TIFFANY WRIGHT is a highly skilled undercover agent. For each mission, she prepares the perfect cover story. But Tiffany isn’t a member of MI6, she’s a professional bridesmaid.
‘A lot of brides don’t want anyone to know that they’ve hired me,’ she says, ‘so we’ll decide on a good story, pretending we’ve known each other for years and had just lost touch. But obviously the other bridesmaids can get quite suspicious, so I have to do a lot of research. I have files on each of my brides!’
While the bridesmaid-for-hire business has been growing in the US for years, Tiffany has long been one of the only individuals offering the service here. Now, however, the UK is starting to wise up to the market potential. Online service Marketplace Bark has just launched a professional bridesmaids and groomsmen service, claiming it could be a £426 million industry.
It’s tempting to assume that the women hiring professional bridesmaids are friendless but the truth is often the opposite.
Films such as Bridesmaids have perfectly skewered both the high-stakes emotions and the amount of effort that can go into being a modern bridesmaid. Many brides want to shield their pals from the worst of it, so they can enjoy the big day in full.
‘My brides do tend to have great friendship groups around them,’ says Tiffany. ‘People are hiring me because it takes the stress off their friends.’ (Of course, however, there are also always the full-blown bridezillas, who don’t think their mates are quite up to the job.)
While Tiffany’s basic packages start at £250, she tailors her prices depending on what each wedding demands of her. She offers an array of services, ranging from initial Skype chats to on-the-day help. If bickering bridesmaids need calming down or someone has forgotten their strapless bra, she’s there to sort it out.
‘I’ve had nail varnish spilt on dresses, brides in agony with blisters, dramas with best man speeches and loads of hungover bridesmaids,’ says Tiffany, who warns every client that something will probably go wrong.
‘I had one girl throwing up behind the church just as we were about to walk in,’ she says, ‘so now I have a little “bridesmaid emergency kit” with foot plasters, phone chargers, anti-nausea tablets… you name it.’
It might seem odd to have a stranger there for one of the most deeply personal and special moments of your life. Nevertheless Tiffany claims that by the time she walks down the aisle with a bride (and she’s now worked with more than 30 of them) she’s emotionally enmeshed.
‘It’s such an incredible, intimate moment and I’m a complete romantic, so I always cry at every single wedding,’ says Tiffany, who got married herself in 2012. ‘I think that’s why people really think I’m genuine! Every single bride I’ve worked with I would now consider a friend.’
Of course, with Tiffany’s face on prominent display on her website, there’s always the risk she might get busted.
‘Nobody has recognised me so far,’ she says, ‘but it’s something I will always talk to the bride about. If she’s determined to keep me a secret, it’s probably not a good idea for me to walk down the aisle with her! But I can still help out.’