One of the first decisions you’ll have to make about when planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is the venue. The Mitzvah venue sets the tone for your event and can determine your overall budget. Since food and beverage will likely make up about 50% of the budget, the type of venue and whether or not they allow you to bring in your own cater definitely makes a difference. In my experience, here are the most common types of Mitzvah venues in the DC-area.
This is your typical Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, etc. These are a super easy Mitzvah venue to use because they really are a one stop shop. Your out of town guests can stay there. You can host a Sunday brunch there. The more you use the hotel for, the more negotiating power you’ll have. Often the room rental fee will be waived with a certain food and beverage minimum or a certain number of guest rooms. The prices for a hotel event can vary wildly depending on the location, time of year and time of day.
Event Venue with Onsite Caterers
These include venues like AMP at Strathmore, Bethesda Blues and Jazz Club, and the Newseum, where you are required to use their preferred caterer. These venues often have a ton of character, so you may need to decorate less. Depending on the Mitzvah venue, there may be a limited menu selection or there may be a full-service caterer who can make anything you’d like. There may be a rental fee in addition to a food and beverage minimum.
Event Venue without Onsite Caterers
These include event venues like Rock Creek Mansion, The Ballroom and VisArts. You can bring in your own caterer (though some have a preferred list that you must select from), so you’ll have much more flexibility with the type of food you’ll serve. If you select your own caterer, you can choose one who allows you to provide your own alcohol, which can be a huge cost saving. These venues often have a ton of character, so you may need to decorate less. Keep in mind that there are still rental fees and you still have to pay catering costs on top of that.
Synagogue Social Hall
This is usually one of the most convenient Mitzvah venue options, but also can be a lot of work. Your guests already know where it is and they’ll have been there already. However, there may be restrictions on the types of food you can serve (ie Kosher or Kosher style) or specific caterers you must use. Frequently these spaces need a lot of decor help, as well.
These include venues like 4935 Bar and Kitchen and Sequoia. They will have amazing food, but high food and beverage minimums. They need to make up for the lost revenue of a Saturday night, so your costs can be very high. Sometimes the space is less flexible because it was designed as a restaurant/bar, not an event venue.
These include local venues like Congressional Country Club or Kenwood Country Club. They have beautiful grounds and tons of places to take family photos. However, generally you must be a member or have a member host you to utilize their space. You must use their in-house catering and often menus can be somewhat limited.