Nanette Marks has been in the industry long enough to know how to throw a classy party. When she began her invitation company, Notes by Nanette, in 2002, she had a clear vision—to create stationary that is personalized and truly unique based on a client’s needs. It should come as no surprise then, that when it was time for her daughter, Lily, to have her bat mitzvah, Nanette knew exactly what she wanted: something outdoorsy, feminine, and classic.
How far in advance did you begin planning the party and where did you start?
Nanette: We started about a year in advance looking at different venues, and I found that some venues were already booked. I feel like most people start planning somewhere between nine months and a year before booking venues. I would recommend that time frame.
How did you know where to start?
Nanette: Because the party was in June, I knew that I wanted something with outdoor space, but I didn’t want it to be completely outdoor because the weather issue would be too worrisome. I started looking online for different venues that had outdoor space. I found Bridgewaters, and it seemed perfect because the cocktail hour could be outside, then the party could be inside, where it was all windows. It was a day party, so I wanted it to be light and have a New York feel.
Did your daughter have a theme for the party? How did she come up with it?
Nanette: We didn’t do a theme; we just wanted something feminine and pretty. There was a lot of pink: her dress, the decorations, the flowers. I find that a lot of people in Manhattan don’t pick themes anymore; it’s not as common as it used to be. Most people just have beautiful decorations, but it’s not like a theme of sports or dance or anything.
Can you paint me a picture of the venue’s overall look and feel?
Nanette: The room overlooks the Brooklyn Bridge and the FDR Drive, so it’s very cityscape. It has lots of windows, very light and bright, and the actual space has exposed pipes … you almost feel like you’re on a boat, you feel like you’re outside. The cocktail hour we had outside, where there are big terraces overlooking the Seaport.
How involved was your child in terms of planning the party and making the decisions?
Nanette: She helped out a lot. We were pretty much in agreement on a lot of things. I knew the most important thing for her was the DJ, and that was also really important for us because a very good DJ definitely makes the party. I did have a party planner, Helaine Bernstein, and she was fabulous in helping with everything. We went with Total Entertainment, and we saw tapes of different MCs and we picked one. He was phenomenal.
What other type of entertainment did you have besides music?
Nanette: There were games. There was a sports package. We had air hockey, Pop-a-Shot (basketball), and foosball. I had a tattoo lady which was really great; she did glitter tattoos on the kids. I had her for the cocktail hour, during which I also had a mentalist, Chris Delaio, who entertained the adults.
How big was the party you had?
Nanette: It was 160 people, about 80 kids and 80 adults.
What were your daughter’s invitations like?
Nanette: I’m in the invitation business, so that was a big part of it for me. Like I said, we wanted everything pink and feminine and classic. What I did for her was a white invitation with light pink letterpress ink, and the back of the invitation was glitter. So it was a beautiful, simple invitation that looked really classic, and once you turned it over there was that bling on the back.
What else about the party were you particularly proud of?
Nanette: My son, who’s only 10 years old, helped make Lily’s montage. It is amazing. (See notesbynanette.com/html/mitzvah.php.) He’s really talented, and people couldn’t get over what he could do. As a surprise, my husband arranged to have all these sports stars telling Lily “Happy Bat Mitzvah,” like Victor Cruz, some other Giants, and some basketball players. It was really fun. She was just blown away. It was very hard to try and keep that secret from her the whole time we were planning the party. All the kids loved it, especially the boys.
Was there anything about the party that didn’t go so well?
Nanette: We had the service at the temple, and then we had busses like waiting outside of the temple to take people down to the seaport. My advice is to really make sure that the busses know what they’re doing and where they’re going, because the bus driver didn’t know where he was going. One of the busses took 45 minutes to get there [to the party venue]. If anything had to go wrong, I’m glad it was just that because it really wasn’t part of the party.
What’s the biggest piece of advice that you’d give to a mom or family member who was planning their child’s bar or bat mitzvah?
Nanette: Be calm, make lists, and make sure that you’re sticking with the party that you want to have. You have to really think: Do I want the kids dancing or do I want them playing the games? Decide what the most important thing is and make sure that’s where you put your money— whether it’s the entertainment, the food, or the venue.
If you could relive one moment from the mitzvah, what would it be?
Nanette: I think it would be my daughter just coming in. She just looked so happy and pretty. Two of the dancers came and carried her in, and the kids were all around her clapping. It was a really nice moment.
Vendors For Lily’s Party
Venue: Bridgewaters (theglaziergroup.com; 212-608-7400)
Entertainment: Total Entertainment (totalentertainment.com; 201-894-0055)
Florals: Taken care of by the party planner, Helaine Bernstein (The Total Affair; 646-230-7991)
Invitations: Notes by Nanette (notesbynanette.com; 646-262 -1596)
Party Planner: Helaine Bernstein (The Total Affair; 646-230-7991)
Photo Montage: Notes by Nanette (notesbynanette.com; 646-262 -1596)
Photographer: Mario and Nina (photographybymarioandnina.com: 973-696-2400)
And for a peek at another bat/bar mitzvah, click here.