Jewish Party Maven trains and coaches venues and vendors to understand and honor Jewish party traditions.
The name Pat Blackwell brings to mind one thing in the Metro Detroit Jewish party-planning community: Indispensable.
The founder and face of the Red Coat Ladies (named for their iconic, eponymous attire), Blackwell has been running the show for bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings for close to 25 years under the name Party Assurance. From wrangling in unruly tween guests to sewing brides into their dresses last minute to ensuring party timelines run without a hitch — so that the party-planning parents can enjoy the event instead of worrying about the details — Blackwell and her team have seen and done it all.
“I love that we allow people to enjoy their special moments,” she says. “In a typical four-hour party, how many memories can you create? Do you want your memories to be of yelling in the kitchen because you’re out of french fries? We allow people to enjoy every second of their events.”
Building on her years of experience and impeccable reputation, Blackwell has launched a new business (and donned a new blue blazer): Jewish Party Maven trains and coaches venues and vendors to understand and honor Jewish party traditions.
Blackwell comes by recognizing this need intrinsically, as she had to learn everything, too. Raised Catholic on a farm in Minnesota with 10 siblings and prize pigs, she knew nothing of bar mitzvahs. After earning a degree in hotel and restaurant management, she, her husband and their three children landed in Metro Detroit, where she answered an ad for a building manager in charge of events at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield.
“They called and told me about the job,” Blackwell says. “I said, ‘Don’t you want someone who is Jewish?’ and they said, ‘no, we want someone who can work on Yom Kippur.’” Her response? “What’s that?”
Eleven years later, “after watching people have amazing parties that they didn’t enjoy,” she launched Party Assurance, and now she’s ready to let others in on what she’s learned.
With a lapse in parties to work during the pandemic (and having broken her back last June), Blackwell began thinking of ways to help clients in less physically demanding ways.
“I’ve always dreamed of a job I can do from anywhere,” Blackwell says, while stressing that Red Coat Ladies is not going away. But Jewish Party Maven is an extra layer to her business. In fact, each Red Coat Lady is required to become certified in the Jewish Party Maven course. “I held a mock Orthodox wedding for my employees,” Blackwell says. “That was fun.”
“Week after week, we at Party Assurance are training vendors to work with Jewish customs. After the ketubah signing, for example, we know that the rabbi is coming back to do the bedekken, but the photographer’s gone because they think they’re done so I’m running after the photographer to come back,” Blackwell says. “The chuppah might be made out of a tallis that the grandfather smuggled out of Europe during the Holocaust — the photographer might think it’s just a piece of fabric. A band leader might take a job not knowing what the hora is. How’s he going to learn it? On Google? Our vendors would do a better job of taking care of our Jewish clients if they really understood the traditions.
“A Christian wedding is very different from a Jewish wedding, even in terms of the timeline. When a Jewish wedding takes place at a traditionally non-Jewish venue, like Oakland Hills Country Club, it’s important for the vendors to create a Jewish-style timeline. And there are so many mixed marriages now that I work with a lot of vendors on behalf of Jewish families to teach these Jewish traditions.”
Although Blackwell has learned much on the job, she’s read a lot on the subject, too. “I’m a researcher at heart, and I love to learn. I love this whole Jewish world and what it represents, the history of it, and I want to promote an understanding of it any way that I can.”
Blackwell and her Jewish Party Maven team can benefit salespeople, caterers, photographers, videographers, venues, DJs, bands, decorators and planners, florists and more — anyone who is involved in the traditions of weddings or b’nai mitzvah.
A recent party that Blackwell worked at was celebrating a student who attends Hillel Day School, which encourages families to hold kosher-style events. “The parents asked the caterer for dairy, but the chef translated this to meaning no meat and made a soup with chicken stock,” she explains. “He had no idea he had made this mistake.”
Blackwell launched Jewish Party Maven on Jan. 1, 2021, and built it during COVID, starting with a weekly podcast, Book More Jewish Weddings with Pat Blackwell. (Her data says that 22 percent of listeners are from France and Bavaria — “I have no idea how they heard about it!” she says.) Each podcast focuses on a specific topic or word, like tallit or Mazel Tov. She’ll also offer courses, which will launch in August, and workshops, which anyone can sign up for, and plans to have digital offerings, too, in which attendees can become certified.
She’s been approached by her own clients, who’ve wanted their own vendors to go through training with her company. And she was hired by the brand-new Daxton Hotel in Birmingham, as they haven’t worked with many Jewish weddings yet.
She also recently held a workshop at Knollwood Country Club.
“Some of their chef team came, plus their servers and management team,” Blackwell says. “They know a lot, but they don’t necessarily understand the customs. And there’s lots of turnover of staff.
“They take it seriously because they want their staff to take good care of their clients.”
For more about Jewish Party Maven, visit jewishpartymaven.com.