Behind the Scenes of Planning a Mitzvah

Three years ago I got Zach’s Bar Mitzvah date. I didn’t think much about it except that it would be in Israel and that was that. Well, life doesn’t always go according to plan and we had to cancel the trip. What was supposed to be a small kids party slowly turned into, for lack of a better word, a wedding. I searched for a place where I could have the service outside in the evening (Havdalah) in early September. I found a beautiful venue but I have spent most of this summer praying to the weather g-d’s it won’t rain.

That being said, as with marriage and having kids, there is no guide-book that you are given beforehand when planning a Mitzvah. I was not forewarned of the things you are “supposed” to know. Yes, I heard friends complain about this and that but because I wasn’t in that mindset, I sort of tuned it out. Well, that was a big mistake on my part. BIG. Had I been a little more prepared, I may have opted OUT or moved to Ireland for the year. Let’s start with the LIST.

The mother fucking LIST. Where do you draw the line? Do you invite 3rd cousins? Do you invite high school/college friends who really don’t know your kid? Do your parents get to invite their friends? Do you invite all the neighbors? Do you invite a couple who you are not friends with but you were invited to their child’s mitzvah?  After going back and forth six ways to Sunday, I finally came up with a suitable list. Although I knew someone, no matter what, would be offended they didn’t make the cut. UGH.

INVITATIONS. You are told the invitation is what sets the tone of the Mitzvah. This is the ONE case I was happy I didn’t have a daughter. I could fully get away with a sophisticated, clean invite without all the glitter, bells and whistles. Because I am sure if I had a daughter, she would insist on some cheesy invite that weighs 4,000 pounds and costs $20.00 to mail. What I did not realize was even if you select the most basic invite, it still costs thousands of dollars. This would be the second argument (after the list). The infamous fight over “why can’t we just do an EVITE.” An ongoing battle that would last for two weeks until I told him this will be the only invitation we will send. I am certain I will have no say in the wedding invite (however many years from now) or really anything wedding related.

(thank you Julie Maloof Designs)


THE FORMAT. Once I picked out the invite, I didn’t realize how complicated addressing the envelopes would be. I briefly mentioned this on Facebook but I 100% missed the memo on the format of the Mitzvah address list. Nobody sent me a document on the following:

1. Are the girls Miss Sophie Shinesobright or just Sophie Shinesobright?
2. Are the boys Master Sawyer Goldberg or just Sawyer Goldberg?
3. Is it Ron or Ronald?
4. If it’s Rich, is it Dick or Richard?
5. If the person is divorced or widowed, it’s MS. Myhusbandcheatedandleft or MRS. Myhusbandandcheatedandleft?
6. If there are two doctors in the house, it’s The Drs. Johnson or Drs. Shelia and Jim Johnson?


After mailing out all 200+ invites, I did not think about the RETURN TO SENDERS I would encounter. Not only did I must have the envelopes reprinted with new addresses, but I then had to worry that these people would think they were on the “B” list since the invites would be arriving so late. AND just when I thought the invitation process was over, a week passed, I was sitting in a restaurant and realized, out of the clear blue sky, I completely forgot to invite Sally and Mark Edwards. The fucking Edwards. The couple we hang out with at every party whose kids are a different age. I could NOT forget the Edwards. That would be a catastrophe. UGH. What’s another two people? I couldn’t even tell him because that would mean another $XXX we would definitely argue about.


One month before the Bar Mitzvah, my cell phone rings. I glanced over to see my mother calling.
“Hi Mom.”
“Hi Amy. So I was talking to Jackie and Jackie said that her daughter had a grandparents friends table.”
“Really mom? I am so happy for Jackie’s daughter but Amy is not having ANY tables. It’s basically a kids party with couches, high boys, etc. It is not a sit down dinner. We have discussed this at length.”
“I know but…”
“Mom, this party is costing a fortune as it is. My marriage is treading on thin ice and I have zero clue how I can even bring up, a month before the BM, that you would like to invite three of your couple friends without me having to sign divorce papers.”
“I understand but these are our friends of x amount of years and we want them to be invited.”
“Are you paying?”
“Well I need to speak to your father…”
(This would be argument 6)


THE DRESS. I have boys so figured this would be easy. I need ONE dress. How hard could it be to find a dress? Nearly impossible. After buying and returning a dress that wasn’t formal enough, a dress that was too sexy, a dress that was too dumpy, a dress that was too big, a dress that was too small, and 300 other ones, I gave up. 3am, 5 weeks before the Bar Mitzvah I woke up in the middle of the night, tore apart 4 dresses, brought the design to a dressmaker (who is a GEM), and had her re-create it. It’s T-2 weeks and it’s only half ready. With ten more dress fittings to go, it’s either going to be gorgeous or I am going to be crying inside that I designed the ugliest dress known to man. I can add this to the list of stress along with argument 7 that entailed him asking me 4,000 times if I returned the other 300 dresses yet. (“You know Amy, the Amex bill closes in 10 days and I don’t want to see $8K worth of dresses on there”….blah blah blah)

Besides raising the boys, maintaining a house and being a Stepford wife, I actually have four other jobs (blogger & running an online store, travel agent and Beautycounter rep). This is why I am up at 3am. I knew I needed help with the planning of the Bar Mitzvah. So instead of taking on job 542, I hired Beth Fink Events. Seriously, Thank GD for Beth fucking Fink. Otherwise I would have fled the country by now. My advice is, if you can somehow figure out a way to hire a party planner, do it. JUST DO IT. I promise it will be the best money you spent and here is why…

I asked Beth to send me a list of all the things that needed to be completed after the invites went out. The list went something like this:

  • Logo/Theme
  • Menu And Presentation
  • Rentals
  • Favors And Bags
  • Cocktail Napkins
  • Bathroom Napkins
  • Linens/Dinner Napkins-Décor Person
  • Amenities Basket
  • Sign Board
  • Dancer Shirts
  • Dance Floor Give Aways-Bucket Hats, Beanies, Etc
  • Waitstaff Uniform-Ties, Shirts.
  • Socks
  • Waterbottles
  • ­Yarmulkes
  • Candle Lighting
  • DJ
  • Montage
  • Entrance Video
  • Speeches
  • Timeline
  • Schedule Photography
  • Schedule Busses
  • Lighting-In House
  • To Go
  • Cocktail Music
  • Dance Floor Decal
  • Programs For Service
  • Décor

UM WHAT? WHATTTTT? I decided that planning a Bar Mitzvah is like building a house. You need a GC (BETH) who oversees and subcontracts all the vendors. And by ALL the vendors I mean like 20 of them beginning with the logo design and ending with hiring someone to make sure you get home safely. It is endless. Thankfully Beth helped me navigate all the waters. She suggested who to hire (and not), advised where to spend money (and where not to), and pointed out what I actually needed versus what was a complete and utter waste.

A few things I would like to mention from Beth’s LIST:

  • Candle Lighting – screw it. If you are in the room, consider yourself part of the candle lighting. Thank you for coming. NEXT.
  • Entrance Video – What is an entrance video exactly?
  • Amenities Basket – Can’t I stick some deodorant, a few tampons, mouthwash and a pack of gum in a basket from Michael’s and call it a day?
  • WAIT STAFF Shirts – Do the waiters/waitresses need Zach Bar Mitzvah Shirts?? (apparently they do)
  • Yarmulkes– this is like buying bras. A necessity but such an ANNOYING thing to spend money on. At least with a bra, you will wear it over and over. Yarmulkes are worn for an hour or two and then done. You can’t even throw it out.
  • Water Bottles – I am so tempted to give out Poland Spring Water bottles WITHOUT the Bar Mitzvah Label. What do you think people will say? “OMG, DID YOU HEAR AMY SELLING TOTALLY CHEAPED OUT AND GAVE OUT WATER BOTTLES THAT DID NOT HAVE ZACH’S LOGO ON IT? CAN YOU EVEN???????? 
  • Montage – This took me a WEEK. Literally. If you think it will take you a day or two to go through 13 years worth of your child’s life, think again. Make sure you have a box of tissues nearby.
  • DJ – Just when you believe you have a finalized price with the DJ, you are sent an email with all the wonderful additions the kids room can have during the cocktail hour. For only $3k more, you can have a Roller Coaster or a DJ booth or a full-out arcade. Before you know it, your DJ bill is now $10K more than you thought! Thankfully, Morgan at Total Entertainment has been incredible. He was super lax about it and he advised me on what made the most sense for the room without breaking the bank (or causing argument 9)
  • Buses – You need to provide transportation to the venue for all 100+ kids, FINE. But I also need to hire chaperones for the buses?! Who in the world am I employing to watch the kids on two buses for 45 minutes, hang at the party for 4 hours and ride home with them at midnight. Is this a 15/16 year-old job? What is the going rate? I am assuming their job entails making sure the kids are not maniacs and breaking up any sort of “hooking up” on the back of the bus? True or False? Applications Welcome.
  • Dance Floor Decal – I love the venue. I LOVE the woman who I am working with, Fran. But if there was ONE thing I could change about the room it would be the dance floor. It has this huge star or emblem (not sure) that is making me bat shit crazy. I researched all the ways to cover it up and the least inexpensive way is a $1500 DECAL. Still on the fence… WHAT WOULD YOU DO? (Do you think John Quiñones will do a segment on the Bar Mitzvah dance floor?)

  • Decor – This is a huge chunk of your budget. HUGE. Furnish a room for 5 hours or redo our entire dining room? HMMMM. All I can tell you is, whatever number you think you have settled on, add 20%. MARK MY WORDS (and ask a relative/friend to borrow the money not your husband). This would be argument number 10.
  • Favors – When did the favors become more expensive than the gifts the kids give at the BM? Remember when a T-shirt was sufficient? Now it’s a drawstring bag, plus a shirt, PLUS sweatpants/sweatshirt or whatever else! Breaking news: the ONE favor we are giving out is going in a brown fucking shopping bag. And he doesn’t think I know how to save money, HA!

RSVP. Six weeks before the Bar Mitzvah, I went through the outstanding list of RSVP’s and emailed all the parents. Most of them responded fairly quickly. There was one parent who responded and said “John is coming, sorry I didn’t respond earlier.” I looked at the name 30 times and thought to myself, WHO THE HELL IS JOHN SMITH? I know I did not invite John Smith. I did invite Sam Smith. But not John. I pulled out the Buzz Book (school book that lists all families info) and figured out I sent an email to the WRONG SMITH FAMILY. FML. Now I have John Smith coming who wasn’t invited. I need to add another favor, somehow mention to my husband that I screwed up and we have yet ANOTHER person coming. Argument 11. 

My favorite RSVP of the bunch was actually a tie between two. This one:


(yes, someone sent a blank RSVP back)


I am 12 days out and I have fully lost my mind. There are still a few RSVP’s missing,  I am flat broke, I haven’t finalized a thing with the DJ, my dress is half done, my kids teeth are yellow and my family has left me SEVERAL voicemails I haven’t returned. I learned this past weekend that I am supposed to have some kind of Shabbaque (a Shabbat Barbeque after the Friday night service). Who has a BBQ the night before the Bar Mitzvah? I am coming home after temple Friday night to throw burgers on a grill? Do I need to hire entertainment as well? Is this a real thing?

All I wanted was a small ceremony at the wall in Israel and a million dollars later I am doing what I swore I wouldn’t. Honestly, at this point, all I can ask for is a sunny day, to make it to my 16 year wedding Anniversary and to look at my son after the service and tell him how bloody well worth it, it all was.


p.s. I am fully aware that this is a very sacred, religious milestone in a Jewish child’s life. It is not lost on me AT ALL. Please save the nasty comments but all other comments are welcomed! Amen.


Share Your Thoughts