There is always a host of life-cycle celebrations that are part and parcel of our lives. Brissim, baby namings, bar/bats, weddings, anniversaries, and birthday parties are the usual reasons for someone to have a celebration. IT’S BAR/BAT TIME…and it takes a minimum of three years to get it right, so you’d better start planning right this minute!!!!!
Even parents with kids in day schools, yeshivot, and other Jewish learning programs and affiliations have a rough time putting all the pieces together to appropriately mark their children’s spiritual ascent into Jewish responsibility—namely, celebrating their bar and bat mitzvoth. These events involve rabbis, caterers, sanctuaries, and catering halls. They come with that long list of to-dos and organizational skills: invites, response cards, place cards, flowers, music, staff people, and all the different elements that go into making a successful event.
First, set your budget. Don’t forget to account for invitations, musicians or DJs, entertainers, photo and videographers—all take deposits and need lead-time. (In some synagogues, photos can only be taken before and after the Shabbat.) The dressmaker, haberdasher, or dress shop also need time to get you what you’d like to wear, especially if people in your family are hard to fit. Barbers and hairdressers, makeup technicians all require advance booking. The more in demand they are, the more important it is to plan ahead.
Take a count of a possible guest list, and don’t forget to include classmates and their parents and your business associates. Once you have the numbers roughly figured out, you will need to find a hall or venue that can hold all your guests, along with a dance floor, a sound system, and any other amenities you will need to fulfill your ideal bar/bat fantasy. Then you need to talk to the caterer or restaurant managers and a local hotel if people will be traveling to be at your event. Have phone numbers for taxis, airport limos, and car rental services ready, in case you need them.
Anything personalized—kippot, siddurim, benchers, throw blankets, baseball caps, t-shirts, mugs—also need to be ordered in advance. (Try Judaica House on Cedar Lane and see what they offer. Cafe Press will print anything on anything.)
If families want to create a “This Is Your Life” photographic and printed biography of the mitzvah child, that will need at least six months prep time with a graphic artist, typesetter, and printer—and can go to “press” once the invitations are printed, so that they can be included.
Give relatives advance notice if they will be saying the blessing over the bread or wine, or will be called to the bimah for an aliyah or other honor.
If you type the words “bar bat mitzvah planning” into google, you will get more than 12,000,000 hits. The websites that come up include almost everything you can think of, from trope software to teach your kids how to sing the service, to trips to Israel with private guides, party planners who will put you on a cruise ship, and people who will take millions to make you feel like you are throwing a birthday party for Malcolm Forbes.
Examine some of these websites and you will find themes will stress Jewish history, people, culture, and good deeds. A good planning site might be http://www.mazelmoments.com/blog/bar-bat-mitzvah-planning-tools/, which includes other useful features, whistles, and bells: built-in design themes, flash intros, music, videos, planning tools, photo albums, gift registry.
An organization like Jewish Women’s Archives, out of Brandeis University, is offering bat mitzvoth historical connections and themes for their life-cycle events that link them to great American women who have made a difference in Judaism. Posters, ideas, themes all come together on their website at www.jwa.org.
Caveat emptor, though. There are so many choices when you get on the net, you may just want to pull your hair out, necessitating the buying of a wig or hat for the event.
By Jeanette Friedman