On paper your wedding should be the ‘happiest day of your life’, but factor in juggling friendship groups, in-laws and family feuds – along with ensuring the day runs smoothly and fixing last-minute crises – and the reality can look a little different.
Enter, the professional bridesmaid. She’ll be there to help you throughout the entire process – from dress shopping and hen party planning, to warming pre-ceremony cold feet and straightening your train before you step down the aisle... For a price, of course.
New Yorker Jen Glantz is credited with inventing the concept of back in 2014. The idea for her website, Bridesmaid for Hire, came after she’d been asked to be a bridesmaid by two different friends on the same day, and her flatmate joked she was becoming a professional.
Describing it as a “lightbulb moment”, Glantz posted an advert on Craigslist. The next morning, she woke up to over 250 emails, and by 2015 she had quit her copywriting job to be a bridesmaid full-time. Now, four years on, Glantz has even recruited a number of ‘back up-maids’ in case she’s booked for two weddings on the same day, or if a bride wants to hire two or three professional bridesmaids.
Describing herself as an “on-call therapist, virtual assistant, social director and peacekeeper”, Glantz offers a series of ‘packages’ – ranging from $1,200 (£900) for a ‘virtual bridesmaid’, offering advice at all-hours via text and email, to $2,000 (£1,500) for the full bridesmaid package, including pre-wedding help and Glantz walking the bride down the aisle. She says most her bill for a wedding has ever come to is about $3,000 (£2,300).
While many of her clients often have six or more other bridesmaids, others come to Glantz with no close friends at all. "It happens, lives grow apart and some women find themselves without that friendship to call on," she says. "I am that emotional support system for women who don't necessarily have the people around them to help plan their big day and support them through the inevitable stress."
And it’s not just brides-to-be that call on her services. “I had mothers who wanted to give this service as a gift to their daughters. I had grooms saying they'd pay me however much I wanted so the bride wouldn't bother them with wedding planning. I had maids of honour asking if I could do the dirty work for them so they wouldn't have to figure out where to go clubbing for the bachelorette party, what kinds of games to play during the bridal shower, or what to write for the wedding speech they would soon have to give,” she added.
Unconventional as it may sound, being a professional bridesmaid is now a bonafide career choice – and it’s not just confined to the States. With the average UK wedding costing at an all-time high (a whopping £27,161), a few extra hundred on top to ensure the day is stress-free doesn’t seem like much for some.
Tiffany Wright set up her Chelsea-based business, The Undercover Bridesmaid, in 2016 after attending a number of weddings and realising many brides weren’t able to relax and enjoy their big days as much as they should have.
“Although brides often have bridesmaids at their sides, there’s not a single person on the day who’s completely dedicated to the bride,” she says. “While wedding planners focus on vendors and venues, a professional bridesmaid does whatever the bride needs her to do.”
Wright charges £250 for her advice and planning help in the run-up to the wedding, and £100-an-hour to attend wedding dress fittings and support on the day itself, which can include everything from acting as an emotional crutch and organising the other bridesmaids on the morning of the wedding, to solving family dramas and dancing with a drunken uncle at the reception.
In some cases, she has an added complicated too – the desire for secrecy. When a bride-to-be doesn’t want her family, friends or even future husband to know she’s hired in help, Wright and the bride have to come up with a believable backstory. “Often the bride doesn’t want anyone to know they’ve hired someone in case people think they haven’t got any friends or the other bridesmaids are offended,” she says. “So we’ll pretend I’m someone she went to university with or met on her gap year.”
Then, there are the bridezillas, who provide Wright with long lists of demands. “Because of social media it’s no longer just about having a good time on the day,” she explains. “Brides also want their wedding to look perfect when they post photos online afterwards.”
The most unusual request she’s had? “I’m working with one bride at the moment who wants me to dye my hair brown so that I match the other bridesmaids,” she says. “Let’s just say I’m considering it – anything to keep her happy!”
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