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Planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah

By Tsahi Rosenbluth
2/27/2014, 1:02 PM

Do you have a son or a daughter who will be celebrating their Bar or Bat Mitzvah soon? Then, you really should start getting ready, and the sooner the better…

It wasn’t so long ago that, at the most, the Bar Mitzvah started in the Temple and ended with a celebration in the Temple. If not at the Temple, then after the ceremony families would make do with a party in the back yard and a table loaded with soft drinks and plates full of food and pastries.

Over time, slowly but surely, a new trend developed; celebrating the Bar or Bat Mitzvah in a modest hall with a simple event held in the afternoon with a menu that consisted mainly of light snacks, a reception and glasses of colored jello served for dessert. Hardly any time has passed and now, the Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration has become a huge event, one that you’d usually expect to find at a wedding!

That’s why we decided to put together some helpful and important tips to help you prepare for the big event.

First, we suggest that you decide who you want to invite to the event, who your “target audience” is.

Some want to invite people close to the bar or bat mitzvah boy or girl like their friends from school. Others want to invite the family and there are those who want to invite both family and friends.

It’s important to realize that the more guests you have – so the event becomes more expensive and, unlike a wedding, there’s no guarantee that the presents from lots of guests will cover the expense.

There is another option, you could split the event into the actual Aliyah L’Torah, the Bar Mitzvah ceremony and a separate gathering for the immediate family or an event for the family and another event for class mates.

An event that is, in essence, a single party can save you money. But, splitting the celebrations could make the party even more enjoyable for your guests since, as you most probably realize, a party just for kids doesn’t resemble a party for a mixed audience of children and the extended family.

In any event, in any of these parties, whether for the extended family or just for class mates or even both, in order to make it special, families spend a lot of time and thought to make it as memorable, exiting and emotional as possible.

Here are some things that will help you plan the event:

Choosing the location

After you’ve decided who you’re going to invite and how many are expected to attend, you have to decide where to hold the celebration and then book the location. If this is a events hall, whether indoors or outdoors, the earlier you book the more chance that your chosen date will be available and, obviously, you’ll have more time to plan and prepare.

If the party is just for the class mates of the ben or bat mitzvah, then you might consider one of the special clubs and locations that cater specifically for this age group and which offer a range of packages at varying prices.

Of course, you should do some “market research” into prices and also check out the location when there’s an event taking place and exploit the power of the internet to see what others have to say about the different places.

One way to check out how well maintained the place is, is by checking the bathrooms; if they’re clean, then the place is most probably well maintained.

Most business demand either full payment in advance or a deposit – try to give as small a deposit as possible using a deferred check (crossed and made payable to the payee only) dated as close as possible to the actual celebration (again, if possible…). The balance should be paid within three days after the event.

When you sign a contract, make sure that there is a clause that, if a close relative passes away (God forbid) or because of Force majeure, you can postpone the celebration up to 24 hours before it’s due to take place.

Here’s an important tip – Make sure that the location is properly managed, that it has all the required licenses and permits, is insured and, if your guests keep kashrut, is certified as being kosher.

Choosing the Menu

When your guests are adults, one of the main and more important considerations regarding your event is the menu. If the celebration is being held in a hall, a ballroom or at an outside venue then it’s a good idea to decide as soon as possible, along with the chef, your menu for the event. It’s also a really good idea to have a “tasting” session and make sure that the menu meets your expectations.

It’s very important to make sure that the chef understands that the food at the “tasting” session must be exactly the same as the food to be served to your guests at your celebration.

After you’ve chosen the food (reception, main course, salads and desserts) we recommend that you don’t ignore the drinks menu which should be as varied as possible.

Another small and important tip – if your guests are old enough to drink alcohol, then the choice of drinks should be as wide as possible and the best your budget can afford. The general rule is that alcohol can be the “major” player in keeping the guests happy.

Seating the guests

Yes it’s true, for some organizing an event is an exact and meticulous task worthy of a military commander. Such families will organize precise guest lists and prepare, in advance, a rock solid seating plan so that everybody knows whose sitting next to who.

It important to note that this has a real advantage because it lets you get a good idea, close to the actual event, as to how many guests out of all those you invited intend coming and you can order, in advance, the amount of food needed and safe a lot of money. Of course, you need to take the time to call all those invited to ask if they’ll be attending or not.

On the other hand, there are those who prefer letting people sit wherever and with whoever they want to. This means that they won’t have to consider all the pros and cons of who sits with whom and juggling names trying to get the perfect match – like a crossword puzzle. On the other hand, you should also consider the problems you’ll face trying to find a place for all your guests – and this is sure to happen right after the reception.

In any event, you should ask a close friend or somebody from the family to help you seat the guests. They’ll be the only person responsible for asking the event manager to set up extra tables because extra tables = extra costs!

Dancing the night away with your DJ

The atmosphere as your guests arrive, on the dance floor and even during the meal will be influenced by the music being played by your DJ.

And if your event is continuing into the night, then the music has an even greater impact and influence on the dancing than is usual in an afternoon event.

So, if your celebration is being held at night you need to choose a really good DJ one who’ll get guidelines, in advance, about the type of guests he’ll be playing for.

If the occasion is an afternoon event, depending obviously on the type of guests, the dance floor is often, for some unknown reason, usually empty or has just a few couples dancing. Even so, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the music throughout your party.

Another small tip – don’t seat elderly guests close to the dance floor and definitely not next to the loud speakers!

A photographer to immortalize those magical moments

There are lots of photographers out there, especially in an era when every mobile phone lets you take high quality pictures. So, every guest is a potential photographer.

But if you want the very best professional photographs possible to remind you of this joyful occasion and your guests, then you should hire a professional event photographer.

In order to choose a good photographer, look at examples of previous events that they’ve photographed and look for recommendations on the Internet.

The Bar or Bat Mitzvah’s Speech

Despite the reticence of the young person in who’s honor the celebration is being held, it’s customary for the bar or bat mitzvah to give a speech during the event.

Writing the speech isn’t an easy thing to do and they should get the help of a family member with a talent for writing to make the process easier.

Tip – Try to make sure that the speech isn’t longer than 5 minutes because the guests’ attention will wander and they’ll become impatient.

“Book”

Don’t be surprised, but having a photo album with professionally photographed pictures of the bar or bat mitzvah on display as the guests arrive can be really impressive – especially if you use it as a “guest book” so that the guests can write their own greetings and wishes for the lucky young person which will later become a unique reminder of the special day.

All you need to do is contact a professional photo studio (and there are plenty of them…), spend a few hours posing in front of the camera and you’ll have an exciting and pleasurable experience by itself, even without the photographs.

As an alternative, you can also get a large poster printed with just one picture surround by white space so that guests can write their dedications.

Producing an original, funny and moving video clip

Today you can find many companies specializing in the production of short films and video clips for private events. Showing the clip during the event is a very moving moment, especially for the family and the bar or bat mitzvah.

You can make a clip with a story, a unique sc‎ript written specially with professionals and the event’s organizers and then filmed so that the end result is a short film that tells a story, a story that involves the guests of honor and their families and friends and that, needless to say, has a happy ending just like any good story!

You can also create a clip in the form of a presentation – a sc‎ript that combines pictures and short video segments of the bar or bat mitzvah from their birth until the present day accompanied by their favorite music to make the whole package even more entertaining and interesting.

Another alternative is to record, in a professional recording studio, a song sung by all the family or someone special to them.The clip is shown during the celebration on a large screen set up in a central spot so that everybody can see. There’s no doubt that this will be a moment of joy that will remind the family and guests that the occasion isn’t just for food & drink or a casual meeting between friends and family but a celebration of a significant milestone in the life of the bar or bat mitzvah, a milestone that will be remembered for years to come thanks, amongst other things, the video clip or presentation.

It’s important to make sure with the event location that you can show the video clip or presentation on a large screen with the right lighting and a good sound system so that the soundtrack and music will be heard clearly by all the guests.

Special attractions for the celebration

At a Bar or Bat Mitzvah the older guests usually prefer to pass the time talking without the kids bothering them. So, if you have a special attraction at your celebrations especially for the children and the youngsters – it will help make the entire event even more enjoyable for everybody.

There are a lot of different attractions to choose from that are perfect for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, and the choice gets bigger and better day by day. For example:

  • Designer Balloons: There are many companies that specialize in designing chairs or tables using designer balloons adapted to the event’s theme or character.
  • Inflatable attractions: There are a huge number of inflatable attractions suitable from the very young and even for adults to choose from, attractions that will keep the guests happy and busy. Just make sure that there’s nothing to prevent you using them at your event location.
  • Table games: Air hockey, table football, snooker and more.

Apart from these and also because there just isn’t time to describe everything, there are attractions not only provide a great experience during the event, but also give the guests a great souvenir to take home with them (the following attraction ideas were inspired by FotoMaster's catalog):

  • A photographer who photographs the guests during the event and then, when they go home, they take with them a magnet with their picture to remind them of the occasion.
  • A photo-booth where the guests are photographed and take the photographs home with them.
  • Video Flip - a mobile studio where the guests are filmed for a short, 7 second clip which is then transferred to a flip-book where, when the pages are flipped through quickly, they see the clip they took part in.
  • Virtual Hero - The guest is photographed and their head is superimposed onto a character in an interactive game that they can play on their smartphone or tablet.
  • Digital Graffiti Wall – the guests are filmed during the event and their pictures are immediately uploaded and displayed on a large screen. The guests can then paint and draw on their pictures just as if they were drawing on a real graffiti wall – but using digital spray paints – and at the end of the process, they take away with them a high resolution print out of their creation.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, there’s lots, and lots, and lots more……