and calling? Bachelorette party planning help? An extra set of eyes to go dress shopping? 

After they build a package, Glantz gets to work learning everything she can about her client’s life, relationship, and hopes for her big day.  

Working with the bride, she develops a cover story to explain her identity to other wedding guests. If the cover story is that she went to high school with the bride, she memorizes the street names near the school and extracurriculars they did together. If she and the bride decide they met at yoga, she learns the names of the studio instructors. 

Nails painted? Check. Hair done? Check. Phone charged? Check. (Provided by Jen Glantz)

Once, she nearly blew her own cover when an enthusiastic bridesmaid wanted to add her on Facebook and the last name on the profile she pulled up — Glantz — didn’t match her fake identity. (She hid in a bathroom stall and spun up a fake Facebook account.) 

Another time, she spent hours wondering why the mother of the bride was ice-cold only to learn later that her cover story — a friend from high school — melted when the bride’s mom pulled out her high-school yearbook and exposed the truth. 

The Hustle

After all the prep, Glantz puts on a new dress every weekend (paid for by the bride) and walks into a room full of strangers. 

One weekend, working a wedding in her Florida hometown of Boca Raton, she asked her dad to give her a ride to the venue. “I just couldn’t get out of the car,” she says. He drove circles around the hotel until her panic subsided. 

She knew, once she walked into that bridal suite, that anything could happen. She’s been bitten, bribed, and tripped by guests in hot pursuit of the bouquet. Once, after a ring-bearer dog defecated in the aisle, she scooped up the dog poop with her bare hands to prevent the bride from soiling her dress. 

“You don’t know who’s going to come at you or who’s not going to like you or how the bride is going to treat you,” Glantz says. 

So she takes a deep breath, knocks on the door, walks in, and starts the act. After hundreds of weddings, Glantz knows what personality to wear, what kind of energy to bring to the day. 

“And I also know that the bathroom is a great place to go if I need to reset or cry or text somebody,” she says. “It never gets easier, walking into the unknown every time.”

Scaling up

Ten years after posting that Craigslist ad, Glantz is 35 years old and shares her one-bedroom Williamsburg apartment with a husband, a dog, and a baby. 

That means her stash of bridesmaids dresses gets split — she keeps 25 in a garbage bag in her closet, and another 25 at her in-laws’ house. The rest she’s donated or given to friends. 

The business brings in more than $100k a year, and she has freelance bridesmaids who work for her when she can’t, or when a bride is concerned someone will recognize her as a bridesmaid for hire. 

Glantz posing with some of the many dresses she’s worn over the years. (Daphne Youree)

She’s received tens of thousands of applications from people who want to work for her, but she’s found it’s a tricky position to fill. There are no set qualifications — Glantz herself majored in poetry in college — and the burnout rate is high, so she still works most weddings herself. 

In the meantime, she’s building out other parts of the business. 

  • Vow writing. “I have a guy right now in my inbox. He’s like, ‘I’m getting married in two days, I need help with my vows.’” (Yes, she took the job, and no, she doesn’t charge a rush rate.) 
  • Maid of honor speeches, which cost $375 if they’re written by Glantz or $35 if she gets her AI assistant to help. “I was going into labor, and had someone who asked if I could do one in three days. I gave birth on a Tuesday and had the speech written by Friday morning,” she says. 
  • Products. Her book, Always a Bridesmaid (For Hire), came out in 2017, and in 2021 she launched The Newlywed Card Game, a game for couples. 

Happily ever expensive

When Glantz met her now-husband, he was so supportive of her business that she tried to get him to join forces as a groomsman for hire. He declined, though he did replace her dad as chauffeur. 

The Hustle

When the pair got married, there was no fanfare. They’d initially planned a huge celebration, but when covid hit and they had to cancel, Glantz felt relieved. Eventually, on the five-year anniversary of their first date, they went back to the coffee shop where they first met with an officiant and a few friends, and tied the knot. There were no bridesmaids. 

Glantz thinks the role itself is headed toward extinction. Before the pandemic, bridal parties ballooned to 10 or 12 bridesmaids, she says. After, the industry has seen something like a course-correction. 

“These bridesmaids dresses are the most expensive things I own in my closet, and I hate them. And most people feel that way,” she says.

And though she’s worked weddings that cost upward of $500k, she’s noticed budgets constricting over the last few years, to match the economic climate. 

She thinks weddings will get less extra, as a result. But if the latest trend of hiring birds of prey as ring bearers (for $1.2k) is any indication, it’s going to take a while. 

Where she sees people splurging is on bachelorette parties — which, of course, means bridesmaids take the hit. Brides are asking friends to take multiple days off work, fly international, bring multiple themed outfits, and foot the bill. 

The Hustle

That there’s a market for a hired bridesmaid, Glantz says, shows just how high the expectations for weddings have become. Thanks to social media, the pressure to have a picture-perfect family, friend group, wedding day, and marriage weighs heavily on her brides. 

“People post these pictures from their wedding as if everything’s perfect. And I was at your wedding — it was a complete disaster, your dad got drunk and almost hit somebody,” she says. “I just want people to know that most people getting married do not have perfect lives. And if you don’t have what they have, that’s OK.” 

It also tells her something else: that people don’t have the support networks they need, not just on their wedding day but in everyday life. “Making friends, maintaining friends is really hard,” she says. “I think people are lonelier than ever.”

And that’s what Glantz is really selling: a support system. A friend-meets-therapist-meets-assistant who will always text you back and can weather any crisis, from holding another bridesmaid’s hair back as she pukes to running interference between divorced parents reuniting for the first time, no matter how mentally, physically, or emotionally exhausting. 

“I don’t like weddings. I still don’t,” she says. “I love supporting people through difficult times in their lives.”

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Topics: Entrepreneurs

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