If you’re a newly engaged couple starting to think about your wedding, or a parent starting to plan your son or daughter’s bar or bat mitzvah, finding a venue should be the first item on your to-do list. With blackout periods like Sefirah and the Three Weeks and with the number of smachot on the rise, dates are at a premium. You’re competing with other couples who booked their venues way before they were engaged, or bar and bat mitzvahs and school and shul dinners that are planned way in advance. “We have dates booked into June and beyond,” said Yossi Katz, president of Keter Torah in Teaneck.
With a major renovation now complete, Keter Torah is busy throughout the year with events of all sizes. With its large ballroom capacity and parking lot, it’s one of the few venues in the area that can accommodate events with hundreds of people—and large events are coming back now, post pandemic.
Event planner Aliza Schulhof Hendler of Perfect Plans by Lisa said she loves the big, open space at Keter Torah that enables her to be creative. “We come in with our team and transform the space to fit the needs and wants of our clients. With the right lighting and design, including floor plans that work well with the space and beautiful centerpieces and decor, we can completely transform the ballroom.” Her clients have also revealed that they are happy with the new catering panel at Keter Torah. Clients now have options to choose from a variety of caterers with different styles and price points.
Hendler works with venues and vendors throughout New York and New Jersey. She guides her clients to different places based on style and budget. “We usually suggest Keter Torah to couples who are local, as guests enjoy not having to travel, and for those looking for a more intimate event. What’s best about Keter Torah is that we can change the look and feel to whatever the client wants.”
Schools are requiring notice of bar/bat mitzvah scheduling two years in advance, so parents have started to plan early. The Jewish community in this area is growing, and with more people there is increased competition for dates and venues. Hendler mentioned that bar and bat mitzvahs are booking two years out, while 80% of couples are booking venues before they are officially engaged. This makes it a bit more difficult to secure the venues that some clients may have dreamed about for years. She mentioned that she is booked well into 2024.
There are so many moving parts to a simcha that having an event planner manage all the details allows the hosts to fully immerse themselves and enjoy their own smachot. An event planner has more knowledge to make arrangements with vendors, and the ability to react quickly if there’s an emergency. Hendler mentioned a specific situation where there was a fire at a hall a few months ago and her client was scheduled to have a wedding there two days later. She reacted quickly and was able to secure a new location and switch the event to a different venue. Because event planners have close relationships and experiences with multiple vendors, they are able to adjust and direct as needed when changes are necessary. The bride and groom notified their guests about the change, and proceeded to have a beautiful wedding.
Hendler began planning parties after her daughter’s bat mitzvah in 2014. People began asking if she would plan their parties and she made event planning her career. “My first bat mitzvah client just got married,” she said. “It was such a wonderful feeling coming full circle and planning the wedding for the one that started my career.”
Social media has changed the nature of event planning. Years ago, many brides and grooms let their parents handle the wedding details. Today, couples come to Hendler with ideas from smachot they have seen posted online. They are familiar with the names of bands, singers, DJs, florists and photographers. Vendors get booked up quickly, which means they need to be secured as early as possible in the process.
By Bracha Schwartz