Tag: bar mitzvah

Thinking of planning a mitzvah on your own? The top 5 reasons why you should hire a professional event planner instead

Many people don’t think a bar or bat mitzvah is as big a deal to plan as a wedding. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Often, bar and bat mitzvahs, even small ones, can have just as many (sometimes more) details to keep track of as weddings. And if you truly want to enjoy yourself at your party, hiring a good professional event planner is key.

Here are the top five reasons why hiring a professional event planner is a good idea:


Good event planners are able to help their clients create a vision for their event. Whether a client has something specific in mind or not, event planners know what it takes to take an idea from a basic concept to implementation. They have a comprehensive list of professionals who they work with, from the invitations to the décor, from the venue to the food, from the photography and videography to the lighting and sound, and more. Professional event planners are able to add special details such as custom signage and stationery to unique giveaways and other details that personalize an event, making it even more special to the family. And they’re able to keep track of and coordinate every aspect of the event.


A professional event planner is a neutral party who you can turn to for direction and advice. He or she is hired to protect your interests. For example, we all know that some people have their own opinions about things, and not everyone will be happy with the details you choose or the choices you make. An event planner can be the person who provides shelter to make sure you have the things you want. Sometimes it’s easier to defer to the advice of your planner than to have to explain a particular choice to a difficult relative. Another example where vendors protect your interests is when a vendor doesn’t do what they were contracted to do. Good event planners usually only refer vendors with good reputations and business practices, but on the rare occasion when a vendor makes a mistake (usually on the day of your event), your planner will handle the issue so you don’t have to.


Not everything is a priority to every client, and a professional event planner can help you decide what’s important to you and what you can get for your budget. They know what things should cost and can help you steer your way through the often confusing maze of event planning contracts and costs. Many vendors try to up-sell their services. A professional event planner can help protect you from purchasing unnecessary services and items, and can make sure you get what you pay for.


The first thing I tell each of my invitation clients is “enjoy the process.” Planning an important event, especially a lifecycle event like a bar or bat mitzvah, can be very stressful. It takes months of planning that are over in the blink of an eye. If you don’t enjoy the process, even the minutiae, and are only focused on the end result, you can miss out on making wonderful memories along the way. Hiring a professional event planner can help you relax so that you can enjoy the details of planning your event. Rather than being thankful it’s over, or being angry about how difficult it was, you’ll be able to look back on the journey with fondness and joy.


The best part of any event is participating fully. If you’re too busy worrying that the florist didn’t deliver the correct number of centerpieces or that grandma’s food is cold, you won’t enjoy your simcha. A professional event planner will act as the official point person to deal with any issues that may arise so that you can enjoy the ceremony and reception.

Even though the services of a professional event planner are not free, the cost can be well worth it because it will allow you to focus on what’s important to you: your family, friends and the joy of your simcha. For a list of professional event planners I work with and highly recommend, contact me at Marlene@InvitationMaven.com.


What to Do When Beloved Friends and Family Can’t (or Won’t) Attend Your Special Event

Relatives won’t come to your party? Friends say they’re not interested? You’re not alone.

I just got off the phone with a client who confessed she is experiencing some unexpected drama as the responses for her twin’s b’nai mitzvah are coming in. A beloved aunt and cousin, who live out of state and who my client anticipated with great joy would come to her event, unfortunately declined her invitation. The reason why they aren’t coming isn’t because they are ill or can’t afford the trip, but because they just don’t want to. My client attended all four of the bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs for her cousins’ children, her aunt’s grandchildren, at great expense and effort by the way (they live on the other side of the country) so she is understandably feeling greatly hurt and disappointed that her aunt and cousin aren’t making a similar effort, even this once.

This same client has a so-called friend who also declined because, according to the friend, “I’ve been to too many bar mitzvahs already so I’m not going to come to yours.” Coming on the heels of hearing from her cousin and aunt only made this so-called friend’s callous response even more painful.

I can empathize with my client. Back in 2014, a very close friend of mine, one of my closest girlfriends in fact, chose not to attend my youngest son’s bar mitzvah. Even though it was almost three years ago, I can still feel the sting I felt then as I recall reading her response. The reason she gave didn’t give me any comfort because it was something she could do any time. She also knew about our bar mitzvah because I sent Save The Dates six months in advance. My son’s bar mitzvah was a one-time event so I took it very personally because it demonstrated the true priority I was in my friend’s life. It was a very painful experience, just as my client’s experience is for her.

Even though this happens to a lot of people, it’s still painful

Special lifecycle events such as bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs and weddings are moments you want to share with the people who mean the most to you. You spend hours putting together your guest list, and fill it with the people you most love and admire and who you look forward to seeing and sharing your joy. So when some of those people don’t make your celebration a priority, it can be a painful realization. I’m not referring to situations when health issues, financial circumstances or unexpected emergencies prevent someone from attending your event. While still disappointing, those reasons are understandable. In the case of my client’s cousin, aunt and friend, and in the case of my friend, this was not the case. Rather, the reasons these people expressed clearly imparted the message that “you’re not important enough to me.” That’s what’s so hurtful.

Having been through the exact same thing that my client is experiencing, I gave her some advice to help her get through these next few weeks. This advice can help you when you find yourself in a situation like my client’s, too.

Advice #1: You Have Permission to Grieve

The first thing I did for my client was give her permission to grieve. To some reading this post, it may be difficult to fully understand the feelings of loss and disappointment my client and I both felt. But when someone disappoints you in this manner, when you realize you’re not as important to someone as either they are to you or as you believed you were to them, it’s like the losing a loved one. And it’s OK to grieve the loss of that relationship. This is not to say you have to cut ties with the person. But the nature of the relationship is different than what you thought, and it’s that loss that you are grieving, especially when the person is a favorite relative or one of your closest friends.

Advice #2: You Have Permission to Get Angry

I then told my client that after she grieves, she will be angry (she’s already getting to this stage), and that she’s allowed to feel this way. She should’t act on her anger, but by acknowledging it, she will be able to move past it quickly. She will then soon feel empowered, even liberated, because she will realize her relatives’ and friend’s absence is not really her loss. Rather, their absence will be THEIR loss because her friends and relatives will be missing a great event. In the case of her so-called friend, my client can see that feeling on the horizon. But her pain about her cousin and aunt is far more difficult to shake, and she’s afraid she won’t enjoy her event for fear of hanging on to the anger she’s feeling at this moment.

Advice #3: Put It Aside So You Can Enjoy Your Event

The last piece of advice I gave my client was for the sake of herself and her family: she HAS to put this aside so that she can enjoy this wonderful milestone. If not now since the pain is still so fresh, then she has to at least by the time of the event. I have every confidence that she will be able to do that. On the day of her mitzvah, she will be in awe and amazement because she will look out and see all the friends and family who DID come and who DID make her and her family their priority. And in THAT moment she will know she is blessed. The pain and disappointment she’s feeling today will be set aside and will be but a blip on the radar.

Everything Will Be OK

The last thing I said to my client before getting off the phone was “don’t worry, everything will be OK.” And it will, because this too, shall pass. I promise.

For custom invitations and free therapy for your next event, contact The Invitation Maven at info@InvitationMaven.com.


Putting the Mitzvah Back in Your Bar or Bat Mitzvah: Creating Meaningful Mitzvah Projects (Part 2 of 2)

As I noted in my previous post, one of the pillars of Judaism is the notion of Repairing the World, or Tikkun Olam in Hebrew. In the Jewish tradition, it is customary for children preparing for their bar or bat mitzvahs to participate in a project in which they give back to the community. Some communities refer to this as the child’s “Mitzvah Project.” By doing a Mitzvah Project, children learn to take responsibility for the welfare of the community in which they live, and they often are reminded of their many blessings in the process.

I have the unique fortune to hear about many wonderful ways in which my clients’ children give back to their community. They range from helping animals to helping humans, from helping people in communities close to home to helping people on the other side of the world. Here is the second of two entries that describe a few of my favorite Mitzvah Projects that some of my clients have created to benefit others:


Gianna, from Woodland Hills, California, decided to help a group of people on the other side of the world: The Abayudaya Jews of Uganda. The Abayudaya are a tribe of people whose leader converted the whole community to Judaism over one hundred years ago. They strive to live in peace alongside their Christian and Muslim neighbors and are helping to increase the quality of life for all Ugandans. Under Rabbi Gershom Sizomu’s leadership, they now have a Medical Center open to everyone and around the time of Gianna’s bat mitzvah, were raising money to build a Community Center and Childcare Center.

Gianna had a special connection to the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda. Their spiritual leader, Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, did his rabbinic internship at Shomrei Torah Synagogue in West Hills, California. Shomrei Torah is located up the street from Temple Aliyah, Gianna’s synagogue, and Temple Aliyah’s cantor, Hazzan Mike Stein, with whom Gianna and her family are very close, formed a close relationship with Rabbi Sizomu during his internship at the neighboring synagogue.

While the Abayudaya raised enough money for a physical building to hold their new childcare center, Gianna knew a building was not enough. As she wrote on an insert included with her invitation, “Children need a lot of activities to keep them busy and learning. My mitzvah project is to raise money to furnish toys, books, and playground equipment for the new Childcare Center in Mbale, Uganda.”

The childcare center serves Jewish, Christian and Muslim children so their mothers can work and contribute to the growing economy. Gianna was inspired to do this as her mitzvah project because both of her grandmothers were preschool teachers, and have always worked to promote peace. She wanted to honor them as she became a bat mitzvah by providing the Abayudaya with everything they need in order to provide quality childcare to Jewish, Christian and Muslim families in their community.

For more information about the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda, click here: Abayudaya Jews of Uganda

For more information about the Abayudaya’s Synagogue and Community Center, click here: Abayudaya’s Synagogue and Community Center


Yael and Akiva’s b’nai mitzvah project was inspired by their sister Rosa, who was born in Ethiopia. Being twins themselves, they twinned with an Ethiopian boy and girl in Israel to help sponsor their B’nai Mitzvah preparations. They worked with a charity called The North American Conference On Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ). In addition, they raised funds to help NACOEJ serve the larger Ethiopian community in Israel who have fulfilled their dream of reaching Zion, which is how they refer to Israel.

Many people in this vibrant community are thriving. However, many are still struggling. It is especially the children of these pioneers who need the help of NACOEJ and their programs. Often their parents speak little or no Hebrew and cannot help their children with school work. Even today, only half of Ethiopian-Israeli elementary school children reach grade level. To change this, the NACOEJ Limudiah Program provides intensive after-school education to about 750 children a year. NACOEJ also has sponsorship programs for Ethiopian-Israeli high school and college students.

Click here for more information about the NACOEJ, click here: North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry (NACOEJ)


Weston and Lindsay are 17 months apart so they decided to share their b’nai mitzvah. As their special Tikkun Olam project, they chose to support a wonderful organization called Chai Lifeline, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families who are affected by serious pediatric illness. This organization is particularly near and dear to Weston and Lindsay’s hearts because Chai Lifeline has significantly helped a family that is very close to them. Chai Lifeline offers free programs and services that allow seriously ill children and their families to receive much-needed social and emotional support, therapeutic recreational activities, educational support, crisis intervention, and special camp experiences that give the children a vacation from illness and pain.

Weston and Lindsay chose to raise money to give the children of Chai Lifeline a special experience at Camp Simcha, where they can go to forget about illness and experience the joy of childhood.  Since Weston and Lindsay love music and theater arts, their goal was to raise $5,000 to fund a program called “The Show Must Go On” for the kids at camp. They asked guests to make donations in honor of their b’nai mitzvah. They also collected toys for the children of Chai Lifeline.

For more information about Chai Lifeline, click here: Chai Lifeline

For more information about Camp Simcha, click here: Camp Simcha


Putting the Mitzvah Back in Your Bar or Bat Mitzvah: Creating Meaningful Mitzvah Projects (Part 1 of 2)


One of the pillars of Judaism is the notion of Repairing the World, or Tikkun Olam in Hebrew. In the Jewish tradition, it is customary for children preparing for their bar or bat mitzvahs to participate in a project in which they give back to the community. Some communities refer to this as the child’s “Mitzvah Project.” By doing a Mitzvah Project, children learn to take responsibility for the welfare of the community in which they live, and they often are reminded of their many blessings in the process.

I have the unique fortune to hear about many wonderful ways in which my clients’ children give back to their community. They range from helping animals to helping humans, from helping people in communities close to home to helping people on the other side of the world. Here is the first of two entries that describe a few of my favorite Mitzvah Projects that some of my clients have created to benefit others:


For many years, ever since she was a little girl, Talia loved working with kids with special needs. Her mom found the Los Angeles Chapter of The Friendship Circle, a national charity that provides Jewish special needs children with a variety of experiences, from social and educational to recreational and Judaic. The Friendship Circle also offers a break for and support to parents of these kids as well as provides Jewish teens with opportunities to share themselves with the special needs community.

As her way to give back and demonstrate her gratitude for her own blessings, Talia planned two Crazy Sock Parties. One was the party for her own bat mitzvah. She asked her guests to wear crazy socks to the party and to bring extra pairs of crazy and funny socks to donate to the kids of The Friendship Circle. Then, a few weeks later, Talia planned a Crazy Sock Party for her Friendship Circle friends. She used part of the gift money she collected from her bat mitzvah to help pay for the second Crazy Sock Party and she gave each child a pair of their own crazy socks to wear. Talia was able to give these deserving special needs kids a similar experience to what she had a few weeks earlier.

For more information about The Friendship Circle and to find a local chapter near you, click here: The Friendship Circle.


Hannah decided at the age of 11 ½ that she wanted to donate her hair to Locks of Love as her bat mitzvah project. This was shortly after Hannah’s grandmother passed away from cancer. As part of her treatment, she lost her hair, and that’s what motivated Hannah to support Locks of Love, a nonprofit charity that makes hairpieces out of real hair for disadvantaged children under age 21 who lose their hair due to a variety of illnesses. Hannah’s grandmother inspired her decision because many of the children who benefit from Locks of Love are children who suffer from cancer.

For the next 18 months, Hannah did not cut her hair. But rather than simply cut her hair and send it to Locks of Love, which many people do, Hannah organized an entire event at a hair salon. She included information about her event in her bat mitzvah invitation so that people could participate if they chose to. Several friends and family members, including Hannah’s mom, donated their hair and several people made generous donations in Hannah’s honor. One family member generously donated a ponytail she’d saved for more than 40 years. It was Hannah’s willingness to donate her own hair to people less fortunate than her that motivated Hannah’s relative to finally part with the ponytail she’d saved for so many years.

The event was a huge success. Hannah collected a total of 7 ponytails and close to $1,000 for Locks of Love.

For more information about Locks of Love and to create your own fundraiser to support their efforts, click here: Locks of Love.

Read my next post for examples of more Mitzvah Projects.


No Right Way or Wrong Way…Only YOUR Way

I am often asked “what’s the right way to…” followed by a question about how to handle a situation one might encounter when planning a party. My answer usually is “there is no RIGHT way or WRONG way…there’s only YOUR way.” I say this because every bride and groom, every bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah child, and every honoree is unique and their special event should reflect who they are. So while there are social conventions that can help guide you, there’s no reason why you can’t get creative and have fun planning your big event.

This is even true as it pertains to your invitations.

For example, in years past, wedding invitations were very formal. They had inner and outer envelopes, the bride’s parents were listed as the hosts, and the envelopes were addressed with formal honorifics (e.g., Mr. and Mrs. John Smith). These days, however, not all weddings are such formal affairs. And even if they are, many young brides and grooms are not comfortable with the formalities associated with weddings of the past.

It’s now perfectly acceptable to mail wedding invitations in a single envelope. In fact, in the more than 20 years since I started designing custom invitations, I have never designed a wedding invitation with a double envelope.

Brides and grooms often address their invitations using guests’ first and last names without honorifics (e.g., Mary and John Smith). This reduced formality sits better with many millennials.

Brides and grooms often host their own weddings and send their invitations from them, not from their parents. And even when they aren’t paying for their own wedding, sometimes certain family dynamics call for brides and grooms to send the invitations in order to avoid hurt feelings. I have a current wedding invitation client who is doing just that. The groom’s father recently passed away and in deference to his mother’s feelings, they chose to word the invitation as though they were inviting everyone. Their invitation reads:

Together with our families
Jenna Marie
Daughter of Cynthia and Robert Morgan
James Edward
Son of Jennifer and the late Richard Jackson
invite you to join us as we exchange wedding vows

Instead of using a formal RSVP card with an envelope, many of my clients opt to use a postcard RSVP. We design the front with all of the requisite RSVP information (names of guests, accepts or declines the invitation, meal choices, and whatever other information they need to collect) and the back is printed with the return address. This not only saves the cost of the envelope, but the postage is less expensive and it doesn’t weigh as much.

One thing is clear, however, regardless of the formality of the event: a wedding needs a real invitation and a real response card. Weddings are special and while you may be planning an informal affair at an eclectic or non-traditional venue, sending a printed invitation is one tradition that still endures. But have fun with that tradition and make the invitation reflect YOU.

For assistance creating your perfect wedding invitation, bar mitzvah invitation or bat mitzvah invitation, contact Invitation Maven at info@InvitationMaven.com or visit our website at www.InvitationMaven.com.

Where do I start? The 3 most important things to know before you start planning your child’s bar mitzvah

You’re planning your son’s bar mitzvah. It’s your first time planning a party that’s this significant. Even if you’ve done this before, a million questions are swirling through your head (I know…I’ve been there. I’ve planned three!). But the most pressing one probably is: WHERE DO I START?

It’s common to feel confused and perhaps overwhelmed. You need to decide the venue, the food, the theme, the decorations, the invitations, the entertainment, and on and on. I assure my clients that the first decisions they make regarding their big event are the hardest, and the farther we get in the process, the easier the decisions become. But to make it easier, I’ve narrowed the millions of choices down to the three most important things you need to know first. The rest will fall into place.

The first and MOST important decision you make, the one that will really guide every decision that comes next, is WHO. WHO do you want to invite to share this incredible simcha with you? Do you want a small, intimate family gathering with only your immediate relatives and closest family friends, or do you want ALL of “your people” there, which might mean a few hundred guests? Either way, you’re making the WHO…the PEOPLE…the most important thing.

Once you decide WHO you want to invite, it’s nice to know how many to expect will actually attend. In general, these are my rules of thumb regarding attendance:

Under 50 invited: 10% decline
75–100 invited: 10% – 25% decline
100+ invited: 20% – 30% decline
150+ invited: 25% – 35% decline

As you can see, the more people you invite, the larger the percentage of people who can’t or won’t make it. If you think about it, this makes sense. With a smaller, more intimate affair, you’re likely limiting the guest list to the people you’re closest with. Those people tend to make more of an effort to attend special occasions such as this. As you expand the guest list to include more casual friendships or business relationships, those people tend not to make your event their priority. It’s not personal; it’s just life. But understanding these general rules can help you with your next decision: HOW MUCH.

The next thing you need to know is how much you can afford to spend. Put another way: What’s your budget for your event? The most effective way to do this is to prioritize. Start with the three most important things you want at your event. These can be things such as a specific venue, live music, a particular DJ or photographer, a special menu, etc. Creating this short list of priorities will help you focus your budget on the things that are most important to you.

One thing you should keep in mind as you’re preparing your budget is: will this work? My suggestion to you is to be realistic as you’re trying to figure out how much to spend as costs can easily get out of hand.

The best way to be realistic is to do some research. The internet is full of resources to help you get an idea of what things cost in your area. Create a spreadsheet for each of your priorities then add in other things you would love to have. Pretty soon, you’ll start to have an idea of what you can and cannot afford and can prioritize what’s most important to you.

Now that you’ve decided WHO to invite and HOW MUCH you’re willing to spend, you can start to think about WHERE to have your party.

One reason why the first two steps are so important is because you don’t want to book a venue with a maximum capacity of 75 if you’ve got over 150 people on your guest list. Conversely, venues with high minimums may not be worth the cost if you’re only inviting 75 people. But once you “pencil in” your guest list and you know how much you’re willing to spend, you can start looking for venues that will fit your budget.

The venue you choose will eventually dictate the rest of the details of your bar mitzvah. For example, a large hotel ballroom with lush carpeting and decorative drapes and wall treatments will require different décor than venue at a local summer camp. Similarly, a venue on the beach with large windows overlooking the ocean will provide a very different feel than a venue at a local bowling alley or other kid-friendly locale.

There are two ways to narrow down your search for an appropriate venue: by LOCATION and by TYPE OF VENUE.

If, for example, your bar mitzvah service is at the synagogue near your home, you may want to consider a venue that’s a short distance away so your guests don’t have to travel too far between locations. However, if you’re having the ceremony and party at the same venue, you could venture a little farther away.

Regarding the type of venue, are you having a banquet with a meal and dancing or a kids’ party where the location can be more informal?

The easiest way to find potential locations is through an internet search and by asking your friends for recommendations. Blogs of local event professionals are also a great place to search for ideas because many of them write about local venues and post pictures. That way you can get a feel for the venue as it is being used. Finally, schedule a site visit. But before you go, find out as much as you can before you go so you don’t waste your time looking at a place that won’t fit your needs.

Once you nail down these three elements, the rest of the details of your party will quickly fall into place. To help you get started, get my FREE “BIG PARTY GUEST LIST SURVIVAL GUIDE: How to stay sane when 100 or more people are celebrating with you!” by clicking here: FREE SURVIVAL GUIDE.


Number One Event Planning Tip: Enjoy the Process

Planning a special event can be a daunting task, whether it’s a small, intimate gathering of friends to celebrate a milestone birthday or a large life cycle event such as a wedding, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. There are thousands of choices to make and a myriad of details to keep track of. Sometimes, the details can become overwhelming, especially when you already have a full time job.

Many people search out advice about how to do this or that. But those lists leave out the most important piece of advice I give each of my clients: enjoy the process, because sometimes, the things that go wrong will become your funniest and most memorable stories.

But what does “enjoy the process” mean?

Events are usually planned months in advance and it takes time and effort to decide what to serve, who to invite, how to decorate, who to hire, etc. Clients often spend hundreds of hours or more planning every detail of the party. This process can often be very stressful. And with all the planning, the actual event itself is over within a matter of hours. So the reason why I tell my clients to enjoy the process is because if you don’t, you will miss out on opportunities to make memories. And if things go wrong, either on that day or in the days leading up to your special event, if you’re not enjoying the process, these mishaps can ruin your entire experience.

I’ll share an example from a client I had a few years ago to illustrate my point.

I designed some bar mitzvah invitations for a client (I’ll call her Julie). We were just about ready to go into production. She had just emailed me her signed proofs when she got a call from her venue saying they’d had a major flood and needed to close the venue to make repairs. They informed her that they could not guarantee that the venue would be ready in time for her event, which was then only 10 weeks away.

Well, anyone who knows about planning a large party knows venues book months and sometimes a year or more in advance. Finding another venue that could accommodate Julie and her 200+ guests at that late date would be challenging, to say the least. But rather than be discouraged, Julie called several local venues and was able to find a place that was available on her date.

While those first few days following the news of the flood added some unneeded stress, Julie recalled my advice and realized that although unexpected things sometimes happen, she couldn’t have planned for that, so she might as well make the best of it. She maintained her positive attitude and friendly disposition and as a result, was able to negotiate more for less, and ended up at a superior venue. And now, two years later, because she enjoyed the process, it’s a funny story she can recall with fondness, not anger.

So I’ll give you the same advice I give all my clients: enjoy the process!

And to help you get started, get my FREE “BIG PARTY GUEST LIST SURVIVAL GUIDE: How to stay sane when 100 or more people are celebrating with you!” by clicking here: SURVIVAL GUIDE.