• A Smorgasbord Of Good Ideas

    What’s The Latest In Bar/Bat Mitzvah Entertainment? What Should You Expect From A Party Planner? Where Should You Have The Party? Let Us Guide You Through The Common Elements Of Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebrations.

    By Angela Bunt

    We know how much can go into planning a bar/bat mitzvah celebration, and we know how valuable a good lead or suggestion can be. We did our research, so hopefully you’ll be able to do a little less of yours.

    FLOWERS

    When talking party florals, one might be surprised to learn that the duty of a florist spans far beyond flower arrangements into the world of décor. Besides providing beautiful centerpieces for a bar or bat mitzvah, a florist will work to create decorations that capture the theme of the party and form a cohesive thread throughout the venue.

    “It’s props,” says Maria Christina Nino, owner of MC Nino Designs, a Brooklyn-based florals and events company.

    Nino has designed everything from lighting to linens. She recommends making props rather than renting them, which not only saves money for the client but provides completely original décor for the party. “You’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of the kid: What would I like if I was 13 years old?” Nino says.

    Blooming Affairs owner Udi Harush thinks creativity is key when it comes to doing florals for an event. “People come with ideas, with a theme. It’s very easy to say ‘soccer.’ But anybody can do soccer or soccer balls. The idea is to put out ideas that people don’t see all the time,” Harush says.

    If your child is unsure as to what theme or look they want for their party, Nino suggests using the invitation as a starting point. Pulling out colors and patterns from the invite will help dictate what the centerpieces and décor might look like.

    And what’s trending in mitzvah florals right now? Harush says that lighting the inside of flower vases to match the venue and keep with an overall lounge atmosphere has been popular. Nino sees that floral spheres suspended from the ceiling have shown up frequently this year. “It’s really hard to say because each party is so different from one another because each child has different hobbies,” Nino says. “It’s using your own creativity to make what’s trendy.”

    Florists:

    Blooming Affairs, bloomingaffairs.com, 212-262-0004
    MCnino Designs, mcninodesigns.com, 781-383-2424

    PARTY PLANNERS

    Ah yes, the age-old question of whether to hire an event planner for your bar/bat mitzvah bash. On one hand, event planners can get pricey, usually charging between 15 to 20 percent of the entire party cost. On the other hand, a good planner can get you the proverbial “hook-up” which may end up saving you money.

    Jessica Stewart, marketing director at EMRG Media, says that an event planner’s knowledge of venue space in the New York City area can help relieve parents’ stress while also saving them cash. “We have relationships with over 150 venues in New York City. Because we book so much with these places, we get the best deals,” says Stewart, adding that a good planner tries to share in their client’s party vision.

    “We have a group of questions that we ask: What are you looking for? What type of feel do you want? What is your budget? How many children? How many adults? What are you visualizing your special occasion to be?” says Stewart.

    Shai Tertner, president of Shiraz Events, agrees that visualizing the theme and knowing your budget are two important factors when planning a party.

    “In order to set your event apart [you need] the theme. It really helps the event planner and inspires us to bring in more elements,” Tertner says. “Also, the more similar the venue is to the theme, the better, because then you have to do less.”

    The same might be said for picking a planner. “You always have to go with your gut. Who will you be able to work best with?” Stewart says.

    With all the time it takes to flesh out the theme, vision, and details of your party, the experts recommend choosing an event planner 8-12 months before a bar/ bat mitzvah.

    Party Planners:

    EMRG Media, emrgmedia.com/mitzvah, 212-254-3700
    Shiraz Events, shirazevents.com, 212-255-7001

    PHOTOGRAPHERS & VIDEOGRAPHERS

    What distinguishes one photographer from another, and how do you know who is right for you? Expertise, experience, interesting photographs, and well-covered events are just some of the qualities a photographer should exhibit, according to Gruber Photographers Owner Terry Gruber.

    “Ask to see somebody’s proof book in order to sort of see what [the client] gets [in a package of] 1,200 pictures, instead of the ten that are typically shown from an event,” says Gruber.

    Sarah Merians of Sarah Merians Photography thinks that it’s equally important for the photographer’s personality to be something that works well with the child and with the family. “If you don’t connect on a personal level, the images will reflect that,” Merians says.

    One of the latest trends is pre-event photo shoots, in which pictures are taken of the child in the weeks leading up to their mitzvah. “I love to take kids downtown or use iconic NYC locations. We’ll create a concept or shoot in a place that is meaningful to the bar/bat mitzvah. If they feel a connection to their theme, they are more willing to [express] their personality and charm,” says Michael Jurick, of Michael Jurick Photography, who added that those images can then sometimes be used at the party on sign-in books, wall hangings, in montages, and centerpieces.

    Zev Greenfield, owner of Milk & Honey Productions, a company that specializes in event videography, minces no words when discussing the importance of allocating a chunk of budget toward mitzvah photos and video. “Clients who are more concerned with how their flowers are going to look than capturing their memories are not going to end up with very attractive memories,” says Greenfield.

    Merians echoes this sentiment: By hiring a professional, she says, one is insuring the safety of their images and access to the tools needed to design a beautiful photo album of the event-or in her words, “a family heirloom.”

    Photographers & Videographers:

    Gruber Photographers, gruberphotographers.com, 212- 262-9777
    Michael Jurick Photography, jurick.net, 917-544-1871
    Sarah Merians Photography & Video, sarahmerians.com, 212- 633-0502
    Milk & Honey Productions, milkandhoneyproductions, 212-725-0041

    INVITATIONS

    Over the years, invitations have evolved from your average Hallmark greeting card to intricate keepsakes that will serve as the guests’ first impression of your party. They often reflect the religious aspect of the bar or bat mitzvah as well as the party’s theme or color scheme. With the ability to control almost every detail of your invitation—color, style, font, texture, and messaging— the options are endless.

    “What I like to do is talk to the family and try to get an idea of who they are and what they like, and I develop something specifically for them,” says Mona Seltzer, of Alpine Creative Group. In fact, because of their in-house printing capabilities, Alpine can create an invitation completely from scratch rather than modifying a pre-existing catalogue design. Naturally, time and money will be contributing factors in the overall cost, but that’s not to say those on a smaller budget can’t have a beautiful final product.

    Says Seltzer, “I think that whether someone has fifty dollars to spend on an invitation or they have ten dollars to spend on an invitation … it should still reflect their personality, and they should love it no matter what.”

    What’s hot? Nanette Marks of Notes By Nanette says that for girls’ invitations bows and ribbons are out and bling is in. “A lot of girls want a crystal of some type on the invitation,” Marks says. “Most families want it to be simple and elegant first, and [then] a small piece of bling.”

    For boys’ invitations, the traditional navy blue has taken second fiddle to more dynamic color combinations like red and gray or red and black. “The trend is thick stock, a square shape, [and] letterpress (though that can be quite costly). Layered paper and lucite has been popular as well,” Marks says. “People are really into the paper stock and they want something really heavy that’s not going to be flimsy when you hold it.”

    In keeping with the mitzvah tradition, you can also opt to give back to the Jewish community by buying invitations from The Jewish National Fund, where proceeds support tree planting and water resource development in Israel.

    It’s recommended that families should begin their invitation process about six months before the bar or bat mitzvah.

    Invitations:

    Alpine Creative Group, alpinecreativegroup.com, 212-989-4198
    Jewish National Fund, jnf.org/invitations, 1-800-542-8733
    Notes by Nanette, notesbynanette.com, 212-517-8783

    ENTERTAINMENT COMPANIES

    Unless you want to scour the Yellow Pages for clowns, DJs, and photo-booth rentals, you’re going to want to hire an entertainment company. A good entertainment company will handle all of the interactive elements of your child’s bar or bat mitzvah, including music, games, and lighting.

    Matt Toubin, owner of Shine Events, prides his company on finding unique and cutting-edge talent. Toubin explores new variations on old classics, such as caricaturists doing sketches on iPads. “There are twists on a lot of the old entertainment items that people don’t explore, because they don’t know about them or because they think it’s financially out of their league. But that’s not always true,” says Toubin.

    Marc Jason of Total Entertainment another main-player in the simcha circuit, believes that music is the main component of a good party, but agrees that the ability to offer unique talent to clients is what makes the role of an entertainment company so vital.

    According to Jason, there is a structure to a party and each segment should have something unique and well put together. “You need to package it all into something that’s sophisticated but fun. Nobody wants a three-ring circus,” he says, indicating that Total Entertainment boasts an in-house carpentry department that allows them to bring even a child’s most elaborate fantasy to fruition.

    “We might take a basic foosball table and build it into a 20-foot unit so that 20 people could play foosball at one time,” says Jason.

    Another key element that an entertainment company can provide to their client is dynamic lighting. Levy Lighting’s Chief of Operations Liz Kirschner says the sky is the limit.  “Interactive video, LED video walls. It could be movie clips; if they’re sports fans it could be clips from games,” Kirschner says. “You can basically change an environment. You can go from nighttime in the city to inside a shark tank.”

    Entertainment:   

    Total Entertainment, totalentertainment.com, 201-894-0055
    Shine Events, shineevents.com, 845- 535-3100
    Levy Lighting, levylighting.com, 212- 925-4640 

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