Mazel Tov, you've been hired to plan your first Bar or Bat Mitzvah! Someone knows your name and trusted you enough to hire you for the biggest day in their child's life. A majority of Jewish families will tell you that word of mouth is the best way to find vendors for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. And planners, if used at all, are a prized commodity. If you're looking to work within the Jewish community, getting involved with a family, their circle of friends, and the local synagogue is the way to break in and be known. Now that you have, here's everything you need to know to get the planning started!
In the Beginning
One of the first steps of this journey is understanding the terminology, traditions, and events. For a majority of observant Jewish children, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a rite of passage. It's when they transition into adulthood in the eyes of the Jewish community. It's the first time they're called up to the Torah, thus the translation—the son or daughter of the commandments.
Bar Mitzvah – The coming of age ceremony for a young boy. They're usually celebrated on the first sabbath after their 13th birthday.
Bat Mitzvah – The coming of age ceremony for a young girl. They're typically celebrated at the age of 12.
Traditionally only males had this coming of age celebration, and it's still that way in Orthodox communities. Bat Mitzvahs started to grow in popularity in the 1970s. Today we're beginning to see the inclusion of B-Mitzvahs—a gender-neutral term to include non-binary and gender-fluid teens.
Ask the Mother
Ask 100 Jewish mothers what the most critical part of planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is, and you'll likely get 100 answers. The truth is that this rite of passage means something different to each family and each child. The decision about what it means and what type of celebration you choose to have most likely happened long before your services were engaged. Many synagogues assign dates two, three, or even four years in advance. So, somewhere around the child's 10th birthday, the family, hopefully, secured their date and started talking about the Torah reading, mitzvah project, and ideas for the event.
The most challenging part of preparations for the ceremony portion of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah lies with the child and their tutor. For you as the planner, but most often for the parents, planning usually requires arranging the ceremony with the synagogue, purchasing several kippot, printing up a guide for guests, and preparing some remarks. Families mustn't get so involved with executing the planning or they forget the "why" of each step of the ritual.
The Success Is in the Details
The details of planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah can rival those of planning a wedding. Not only are you party planning for 12-18 months, but the significant difference is that the guest of honor, the celebrant, is a minor. The party tends to be very much adult-oriented, but planning will involve managing between five and 30, or more, teenagers.
The first step is to work with the family to select a theme. This can be anything from a hobby to a color scheme for the event. Popular themes can include sports, music, fashion, beach, dance, or even video games. Just keep in mind that by the time this party occurs, the child, and nearly every child there, will have been to an average of three Bar or Bat Mitzvahs for the last two to three years. The details of the day abound! A well-executed theme is just the beginning.
Eat, Drink, & Party
Great food for both adults and kids plays a leading role in a successful event. The challenging part as a planner is the balance between "adult food" and plenty of options for busy teens. Grab and go foods that allow teens to move around the room, dance, play, and have fun are always crowd-pleasers. A Kid's Table Concierge can be a great idea for groups of a dozen or more. It helps to handle special requests and dietary needs without having parents hovering. Signature mocktails and cocktails are sure to be popular, as well as build-your-own dessert options!
Dance, Dance, Dance
One of the most critical vendors on your team will be the entertainment company. Line dances, games, and prizes mixed in with dance time for adults and an experienced MC are significant parts of making this successful. Including technology will be a big part of the guest experience as well. Lighting, pyrotechnics, a video montage, and special effects are all playing into 21st-century celebrations and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are no exception. Beyond the entertainment aspect, someone who can MC a candle lighting ceremony is a must!
Candle Lighting Ceremony
A traditional candle lighting ceremony involves introductions and, most often, more than a dozen music selections. During the ceremony, the celebrant lights 12–13 candles depending on their age. Each candle is dedicated to a close family member or friend, often with their favorite song or a song that describes them playing in the background. You may be involved in many of these conversations between the family and the MC.
- How many candles are you going to light?
- Who are you going to invite to light a candle?
- What are you going to say when you invite them up on stage? Telling a personal story or connecting them to the teen's life is the end goal.
Have thoughtful conversations around the people selected. You can't imagine how quickly people get offended when they don't get invited to light a candle. Candle lighters often include someone to light a memorial candle to honor the deceased, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, people who came from a distance, close family friends, parents, and siblings.
Organization, Workflow, & Collaboration
While the traditions, family dynamics, and celebrants of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah might be different from planning a wedding, the technical aspects and skills used are very similar. Fortunately, the Aisle Planner tools you have in your arsenal and use daily all work with Bar/Bat Mitzvah planning as well. Tools like the checklist, timeline, budget, and even room layouts will make the family organized and tasks much more manageable. Sharing new inventive ideas and images of concepts and products to make the day stand out will be a breeze. Your AP tools will increase your productivity and keep your workflow on track from managing RSVPs to payment processing.
Hero photo courtesy of Tatyana Chaiko