An Invitation to Your Future
By Allison De Meulder
Planning a bar or bat Mitzvah is an exciting time in a parent's life. Just like planning any life event, bar mitzvah planning takes a lot of time and thought to make it perfect. The bar mitzvah is important to your child and they are the focus of the day, but the family and community are important as well. After all, the child did not get to this age alone.
The bar mitzvah ceremony will occur on a boy's thirteenth birthday. A newer tradition, the Bat mitzvah varies by synagogue, but is celebrated on a girl's twelfth birthday. Many people associate bar mitzvah with large parties or feasts, but the bar mitzvah is actually the coming of age birthday of the child and happens with or without a ceremony at the synagogue and does not require a large party or feast. The bar mitzvah marks the turning point in a boy's life when he becomes of age and responsible for himself. He is now required to follow mitzvoth and his father is no longer responsible for his actions. He is now able to participate in leading religious services, will count in a minyan, can form contracts that are binding, can testify in religious courts and eventually, marry. The Bar Mitzvah marks the proper age for a child to be responsible for following mitzvoth, and not full adulthood. He is not ready to be independent, get married, or earn a living.
A lot of preparation goes into a bar mitzvah for both the child and the parents. Before your child's tenth birthday, contact the synagogue or temple and learn about what they require for the process and the time needed to prepare your child for the bar mitzvah. Around two years before the big day, you should decide on the style and budget for the event and start looking for possible service providers you will need for the big day. A year before, you should book the location and entertainment, as well as any other services you want or need. If you will be hiring a DJ and do not have one in mind, ask caterers who they can suggest for you to check into, and pay attention to events like the B'nai or Simcha showcase that are sponsored by a Jewish party. Many children do a community service as a bar mitzvah project to give the event even more meaning. You should sit down with your child and discuss options he or she might be interested in and develop a plan for completion. Children usually begin their lessons to prepare them for the ceremony a year before the event. Six months before the event, you should write your guest list, order stationary and stamps, decide on decorations and party favors, make arrangements for guests who are coming out of town, and keep updated with your child's tutor to monitor progress he or she is making. Three months before the event, you should finalize your selections for the party, plan any games you or your child might want, and order personalized kippot (yarmulkes). Two months before the event, you should mail the invitations, come up with a timeline for the big day, and help your child practice his service by encouraging him to recite it for you. One month before the event, you should double check with your service providers, make a seating chart, plan a rehearsal time, and plan transportation and housing for out of town guests. A week before the event, you should confirm the guest count with the caterer, and discuss with your child any questions he or she might have before the main event.
The bar or bat mitzvah is a big day in your son's or daughter's life. It should not be taken lightly and your family should celebrate it to the fullest. The party can be as big or as small as your family decides it should be. Be sure that the focus is on the meaning of the ceremony and not how elaborate it can be in order to create cherished memories that will stick with your child for life. The big event can be ceremonial and still be a lot of fun, it's all according to how your family plans it.
There are many resources available to help you plan your bar mitzvah and learn more about the process:
613 Mitzvot- The 613 Commandments that children are responsible for once they come of age.
Chabad - Wisdom, comprehension and knowledge, Chabad philosophy and daily Torah lessons.
Mishpacha- Discusses what the bar or bat mitzvah means to the honoree.
Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah - Discusses the ceremony and the reform movement that changed it.
Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah, and Confirmation- The reform that brought about the confirmation ceremony that may still be relevant to your child today.
The Laws of Bar Mitzvah - The new rights and responsibilities for the bar mitzvah boy.
Bar Mitzvah Etiquette - A brief overview of bar/bat mitzvah etiquette for those who may not have grown up attending these ceremonies.
Masorti Bar/Bat Mitzvah- The significance of a Masorti bar mitzvah.
Jewish National Fund - The Jewish National Fund offers their help and advice for a conscientious bar mitzvah project.
Project Ideas - Contains ideas for your child's bar mitzvah service project.
Bar Mitzvah Project Ideas- Inspiration for the bar mitzvah service project.
Welcoming Ceremony - A father reminds us that the bar mitzvah ceremony was very different when he was growing up and focuses on the importance of the crowd making the child feel like the celebration is for them.
Tips for Honoring Your Guests - How to find a balance between honoring your family members and keeping on task at your bar/bat mitzvah.
Interfaith Family and the Bar Mitzvah Process - A Christian mother shares her experience bringing her son up in the Jewish faith.
Divorced Parents and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah - How to throw a successful bar mitzvah party as divorced parents.
Hosting Out of Town Guests - Tips for hosting your guests so that everyone is comfortable.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Timeline - How to successfully plan your child's bar mitzvah.
Party Planning - Bar mitzvah planning guide for parents.
Green Bar/Bat Mitzvah - Discusses how to have a party that is environmentally friendly.
Green Bar Mitzvah Ideas - Discusses ideas for the new trend of making your bar mitzvah green.
Entertaining Your Guests - Ideas for your bar/bat mitzvah party that are sure to please your guests!
Hiring a Bar Mitzvah DJ - Offers tips for hiring DJs.
Bar Mitzvah DJs - Lists DJs by state.
Choosing a DJ - Discusses choosing a DJ and how not to be tricked my their fancy marketing.
Destination Bar/Bat Mitzvah - Does a big party seem overwhelming? Would you rather spend some quality time with close family in a desirable location? Consider a destination bar/bat mitzvah.