Last summer, Jen Glantz posted a now-famous Craigslist post advertising her services as a professional bridesmaid after being asked to be a bridesmaid in a staggering number of weddings. When her inbox flooded with responses, Glantz decided to start an actual business — and Bridesmaid for Hire was born.
Glantz currently works with 27 clients (brides, bridesmaids, maids of honor) in a variety of capacities: bridesmaid, virtual planner, wedding-day services, supplier of bridesmaids to fill out bridal parties, speechwriter, or even the source of fun guests. Her services range from $300 to $2,000.
Glantz’s recent call for applicants to join her team resulted in more than 1,000 resumes from around the world, and she’s beginning to build an international network. She hopes to delegate the more hands-on tasks to trained bridesmaids and branch out into groomsmen and best men.
I spent two days with Glantz as she helped women negotiate with vendors, debate the necessity of dance classes (use YouTube instead), try on dresses, and talk a lot about money. Here’s what I learned.
1. If You’re in a Wedding Party, Talk Money
Glantz fielded a call from a first-time bridesmaid, an experience she quipped would be a “big milestone and stressor” for her client. The bridesmaid was full of familiar questions: If the wedding is over a year away, what should I be doing now? What sort of event should I plan for the bachelorette party? Are we supposed to pay for the bride at the bachelorette party?
This last question touched on the real problem: the unspoken financial expectations put on wedding parties. Between transportation costs, a dress, and planning and attending a bachelorette party, the costs can get out of control. Glantz is on a mission to change that. “I’m so pro the conversation about money,” she says, and that when you say yes to being a bridesmaid, you’re up-front with the bride about your financial limitations.
Even if you think it will be uncomfortable, it’s critical to initiate a conversation with other bridesmaids when it comes to things like the bachelorette party, so that you can voice what you’re comfortable spending. And note: Glantz thinks there shouldn’t be any obligation to pay fully for the bride’s portion.
See what else I learned.
2. You’re Set Up to Overspend
If your negotiating skills aren’t up to par, brides can easily fall into traps laid by the wedding industry. Vendors rely on the social awkwardness of negotiating or your reluctance to say you’ll shop around. Glantz coaches clients to negotiate (or does it for them), pointing out that prices are often flexible.
For example, one of her clients mentioned that a photographer quoted her $1,500. I looked online to get a ballpark figure for similar services and found few concrete numbers. Since it seemed impossible to nail down actual prices, that estimate sounded reasonable. Glantz pointed out that this is a major issue in the wedding industry: You’re told what to shell out for, but not how much.
Because Glantz is a professional and not your friend, she’s able to sidestep the awkwardness of talking about money. Instead, she’s firm about discussing your budget.
3. Don’t Let Emotions Guide You
Part of Glantz’s duties include going to bridal stores and trying on bridesmaid dresses or taking pictures of wedding dresses for clients who don’t have the time or ability to shop in-person. This is how I found myself in a Manhattan David’s Bridal, armed with the specifications to find short dresses in either purple or gray for a client’s upcoming wedding.
When it comes to dress shopping, stores will try to coax an emotional moment out of you and urge you to buy right then — our sales associate mentioned that we were about to “make her cry” as we posed for photos together. (We had just met.)
To get around strategies that make you want to buy immediately, Glantz advises: Don’t be snowed by time sensitive deals. Write down product numbers so you can shop online for cheaper options. And take tons of photos, because mirrors, as Cher wisely noted in Clueless, are not to be trusted. (You may need to snap shots covertly, since some boutiques prohibit it.)
4. Unrealistic Expectations Can Cost You
Sites like Pinterest and Etsy give the impression that you can DIY everything — without professional help. But that’s an illusion. Despite walls of blush dresses and peonies in mason jars, there’s a lack of concrete information. And the sheer volume of junk you have to slog through to find anything useful is overwhelming
Plus, everything is filtered through a super positive, upbeat lens. (Glantz writes for many bridal websites, but says some won’t publish her because she’s too honest.)
The truth: Pressure to follow trends and traditions can up your costs. Glantz warns clients not to waste money on things that don’t mean something to them. “A vibe that encompasses the bride and groom's taste, personality, and desires should trump any trend or vintage tradition.”
So if engagement photos or a garter toss doesn’t seem all that important to you, save your cash.