a gu ide to s imcha hs
Ladies In Red
These red-coated chaperones ensure a smooth party.
ord is out among the tweens and
teens on the b'nai mitzvah party cir-
cuit: Watch how you behave or the
Red Coat Ladies will get you!
For mothers of brides-to-be, the warning is
a little different: If you can't get the Red Coat
Ladies, don't have a wedding!
The Red Coat Ladies, a party management
company formally known as Party Assurance,
was started 15 years ago by Pat Blackwell of
Commerce Township. The ladies are on-site prob-
lem solvers who make sure weddings and b'nai
mitzvah parties run smoothly.
Blackwell, 52, grew up on a farm in
Minnesota, one of 11 children in a strongly
Soon after she and her husband, Doug, mar-
ried in 1987, Blackwell took a job as building
manager for Temple Israel in West Bloomfield.
She supervised the custodial staff, managed the
events schedule, made sure the rooms were set
up, ordered supplies and more.
She was stunned by the lavishness of Detroit
b'nai mitzvah and wedding parties.
"I had never seen parties like that," she said.
"Back in Minnesota, when my brother got mar-
ried, I picked the flowers and we butchered a
But Blackwell was also struck that so often
the mother of the celebrant was unable to enjoy
"I'd watch moms not be able to eat because
an unexpected guest showed up, and she had to
figure out how to squeeze in an extra place at
Table 12," she said. "Or someone had to leave
early, and the mom couldn't join the dancing
because she had
to run around to
find the right party
What these par-
ties needed, she
realized, was "an
extra wife for the
day" to take care of
her help to those
having parties at
Temple Israel. Soon,
their friends host-
ing parties else-
where were asking
for her services.
She quit her day
job and started
C 2 2
celebrate! I March 2014
Pat Blackwell with a chef from Great Lakes Culinary Catering
Chaperoning is a major part of the package
for b'nai mitzvah parties. The Red Coat Ladies
make sure the young guests don't sneak alcohol-
ic drinks or get up to mischief in the restrooms,
and they stay at the party until every child has
been picked up.
The Red Coat Ladies have become known for
"She absolutely saved the day at
my daughter's wedding," raved Margo
Stocker of Farmington Hills.
At the Friday night rehearsal dinner for
her daughter Laurie's wedding to Kevin
Skurow in October 2012, Stocker's older
daughter noticed a problem with the
ketubah: The bride's name was in the spot
for the groom's name, and his name was
in the bride's spot.
"Pat said, 'I'll take care of it,' and
whisked it away," Stocker said. "At 10:30
that night she called and said it was all
taken care of. Hiring her was money more
than well spent!"
The Red Coat Ladies also rescued Cara
Lash at her bat mitzvah party last April at
the Royal Oak Farmer's Market. "On the
day of the party, her dress didn't fit," said
Cara's mother, Stacy Lash of Huntington
Woods. "They sewed her into it!"
Blackwell is "worth her weight in gold," she
Blackwell started as a one-woman show
but soon realized she had to expand. She had
to be in Minnesota on a Sunday for a family
emergency, but she had a party to manage on
Saturday night. She worked the party and was
able to get to Minnesota the next afternoon.
Soon after she got home, Blackwell hired an
Now the company has 11 lead workers, who
can staff a party alone, and 30 who work as
Most of the staff are moms used to juggling
multiple family activities. Blackwell met them
at school PTO meetings and Boy Scout activities
that she attended with her three sons, now 19,
16 and 14.
Soon after starting the company, Blackwell
wore a red jacket to a party. Someone came up
to her with a problem and said, "They told me
to find the lady in the red coat."
The same thing happened at the next party.
Blackwell realized the red jacket made her easy
to identify. A red jacket, black pants and white
shirt became the staff uniform.
Before a party, Blackwell meets with the mom;
continued on page C24