One night last June, Jen Glantz visited Craigslist.com, posted an ad, and went to bed.
She woke up to over 250 emails. By the end of the week, thousands had flooded her inbox.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” she tells Business Insider. “I figured I’d post it, and just see what happens. I never thought I’d get this kind of response.”
Her ad read something like this:
“When all my friends started getting engaged — I decided to make new friends — but then they got engaged also and for what felt like the hundredth time, I was asked to be a bridesmaid. This year alone, I’ve been a bridesmaid 4 times. That’s 4 different chiffon dresses, 4 different bachelorette parties filled with tequila shots and guys in thong underwear twerking way too close to my face. … So 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…”
Glantz is the cofounder of Bridesmaid for Hire, a company that offers “undercover bridesmaid” and personal assistant-type services to brides and their wedding parties.
She founded her company after seeing how well people responded to the Craigslist ad — which she decided to write when her roommate dubbed her “the professional bridesmaid.”
“I was a bridesmaid more times that I could count on two hands; I was even asked twice in the same day!” she recalls. “So, when my roommate said that, I thought, ‘Maybe I can actually do that. Maybe I can help brides who aren’t my friends,’” says Glantz, author of “All My Friends Are Engaged.”
Based in New York City, the 26-year-old Florida native says she noticed a gap in the $US51 billion wedding industry somewhere around her sixth stint as a bridesmaid, and decided to fill it.
“Friends of mine were handing out my phone number to brides-to-be who had questions for me about how to handle unruly and unresponsive bridesmaids, or just how to make it through their wedding adventure without loosing their cool — or their minds,” she says. “I found myself chatting with a new bride almost every week about her own adventure so far, breaking down challenges, giving advice on personal topics, and acting as her impromptu therapist and ultimate bridesmaid consultant. It’s a happy time, but also the most stressful time — and a lot of women need some extra support.”
In talking to brides, Glantz noticed that many didn’t have anyone there for them on their wedding day. “Sure, they have bridesmaids and family and maybe even a wedding planner — but those people are all busy getting ready and taking photos, and the planner is focused on getting things done and working with vendors. If the bride needed someone to run a last-minute errand, nobody was there to do it.”
After posting her Craigslist ad, Glantz began responding to emails, getting to know the women who were interested in her service.
“Once I realised there was real demand for this, I knew I needed to come up with packages, pricing, and a website.”
That’s when she reached out to her brother, Jason Glantz, who cofounded Bridesmaid for Hire and has helped her with business development, business planning, marketing ideas, website design, and even partnership research. “He’s half the brains and the heart behind this business.”
The bother-sister team came up with three different packages.
There’s the “Virtual Bridesmaid,” which includes one-on-one consultation sessions via video chat; the “Ultimate Bridesmaid,” which offers maids-of-honour and bridesmaids behind-the-scenes assistance plus in-person ground support at pre-wedding events and day-of events; and the “Bridesmaid By Your Side,” which includes everything from the Undercover Bridesmaid package, plus actual participation as a bridesmaid or maid-of-honour in the wedding party.
The packages range from $US300 to $US2,000, however, Glantz says her prices are negotiable (“I can work with any budget,” she says). The average bride or bridesmaid pays Glantz $US1,000 for her services.
“Essentially I’m there as the bride’s personal assistant and on-call therapist. I help her manage and execute her personal to-do list of tasks, which can often be over 100 tasks long.”
But contrary to popular belief, Glantz’s service “isn’t for ‘sad’ brides without friends.”
There are a few reasons people hire her. Some brides have attendants, but are looking for a professional to step in and help with tasks and make sure their wedding party has everything they need; while others are women who don’t have many close people in their lives and “want a bridesmaid by their side to make this adventure special for them.”
“They need that energetic and positive person to boost their confidence before and during their wedding day. There’s nothing sad about that. Not everyone is lucky to have quality people in their lives who make them shine. And that’s not something they should be embarrassed about,” she says. “I’m not rent-a-friend for the day. I’m just a professional who will make the wedding experience more pleasant for clients.”
Her first client was a bride named Ashley.
“She hired me after her maid of honour ‘stepped down,'” she says. “This person was not there for Ashley, and couldn’t provide her with the kind of support a bride deserves.”
Ashley hired Glantz in July and got married in Minnesota in September. They spoke on the phone weekly, and when the big day came, Glantz was by Ashley’s side.
“People always ask, ‘Do people know you’re a hired bridesmaid?'” she says. “And the answer is, most guests don’t.”
Other bridesmaids, of course, are aware — “and sometimes they get a little jealous at first,” she adds. “But once they realise I’m not there to replace them as the bride’s friend, and I’m there to help them and make their day more enjoyable, they usually get comfortable with the idea, and we’re often friends by the end of the night.”
If and when guests do ask Glantz how she knows the bride, her response is simply, “We’re friends.” “Rarely do they question me beyond that,” she says.
And the best part is, she says, it’s usually not a lie.
Glantz frequently becomes friends with her clients throughout the process, and they remain friends after the big day. “I’m helping out women during a very emotional and vulnerable time in their lives, so it’s natural that we tend form close bonds.”
But she says it’s also important to remember this is a job and she has to be professional.
“I never, ever drink at weddings. I’m there to work — not party,” she says. “It might look like I’m just another bridesmaid having fun, but I am actually doing a lot of behind-the-scenes running around.”
Since Ashley’s wedding in September, Glantz has been in five other weddings as a hired bridesmaid. She’ll travel to Las Vegas for a wedding in April, and at least six other cities over the next 12 months.
And now, with the recent release of the “The Wedding Ringer,” a movie starring Kevin Hart who plays the CEO of a company that provides best men for grooms in need, Glantz has seen a significant uptick in interest.
She has recently received 750 applications from brides who are getting married in the next two years — and has taken on 25 new clients.
To choose which ones she wants to work with, Glantz sets up a phone call with almost every interested bride, mother of the bride, or friend of the bride who contacts her.
“I currently have a limited amount of brides I can take on and work with each year, so I like to make sure that not only do I think I can help the bride out in an extraordinary way, but that she’s truly looking to hire a professional bridesmaid for support and guidance,” she says. “If a bride writes to me and asks that I send them five bridesmaids with specific requests about what each one needs to look like, I typically pass over. We’re not a bridesmaid staffing firm.”
To keep up with demand, Glantz in the process of hiring five additional “bridesmaids.” As of this week, she’s had over 1,000 women apply.
“I’m the only person who is doing this currently,” she says. “Eventually I’d like to expand and have teams in cities all around the world.”
Glantz couldn’t share financial data since she and her brother are currently in talks with potential investors and partners, and have agreed to not comment on finances publicly — but of the money they are making, she says “every dollar goes back to investing in the business, whether that’s to the website, legal fees, hiring women to assist with larger weddings, product development (for items we plan to sell on the website), and more.”
She says she’s also looking to partner up with a female-oriented nonprofit to donate a per cent of the company’s profits to. “Giving back to women and helping them with career and confidence development has always meant a lot to me personally and professionally,” she says. “I don’t think many women out there, in high school and college, have someone rooting for them. Telling them they can grow up to be what they want to be or guide them in the right direction to do so. I’ve always wanted to be that person for them.”
And men: don’t fret. Glantz plans to being offering a similar service to grooms in the future.