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JewishJournal.com

December 13, 2007

‘Wedding planner to the stars’ focuses on details, details and also details

http://www.jewishjournal.com/weddings/article/wedding_planner_to_the_stars_focuses_on_details_details_and_also_details_20

Mindy Weiss. Photo by Jay Goldman

Mindy Weiss. Photo by Jay Goldman

Jackie and Adam Sandler. Shaunie and Shaquille O'Neal. Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. Heidi Klum and Seal. Jami Gertz and Tony Ressler. Janice and Billy Crystal. When these high-profile pairs have a star-studded soirée to host -- anything from a wedding to a bridal shower, a bar mitzvah to a birthday or business bash -- they all leave the preparations to one party planner: Mindy Weiss, owner of the Beverly Hills-based Mindy Weiss Party Consultants. But if you think her job is just about selecting flowers and ordering cakes, you're sorely mistaken.

"I have several roles," said Weiss, 48. "I become a decorator, a mom, a best friend, a sister, a therapist. I wear so many different hats.... When they hire me, they're hiring the 10 other people I can be to help them."

That 10-for-the-price-of-one mentality might be why Brad Delson, lead guitarist for multiplatinum rap-metal group, Linkin Park, and his wife, Elisa, turned to Weiss to help them plan their September 2003 wedding. Despite the low-key nature of their nuptials, held at the Skirball Cultural Center, it stands out in Weiss' mind because, like her, the Delsons are proud, practicing Jews.

Although Weiss said her clients run the spiritual and religious gamut, she admitted to feeling especially at ease when it comes to planning Jewish weddings, which comprise about 50 percent of her party-planning business.

"There's some comfort in Jewish weddings," she explained, "because I'm familiar with them. It's a little easier for me."

Still, with Weiss masterminding more than 120 events annually -- weddings make up the bread and butter of her business -- she does plan plenty of non-Jewish affairs, the sum total of which have established her as one of the most famous party planners in the United States and garnered her a sort of stardom that nearly rivals that of her clients.

She has her own publicist, she's a regular on the talk-show circuit -- "Dr. Phil," "The Today Show" -- and she is the go-to wedding planner for beautiful spreads in glossy magazines like In Style, Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple and, of course, all the bridal rags. Not to mention that in 2003, ABC turned to her to plan the $3.8 million televised wedding of Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter (the famed couple from the 2002 reality show, "The Bachelorette"), an epic event that courted an estimated 17 million viewers. Last week, Weiss celebrated the grand reopening of Owen's Market, a 50-year-old Beverly Hills-adjacent fixture on Pico Boulevard she bought, renovated and reintroduced as a specialty food market.

During the peak wedding season, Weiss and her team of eight employees plan and pull off about three weddings a weekend.

During the stressful, prewedding planning stages, especially important to Weiss is her relationships with her clients. "We really become like a family," she said. "They're calling us every day; we know a lot of their personal business. There are a lot of sensitive things: prenups, who they're inviting, how they feel about Aunt Shirley. You learn a lot about a family."

Details, Details, Details

Weiss grew up in Cheviot Hills. The middle of three sisters, she recalls a childhood filled with intricate celebrations planned by her mother, Marian Hersh.

"In my house, every occasion was decorated and celebrated," she said. "They were so creative and elaborate. Of course, we didn't realize it then. We just knew we always had really fun parties ... Chanukah in the house was amazing."

Not to mention her bat mitzvah: "[It] was ridiculous," Weiss said. "The theme was, 'From Lollipops to Roses.' My mother planned everything. She made me sing my candlelighting ceremony; it was to the theme of 'Fiddler on the Roof,' and she made the songs up, all of them."

Still, Weiss never dreamed that she would turn her innate sense for unique get-togethers, something she considers to be "in her blood," into a career designing parties for the rich and famous. "I was planning on going into radio, television, film -- doing something creative behind the scenes," she said.

But after graduating from Cal State Northridge in 1981 and marrying her first husband, Joey, that same year, Weiss landed a job at William Ernest Brown, an upscale stationary store in Beverly Hills. There, Weiss met her best friend, Janis Gurnick, and, after three years, they left to start their own invitation business. It was a choice familiar to many working women at the time: "We both got pregnant and decided to work from home," she said.

The two women were happily selling custom invitations until one day around 1992, when a client came in and asked Weiss to plan a party. "I insisted I wasn't a party planner," she said, though she eventually agreed to do it. "From that one party with 260 guests, I got 10 calls to do more events. I thought, 'Hmm ... maybe this is a good place for me to be.'"

As it turns out, one of those calls came from Brooke Shields, who was planning her 1997 nuptials to Andre Agassi (the two divorced in 1999). Weiss took the job, landed in her first tabloid spread and hasn't looked back since. She's now a regular in the pages of Us Weekly, OK!, In Touch and all the other gossip glossies.

When Weiss is not busy working, she says she's most likely found spending time with her brood -- her two sons from her first marriage, Jordan, 23, and Jesse, 16, as well as her second husband, realtor Robert David, and their son, Alex, 9. They gather together for Shabbat dinner every Friday night; Sundays are "family days," when they dine with her sisters and their families. "My favorite thing is to spend time with my family," she said. "That's my number one priority."

Ever the professional, though, Weiss did take on the Herculean task of planning two bar mitzvahs for her older sons and foresees one more on the horizon. "I drive my kids nuts with their parties," she laughed. "It's details, details, details."

And yet, it's those "details, details, details" that make a wedding -- or any event for that matter -- planned by Weiss special.

"They don't want their wedding to look like another wedding," she said of her clients. "We're always trying to find ways to make it unique. It's hard when brides and grooms are on the circuit -- they're sometimes going to 10 weddings a year."

But, according to Weiss, there are endless ways to personalize a wedding, and one of her favorites is through special foods and recipes. "It's nice to add something from the family," she said. At one wedding reception, she served matzah ball soup as a first course. "We put little recipe cards above the serving plate," she recalled. "The bride, that's what she remembered growing up. It was her way of pulling her grandmother in."

Which is fitting, Weiss said, because a harkening back to heritage is something she has seen more and more of lately with her rock star clients, especially the Jewish ones. She notes, for example, the renewed popularity among Jewish couples of the bride circling the groom seven times.

"A lot of them are being considerate to the guests and doing programs that explain all the Jewish traditions: what the chuppah is, why we drink from the same glass of wine, why we break the glass. I think that's really nice," she said.

Still, the most pronounced wedding trend Weiss observes has nothing to do with cakes or colors -- it's the involvement of that formerly silent partner: the groom. "I'm not doing one wedding where the groom is not involved," she said. "I used to meet them at the wedding. A lot of brides and grooms today are older. They're getting married in their 30s -- some of them are paying for it -- and they both want to be involved."

As for her professional advice for couples undertaking the endeavor as a team, Weiss cautions them to remember that "the key word is compromise. It's a big lesson in the relationship."

Then again, having a top-notch wedding planner like Weiss, who has more than 15 years' experience under her belt, does help to smooth out any kinks.

"It's not only about the wedding," Weiss said of her role. "It's my responsibility to try as hard as I can to make planning the wedding a great experience."

For more information, visit http://www.mindyweiss.com/ and

http://www.owensla.com/



Reprinted courtesy of World Jewish Digest.





Lisa Keys is a New York-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, the New York Post, The Forward and other publications.



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