Kerstyn Walsh has walked down the aisle more than 150 times and counting but she is always the bridesmaid and never the bride.
The 29-year-old has the unique job of being a ‘professional bridesmaid’ for women on their big day.
From brides who want to remove the organisational burden from their loved ones, to brides who simply don’t have enough friends, Kerstyn is available to stand in for up to $8,000 a ceremony.
The single Sydney woman said her friends and family were surprised by her career, which she started in 2015 after ditching a job in real estate.
‘I’ve seen everything from bridezillas to bridesmaids who are jealous of my role and disasters where there hasn’t been enough alcohol,’ Kerstyn told FEMAIL.
A ‘professional bridesmaid’ Kerstyn second from left) who is paid to go to other people’s weddings has revealed what it’s like to be paid as much as $8,000 to go to a wedding
Kerstyn Walsh, 29, said she was working as a real estate agent in 2015, when she decided to become a ‘professional bridesmaid’
Kerstyn fell into the role after she was made the host for her friend Anna’s wedding and ended up coordinating many of the vendors and guests on the big day.
‘I’ve always loved performing, and I suddenly had an epiphany that I wasn’t doing a job I loved,’ Kerstyn told Daily Mail Australia.
Within weeks, she handed in her notice and set up her own business, Hire A Bridesmaid.
Kerstyn volunteered her services to several of her friends who were getting married that year for free to kick-start her business.
‘But word spread towards the end of 2015, and it wasn’t long before I was attending two or three weddings in a weekend and between 30 and 40 a year,’ she said.
Kerstyn estimates she has since been a bridesmaid at more than 150 ceremonies and has a closet of more than 70 dresses she has saved from ceremonies.
She charges somewhere between $1,000 for on-the-day coordination and $8,000 for the average full bridesmaid package.
First, Kerstyn (pictured with one of her brides) said she volunteered her services as a bridesmaid to many of her friends who were getting married that year for free
What does Kerstyn’s typical bridesmaid package contain?
* Planning assistance
* Attending dress fittings
* Sourcing locations and suppliers
* Organising hens parties, bridal showers and collecting payments from guests
* On-the-day coordination and ‘general best friend-ness’
Kerstyn said women often employ her to do the running around so their closest friends and family can relax and take in the wedding day.
‘Brides often need someone who is willing to do all the jobs – whether it’s consult with the vendors or fix the speakers for the DJ,’ she said.
‘They want their friends and family to be fully present for the wedding, while I can help with chores.’
Other times, she said that it’s simply a matter of numbers.
‘Sometimes I’ve been hired when there are five groomsmen, but only four bridesmaids,’ she said.
‘I help to make the photos look equal!’
Kerstyn (pictured at a wedding) has been a bridesmaid at more than 150 ceremonies, charging somewhere between $1,000 for on-the-day coordination and $8,000 for the average package
Kerstyn said she typically meets with a bride several months out from the big day – in regular ‘bridal therapy’ sessions where she learns about their personality and what they want from their wedding.
‘The closest I’ve met a bride to her wedding is eight weeks out,’ she said.
‘It’s important to know what sort of person they are and what is likely to bother them on their most important day.’
Kerstyn (pictured with a bride) does many things with a bride ahead of their big day, including bridal therapy sessions and on-the-day coordination, as seen here
What makes a good wedding?
* Plenty of alcohol. Beer will always get drunk on a hot day.
* Something that is well-organised. You want to avoid the vendors having to go up to the bride, groom and bridal party.
* Lots of food and plenty of drink.
* Not sweating the small stuff, and rather seeing the big picture.
What makes a bad wedding?
* Something that lacks organisation. You don’t want the speakers giving up before the DJ arrives.
* A bad wedding song or one where the couple are too focused on getting an intricate routine down so they don’t enjoy it.
* An instance the bridesmaids are complaining about elements of the day. Remember, it’s not up to them.
Among her 150 weddings, there have been many highlights for Kerstyn, and a few disasters too.
Kerstyn said once a bride didn’t show up for 45 minutes while other weddings have run out of alcohol.
‘There have also been countless times when the speakers haven’t worked and I’ve quickly had to help the DJs sort out the sound system,’ Kerstyn said.
‘It’s pretty stressful, but all occasions I’m prepared for.
Kerstyn’s services don’t just extend to being a bridesmaid – she is also a natural entertainer and is happy to be a host (pictured)
‘Once, I had a bridezilla, who seemed so calm and wonderful in the lead-up to the day, but then she just went mad.
‘She was yelling at her coordinator on the day screaming all the things they hadn’t organised. It was very awkward.’
Kerstyn said she has also witnessed ‘terrible’ first dances in her time.
‘The worst had nothing to do with the song,’ she said.
‘It was a full choreographed waltz, but neither the bride nor the groom smiled the entire time because they were concentrating so hard,’ she said.
But the worst thing is when she receives tension from the other bridesmaids – such as when she is the one chosen to help the bride with her dress to the bathroom – leaving the real friends out in the cold.
‘I’ve had bridesmaids who have been jealous of my role,’ Kerstyn said.
‘But I think because I’m not a very confrontational person, it’s never bubbled over.’
‘I’ve had bridesmaids who have been jealous of my role,’ Kerstyn said (pictured coordinating a wedding as a bridesmaid)
Among the many highlights of her career include a three-day ‘wedstival’ held on a family farm that included everything from jumping castles to sumo wrestling and a temporary tattoo station for her guests to enjoy.
Kerstyn has also been able to be both a professional and a real bridesmaid for her best friend and soon her sister.
‘My family love my job and couldn’t wait to get me involved for my sister’s wedding,’ she said.
‘They know it’s unusual, but they also see the value of having someone like me around on a wedding day.’
Kerstyn (pictured at a wedding) said she is single, but would like to get married one day
What are Kerstyn’s tips for bridesmaids?
* Remember the day is not about you.
* Never complain about the dress you’re wearing or the free hair and makeup your bride has provided.
* Understand what it is that they want from their day and do everything in your power to make it a success.
Kerstyn said there are a few simple guidelines a bridesmaid should follow to ensure the ceremony runs smoothly.
‘It’s a big responsibility to be a bridesmaid, and while there is skin in the game for everyone who is involved in a wedding, it’s not about you,’ she said.
She advises that you never complain about the dress you’re wearing or the free hair and makeup your bride has provided, but rather you should endeavour to be helpful.
‘I’ve hated dresses on occasion, because I need extra support up top and have had two dresses when I couldn’t wear a bra,’ she said.
‘But understanding that it is their day is crucial. Offer to help, don’t complain and support her opinion – always.’
‘It’s a big responsibility to be a bridesmaid, and while there is skin in the game for everyone who is involved in a wedding, it’s not about you,’ Kerstyn (pictured) said
Kerstyn said she always likes to remember that the relationship is ‘professional’ – and that she will not be able to remain friends with everyone.
‘They are paying me money and it would be impossible to stay in touch with everyone,’ she said.
That’s not to say that she doesn’t love her job now:
I’d definitely like to get married one day. [But] I haven’t made any plans for it, and it might surprise some to find out that I don’t have a Pinterest page dedicated to my own wedding
‘I get to be with brides for the most intimate moments, and I am a part of their special day,’ she said.
She hopes that one day, she too will get married, though she said she doesn’t have a boyfriend at present:
‘I’d definitely like to get married one day,’ she said.
‘I haven’t made any plans for it, and it might surprise some to find out that I don’t have a Pinterest page dedicated to my own wedding.
‘But I’d argue that this is what makes me great at my job – because I can completely focus on what my clients want for their special day, without being distracted by what I would do.’
For more information about Kerstyn Walsh’s services, please click here.