Your child’s mitzvah ceremony is something he or she will remember for a lifetime, so the pressure is on to create the ultimate experience surrounding this milestone event.
The best way to ensure everything runs smoothly—and that you’re most likely to get your first choice for venues and vendors—is to plan and book each aspect of the party at the proper time. The Main Event asked event planner Donna Wexler of Merrick, N.Y.-based Designs by Donna for her expert advice on how and when to make your arrangements so your child’s special day is guaranteed to be one of his or her best.
Is there anything you can do in advance of having a date?
The most important task you can undertake in advance of having a date is to think about your guest list. The more people you have, the more limited you’ll be in the venues you can choose, so it is important to know what capacity you need the room to have when shopping for venues. You also can start thinking about whether you want to have it at a synagogue or at a club or a catering hall. Most synagogues give out dates based on birthdays, so if your child’s birthday is in January and all of your family lives in Florida, you might want to change that, so it’s more likely your family can attend. Finally, it’s good to consider whether you want an afternoon or an evening celebration. When my oldest child was bar mitvahed, my youngest was 3, so I had an afternoon affair thinking he might not be able to get through the evening.
When is the ideal time to begin planning?
Don’t hesitate to ask a DJ for their card if you are wowed by them at an affair you are attending as a guest. You also can save invitations you have received and keep them in an ideas folder. Usually synagogues give out dates three years in advance. You’ll want to book your venue and emcee right away because those are limited. Always get a contract and leave a deposit when you book anything. Everything should be set in stone along with the details, for instance, if you’ve requested a particular emcee. You want to have proof you’ve signed for a specific person.
What are some common mistakes in planning?
People will book their venue without a guest list, then discover they can’t fit into the venue. A lot of people also forget to book the room at the temple for the Kiddush, then they’re left scrambling. If you have your guest list ready, you’ll know whether you need a smaller or larger room. Also, invitations should be mailed out eight weeks before the event, so you need them in your house three months before your event, which means you have to order them even earlier. I’ll have people show me their logo and everything planned for their favor, but they don’t have their invitations. I know the logo is fun to do, but you have to have your invitations in your possession. They need to be sealed and addressed and stamped. That takes time.
Can you share with us the timeline you use for your clients?
The Ultimate Mitzvah Timeline
Three years before:
- Determine budget
- Make tentative guest list
- Ask for recommendations for venues and DJ companies
- Book Kiddush room
Two years to 18 months before:
- If you haven’t already, book venue and emcee with contract and deposit
- Discuss theme and mitzvah project with your child
- Begin looking for florist, decorator, photographer, additional entertainment - consider using The Main Event
- Decide if you’ll need an event planner
One year before:
- Look for invitations
- Gather photos for montage
- Book a block of hotel rooms for guests and possible shuttle service to venue
- Book decorator, photographer and videographer with signed contract and deposit
Six months before:
- Finalize invitation count and order invitations
- Begin logo design
- Book food trucks for the end of the evening
- Confirm hair and makeup appointments
Four months before:
- Order custom stamps
- Have envelopes addressed in calligraphy either by hand or machine
- Order custom cake
- Choose party favors
- Finalize aliyahs for the service
Three months before:
- Finalize menu
- Shoot entrance video
- Have photo shoot
- Write candle lighting poems
- Choose candle lighting songs
Two months before:
- Mail invitations and request to have them hand-stamped at the post office
- Write speeches
- Fill out DJ sheet, including entrance song requests
One month before:
- Order yarmulkes
- Order favors, labels for favors, customized water bottles, photo favors, etc.
- Finalize table arrangements and order place cards
- Arrange hotel welcome baskets/gift bags for out-of-town guests
- Have informal photo shoot
- Complete final fittings
One week before:
- Drop off hotel baskets
- Bring yarmulkes to temple and two to the venue for the Kiddush and motzi
- Drop off favors and place cards at the venue
- Prepare tip envelopes
- Finalize song list with DJ
- Watch all of your hard work come together
- Enjoy the smile on your family and friends' faces