Yeshivat Ohel Torah - A Hidden Jewel in the Heart of Brooklyn
By: Kelly Massry
You’ve waited 13 years for your son to arrive at this rite of passage; finally, he will take responsibility for his deeds and fully accept the Jewish religion.
Of course, there should be a celebration to mark the day, and this is what turns what should be an exciting moment of pride into a source of stress to many.
You don’t need to have a lot of money to plan a successful bar mitzvah – in fact, many of the accouterments can be borrowed from our generous community gemachs – but if you do plan lavishly, new questions arise. How detailed should you get? How far should you go? Unconstrained, you have the freedom to plan according to your wishes, with your son in mind. Herein lies the excitement – which can quickly become overwhelming. Here are some tips to keep you stress-free before and during the bar mitzvah:
Choose a date
The date should coordinate with your son’s Hebrew birthday. It should be determined at least six months in advance. Once you’ve decided on a date, you need to make sure that your vendors can synchronize with it – the caterer, the photographer, the venue and the band all need to be available that day.
Choose the kind of celebration and the place it will be held
Will it be dinner and dancing? A morning breakfast? Will you do a sebet, as well? A party for his friends and then a more formal affair for the adults? Where will it take place? A local affair is always easiest – the vendors are already familiar with the community’s expectations – but a bar mitzvah in Israel is a very special experience for the entire family.
Choose the form of entertainment
Discuss this with your son at length. Ask him what he and his friends would most enjoy. Remember, he and his friends are only 13 years old, and they might be shy, so you will need an emcee to get the kids excited and coax them into dancing.
Buy yourself a small notebook or a loose-leaf binder and begin to get the affair in order. Make lists of everything you will need and cross things off as they are accomplished. These should include the following items:
- Take care of the “stable” elements first so as to get them out of the way – this would include anything printed, like napkins, kippahs, and siddurim. (Double-check the proofs before you approve them!)
- Determine attire and everything that goes along with it (suits, ties, dresses, stockings and shoes galore! The gemachs may be useful here).
· Make makeup and hair appointments.
· Choose a kouracha and begin the needlepointing process.
· Choose a caterer.
· Devise a menu.
· Select a florist.
· Map out the candle-lighting ceremony.
- Secure the rental chairs and tables. (Ask the caterer for help with this; he will be familiar with the dimension of the room.)
Pick out and customize invitations (this should be done six weeks before).
As all these separate elements fall into place, the party will begin to come together.
Presentation is key
Pick a theme, a color scheme, an ambiance, a feeling. Choose the décor to match the effect you have in mind. Extend the vision to the flower arrangement and your family’s dress code. Nice combinations may be green and brown or navy and white. Coordinate the planning so that all elements come together nicely. Your guests will appreciate your creativity.
Make use of community talent
Know your strengths rather than attempting to do everything yourself. If there is an aspect of the party that is particularly important to you, consider letting an expert take over. Delegating is always easiest, but be sure to delegate responsibility only to people you trust.
As your party unfolds, take a moment to look around you and appreciate the experience. Take stock of where you are, of the people you’re surrounded by and of how beautiful everything looks. Walk around. Talk to your guests. Eat something. Smile. Laugh. Dance. Like all special occasions, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event that will be over before you know it. Savor it.
This is the most important advice of all. Once the bar mitzvah begins, let go of the stress and revel in the moment. Don’t worry about the minor imperfections that crop up, the things that didn’t get done or the things that go wrong. Your party doesn’t have to perfect; it just has to be fun. If you enjoy yourself, your guests will, too.
Be generous with your guest list, depending, of course, on the size of the affair. Don’t overextend yourself, but if you’re in doubt whether or not to invite someone, make the gesture. If you don’t, you’ll feel badly later. ~SLJ
Give the event a personalized touch. The little things make a difference. Initialed napkins. Party favors. Inscribed siddurim. Birkat Hamazon pamphlets. Guests like having something to take home with them. ~A.S.
Plan within your budget. Plants are a less expensive alternative to flowers. Or, inexpensive flowers – like hydrangeas – will look nice if they are assembled tightly together. ~A.S.