The 5 Things I Learned About Love as a Professional Bridesmaid

I thought I knew enough about love from finding it, losing it, and then finding it and losing it again, my own personal game of hide-and-go-seek with a feeling that resembled acid reflux, but I was wrong.

At the age of 26, I didn’t know much, except that I was really successful at falling for guys who were covered in red flags, draped around them like a string of flickering Christmas lights.

I imagined that finding someone to love, and love me back, was more difficult than crossing the finish line at an Iron Man competition or winning the lottery. That may have been because the meet-cute moment I had dreamed of since age 13, when I’d crash into my Mr. Forever at a bookstore during a buy-one-get-one-free sale, and when he’d catch my stack of plummeting books in his hands before they landed on the floor, was a way to meet someone that was likely becoming extinct. The most popular way people were starting their adventure toward finding love, these days, was on dating apps, letting their thumb take over the driver’s wheel, swiping left and right on potential suitors.

I boycotted dating apps once, twice... okay fine, I went through a download-and-delete cycle more times than there are months in a year.

My feelings toward love were scrambled and seemingly depleted, until I started working weddings as a “professional bridesmaid”. In 2014, after being a bridesmaid for my friends more than a half a dozen times, and after my life began suddenly drawing too many parallels to Katherine Heigl’s character in 27 Dresses, I started a business, called Bridesmaid for Hire, where strangers could hire me to be their bridesmaid. As crazy and kooky as it sounds, in the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of standing by over 40 brides' side, whether virtually or in-person, on one of the most intimate and emotional hurricane-like day of their lives.

The on-the-job experience I racked up along the way, taught me many things, which led me to write the tell-all book, Always a Bridesmaid (For Hire). First, it taught me that I really don’t think I want to ever have a wedding of my own. There are just too many moving pieces, ceiling-high expectations, and people to pay for just one single eight-hour party. Second, it taught me that no bride should ever drink a Diet Coke while in their wedding dress, unless there is a giant blanket splayed over them (I have seen too many dresses ruined by too many pre-wedding food and drink stains). But perhaps most importantly, the best lessons I’ve learned have been about love.

Here are five eye-opening pieces of advice I’ve learned from working closely with brides-to-be that I’d like to share with you.

1. Listen to Your Gut

You can learn a lot about yourself and what you really want by just trusting your gut. If you’re wondering if the person you’re going to marry is the “right person," or if you should walk away from a relationship that’s constantly getting you all riled up, trust the voice inside your gut that’s most likely screaming at you to do one thing over another.

2. One Size Does Not Fit All

Love between two people is never the same. Relationships are different, people are different, and so is love. You can’t compare and contrast, you just have to find a person and build a relationship with them that works for the two of you.

3. You Can’t Rush to Find It

I once had a bride tell me that she was settling. That she was getting married to a person she didn’t think was “the one” but he was “someone” and that for her is good enough. From that situation, I learned that love isn’t something that can be rushed, even if you’re extra eager to settle down. It’s more about putting yourself out there, meeting many different people, and staying patient and hopeful that you will, eventually, find a person who is truly more than just “someone,” because how unromantic is that?

4. It’s a True Gamble

Love is a risk. Even though right now, in this very moment, you’re feeling entranced by the love you have for a person, it doesn’t mean that that can’t change later on. What’s most important is that, if you do take the gamble on someone and decide to build a future with them, you find ways to grow, communicate, and keep on respecting and trusting each other.

5. There’s No Such Thing as Perfect

Ditch the idea that you want to settle down with the most perfect person you can find. We’re all flawed in many ways. It’s less about finding someone who checks off all the boxes on your ultimate list of requirements, and more about choosing someone who complements you. Someone who isn’t always trying to fix you, but adores you for who you are and, in turn, makes you become a better person on your own. Every relationship has its ups, its downs, and its room for improvement.

More than anything else, being a professional bridesmaid for strangers has taught me that we never truly know how a person can influence and change our lives. The best lessons we learn, most of the time, come when we’re helping others, or in my case, walking down the aisle for someone who is about to say "I do."

Jen Glantz is the author of the new book, Always a Bridesmaid (For Hire), and the founder of the head-turning business, Bridesmaid for Hire. She can often be spotted wearing old bridesmaid dresses to the grocery store or on first dates. You can follow her adventure here.