I became a professional bridesmaid after ditching a career in real estate. It's hard but fun work, and business is booming.

  • Kerstyn Walsh, 30, has attended more than 200 weddings as a professional bridesmaid.
  • “It’s a full-time business. It is fun, don’t get me wrong. But there’s a lot of hard work involved.”
  • She spoke to Caitlin Tilley for Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I was a real estate agent for seven and a half years before I became a professional bridesmaid in Sydney, Australia. I’ve never been married. Before I did this professionally, a friend of mine asked if I would be the master of ceremony at her wedding.

On the day, a whole bunch of things went wrong. It just clicked that no bride should be feeling this stressed on their wedding day. I started “Hire A Bridesmaid” the next day. I’ve been a professional bridesmaid for six years now.

When you do it professionally, you’re there to do the work. I manage the logistics of the wedding day, so the other bridesmaids can just chill. I’ve been to more than 200 weddings and the farthest I’ve travelled is Palm Springs in California.

SEE ALSO: I’m a professional bridesmaid: Strangers pay me to be their best friend for their wedding — and yes, I have way more than 27 dresses

The first bride who hired me had moved to Sydney from Russia. She didn’t know anybody and her friends and family couldn’t afford to come. All our conversations had a huge language barrier, but we went dress and flower shopping and I was there to hold her hand.

Sometimes I’m there to even out bridal party numbers. Some people have always dreamed of four bridesmaids and they don’t have enough people to ask.

I speak to every potential bride on the phone first. It’s all based on personality, so if they don’t like me as a person, then it’s not right, because I am pretty full on. Some people just want me to turn up on the day and wear a dress and that’s totally fine.

With others, you get the vibe they don’t have a support team around them and might need me to come to dress fittings.

On the wedding day, I’m there first thing. Sometimes I’ll sleep over with them so they’re not alone when they wake up. We have breakfast, get our hair and makeup done. Then we take photos and go to the ceremony.

I make sure everything is ready to go at the location. Something always breaks, whether it’s a shoe or a bra strap, but I carry an on-the-day emergency kit in a suitcase.

I want to blend in and guests to ask how I know the bride. I always say, “We’re new friends but we clicked right away and we’ve really enjoyed planning the wedding together.” I don’t share photos of the weddings I work at because I need to remain a “secret” for my clients.

I was the first professional bridesmaid in Australia. I get people wanting to work for us all the time. The biggest misconception is that we don’t actually work.

People assume you turn up in a pretty dress and get paid to party, but the only drink we have is during the champagne toast. A lot of people also think I only work on the weekends, but it’s a full-time business. It is fun, don’t get me wrong. But there’s a lot of hard work involved too.

I realized I couldn’t do it on my own very quickly, so I hired someone to do my social media. There was one weekend where I had three weddings on the same Saturday, and another on the Friday. I’ve never been so stressed in my life.

Obviously it’s impossible for me to be in three places at once so I went to one wedding and two other girls went to the other weddings. Being the figurehead, I was available on the phone if anybody needed anything. We’re a team of five now. Two of us are bridesmaids and the other three do coordination. 

It costs 9,000 Australian dollars ($6,962) for me to plan someone’s entire wedding and manage everything on the day. This includes major dress fittings and approximately 54 hours of wedding planning.

If I’m just the bridesmaid on the day it would be 1,100 AUD ($850) plus any travel, accommodation and my dress, hair and makeup, but sometimes I do that myself. 

After the wedding, knowing whether to stay in touch is a tricky line to walk. Our website says, “your professional bestie,” but I have to politely remind people it says professional.

I’m so lucky. I have never had a client I wouldn’t want to keep in touch with. As much as I can, or as much as they want to, I will keep in touch with them. 

For the first four years, even after things had really taken off, people would still ask me, “Do you ever think about going back to real estate?” And I just thought, why would I do that when I can attend weddings for a living?

SEE ALSO: I’m a professional bridesmaid who attends the weddings of total strangers. Here are some of the wildest things I’ve had to do for my job.

Things were changing while I was at a wedding when COVID first hit in March last year. Their surname was Last, and it was the last wedding we did before restrictions.

But in September, Australia went from having only five people allowed at a wedding to 20, and then it became one person per four square meters in a location. Since then, restrictions have gradually lifted. The only restriction now is that you can only have 30 people dancing at any time.

We’ve had our busiest time because of all the delayed weddings. I had to hire another staff member because it’s been non-stop. Anybody who wanted to get married last year with more than the restricted number of guests has moved their wedding to this year. 

It’s also people who’ve got engaged during the pandemic and want to get married this year. We’re looking at two years worth of weddings in one year.

Typically speaking, we would average six to eight weddings per month. We’re now up to 10 to 15 weddings per month. Next year is almost completely booked out already.

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