Step 1: Choose Your Date
The first thing you'll need to know before you plan your party is the date your child will celebrate his or her bar or bat mitzvah in the synagogue. The date may be assigned up to three years in advance, depending on the size of the congregation. Usually it's lose to your child's actual 13th birthday. For more information on the religious aspects of a bar or bat mitzvah, visit About.com's Guide to Judaism, Ariela Pelaia.
Step 2: Book Your Party Venue
Before you choose the location for your party, you'll need to decide whether you want your party to be held in the afternoon or evening. If evening, keep in mind those dates will book up first. Some of the other details you should consider before you speak to the caterer include:
- Will your party be held at the synagogue or another location?
- Will you hold a party only for the kids, or will it be mixed ages?
- Will the food be kosher or non-kosher?
- Is it worth paying more for a nice setting and possibly save on decorating expenses?
- Do you want to have a cocktail hour first? If so, would you like it in a facility that can offer separate rooms for the cocktails and hors d'oeuvres and the main meal?
Step 3: Plan Your Food and Beverages
If you plan to host a cocktail party before the main meal, here are some typical options you can discuss with your caterer:
- A fruit and cheese board.
- A carving station with corned beef, roast beef, and roast turkey.
- Passed hors d'oeuvres.
- A cold fish buffet including smoked salmon, whitefish, etc.
- Hors d'oeuvres specifically targeted to the kids such as pizza slices or chicken fingers.
Will you have a separate menu for the kids at your party? One way to save on your party expense is to choose one or two less expensive, kid friendly options for all the kids at your party.
For both the cocktail party and main reception you'll need to decide whether to offer a full or partial open bar (wine and beer) versus an all cash bar for alcoholic beverages. Some parents offer a full open bar during the cocktail party, which then turns into a cash bar during the reception.
Sometimes a special menu is offered at the bar for the kids, with drinks like shirley temples or smoothies.
Step 4: Choose Your Theme
It isn't necessary to have a theme at one of these parties, but it makes all the rest of the planning much easier. The theme is often selected to reflect the child's special interests. Here are theme possibilities to get you started:
- All About Me (meaning the bar or bat mitzvah child)
- Favorite Books
- A favorite charity of the child or family
The theme can then be tied into the decorations, invitations, centerpieces, cake and party favors.
Step 5: Hire Your Entertainment
There are many entertainment options you could consider, depending on your budget. Whatever you do, remember to choose a good balance of entertainment for the different ages of your guests, e.g. at a mixed age party, you don't want all of the entertainment geared toward the kids no more than you want to entertain the adults, only, and leave the kids sitting bored at their tables. Some of the options you will consider include:
- Hiring a band versus a dj.
- If you hire a dj, you can hire them to entertain the kids with games during the adult cocktail hour.
- Casino games for the kids during the adults cocktail hour.
- Dance Dance Revolution games for the kids to play during the cocktail hour.
- Arts and crafts tables to amuse younger children throughout the party.
- Will the dj be there exclusively for the amusement of the kids or should they gear some of their entertainment to the adults as well?
- The dj can be part of a large entertainment group that includes an emcee and dancers to amuse the kids. They may give out prizes for games and dancing throughout the party.
- You can hire a caricaturist to do caricatures for the kids and/or adults at your party.
- A photo station to send guests home with framed photos or key chains.
- A music video booth with karaoke to send kids home with their own DVDs.
- Gaming systems with projection screens around the room for multiplayer fun.
- TV screens for a live video feed of the party.
Step 6: Send Your Invitations
As with any invitation, you'll need to tell your guests all the details of the places and times they'll need to be there. Invitations are usually the first place you'll show off the theme and mood of the party.
- The invitations can be formal or informal.
- They can be addressed with hand written or printed calligraphy.
- Video invitations have become popular.
- Invitations can be sent in a box with a balloon.
- Some parents purchase personalized stamps for the invitations from Stamps.com.