Bar Mitzvah celebrations have grown exponentially in size and scope in the past twenty years.
That’s great news for me; I derive much of the income I earn as a party entertainer from working at these events. Nonetheless, I offer this advice to those planning Bar Mitzvah celebrations:
Less is more.
Becoming a Bar Mitzvah is a major milestone in the life of a Jewish youngster. It is a joyous occasion deserving of celebration.
While the Bar Mitzvah service is a religious ceremony, the reception that follows is a thoroughly secular affair.
In a generation, the typical Bar Mitzvah reception has grown from a homegrown simple affair to something rivaling many weddings in its elaborateness and cost.
And, like the over-commercialization of Christmas, what is intended to be a joyous celebration of friends and family has gotten out of hand.
Don’t misunderstand. I share the joy of the Bar Mitzvah’s family. I’ve felt much joy when members of my own family and friends’ families have reached this threshold.
It’s just my observation that too much of the time the celebrants aren’t enjoying themselves very much.
The outsize scope of many Bar Mitzvah celebrations seem to be a product of social pressure more than anything else. And the excess seems to be most pronounced in large American cities – travel to the Mid-west or to Israel, for that matter, and you’ll generally find a more low key event.
Peer pressure is more intense for most people in their teen years then any other time of their lives. Couple that with the social pressure Bar Mitzvah parents feel to show their family in the best possible light in front of friends and relatives … and the stage is set for excess.
And we, in the industry that has grown up around Bar Mitzvah celebrations, are only too happy to indulge you.
Parents work very hard to plan and pay for elaborate By the time they rent a banquet hall, hire a caterer and a DJ or band, perhaps a videographer and/or photographer, the price tag can easily reach five figures. And that doesn’t include centerpieces, balloons, favors and other add-ons.
For families of modest means facing college costs in just a few years, the cost of these receptions is a sacrifice.
Meanwhile, Bar Mitzvah age children receive invitations to attend an endless round of Bar Mitzvah celebrations of their friends and classmates. By the time they finish many are bored and jaded.
I suggest that Bar Mitzvah families take back the Bar Mitzvah celebration and mold it into something that is meaningful to them and their guests.
Here are six suggestions:
1. Remember, there is absolutely no religious component to the Bar Mitzvah reception.
So keep the aspects you like, and throw out those you don’t. Or just modify them.
2. Some kids love the big party. If so, go for it.
But what if your kid doesn’t?
My niece loved the dancing, games and glitz at her cousin’s Bat Mitzvah. But my nephew was bored to tears.
If your kid is like my nephew, save the aggravation and ditch the big party. With the same budget, you can substitute a trip to Israel and have money left over. Or plan something else that is equally awesome.
3. Is it necessary to invite your kid’s entire class? While the answer is probably yes if the class is close-knit, most classes are not.
Anyway, does your daughter really have 70 best friends?
4. Most Bar Mitzvah receptions last at least 4-5 hours. That can be an eternity if you are at a social function where you know very few people.
So, is it necessary to invite your Dad’s Great Uncle Sid who hasn’t seen your family in the last 20 years?
5. Since the DJ community introduced the candle lighting ceremony in the 1980’s, it has become a fixture at Bar Mitzvah celebrations.
The ceremony is a wonderful way for the newly minted Bar Mitzvah to honor friends and family. Many truly appreciate the opportunity to pay tribute.
Too often, in practice, the resulting presentation is a tired, singsong recitation of sappy prose written by the overworked Bar Mitzvah Mom.
In that case, it's useful to note that no higher authority has decreed that the candle lighting ceremony be made a mandatory feature at Bar and Bat Mitzvah receptions.
6. Jewish Law notwithstanding, unsupervised, sugar-crazed thirteen year-olds are still kids.
So, make sure an adult wanders over to the children’s area once in a while …
Especially if your guest list includes 70 of your kid’s best friends.
About the Author
Ellen M. Zucker has drawn caricatures at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs for the past 10 years. Her company, Faces & Fortunes provides caricature entertainment at parties and events throughout the Greater Philadelphia and surrounding areas. For more information, go to http://www.facesandfortunes.com
For more party tips and suggestions from special events professionals, visit Ellen's sister site: http://www.faces-and-fortunes-partytips.com.