THE Podcast for Wedding and Events Industry Professionals
To say Rita Bloom is the pioneer of the wedding planning business would be an understatement. Rita’s story of discovering an entire industry need and growing her business is one of amazement and empowerment. From the 1960s when there was no such thing as wedding florists, designers, or planners, is where Rita grew from. As she puts it, the customer invented her business, as more and more people realized they wanted more options and creativity for parties and weddings.
Rita started her career almost by accident in the late 1960s, when she helped create some out-of-the-box decor for a neighbor’s sweet sixteen party. Her originality and tenacity as a decorator and event planner led her to picking up more clientele and work. If Rita ever came across an idea so out of the ordinary that no florist would help her, she would go out and pick those flowers in a field herself and arrange them to create her client’s vision. Her self-starter attitude led to a hugely successful career that is both fascinating and inspiring to women everywhere.
Andy and Rita dive into what life was like for women looking to get into business in the 1960s, how age plays a part in business and life, and some of Rita’s favorite moments of her long and triumphant career as a planner and decorator. You can check out the full interview now.
Would you ever expect an industry lauded calligrapher to have gotten an F in handwriting? For Ellen Weldon, that black mark ignited a lifelong passion for handwritten designs. Ellen’s portfolio is as impressive as her calligraphy skills, having worked for companies like Cartier, Saks, Estee Lauder, Clinique, Lancome, and many others. Her meticulous work is also sought after for weddings, corporate get-togethers, and non-profit events.
As Ellen tells Andy, her process is centered around interpreting what her client wants and working tirelessly to make their vision a reality. Ellen’s company Ellen Weldon Design is always pushing creative limits, whether that be in the styles they create, the materials they use, or the latest technologies they utilize. And even when the industry changes and throws something new at her, Ellen is always ready to embrace the latest trend and take it to unexpected places.
Andy and Ellen discuss the difficulties of mixing art and business, the latest trends and how they fit in with her designs, and compare the processes of creating calligraphy and music. Check out the entire interview now.
“You’re only as good as your last party.” This old adage is something that renowned event producer and designer David Stark holds in high regard. David has produced events for noteworthy celebrities like Glenn Close and Brad Pitt, organizations like Saturday Night live, the Whitney Museum, and the Metropolitan Opera, has 5 books published, and the list goes on in similar fashion.
David’s career in design started in college when he pursued studies in painting. After finishing graduate school in New York with an MFA in painting, he realized he in fact did not want to become a painter. While waiting tables in New York in his twenties, he and his boyfriend began diving into the floral scene, slowly growing from a small job operation to eventually a larger than life business 12 years later. Though David didn’t end up becoming a professional painter, he attributes his success in large part to what he learned in art school; not to paint, but to solve problems creatively, how to put together teams, and invent things. That process is what carries through to today for David, noting that putting together a team is the most creative act you can pull off.
Andy and David also chat about his favorite events he has ever produced, and he explains the mindset he uses when approaching a new event. For David, it’s all about creating relationships with people, pushing boundaries in the designs he creates, and always staying a little nervous, because that means you’re trying something completely original. Listen to the full interview to hear what inspires David, how he pulled off creating event decor out of toilet paper, and how he balances the creative and business aspects of his company.
Christie Narvaez is an entertainer who’s worn many hats—actress, producer, comedian, and more. Today, Andy talks with her about her latest roles: Wife and mother.
In a first for The Wedding Biz, we get the bride’s side of the story! Andy conversation with Christie includes straight talk about what it’s like to be the bride at a luxurious wedding.
Yes, getting married at The Pierre New York is an absolute dream. But it still shares aspects that all brides will be very familiar with—the pressure to be perfect, the anxiety that weddings can bring out with family and between the bride and groom, struggles with weight and appearance, and striving to remain in the moment and present through one of the most important events of your life. Christie also shares funny stories, including her experience of being on Say Yes To The Dress.
Marc Eliot is Founder and CCO (Chief Creative Officer) of swoop, a New York-based design studio for upscale luxury celebrations for weddings, social events, and corporate events alike. swoop is also the exclusive in-house event design affiliate for Cipriani.
In this episode, Marc and Andy discuss what music and design have in common, the importance of “Game Day” improvisation, listening to what a design “wants”, how to get where the clients wants to go even if they can’t express how to get there, the freedom of structure, and more.
Marc discovered a passion for music and as a young man. As a teenager he composed music and entertained as a singer, with a focus on performing standards by greats like Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. This love of music eventually took him from New York to California in search of fame and fortune, and eventually back to NYC when those remained elusive.
Marc’s involvement in the luxury wedding industry is a happy accident—the result of being asked to work for a floral decorator as a young man. Originally a way to help finance his music career, Marc found a new passion—design. He learned that he loved designing events, producing events, and working with people. This new kind of “performance” fueled a lot of the same passions as music for him, and for some time his music career and design career co-existed, as Marc simultaneously honed his design craft while performing music, releasing albums, and producing shows.
In 1991, Marc founded his own Long Island floral company, Simply Elegant, with two partners and ran it for nine years as its Managing Partner & Creative Director. His growing reputation ultimately led to being General Manager and Creative Director of Floralia Decorators, with an exclusive affiliation at The Waldorf Astoria’s in-house floral provider.
When not fully immersed in his role at swoop, Marc is an avid composer, crooner, lyricist and writer, and an active member of the world-famous Friar’s Club.
In today’s conversation, Andy talks with Ashfer Biju, the executive chef and food and beverage director at the iconic The Pierre, A Taj Hotel in New York City, responsible for all things culinary. To Ashfer, however, he’s more than his official job title; he’s a self-proclaimed “crafter of perishable art.”
After growing up in a small fishing town in India, Ashfer discovered his passion for food as a child and was driven to share his love with others ever since. With his entire family working in the restaurant industry in some fashion, Ashfer quickly dove into the hospitality industry and helped launch a vegetarian restaurant in India when he was only 18. He studied hospitality and pursued a degree at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, California. Soon after, Ashfer traveled to open restaurants around the world, from Berkeley to Mauritius and the Maldives. By 2009, when he had already opened numerous hotels and restaurants, the time for Ashfer to move to New York City had come.
Not surprisingly, Manhattan ended up being far more than the mere short-term piece of a working travel circuit as he’d expected; Ashfer found his calling in what he considers one of the three “maximum food cities” of New York, London, and Hong Kong. Extending beyond his current work at The Pierre, Ashfer and Andy delve into the “extreme form of art” that is food, the importance of food’s personalization in weddings, why food is an experience at heart, and even why turmeric is “the next kale.”
After their conversation, Andy had the opportunity to experience Ashfer’s food firsthand through a tasting at Perrine in The Pierre. Read about his experience below the links.
Colin Cowie is a top designer for all things weddings—as well as galas, charitable events, corporate and destination celebrations. He’s beloved by the likes of Oprah, Jerry Seinfeld, Elton John, Michael Jordan, Bruce Willis, Jennifer Aniston, and countless other A-list celebrities.
Ever since Colin arrived in Los Angeles from Kitzwe, Zambia at the height of apartheid in 1985, his professional life has soared. While teaching cooking lessons at age 23, he met a woman whose chance encounter soon led to his first wedding assignment for a local bachelor: Hugh Hefner.
Thirty-one years of parties, weddings, and multi-day events later, he’s never created the same event twice.
The degree to which Colin cares for and personalizes his work is not just unmatched, it’s nearly indescribable, and precisely why he’s consistently relied upon by the most discerning of clientele. He learns everything there is to know about his clients, over hors d’oeuvres and champagne, until the event he crafts (and the journey on which he takes his clients to get there) is not just perfectly tailored, but permanently unique. When he isn’t designing weddings and Fortune 500 parties, Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball or Guinness Book of World Records-breaking pyrotechnic shows abroad, Colin works as “creator-director” for elite brands like NetJets, Dom Pérignon, and Bergdorf Goodman; even private islands.
Idyllic as Colin’s life may sound, and so often is, he and Andy extend their conversation today beyond the exclusive glamour of the luxury events industry to the unseen challenges once faced in the midst of the great recession, Colin’s daily routines (from meditation and “I am” statements to nightcaps), professional strategies, and the critical value of humility and gratitude.
When planning a dream-come-true wedding on an island getaway, only one name immediately comes to mind: JoAnne Brown. In this week’s conversation, Andy talks to the go-to planner for weddings in the Cayman Islands and beyond.
Even before she dominated the destination wedding world, JoAnne was fittingly immersed in the tropics. Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, with a mother born in the Caymans and a father who launched Appleton Rum in Jamaica, JoAnne adored helping others from the start. She’d decorate everything from birthday parties to her friends’ Christmas trees, as long as she was designing something that would bring joy to a family she’d come to know. Before long, a friend asked JoAnne to decorate and plan her wedding locally; from there, momentum grew by word-of-mouth until she could no tackle the work independently out of her front living room.
As the second of three generations to uphold the Fred Marcus Studio brand, Andy Marcus has grown into his status as one of the rare few wedding photography legends, with his son, Brian, poised to carry the legacy forward. In Andy’s nearly 50 years of work in the industry, he’s photographed the weddings of Eddie Murphy, Kelsey Grammer, Mick Jones, Mary Tyler Moore, several of the Trumps, Princess Yasmin Aga Kahn, Billy Baldwin, Marvin Davis and more.
An icon of the hospitality industry, Bill Spinner was literally born into it—as a young man, he first learned what it means to make people’s experiences special by doing everything that needed to be done at his family’s restaurant and inn. Today, Bill is in his 20th year at The Pierre New York, where he’s Director of Sales and Catering. In that time he’s worked with celebrities, socialites, heads of state and CEOs, and he applies that same care to weddings hosted at The Pierre.
In this episode, Andy talks with with Rick and Chris about what initially inspired them to do event design and production, how they keep their inspirational wellsprings replenished, and the joys and challenges of being partners in business and in life.
This week, Andy talks with the artist behind three enormously-popular wedding songs—Edwin McCain. His songs “I’ll Be” and “I Could Not Ask For More” are both favorite “first dance” songs, and his song “Walk With You” is always a moving choice for the father/daughter dance. Edwin’s songs have formed the soundtrack to some of the most pivotal moments in people’s lives, that couples and their families will always remember.
Bryan Rafanelli’s exquisite sense of style, attention to detail and ability to transform clients’ visions into unforgettable celebrations have made him a go-to planner for the nation’s most exclusive and high-profile events. Andy talks with Bryan about how he became a world-class events designer, and they discuss the business of creativity and the creativity of business.
Matthew Robbins generously shares his process for creating events that resonate, and how he connects with clients to make that happen. We also talk about balancing work and personal lives, which gets especially interesting (and rewarding!) when your professional and life partner is the same person.
David Beahm, world-class wedding designer and planner, known for his inventive work and trademark lavish flower creations, has designed countless weddings for society, high profile and discerning clients, including Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, as well as a host of celebrity and Fortune 500 corporate events. In this episode, we learn a lot about David and how got there from here—his early days as a teacher, his deep background in music and musical theater, and the leaps of faith that enabled little and big synchronicities alike.
Sylvia Weinstock reinvented the tradition of the wedding cake. In this episode I talk with Sylvia about her amazing life and career in the wedding business, her philosophy on both, and about this amazing time in Sylvia’s life as she closes one chapter and opens a new one.
Rebecca Grinnals and Kathryn Arce are powerhouse team is the force behind the wedding and honeymoon industry consulting firm Engaging Concepts. In this episode, we talk about their road from their Disney Weddings days to their own Engage! Summits events.