Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planning

A guide to planning every step of your child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

The difficult part of preparing for the ceremony portion of the bar/bat mitzvah lies with the child and his or her tutor. Aside from that, planning may require arranging the ceremony with the synagogue, purchasing a few kippot, printing up a guide for guests, and preparing some remarks. But when it comes to the party, the success is in the details, whether you want a small luncheon or an extravagant banquet with a ten-piece band. This article provides a timeline to aid planning; elsewhere under “Practical Aspects of Bar/Bat Mitzvah” are ideas for enhancing the event’s spirituality.
Reprinted with permission from

Your child’s bar/bat mitzvah is a special day you begin to think about on the day your child is born. It’s 13 years in the making and it takes planning, planning, and more planning!

Organization is the key to a memorable bar/bat mitzvah celebration, and planning can actually get underway as early as three years before the actual date. And whether you select a simple reception to celebrate your child’s passage into the rites of Judaism or an elaborate evening affair for 300, the goal is the same. You want a memorable and meaningful event that you and your family will remember for a lifetime.

Hints for Successful Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planning

Two to three years before event

    1.        Contact a synagogue or temple when your child is less than ten years old. Learn about the process and the timeframe required to prepare your child for the event. Formal bar/bat mitzvah lessons usually begin one year prior to the scheduled date.

    2.        Decide on the style of the event, one that suits your lifestyle and budget.

    3.        Contact potential service providers, caterers, and entertainers. Word-of-mouth is usually the most reliable source for narrowing down your choices. Decide if you want to use a party planner who will coordinate all of the service providers for you.

One year before event

    1.        Book location, entertainment, photographer/videographer, and party decorator (florist). All will require nonrefundable deposits, so make sure that you are certain about your choices.

    2.        Select a “theme” and/or color scheme for the event. Include your child in this aspect of the planning, keeping his or her preferences in mind.

    3.        Help your child decide on a community service or bar/bat mitzvah project idea. Many families find that the meaningfulness of the event is enhanced when a tzedakah [charity] project is established.

Six months before event

    1.        Develop a guest list with current addresses.

    2.        Select and order invitations. Order thank you notes, direction cards (if needed), napkins, and guest towels at this time. Always order more invitations than you think you are going to need. Reprints of small quantities can be costly.

    3.        Keep your eyes open for interesting stamps, they add a nice touch to the envelope and reply card.

    4.        Decide on centerpieces for tables and any other decorations. “Sign-in boards” are a popular bar/bat mitzvah element and should be ordered at this time (usually through the florist/decorator).

    5.        Choose party favors for guests. These are usually theme and color related and are given to the younger guests at the celebration.

    6.        Arrange out-of-town guest accommodations. Many hotels offer special rates for large blocks of rooms, so inquire in your area.

    7.        Stay in close contact with your child’s bar/bat mitzvah tutor to keep abreast of your child’s progress. Keep a calm, encouraging attitude toward your child as he or she progresses through the course of study.

    8.        Decide if you will be offering other events throughout the weekend. Many families invite close friends and family to a Friday evening Shabbat dinner before the big event and a Sunday brunch.

Three months before event

    1.        Finalize all party selections, such as menu, centerpieces, and decorations.

    2.        Make appointments for hair stylists, barbers, and manicurists as needed.

    3.        Order personalized kippot (in Yiddish, yarmulkes).

Two months before event

    1.        Mail invitations. Nmber the back of the response cards to correspond to your guest list to ensure accuracy.

    2.        Create candle-lighting ceremony. Work with your child to ensure that you are writing something that he or she feels comfortable reciting at the big event.

    3.        Coordinate the entertainers and caterers to ensure that “time frames” match. Develop a timeline for the event that includes formalities, horas/dances, and food services.

    4.        Encourage your child to practice his or her service out loud.

One month before event

    1.        Reconfirm all service providers.

    2.        Develop a seating plan.

    3.        Coordinate a rehearsal time with your temple. Many temples allow you to video this event in lieu of the actual service.

    4.        Arrange hospitality baskets for out-of-town guests. Include a schedule of events and detailed directions.

    5.        Coordinate out-of-town guest transportation to and from airports and events.

One week before event

    1.        Confirm final guest count with caterer. Remember that once you have guaranteed a number, this is what you will be responsible to pay for, even if fewer guests show up.

    2.        Adjust seating arrangements.

    3.        Pack an “emergency kit” to keep handy, including a sewing kit, extra makeup, hairbrushes, stockings, etc.

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