Jen Glantz has been a bridesmaid over 50 times. As the founder of Bridesmaid for Hire, she's turned being a bridesmaid into a full-time job. From helping brides pee with their dresses on to talking them through last-minute cold feet, Glantz does what many of us would gladly forego.
She acts as an on-call therapist, personal assistant and social director. She can stand with you at the altar, dance with your drunk uncle, and chase away wedding crashers. And, if you don't want others to find out you've hired a bridesmaid, she will go "undercover" as your friend.
By 25, she had been a bridesmaid eight times. When she woke up in a hotel room next to a bride in hysterics because she couldn't fit into her wedding dress; "I instantly went into super-bridesmaid mode. I realized that while being a bridesmaid was not a "job," to me, it was something I was good at. And I wanted to be able to do what I did for my friends for strangers who didn't have people in their lives."
VICE talked to Glantz to find out why the hell anyone would want to be a bridesmaid all the time.
Why does being conscripted into being a bridesmaid bring out the worst in people?
Glantz: There's a lot of pressure surrounding the whole situation. There's a lot of resentment that happens when you're a bridesmaid because you're spending so much money and you're saying yes to things you never would say yes to. When else would you tell your friend in real life that you're going to spend $400 on a dress for one night? When else would you agree to paint your nails a pale pink colour? When else would you agree to spend $1,000 on a girls weekend to Vegas, just because someone is getting married?
There's a lot of resentment and pressure that happens and that tears people apart in the bridal party. It's just very unnatural. It's one thing to want to be a good friend to somebody and it's another to have to be put in a position where you're compromising your savings account, and your schedule, for a person.
What qualities does a pro bridesmaid need to have?
You need to have a ton of patience. You need to be the kind of person who is a calming force to others. You need to approach situations with a lot of humor. And you need to be able to relate to all different types of people and understand that while their problems may seem silly to you, it's their biggest problem at that moment and you need to be able to help them.
How much of your job is moderating group dynamics?
A lot. Whether it's the group dynamic of other bridesmaids, or family members, a lot of it is becoming a peacekeeper. I walk into very intense situations where people come together who are not blending, and my job is to make sure that they get through an eight-hour day keeping the peace and not starting any drama or shouting opinions too loudly. So a lot of it is crowd control.
There's been times where I've been a bodyguard for a bride who was terrified that her ex-maid of honour was gonna come crash the wedding. I worked a wedding where a bride had six bridesmaids and she hired me because all six of them were about to tear each others' hair out. She needed me there to make sure they all gelled together and no one threw punches.
You really just need to know how to read people, deal with people, and also when to separate people. A lot of that is making sure they trust and respect you - which is hard when a lot of them are just meeting you on the actual day of the wedding. I've had to pull mother of the brides aside and have a conversation with them asking them to stay away from their daughter for the next hour or two while she gets ready for the wedding. My job is in no way a comfortable job. I'm put in a lot of very awkward situations where I'm the bad guy who has to disguise myself, you know, as a friend to a lot of different characters at the wedding.
Have you ever become friends with anyone after being their bridesmaid?
I actually have, I know it sounds completely weird, but as you can see, I spend a lot of time getting to know them before the wedding. You do build a relationship with them. There have been cases where I have been friends with brides long after the wedding.
Are you ever a stand-in for a bridesmaid who's been kicked out?
Sometimes. Sometimes they fired the maid of honour because she wasn't being supportive, or sometimes they just have a group of bridesmaids that don't have the time, money or energy to be there for them and they're looking for someone to make their day super special. Sometimes when the bride hires me, the bridesmaids have no idea she's hired me, it's undercover work that's going on.
What's the biggest misconception about your job?
People always say, "Well, why doesn't the bride have any friends?" and that totally irks me because it's not a service for brides who don't have friends or are desperate, it's for people who are looking for emotional support before their wedding and on the day of. Yeah, sometimes, you know what, they don't have any close friends. But what's so wrong with that? People grow up in their lives, and they grow apart from their friends, or their friends get married and have kids and can't support you like they used to be able to. Sometimes this is a service for somebody who already has five or eight bridesmaids but needs someone to pull the troops together and make sure everyone is on time and that they're all being there for her and not tearing apart the wedding.
What would surprise people about what you do?
A lot of people think, "Oh you're a wedding crasher!" or "You get to go to these weddings and get drunk and flirt with single guys!" The truth is, it's a non-stop job. I don't drink at weddings. It is my full-time job. Most people don't drink at their full-time jobs, I don't drink at mine. I'm not there to flirt with groomsmen, I don't meet guys at weddings. Honestly, the whole night I'm running around for the bride, dealing with emotional problems, it's a very draining job. It's not as glamorous as putting on a dress and going to a party might seem.
What's the weirdest thing you've experienced as a pro bridesmaid?
I have to say that I found out that people don't get married for love. Which sounds completely odd, but true. I had a bride I worked with for 11 months. The night before her wedding she called me to tell me that the guy she's marrying is gay and that she knows he's gay, they're open about it. It just made me realize that sometimes people don't get married for that fairy-tale vision of love that we all grew up with.
What have you learned about people from doing this job?
People have an affinity for opening up to strangers. We often tell strangers things we wouldn't dare tell our friends. I think because our friends will respond in a certain way, and we know that. We don't want them to judge us. So when we're going through these crazy emotional times, we just want to vent to a stranger who is not going to hold it against us for the next 10 to 15 years. Sometimes your friends don't want to hear about your wedding drama 24-7 and you can't really blame them for that.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Getting to be an intense part of someone's life for a short time whom I otherwise would never have met. I work weddings all over the country, and I've met people in different states; I never would have been able to enter their lives otherwise. It's a really rewarding experience being there for women during a very emotional and challenging time. Weddings are not the best time of your life. I think that's a complete lie. They're the most chaotic time of your life. I'm glad that I have a job where I can support people during that.
Least favourite part?
It ends very abruptly. You build this intense connection with people, and then all of a sudden they say 'I do,' and you leave with a paycheque and it's over. I think it's very hard. There's a real human aspect to this job—some jobs don't have that and, you know, it's tough for me to say goodbye sometimes!
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