Food Arts presents the June 1997 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance to Marcy Blum, founder of Marcy Blum Associates in New York City, for her pivotal role in reversing the trend toward cookie-cutter weddings and formulaic corporate events, and re-establishing the importance of personal touch.
Though she is considered the city’s “preeminent party planner” by former Bride’s editor-in-chief Barbara Tober, Blum is quick to point out that there’s “no such thing as a Marcy Blum event… I try to get a real sense of my clients and to find different ways to do things. What’s important is the gestalt of the event.”
Although Blum handles a number of corporate events each year for such clients as Salomon Brothers, Rémy Martin, and Société Générale, it’s her flair for weddings, and her unparalleled ability to put the happy couple at east, that is most sought-after.
She’s done everything from calming a frantic mother and daughter with meditation tapes right before the ceremony, to fashioning a last-minute huppah (a canopy under which the bride and groom stand in a Jewish wedding ceremony) out of carved wood poles, tablecloths, and hibiscus in Jamaica, to convincing an aquaphobic father into a gondola with his daughter (the third martini did it).
One wedding consultation involved a young woman who wanted an informal reception with food station, while her parents insisted on a conservative, traditional sit-down dinner. Blum’s solution? The appetizers and entrées were served at table, but for dessert everyone moved into another room decorated like a ‘70s disco complete with flashing lights, glittering balls, and a funky deejay.
Recently names Best Wedding Planner by New York magazine, Blum is an oft-quoted industry expert. She is also the publisher of Bridal Business Report (a quarterly newsletter for the trade that’s temporarily on hold) and is co-authoring a book, Weddings for Dummies (IDG Books Worldwide, Foster City, California), with Laura Fisher.
“Over a period of years, Marcy has build a business of high integrity where she takes the interests and wishes of each bride and groom and their parents, and turns them into a beautiful occasion,” says Tober, who first met Blum in the late ‘70s. “She’s able, though hr professionalism, to create what the couple wants to the 12th power.”
After graduating from New York City’s High School for the Performing Arts in 1970, Blum lived on a commune in Vermont, where she cooked the group’s vegetarian meals. Her long-standing interest in food eventually led her to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, then with the late pastry chef and restaurateur John Clancy, and finally at the Culinary Institute of America, where she was one of the schools first female graduates in 1975.
She was working as a caterer when restaurateur Peter Aschkenasy—whom she later married but is now separated from—asked her to be the food consultant for Luchow’s, Charley O’s, and the U.S. Steak House Co. During the decade she spent helping Aschkenasy, Blum “worked with many party planners who didn’t know the difference between an hors d’oeuvre and a lampshade.” She saw a need for someone who could bridge the gap between caterers and party planners—and do it with panache.
“There used to be great animosity between in-house catering directors and independent event planners,” says Blum, who started her company in 1986. “But now, lots of caterers and restaurants recommend wedding planners because they don’t want to handle all those details and questions. Caterers don’t know how to bustle a dress or send someone down the aisle. They can’t be on top of the food and service and worry about the step-father complaining about where he’s seated.”
In addition to being “maniacally detailed,” Blum attributes her success to being able to “think globally, rather than one unit at a time” and to the personal attention she and her four-person staff give each client. “For better or worse, we care very deeply here for all our clients, but particularly for our brides an grooms. It’s such an unbusinesslike business. It’s a professional experience with emotion wrapped around it.”
As for the future, Blum plans to do more consulting for hotels and businesses. She is also considering opening a high-end wedding paraphernalia retail store.
And yes, she does cry at her clients’ weddings: “I either wear waterproof mascara or none.”