For most people, planning just one bar or bat mitzvah bash is enough work in itself. But that didn’t stop Bonnie Levine from throwing not one but two bar mitzvah celebrations for her son, Jake: A well-decorated kiddush lunch for family in the daytime and a bowling/disco inferno for friends at night. Here’s how she pulled it all off and got her son to go along for the ride.
How long was the planning process for you?
Bonnie: Eight months prior to the event, we booked the place. That gave us focus. In Manhattan, there are lots of options, and I even had some friends who were looking at venues with four months to go! But you can’t push it that much farther because you have to start getting your invitations ready.
Initially, did you have a clear idea about the kind of party you wanted? Did your family all buy into that?
Bonnie: Yes. For us, we did two separate parties. We did an elaborate kiddush luncheon for family at our temple for 100 family members. We did a montage, speeches, candle-lighting—we did all of that business right after the service. We have a lot of family who live within an hour’s drive of Manhattan, so the luncheon was just perfect for them—and we transformed a fairly basic room with some elaborate and fun balloon décor. I should point out that process started the day we got the letter with the date—we had to make sure we put a hold on the room in the temple.
What are some of the things you remember about the kiddush?
Bonnie: In addition to the balloons, one memorable part was that everyone had a candle and a votive at the tables and we asked them all to light their candles together—so everyone felt like they were part of it.
You used a party planner for both parties?
Bonnie: Helaine Bernstein [from The Total Affair]. She rocked it, with things like napkins with Jake’s initials on it. She directed me and steered me toward what was worth spending money on and what wasn’t.
Tell me about the nighttime party.
Jake’s bar mitzvah was in April of 2012. and these bar mitzvahs started for him in October of 2011. I knew he wanted a dance party, but all the kids had been so used to going to these clubs for their party, we wanted something a little different. That’s why we chose Lucky Strike. We felt like bowling could be fun in addition to the dancing. And although it isn’t like a club per se, the disco aspect is all there. Plus, because of the bowling, we felt like we didn’t have to bring in all those extra games.
Was Jake involved in the decision?
Honestly, we didn’t even engage Jake in the process. He was at camp, we went to Lucky Strike, we liked it, the price was right. We booked it, and then we sold him on it.
Were there any other special flourishes, or was the bowling and dancing enough?
Bonnie: The Knicks City Dancers made a lot of boys and dads very happy. They come for basically an hour and a half and dance in the middle of the club. And then they go and sit at a table and the kids line up for an autographed picture.
Did you also have a regular MC and DJ?
Bonnie: Yes, we used DJs Unlimited, based in Woodbury, Long Island. They were great.
What were the other key components to the party’s success?
Bonnie: We were a little nervous about how it would all work, like would the kids be bowling when they should be dancing? But the MC knew how to coordinate with the hostess of the place so that they turned the lanes off for dancing time. It all worked out. But again, I had a party planner who helped me with a lot of the details.
Any other little touches that she brought to the nighttime party that you liked?
Bonnie: This was good idea: anything that didn’t get used at the luncheon—from napkins to balloons—she brought all that to the nighttime party and laid it all out.
What did your son love most about the big day?
Bonnie: Obviously I think he liked the nighttime party better than the luncheon for the fun, but when I asked him that question again recently, he said, “Everything.” I think he really liked the montage (which we showed at both parties). He knew which pictures I picked out, but had not seen the final cut until the luncheon.
What advice would you have for other parents?
Bonnie: When you plan the party, you really have to consider your guests, especially when it comes to transportation. If you’re having a party at a location where it’s not easy to get to, you need to provide transportation—or have some kind of good plan in place.
You had two parties to throw, how did you stay organized?
Bonnie: It wasn’t easy. I can’t exactly say there’s a magic way to be organized. You’re using your computer a lot. If you hire good people—your party planner, vendors, entertainment—they help you a lot too.
Vendors For Jake’s Party
Venue: Lucky Strike (bowlluckystrike.com; 646-829-0170)
Invitations: Notes by Nanette (notesbynanette.com; 646-262 -1596)
Party Planner: Helaine Bernstein (The Total Affair; 646-230-7991)
Photo Montage: In Style Djs and Productions (InStyleDJs.com; 561-761-0061)
Photography: Video and Photo Studios (718) 648-1975); & In Style Djs and Productions (InStyleDJs.com; 561-761-0061)
And for a peek at another bat/bar mitzvah, click here.