Already stressed just thinking about mitzvah planning? Don’t worry. You’re definitely not alone. Most Jewish parents will tell you that mitzvah planning can become all-consuming. It’s a big day in your child’s life--the biggest day thus far.
You want the event to be perfect, but you also don’t want to lose your mind in the process. The key to maintaining your sanity throughout the planning process is to be prepared and organized. How exactly do you do that? Hang with me! I’ve got you covered! Whether you want to host a lavish affair or a simple celebration for the milestone, this timeline will be your saving grace.
2-3 years before the bar/bat mitzvah
Securing the date with your synagogue will be your first order of business. Most often, the bar/bat mitzvah date will be assigned to you by your synagogue according to the child’s birth date, though some synagogues may allow for you to request a specific date.
Once you have your date secured, it would be wise to go ahead and start brainstorming the type of event you and your child would like to have.
12-18 months before your event
As you know, the mitzvah is a huge milestone for your son/daughter as they become of age within the Jewish community so it’s vital to get the ball rolling well in advance. In many cases, a bar or bat mitzvah is just as important to a family as a wedding so it’s a good idea to approach the planning process in much the same way.
Just about a year and a half prior to your bar/bat mitzvah date is usually a good time to start hammering out some major details. If you haven’t already, go ahead and join any mitzvah Facebook groups that may be in your area. These communities will be an excellent resource for you. They’re full of other planning parents, and they’re a wealth of local venue and vendor information. They also serve as a nice support group—and really, who couldn’t use a little support through the planning process?
At this time, you’ll want to consider the kind of budget that’s suitable for your family, determine the party theme, and pick the color scheme.
As you start to narrow in on those details, you’ll want to book your venue and start locking in your vendors like the DJ, caterer, party planner, videographer, photographer, and any other necessary entertainment vendors.
9-12 months before
Okay, let’s set some things in motion. If you have out-of-town guests or if your event falls on a holiday weekend, now would be the time to send out your save-the-dates. Be sure to book your room block at this time and include that information on your save-the-date.
Now, it’s really easy to get totally consumed with the party planning—but remember, your child will also be busy with important prep. You’ll want to discuss the meaning of their Torah portion as well as help them select their mitzvah project. Be sure to schedule time for them to achieve their goals.
6-9 months before
Still with me? Still breathing? Okay, good! Tutoring will begin for your child about six to nine months before their mitzvah for them to learn their Torah portion. You’ll want to check with your synagogue for their tutoring days & times. It’s important to plan your child’s schedule accordingly as there will likely be a specific timeline for meetings with the rabbi & cantor.
6 Months before
Ready for the real fun to begin? Okay, hold on tight because here we go! Things are about to get real.
Let’s talk invitations & logo. Have you ordered yours yet? If not, it’s time to make that happen (and we just happen to know of a great shop). Take some time to think about your budget and what designs you like; these days the customization options are endless. Need some ideas? Take a look at some of my work—I specialize in mitzvah invitations, logos + more!
You will also want to consider the coordinating cards that may be necessary such as an RSVP card and/or a hotel/weekend event card. It’s a good idea to set up an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all things guest related: current addresses, RSVPs, gifts, etc. We recommend that invitations be sent out 10 weeks before your event. Keep in mind, the RSVP date should be 3-4 weeks before so that you will have ample time to order the favors, place cards, the appropriate food choices, and anything else you may need the final numbers for.
It’s also time for you to order your personalized kippahs, so be sure to get that done.
If you’re working with a party planner, they’ll likely keep you on track with this stuff but in case you’re not, you’ll need to start working on your event decor, room layout, centerpieces, lighting, color scheme, and decor placement.
Also, it would be a good idea at this time to start to plan out your Friday evening Shabbat dinner and/or the Sunday brunch if you are choosing to have those events added to your mitzvah weekend.
2-3 months before
Take a few deep breaths, you’re almost to the finish line! You’ll want to start thinking about and organizing the photos you’d like to use for the montage. We suggest no more than 125 photos, 2 songs and 8 minutes long. It’s also a good time to start shopping for family member’s clothing. Now, remember those teenagers grow like weeds, so you may want to hold off on the guest of honor’s clothing or be prepared to need some tailoring.
1-2 months before
At this point, you should finalize the menu and party decor if you haven’t already.
1 month - 2 weeks before
Okay! It’s the last big push! Bear with me here, there’s a lot to get done—but I know you can handle it.
Create an event timeline. You’ll want to be sure that your venue, photographer, DJ, videographer, and anyone else you think may want/need it have this to ensure everyone is on the same page the day of the event. Now, if you’re working with a party planner, they’ll take care of this for you.
Coordinate the rehearsal time with your synagogue.
Select your music.
Decide who to honor at the candle lighting service.
Write out toasts, speeches, and help your child write out their introductions.
Arrange final fittings.
1 week before
This is it! You’ve made it to event week! Aside from reminding yourself to breathe (trust me, you’re no good to anyone if you’re panicked), you just have a few more things to finalize.
Be sure to provide the caterer with the final head count, get the checks ready to pay the vendors on the day of the event, and drop off the seating cards and decorations at the venue.
While I realize this can all feel a bit daunting all at once, I assure you if you follow this timeline—you may actually enjoy planning your child’s mitzvah. I’ve been in your shoes twice before, and while the preparations take a lot of effort, I promise you it’s all worth it in the end.
Stephanie Feldman; Owner | Cutie Patootie Creations; Your One Stop Mitzvah Shop!
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