There are a variety of different types of events that can happen over the course of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah weekend. Note that I said “can happen” and not “must happen.” I believe that you should have the types of events that make the most sense for your family. I’ve listed the different types below along with some handy tips for planning.
Definition: Start your Mitzvah weekend with a Friday night Shabbat dinner. Having a Shabbat dinner for out of town guests, family or close friends is a nice way to see some of your VIP guests in a more intimate setting.
Pop Color Tip: To make it very convenient, rent space at your temple and then have your guests walk down the hall to join you for Friday night Shabbat Services. If you have a smaller group, you can make a reservation at a restaurant near your temple or have an open house at your home. Easy peasy.
Definition: A kiddush luncheon is a quick nosh immediately following a morning service, generally lasting a maximum of 2 hours. It’s usually bagels, lox, tuna and other cold food. No alcohol is generally served and there is no entertainment. It’s simply food and shmoozing. Sometimes the temple will provide it and sometimes you’ll have to rent space at the temple and do it yourself.
Pop Color Tip: As soon as you get your Mitzvah date, find out if your synagogue includes a kiddush luncheon as part of your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah package. If a kiddush luncheon is not part of the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah package at your temple, you’ll want to act quickly to rent space and save money in your budget for this. Or, if you’re having a Mincha or Havdalah Service (in the afternoon or evening), you won’t need to worry about it at all.
Definition: Like a kiddush luncheon, an afternoon party starts immediately following Shabbat services. However, an afternoon party is different from a kiddush luncheon because it is longer (4-5 hours) and has all of the pieces of a party–cocktail hour, music, entertainment, food, drinks… This is less formal than an evening party in both guest attire and event experience. Since it will be light outside throughout your event, there is overall a different feel. It’s possible for this party to have an “adults only” vibe and then have a kid’s only party at a different time (see below).
Pop Color Tip: There is room for savings with an afternoon party since it can be a less busy time for vendors and they may still be able to book an evening party. Negotiate!
Definition: While similar to an afternoon party, an evening party generally starts between 6 and 7pm. These parties have a more formal feel. Depending on how observant the family is, these give more flexibility for location since they can start after Shabbat.
Pop Color Tip: One of the biggest complaints I hear from families I’ve worked with is that they went to an evening Bar or Bat Mitzvah party and they didn’t eat until 9 pm or even 10 pm. They were starving! Make sure you think of the flow of the party when you choose your start time.
Kids Only Party
Definition: Pretty self-explanatory, but it’s a party for only your child’s friends. This party often occurs on Saturday night or at some point on Sunday. It generally happens because other events scheduled over the Mitzvah weekend are more focused on adults and parents want to have a special party just for their kid’s friends.
Pop Color Tip: Since this is just for the kids, allow your child to be very involved in the planning. Make sure it is something that he or she thinks is awesome and the party will be awesome!
Definition: If you’re expecting a lot of out of town guests and they’ll be staying at a hotel, a very nice thing is to offer brunch food in a private room at the hotel. This gives you one last chance to see friends and family who have traveled from afar to be with you for your child’s special day. There are a variety of other alternatives to a hotel brunch, this such as inviting guests to stop by your home on their way out (if most of your out of towners drove, this works well), informally letting guests know that you’ll be in the hotel restaurant during a certain timeframe or hosting guests in a hospitality suite.
Pop Color Tip: The salesperson at the hotel who helped with your room block can help arrange this. Mention that you’re planning on doing this early in the process! If you have a lot of out of town guests or have had your party at the hotel too, see if you can negotiate for upgrades for your brunch. The more money you spend at the hotel, the more bargaining power you have.
The Final Word
You certainly do not have to have every single one of the events listed above, but I find it important to know all of your options while planning. As always, I recommend doing what works best for your family. Each situation and family is unique so there is definitely no one size fits all approach.