As I speak with more and more families, I’ve found that most people start their Mitzvah planning without a clear sense of what events cost or how much they’ll actually wind up spending. It’s one thing to throw out an arbitrary number that you’d like to stay within, but it’s another thing to actually understand how your Bar Mitzvah budget will break down. Anytime you’re hosting a party for around 100 people, costs will begin to add up quickly, simply because of the amount of stuff (from food to chairs to favors) needed. There is no such thing as a Mitzvah premium! In this article, we’ll focus specifically on the costs for a typical afternoon or evening party.
We’ve discussed catering costs, but what about the rest of the costs associated with your event? Your final cost, of course, depends on a lot of different factors that can vary based on the number of guests attend, the time of day, the time of year, the experience and reputation of the vendor, and the list goes on. In this article, we’ll go through the standard expenses and price points for the Washington DC-area (which includes the areas where most of my clients reside: Bethesda, Potomac, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Silver Spring, Arlington, McLean, Falls Church, Alexandria, Fairfax…).
Please note that while you certainly may be able to find vendors that are less expensive than the ranges I suggest, it is absolutely true that you get what you pay for. Vendors with experience and training, proper equipment and backup equipment, as well as liability insurance and strong contracts cost money. I always want my clients to have a reasonable expectation of how much money they’re going to spend. Of course, you can have an amazing event at any budget, but it’s tough breaking the news to a family that the event they want is not in their price point. Going into the process with a solid understanding of how much events in your area cost is key.
Parents often come to me saying that they don’t want to plan a wedding for their child, but any large event with professional vendors is going to come with a price tag. The best way to get a sense of costs for a large event is to go to costofwedding.com. While it is not an apples to apples comparison to Mitzvahs, it will give you a frame of reference since all large events have similar components. Let’s start with an example of Zip Code 20817 which is Bethesda, MD. According to this website, the average cost is between $40,362 and $67,270. They also break it down by number of guests, because adding a single guest could add between $117 and $143 to the overall cost of your event.
Number of guests less than 50: $16,869 – $28,115
Number of guests between 50 and 100: $25,687 – $42,812
Number of guests between 100 and 200: $41,023 – $68,372
Number of guests between 200 and 300: $52,908 – $88,180
Number of guests more than 300: $102,366 – $170,610
How much am I going to spend in each category?
Here is the breakdown for by category for wedding spending. Below, I’ll break down areas where I see there being a major difference in price between weddings and mitzvahs.
Again, referencing this handy website, here is a chart of expected wedding costs.
Attire & Accessories
You’ll likely spend less than the estimated $2,711 for a wedding (which includes a wedding dress and alterations and a tuxedo/suit and alteration). However, keep in mind that your numbers probably include clothes for mom, dad, Mitzvah child and siblings and any alterations. Plus, if you’re having an evening party, you’ll often want to do an outfit change which adds in a second outfit for everyone.
Beauty & Spa
It’s possible that you’ll spend more than the $251 for a wedding. If mom, a Bat Mitzvah daughter and female siblings all want hair service, makeup service and mani/pedis, it could definitely run more. If you have a Bar Mitzvah son, this is spending is probably on target or high.
You’re probably going to spend a bit more than the $4,588 estimated for a wedding for a DJ plus some sort of activity or novelty (Photo Booth, arcade games…). Bar or Bat Mitzvah DJs are more expensive than wedding DJs because they usually include party motivators (dancers), giveaways and an MC. Most Mitzvahs also want something for the kids to do besides just dance and play games which often weddings do not include.
Flowers or Decorations
Decor prices can vary wildly depending on how elaborate you’re planning to go with the decoration. The $2,885 budgeted for a wedding is probably a good first estimate, but your pricing could be a lot less if you do a lot of DIY or a lot more if you hire an event production company. Surprisingly, basic floral centerpieces are not as expensive as you’d think and you could easily spend more on elaborate non-floral centerpieces than floral centerpieces.
Gifts & Favors
For a wedding, $1,276 is the estimate for gifts and favors and that’s a little low. This pricing includes tips for vendors and favors for guests. Since you’ll likely have more expensive favors than a wedding (shirts, sweatpants, etc.) plus tips for excellent service from your vendors, you’ll likely spend more in this area.
Invitations & Print Materials
The invitations and print materials estimate of $1,590 is a good starting point. Often B’nai Mitzvah invitations have more inserts than weddings and you’ll still need to account for save the dates, postage, menus, table numbers, escort or place cards and thank you cards. You can certainly save here if you do e-invites or have people RSVP to an email address, which is becoming more common.
Finally some savings! You will definitely spend less than $7,014 on jewelry because you are not purchasing engagement rings or wedding bands.
Photography & Video
If you’re planning on both a photographer and videographer $6,163 is probably right on target. However, if amazing photography is important to you, you could easily spend this much on just a photographer without even including an album. This is an area where price can vary considerably and where you will definitely get what you pay for.
My rates for partial planning are right around the average of $4,087 for a wedding. However, if you’re looking for full service planning, you’ll pay more or just month of coordination, you’ll pay less.
Venue, Catering & Rentals
The number for an event venue, catering and rentals at $23,251 seems pretty spot on. Venue rental costs often start at a few thousand dollars then factor in food, drinks, waiters and bartenders, table linens and dishes, and you’re close to that number. If you need to rent chairs or tables, this number can get significantly higher. I find that people are often surprised by how much catering costs are and I explained why in this post.
Note that these pricing estimates are just that, estimates. Your family can spend more or less than this depending on a variety of factors, some of which are outlined above. This article is meant to paint a realistic picture of how much event-related expenses are and is in no way a guarantee or promise about how much you will spend on your event.
You can have a beautiful event at any price point, but hosting an event is expensive, especially if you want all of the bells and whistles. There are always creative ways to save, but going into planning with a realistic idea of what things cost is key.