Planning a Kiddush or Kiddish Luncheon can be tricky, but is very do-able. Every temple works a little differently, so you may need to tailor the advice below based on your own synagogue and its minhag (customs). Talk to the B Mitzvah coordinator, clergy assistant, or whoever handles space rental at your congregation. Ask them what are the typical customs related to Kiddush Luncheons and what families typically do. No need to reinvent the wheel here!
There are some congregations where your Kiddush luncheon is included in your Bar or Bat Mitzvah fees and handled for you. If you belong to one of those congregations, congratulations! You do not need to read this article but for everyone else, it is not difficult to plan a Kiddush luncheon, there are just a few things you’ll need to consider.
Who is attending your Kiddish Luncheon?
Is it the entire congregation or just your guests? Do you have to share if your child has a partner for their service? These questions are to gauge how big the space you’ll need is, how much food to order, and how much seating you’ll need. Since this is a buffet meal, a good guess of the number of guests is fine–you don’t need to know the exact number.
Where will you host your Kiddush Luncheon?
Check with your temple. Is there a specific place or place(s) where these are typically held? Make sure it is the right size space for the number of guests you anticipate. The easiest thing is to have your guests walk down the hall after the service rather than go to a completely different location. Check if you need to pay extra to rent the space or if it is included with any Mitzvah fee.
What is the menu for a Kiddish Luncheon?
There are likely a few favorite places that are often at your temple for a kiddush luncheon. Keep it easy and order from there. There may also be a required caterer or menu, depending on your congregation. This information should be provided when you talk to your synagogue about this event. It may be possible for you to enhance what is usually provided. Ask!
The typical menu is a cold, dairy menu (no deli meat) and includes all or some of the following items: an assortment of fresh baked bagels, smoked salmon (lox), assorted cream cheeses and sliced cheese, various types of salad which may include fruit salad, green salad, tuna salad, egg salad and/or whitefish salad, and accompaniments such as tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, olives and capers. Desserts typically include baked goods such as cookies, brownies, cupcakes or cake plus cut fruit. Upgrades could include things like muffins, danishes, noodle kugel or veggie frittata. Beverages could include soda, seltzer, water and juices. These may be served in individual bottles or you may need to rent or borrow beverage dispensers. This is a good thing to check with both your temple and your caterer.
You may want to ask about how the food is served and if they will provide serving utensils. Will it be on disposible plates, on ceramic/china, in baskets, etc.? What will the presentation look like?
What are the general logistics?
What time will everything arrive onsite? Will the delivery person set up any of the food or equipment?
Confirm who will assist with setup, replenishing and keeping the buffet tidy, cleaning up and packing leftovers up to go. You will be inside the service and mingling with guests, so this person cannot be you! This may be the temple’s Sisterhood, custodial staff or you may have to hire someone for this task. Allow your guests to be guests and don’t assign them this task!
What furniture is needed and will you have to rent any of it? You’ll need tables to display food, drinks and dessert. Depending on the quantity of food and the fact that everyone is arriving at the same time, you’ll likely want identical, double-sided buffets in several locations for the food. We most often see rectangular tables used for buffets. You’ll also need some tables and chairs for guests. We most often see round tables for guest seating. You do not want tables and chairs for 100% of your guests, but you do want to be sure that there are tables reserved for elderly guests and that those guests know the tables are for them. The goal is for guests to have something to eat and to shmooze, but not to give them a comfortable place to sit all afternoon. You still have an evening party ahead and want some downtime at home in between!
How fancy will the space be? Will you have coverings on the tables? Paper linens, cloth linens or bare tables? Will you have disposable plates, cups, napkins and plastic utensils or rent china, glassware and silverware? Will there be any centerpieces on the tables?
- Food and beverages (see sample menu above)
- Serving plates, bowls or platters for each of the food items ordered
- Serving utensils for each of the food items ordered
- Beverage dispenser or pitchers (if needed for ice water)
- Plates, cups, napkins, utensils
- Reserved signs
- Table coverings (cloth or paper)
- Rectangular tables (for food, beverages, and dessert)
- Round tables (for guests)
- Trash cans
- Trash bags
Sometimes a Kiddush Luncheon can feel like an afterthought in a Bar or Bat Mitzvah weekend since an evening party takes much more time and effort to coordinate. However, this is a mistake! Consider all of the logistics and you’ll be a gracious host for your guests. You’ll leave them excited for the evening party still to come!