BAR/BAT MITZVAH PLANNING AND CHECKLIST
Bar & Bat Mitzvah's bring so many happy memories for years afterwards, but yes, they can be hard work too! You needn’t dread planning them though, even if you’re not organised by nature it should be enjoyable, so long as you plan ahead and let your creative side come to life. After all the planning stage should be fun, try not to get too stressed. When else do you get to spend so much money in one go? My Husband and I did 3 Bar Mitzvahs in the space of 5 years and it was such a brilliant time, not for the bank balance but definitely for the memories it has left us all with.
WHEN PLANNING YOUR BAR/BAT MITZVAH THERE IS ONE QUESTION YOU MUST ANSWER FIRST.
MONEY MONEY MONEY
Before you go off day dreaming you need to chat to your Husband/Wife or significant other to set a realistic budget for your Bar/Bat Mitzvah. By realistic I mean something that’s realistic to both of you! Remember expensive is not always best and cheap is not always tacky but you have to set a budget to work with in order to start planning. My best advice – add in some contingency funds right now!
By all means you can whack on the mascara right now and flutter those lids. It is time for negotiation but don’t stretch yourself further than you should. The best Bar & Bat Mitzvah celebrations rely on the atmosphere and the good feeling guests bring, not if you served caviar at the dinner table.
Let’s take a closer look at the planning stages. We’re starting 18 months in my schedule but if you’re super organised or just a little over excited then you might be planning from 2 years prior already.
18 MONTHS TO GO
Decide if you’re going to hire an Event Planner. I didn’t use an Event planner because my background is in events, but what I did do is get help running everything on the day so I could relax and enjoy the celebrations, mingle with my guests and drink a Whiskey or two.
Now is the perfect time to start creating a mood board (picture board) with all your ideas on. This is such a fun bit, not only for a little son or daughter bonding time but it will also help you focus on your end goal. Pinterest is superb for creating boards – just PIN away.
Work out how many guests you’re inviting. This is the hard part because there has to be a cut-off point eventually or you won’t find a room big enough. It can be tough not wanting to offend anyone but sometimes needs must.
Once you have an idea of guest numbers and theming ideas, you need to search for venues to match your budget. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative here – after all, each child is unique. I have been to Bar Mitzvahs at The Savoy and at the local Skate Park and each one had its own merits.
Aim to book your Photographer, Band, Entertainment or DJ around this time – Some of the good ones get booked up very quickly.
Give your preferred Caterer the heads up now too so you can start to embark on discussions in the coming months, but ideally you want them pencilled in now so you have the slot booked for when you start discussing menu choices.
In the coming months keep your eyes peeled for ideas and inspiration in Bar & Bat Mitzvah blogs… check Instagram for pictures and pin everything to your board.
12 MONTHS TO GO
By now you should have your theme water tight (that’s if you’re having a dedicated theme) It’s now time to start looking at;
Bar Mitzvah / Bat Mitzvah Invitations. Ask for recommendations from friends and family and ask around on social media in your area too. Hopefully you will have already pinned some ideas to your Pinterest board but always show your Graphic Designer ideas of the styles you like upfront. There is no point wasting their time designing things that ultimately you and your child won’t like.
Venue and table decor. Work out how you want to decorate your venue. You can work together with your caterer to plan the tables and start deciding on centrepieces. This is a brilliant opportunity to think outside the box and really bring your childs personality into the event. One of my step sons is crazy about football, so I chose light unbleached linens and then bought lots of Astro Turf and turned it into table runners, centre pieces and a seating plan.
You can also use the 12 month marker to send out a SAVE THE DATE. You’d be surprised how organised some people are with booking holidays!
6 MONTHS TO GO
Okay, so we’re not too far away from the day itself. You could start a diet if you wanted to but I will recommend some other more important things;
Design and order Kippot. You will most likely need some Kippot for Shul and some for the Bar / Bat Mitzvah party. You can get some brilliant deals bringing them in from the US. I can highly recommend A1 Skullcap for a good deal. I have used them 3 times and they always deliver on time and they do the job just perfectly.
Keeping people entertained is one of the biggest challenges. I mean how many Bar and Bat Mitzvah speeches can one really listen to before the novelty starts wearing off? We bought vintage football magazines and match guides dating back to the 1960's for people to enjoy. We strategically placed them at particular guest tables where the football enthusiasts were and we matched the vintage programme specifically for their teams.
Order your invitations. Whilst six months still feels quite a while away, you need time to go back and forth with your designs until you have the finished product that you are all happy with. You would be amazed at how long it takes to get the invitation wording just right! Are you having Benchers also? If so now you need to decide how you want them.
Start gathering guests contact details and make sure all contact details you do have are up to date, like the cousin you only speak to every few years who might have moved twice since you last saw them.
Yes, you can start thinking about outfits now…. Roll on the internet surfing. I can almost guarantee you though that your childs taste will change in the lead up to their Simcha, so you may want to leave any actual shopping until nearer the time. Don’t forget about growth spurts too! Your childs hopefully, not yours.
3 MONTHS TO GO
Start hunting down the embarrassing baby photos now. One thing I always do at family events is put photographs up on the mirror in the male and female toilets. It has always served as a fun talking point and people tend to linger in the bathrooms chatting so it’s a nice added extra.
It’s time to finalize your guest list. The word Broiges comes to mind here, hopefully you have it all planned to a tee so you don’t have to offend anyone. Send your completed list to your Graphic Designer and go and buy enough stamps for when the invitations arrive at your house. Make sure you know the weight of the invitation and the correct postage it needs.
What are you doing for Friday Night Dinner before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah? If you need to book in a caterer to deliver food to you, now is the time. Do you really want to be rushing around cooking the night before? I didn’t think so either. Same applies to the Kiddush in Shul, now is the time to get it booked.
If you are having out of towners, it’s time to start preparing Maps and Directions for them so they feel comfortable knowing where they are going and can plan their visit accordingly.
It’s time to buy or order your centrepieces so they arrive in enough time for you to have a practise run setting them up. Obviously this doesn’t apply if you are hiring them in.
If you’re considering a signing-in board, now is the time to order it with your Graphic Designer. There are also some great companies out there that make really funky bespoke party boards too. You can get them to match an invitation or a theme and they are a brilliant momento for your child to put up as art on their wall after their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. This is one I made for one of my step sons.
Start having a think about gifts. I know it’s not PC but people will ask what your child wants as a gift and better that they get something useful or futureproof, no?
Non Jewish Guests – You want to give them an experience to remember, a positive one that is! If it’s their first time in Shul then you should plan to have someone meet them, either a friend or a committee member. We made these booklets to explain the Bar Mitzvah service to non-Jewish guests. We had some great feedback on them.
You need to refine your menu with your caterer and agree on a final menu. Perhaps you can go for a tasting session, this will also give you time to go through wine pairing for the meal. Decide before you go on who’s driving back!
DON'T FORGET TO KEEP LITTLE PEOPLE ENTERTAINED