The Professional Bridesmaid

Here’s an alternate ending for 27 Dresses: Katherine Heigl is fed up with the bridesmaid schtick. But instead of letting that take her down a vulnerable path to love, it takes her down a path to a self-sufficient business plan.

Perhaps that’s not a recipe for box office success. But it’s Jen Glantz’s story. She started her own company, Bridesmaid for Hire, after she realized just how much time and energy it took to help plan her friends’ weddings. Why not get paid for it?

The normal boundaries of business don’t apply. Often, because she’s an unbiased party and not a close friend, brides feel more comfortable telling her things, like doubts about their weddings. Then it’s her job to coach them through it (that is, once she learns the fiancé’s name) and handle any dirty work on the big day. “It’s like a friendship on an accelerated time frame,” Glantz explains. She travels to weddings across the U.S. — all expenses paid by the bride, of course, who will often keep Glantz’s true identity a secret — and racks up a lot of dresses in the process, which she stows in her tiny New York City apartment.

Jen Glantz at a wedding dress store.

In her element at a wedding dress store.

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The Marriage Proposal Planner

If any of my event planners had a nickel for every time I use the word anticipate, they’d be rich,” says Pease, who has been planning proposals since 2008. Photo: the-proposal-planner.com

Sarah Pease stays away from shows like Bridezillas and Say Yes to the Dress. She’ll pick up a Newsweek over Brides any day.

But as an official marriage proposal planner, Pease lives and breathes weddings all day long. Four years ago, she began a Manhattan-based event planning company, Brilliant Event Planning. After learning of a bachelor who surprised his girlfriend with an engagement ring placed strategically at the bottom of a KFC bucket, she added marriage proposal planning to her list of services. Pease has since positioned herself as The Proposal Planner™, helping hundreds of men brainstorm intimate ways to pop the question — often, ones who are too busy with their careers.

Her services alone can cost upwards of $5,000, a luxury perhaps targeted at the 1 percent. So more recently, she began offering all-inclusive packages for the guys shopping at Zales instead of investing in little blue boxes.

Age: My grandmother told me that a real lady never reveals her age.
Based out of: New York City
In the proposal planning business for: About four years
Graduated from: University Wisconsin-Madison with a double major in Latin American studies and Spanish
Previous jobs: top banking executive; Director of Operations at a European IT company

Latin American studies, banking, and IT all seem like a far cry from planning wedding proposals. While working at the tech company, my boss asked me where I wanted to be in five years. My immediate thought: not here. I went home that night and had a gut check, and I knew I was good at event planning. When I told my coworkers I was quitting my job and starting my own company, three of them told me that that they were getting married and asked for my help. Those were my first three clients.

Did you have a background in weddings and proposals? When I was younger, I was a violinist in a professional string quartet, so I took part of hundreds of wedding ceremonies. I figured that planning a wedding is a lot like project management and knowing how to take care of your clients, two things I’m pretty darn good at.

Describe your typical clientele. They are guys who have very demanding careers, typically with some expectation from the girls to not have ho-hum marriage proposals. By and large, they want an amazing story to share.

You tweeted to ABC that they should hire you to plan marriage proposals on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. I think your exact words were that the current proposals bore you to tears. Yes – they’re awful! It’s hard to base the proposal off of their relationship, because their relationship is the TV show, but all proposals should be just as exciting as the marriage.

Where do you draw inspiration from for proposal ideas? I spend a full hour talking to my clients about what makes them unique, starting with the basics (How did you meet? Do you have kids? Have you been married before?) and then discuss  the fiancée (If she had a Sunday to herself, how would she spend it?). It’s very revealing information.

Laurie and the Louboutins. Photo: Maggie Harkov/ BrilliantEventPlanning.com

Tell me about an over-the-top proposal you planned. One couple, Laurie and Ange, got engaged right before Valentine’s Day. The bride-to-be, Laurie, was a princess – Ange loved to spoil her, and she loved to get spoiled. We got them a penthouse overlooking Central Park, covered the room with rose petals and candles. It involved a pair of $4,000 Christian Louboutin shoes, a tiara, and, obviously, a hugely beautiful diamond ring that was immersed in a long vase filled with crystals.

What’s your ideal proposal? The way that I got proposed to last March. The short version: he woke me up on a random Friday and surprised me with a trip to Jamaica. We landed, got on a private boat that took us to a private island, and had a picnic. I said yes, and we celebrated with far too much Jamaican beer.

What would people be surprised to learn about your job? It’s really, really stressful. Imagine if every day of your job was the most important day of somebody’s life. You get one shot, and if you mess up that one shot, you’ve messed up that moment for the rest of [your clients’] lives.

How do you cope with that pressure? I have a really great hair colorist.

The time between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day is Pease’s busiest season. Photo: pawngo.com

Where do you see the company heading? I see proposal planning becoming more of a trend. What I do is highly customized in the luxury market, for the 1 percent, if you will. But I just launched a site called ProposalIdeas.com that offers all-inclusive packages, making proposal planning more accessible for guys who may be buying the engagement ring at Zales or Kay Jewelers instead of Cartier or Tiffany & Co.

I also envision re-proposals. I can’t tell you how many guys find out what I do and say, “Gosh, Sarah, I wish I had done a better job [proposing].” Many times, we see ladies getting upgrades to their engagement rings, so guys can just take that to the next level and re-propose.

You mentioned your services are for the 1 percent. How much do you charge? Concept design only, which is the lowest level of custom service, starts at $495. Full planning, which includes design of proposal idea, vendor recruitment, negotiation, contracting, planning, and being on-site for the proposal, ranges from about $2,000 to upwards of $5,000. To be clear, those fees are just for my services – it doesn’t include the flowers, musicians, whatever else.

But your newer site, with the all-inclusive packages, caters to the 99 percent. Those include all elements, like musicians and chocolates, and range from $129 to about $1,000.

Tell me about your TV and media diet. Are you a Say Yes to the Dress junkie? I watch Shark Tank and American Idol, and I read New York, TIME, and Newsweek. That’s probably boring, right? I just have no need to watch Bridezillas, as none of my clients are Bridezillas. I only watched Say Yes to the Dress when I was thinking about my own wedding dress.

One proposal (The Bachelor excluded) that you’re dying to plan: A same-sex marriage proposal.

Your favorite movie proposal scene: From The Wedding Singer, when [Adam Sandler] sings Billy Idol with his guitar on the flight.


LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
1. You must be confident that you can out-organize almost anyone out there. I don’t just mean making awesome lists with pretty pens. I mean breaking down huge projects into timelines, anticipating what will go wrong, and being ready for the long hours.

2. Give tough love. I’m often in the situation of telling a client that $15,000 won’t be enough for their wedding photographer. That’s a ridiculous conversation to have, but it happens all the time. I work with them to figure out a way to resolve their pocketbook or their expectations.

3. Know how to manage people. Ronald Reagan said – and I’m not a Republican – that when it comes to the people you work with: trust, but verify. That said, go in with your eyes open and give it a shot. You’ll know really fast if you hate it.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @BeBrilliantNYC.

Other No Joe Schmos that can help plan a wedding? The two-person orchestra for music, the die-hard dancer for entertainment, and the hot air balloon pilot for the honeymoon.