How to Plan a Bar Mitzvah | Bat Mitzvah Without Spending Too Much Money

by lakeerieartists

A Bar Mitzvah is almost like planning a wedding, except you are not celebrating a marriage, but instead a coming of age.

Anyone who is Jewish can tell you, that planning a Bar or Bat-Mitzvah is lot of work, and a lot of money. A Bar Mitzvah is almost like planning a wedding, except you are not celebrating a marriage, but instead a coming of age.

I am in the midst of planning a Bat Mitzvah for my own daughter, and I thought that I would pass along some of the great tips that I have learned along the way. This is the second Bat Mitzvah that I have planned. Our first Bat Mitzvah cost us a lot more money, and I don't regret it, but with the current economy, we wanted to reign in our spending while not lowering the value or the fun of the Bat Mitzvah for us or our daughter.

The Importance of a Bar or Bat Mitzvah

To give you a little background, we belong to a conservative Jewish synagogue, which treats girls and boys equally, so our daughter's Bat Mitzvah has all the requirements and obligations of a boy's Bar Mitzvah.  She has been studying for her role in the service for over a year, and she has a very large portion of the Shabbat (Sabbath) service to lead, so this is really important to her and to us.

A Bar/Bat Mitzvah is an Entire Weekend

For many families including mine, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is one of the few very important times when we all get together, and that means that the event is much more than the service itself, and takes up an entire weekend.

Here is the calendar of events for our simcha (event):

Thursday:  Some of our relatives will be arriving.  Need to entertain them.

Friday:  My parents are hosting a Friday night dinner and candlelighting at their home for out of town guests.

Saturday:  The service is at 8:45 am, followed by a formal luncheon catered by us.  In the evening we are having a bowling party starting at 8:00 pm.

Sunday:  We are holding a brunch at my gallery for anyone who is still in town.

Invitations and Gathering the List

This is the invitation we choseA Bar/Bat-Mitzvah is not just for the Bar/Bat-Mitzvah child, but really for the entire family. So deciding who to invite is a huge deal. This is where the cost issues begin. My husband and I wanted to try to only invite people who really were close to us to help cut down the amount of people invited. And we ended up failing here. I lost the negotiations with my mother when it came to cutting people off the list, and I am inviting everyone she wanted me too. Sometimes, you just have to please your parents.

Invitations can be very costly. For our other Bat-Mitzvah, we spent about $1300 on invites alone. They were formal invitations, with response cards, and an additional card for some guests. They were also oversized and cost extra to mail out to our guests.

This time we decided to cut way back on the invitations. I went to Zazzle, and ordered them from the website. Zazzle has many custom options including the ability to enter Hebrew type for some items. Our invite is pictured on this page. It is really beautiful, and we will spend about $400 all told after we get all the invitations, response cards, and labels.

We bought a standard 5 x 8 size so that the postage will take a standard stamp. And we also are making the address labels, and return address labels ourselves on the computer.

Here is the link to the invitation we chose (pictured above).

Food: Kosher Food Costs More

When planning a Jewish party, Kashrut or Kosher food is a large factor in the cost of the food.  Kosher food is very expensive.  However, for our luncheon we do not have a choice.  Our synagogue requires Kosher food, and we do not want to exclude anyone who keeps strictly Kosher.

That meant that we had to settle for lesser menu than we originally wanted.  When you plan a Kosher meal, you cannot mix meat and dairy products.  Most people do a dairy lunch, with tuna fish, egg salad, and Israeli salad (a chopped vegetable salad).  We wanted a more formal lunch than that.  We are working with an assumed number of 100 guests, so the numbers multiply quickly.

In our discussions with the caterer, he suggested three possible menus.  The least expensive was $19.95 per person, and it included wrap sandwiches, an oriental salad, fresh fruit, and cookies for dessert as the primary elements.  It will be a buffet, and will be cold in order to accomodate the religious laws for the Shabbat.

Because we could not keep the cost down due to Kashrut, and we cannot hurt my mother by cutting guests she wants there, we had to downsize our menu a lot to keep the price down.  It will be a buffet which will make less labor hours, and will be cold to need less servers.  I really wanted to have people carving turkey and roast beef, but we just decided it wasn't worth the cost.  As a comparison for our last Bat-Mitzvah, we served a mixed medley of salads, fruit salad, soup, and a whole salmon which was much more expensive.

The Big Party

It used to be that all Bar/Bat-Mitzvah parties were formal, sit down parties with music and dancing, catered with various courses to the meal.  You would invite everyone you were related to, all your friends, and some acquaintances.  Nowadays, that has changed quite a bit, and while some people still have traditional formal parties, many are choosing to have a casual party instead.

Casual parties are much, much easier to cut down on the expense.  There is much less labor involved, and the food can be more casual.  For our daughter, we have chosen to have a bowling party with a 50's bowling theme.  We are renting out a section of a local bowling alley for $300 per hour which includes bowling shoes, 8 lanes, and a lot of casual seating at tables and couches.  The bowling alley is providing us with a buffet of pizza, and salad, and soft drinks that is not going to be kosher, but it will be vegetarian as to not have to deal with non-kosher meats.  This will be fine for most of our guests.  The cost of food and drink is still not cheap, but $13.95 per guest with unlimited pizza.

There are other options we can add, like a disc jockey, a bar tab, game room tab, and an extra room.  Most likely we will chose not to include these, and if guests want to use them, they will have to pay.  We are going to create a personal 50's video that will run during the party to help further the theme.  This only adds $50 to the cost.

In comparison to the big party we hosted last time, the fees this time are much less.  For our first daughter's party, we had a large room ($400 for the night) with tables and table clothes, and huge buffet, with a DJ who was amazing (but cost us $2000 just for them). 

While this time around our party will be a bit smaller in stature, I think that we will have just as much fun, for a lot less money.

Going Back to the Meaning of Coming of Age

One of the things that the current economic climate has forced us to do, while planning our daughter's Bat Mitzvah, is to think a lot more about what is important to us for this event.  The Bat Mitzvah is about our daughter, her coming of age as a Jewish woman, and our family, and spending time together in a positive way.  In all of those ways, this Bat Mitzvah is going to be equal to our earlier one.

Our daughter will be able to show her studies off to her family, to become responsible to a new level, and at the same time we will be able to enjoy our family being together.  We will still have fun, enjoy great food, and have lots to do.  The only real difference is the cost.

Updated: 02/10/2015, lakeerieartists
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dustytoes on 04/19/2012

Oh my, I never knew all this went into a Bar/Bat Mitzvah! What an excellent account of all you have done to plan for the big event. Your daughter should enjoy every minute and what I like most is that it involves the whole family - like a wedding. I can't imagine having to spend that kind of money, but it sounds like you have it all under control!

Digby_Adams on 04/19/2012

It sounds like a wonderful experience for your daughter and something she'll remember forever. I agree that sometimes it's important to please your parents and just cave in. One of my great aunts turned 100 last summer and a small get together turned into hundreds of people, because my Mom wanted EVERYONE included. But at least there were lots of us contributing to the party fund. I think the bowling party sounds like a fabulous time, as well as the brunch at your gallery. You've included such a nice variety of partys, brunches and get togethers. No one will wonder what to do next.

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