Whether you’re planning to go large or small, formal or relaxed, there’s a lot of research to be done if you have a bar/bat mitzvah party on the horizon. Hopefully, our reporting will provide you with some good ideas and inspiration.
A good party planner makes everything easier for the family hosting the party, while working with them to achieve the party they want within their budget. Hiring a planner can seem like yet another big expense, but between their experience and their relationships with vendors, planners often end up saving you money. And the stress you spare yourself by letting them do some of the work can be a kind of cost savings all its own.
“You want to feel a click,” advises Alysa Katz of Events By Alysa. “You want to feel like the planner gets what you want [so] you’ll enjoy working with her. And it’s not only how you react to the planner, you also want to see how your child reacts to the planner and her ideas.”
A plethora of decisions are to be made: venue, flowers, décor, invitations, food and beverages, entertainment, music, favors, atmosphere, and more. Plus, as you get closer to the bar/bat mitzvah, you’re likely to come upon some little details that went unnoticed before. Party planners can help with all of it—or some of it, whatever the client wants. “What we bring to the table is our knowledge,” says Shai Tertner of Shiraz Events.
Jessica Stewart of EMRG Media points out that “event planners can save clients a ton of time.” The planners can make the calls and set up appointments with venues and entertainment companies. Katz says that she’ll even stuff the envelopes for the invites, though “a lot of people like to do that themselves.”
When you’re shopping around, keep in mind that planners will typically have a number of regular vendors they use in every category and will do the negotiating for you if you like. Let them. As Tertner puts it, a planner can “leverage their experience” to save you more money than you can.
Moreover, there is one thing that everyone expects the planner to deliver. “A planner’s great gift,” Katz says, “is that she really knows how to make a room come alive.”
But hiring a party planner doesn’t mean you don’t have to make some of your own decisions. Stewart explains, “We like bringing in our clients every step of the way. And that’s how they want it too. Most parents want to be involved; they want to make the big decisions.”
Michael Jurick of Michael Jurick Photography says, “It can be very helpful to look at a photographer’s blog. If they have fresh content, you can feel confident that they’re doing recent work… It’s [also] important to have a [personal] connection.”
To make sure that every moment is captured, photographer Terry Gruber of Gruber Photographers says, “[I] always cover an event with two photographers, one dedicated to the adult’s party and one for the kid’s party.”
As far as what’s been popular recently, Sarah Merians of Sarah Merians Photography & Video says, “There’s a new trend with LED lighting and color lighting, mainly purples and pinks for girls.”
Jurick has also noticed an increasing effort in pre-event promotion through social media. That’s why he’s adjusted his services to fit the behavior and interest of his young subjects, by taking portraits that they can immediately share with their friends. “Instagram is a huge social media outlet for young kids. They’re not only waiting for the big day, they’re starting to promote it. It’s actually a lot of fun.”
For an important celebration like a bar/bat mitzvah, you want good food, especially during the cocktail hour when everyone is eager to devour it. The bar is usually set lower for the main course; people understand that it’s hard to serve fantastic food for a hundred or more people. But bring out the hors d’oeuvres already, will you?
So what’s hot?
“Anything with truffles is good, as well as mini mac and cheese and mini grilled cheese,” says Joelle Obsatz of Butterfield Market. “Mini is very popular at the beginning of the party.”
Paul Neuman of Neuman’s Kitchen says the oldest favorite in the book is still a favorite: “Pigs in a blanket have lived beyond any of our expectations. ”
And at the end of the party? “Everyone’s asking for donuts and candy stations,” says Obsatz.
Presentation can get highly creative, and there’s been one fresh trend in how the food is delivered. Alison Awerbuch of Abigail Kirsch reports, “The food truck has become popular. We’ve created roaming food carts that move around an event.” These trucks often offer beverages, hors d’oeuvres, main course foods, desserts, and snacks, so both children and adults enjoy the interactivity and participation that comes with food carts and moving mixology stations.
With all this creativity, the costs of catering can quickly soar, but there are ways to try to control them. The trick is to offer a buffet instead of plated meals. According to Neuman, “there are three primary costs of catering: food, labor, and rentals.” By offering a buffet, you can easily save on the cost of servers and often on rentals.
Another way to save big is to offer only one catered meal, rather than a traditional catered Kiddush luncheon after the service and a dinner later on.
Bar and bat mitzvah invitations are like the prelude to a great play, offering an idea of what’s ahead. Often, the colors, themes, and design of an invitation set the tone, which can be mirrored in various elements of the party itself, including decorations, photograph albums, and even foods.
What are some trends to consider?
Nanette Marks of Notes by Nanette says, “People want a thick card stock that doesn’t bend.”
Jodi Zgodny from Love Laura Gifts and Laura Leigh from Alpine Creative Group agree, adding that square shapes and letterpress are very popular right now.
No surprise on the colors. “Girls like pinks and blues, [while] boys like charcoal gray [and] navy,” says Zgodny.
If you’re interested in pushing the traditional creative boundaries, Leigh has created invitations using materials such as wood, mirror, metal, and Lucite. Marks can even make stainless steel invitations, in which letters are embossed in the metal.
Generally, the more creative and involved the invitation, the higher the price, though all three designers say there are many options that check off the key boxes: original, personal, and affordable.
“There are a lot of tricks that you can do to get ‘that’ look and not have to spend for it,” says Marks.
“If [a] person likes the look of [an invitation], we figure out a way to make them happy within their price point,” assures Zgodny. “That is one of the most fun things.”
When shopping around for an entertainment company for your child’s bar/bat mitzvah, chances are you’ll meet with representatives based on recommendations, a known reputation, or firsthand experience from other events. But before you tell any of them what you’re looking for, Gregg Mistretta of Pure Energy advises to let them do the talking first. “Let them tell you about their approach and philosophy toward events,” he says. “Otherwise, if you give them too much info, then they’re going to cater their talk to you and tell you exactly what you want to hear.”
Once they’ve spoken and you’ve spoken, Mistretta suggests evaluating the vibe of the encounter: “Is the conversation easy? Does it feel right? Do they really seem to understand your needs and have experience delivering on your kind of party?” He adds, “Don’t go by reputation. Don’t go only by price point. Trust your gut.”
Nowadays, most of the larger and established entertainment companies are one-stop shops, meaning that in addition to supplying the music and the emcee and the dancers, they also offer a lot of the side-show fun, like photo booths, beauty bars, and craft centers. Marc Jason of Total Entertainment equates a successful bar/bat mitzvah with baking a cake—much like its presentation, “the ingredients are everything.”
Beyond the music, entertainment companies focus on what they can do to enhance the atmosphere of an event. As Jason puts it, “the existing atmosphere is really not that important. You have to create the atmosphere.”
Matt Toubin of Shine Events reports that events have been straying away from themes, increasingly becoming “based in color, with an overall event design, incorporating adult tables and a kids’ lounge area, dance floor, writing, and media around the room to create an environment.”
To create the perfect mood, you often need lighting effects. Liz Kirschner of Levy Lighting says that people are always amazed at how a stark and dim venue can be transformed to a whimsical, trendy, or intimate environment with just the right lighting.
At Pure Energy, Mistretta says he favors added elements that keep the party on the dance floor (rather than away from it). “We’ve been doing amazing things with elements like acrobats, contortionists, and lighting. And adding a live instrument can be an amazing touch—the electric violin is very hot.”
FLOWERS & DESIGN
It’s a good idea to think about florals after the other key pieces are in place, mainly the venue and the theme (or the general atmosphere you want), along with any special touches. With that information, a talented florist and designer can take your ideas and transform them into a dazzling and original synthesis of beauty, whimsy, and excitement. “It is really to each his own,” says florist and designer Michael George. “There is no limit.”
The mistake is to think of the florist as only having flowers in their tool kit. These days, the florist is often the key person to coordinate with to create the look and feel of the whole room—and flowers may be just one part of the solution. So consider what else you might want to add in the way of decorative flourishes. A piece of Hollywood? Major League Baseball?
For a teen ballerina’s party, George created a centerpiece donning a tutu, complete with pink frills and flowers; for a young pirate, he created a trove of gold coins, pearls, and other riches spilling out of a treasure chest.
Maria Christina Nino of MCnino Designs says it’s all about the props, but she recommends making rather than renting them, which not only saves money for the client but provides completely original décor for the party as well. “You’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of the kid: What would they like? 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. “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,” he says.
What’s trending in mitzvah florals right now?
Harush says that lighting the inside of flower vases to match the venue and overall atmosphere has been popular. Nino notes that floral spheres suspended from the ceiling have shown up frequently this year.