This story originally appeared on Business Insider.
When I was in my early 20s, most of my friends at the time were getting engaged. I quickly became familiar with serving a new role in their lives as a member of their bridal party. Being a bridesmaid has a rhythm to it — though every wedding is different, the role is mostly the same.
I ordered my bridesmaid dress early, helped plan pre-wedding events, and took the bride out for monthly coffee and venting sessions. I also stayed sober so I could be the bride’s go-to person for any pop-up problems.
Eventually, even people I had lost touch with started asking me to be a bridesmaid in their weddings. When I complained to my roommate about this, she nicknamed me a professional bridesmaid and told me it was likely people heard I was good at being a bridesmaid and wanted my expertise at their weddings, too.
I decided to become a bridesmaid-for-hire
I realized then that if distant friends needed me as their bridesmaid, perhaps strangers would as well. After all, I was reliable, helpful, and, above all, drama-free.
In June 2014, I posted an ad on Craigslist offering my services as a hired bridesmaid for strangers. Within 48 hours, I received hundreds of emails from people eager to hire me. I started the business Bridesmaid for Hire a few days after the ad was posted. Since then, I’ve been hired as a bridesmaid for people all over the world.
The rate for my services depends on a few factors, including how many pre-wedding events they want me to attend, how many phone chats they want before the wedding, and how many hours they want me present on their wedding day. The price starts at about $2,700 for three phone calls and eight hours in person on the wedding day. The most I’ve been paid is $5,700 and that included more services, such as attending the bachelorette party and going wedding dress shopping with them.
Being a hired bridesmaid for a stranger might seem sad or pathetic — it’s anything but that. Not everyone has close friends. According to YouGov, only 55% of Americans have between two and five close friends. Even if it seems like someone has a lot of friends based on their social-media presence, it doesn’t always mean they have a close group of friends who will show up for them when they really need something.
So when people getting married start to think about who will be in their bridal party, it can feel overwhelming if there’s nobody that comes to mind, or if your fiancé has more close friends than you do.
There are a few reasons people hire me to be their bridesmaid
When people reach out to hire me, they usually write me a message that shares too much information about their life. What they’re trying to tell me is that because of a variety of reasons, they don’t have close friends right now to stand by their side.
I often hear people say that they’ve grown apart from their good friends, have friends scattered all over the country, or find that their best friends are really busy and they don’t want to bother them.
In those instances, people are reaching out to me because they want a support system before and on the day of their wedding. Often, these are people who have felt lonely during other major events in their lives, and they’ve realized they don’t want to feel that way on their wedding day.
However, there are also people who reach out even though they do have other bridesmaids, they don’t feel like they have enough support or the right kind of support. Sometimes my clients are people whose friends just aren’t super reliable. If a bride feels like her friends aren’t being helpful or creating too much drama, she might consider hiring me to step in and join the bridal party.
I have been hired by all kinds of people with different backgrounds and jobs. I’ve worked at a $500,000 wedding for a CEO of a company and I’ve worked at a $20,000 wedding for a retail employee.
I’m often undercover and keep my job a complete secret
Most of the time, when a client hires me they want it to be a secret. They often don’t tell anyone that they paid me to be their bridesmaid. I usually have a fake name and backstory that helps me go undercover. I spend a few months learning about the person who hired me and really becoming that person’s friend. The relationship we build is real. My goal isn’t to be their fake friend for the day, it’s to be an authentic support system. Because of this, I sometimes stay in touch with clients and have continued being friends with a few of them for years. But most of the time, I keep strict boundaries, and once the wedding ends, so does the communication and relationship with the client.
I do everything for my clients that a real friend would do. I help them pick out their wedding dress, call them weekly to listen to challenges, plan a bachelorette party, and ensure they are stress-free on their wedding day. I wear a bridesmaid dress, walk down the aisle, and sometimes give a toast at the reception.
It’s not sad to hire a bridesmaid — it’s brave
Getting married can be overwhelming and stressful. For some people, having friends by their side can make a big difference in how they feel throughout their wedding adventure. If someone doesn’t have close friends to turn to or doesn’t have as many close friends as their fiancé, it’s not weird to spend money and hire a professional who can step in and help with everything that’s needed. People hire wedding planners to help with logistics all the time, and what I do isn’t all that different; I emotionally support the people who will be front and center at these weddings.
The author. Courtesy of Jen Glantz
Friendship isn’t always so fluid. Sometimes you meet someone who stays in your life for a long time. Sometimes people you hoped would be there for you just disappear. But during your wedding time, everyone deserves to have a supportive friend by their side, even if it’s someone they end up hiring.