13 Pieces Of Advice For Planning A B’Mitzvah

Got a question? Fill out this form to submit your anonymous question to be answered in a future column.

Dear Readers,

My daughter’s bat mitzvah was this past Shabbat, and it was, honestly, one of the best weekends of my life. Instead of answering a specific question, I’m going to share my top 13 (gotta stay on theme) pieces of advice for anyone planning a B’Mitzvah (though many of the ideas are also applicable if you’re planning another kind of simcha). Several of these came to me from other people, and it feels only fair to pay it forward. 

  1. Make as many lists and schedules as far in advance as you can: guest lists, to-do items, questions for the rabbi, etc etc. Other people have done all of this before, so ask for their lists and schedules. No need to reinvent work that already exists! For the four or so weeks in advance, make a list of what needs to be done every day so no one day feels too overwhelming and nothing falls through the cracks. 
  2. Clarify your priorities. This should probably be No. 1, so maybe start with a list of your priorities. Knowing what really matters to you about your event will help dictate so many choices along the way. In the case of a B’Mitzvah, knowing what matters to your kid is crucial, and finding ways to discuss and understand each other’s priorities is arguably more important than what your final event actually looks like.
  3. Accept help. When people offer, most of the time they actually mean it, and you can’t do this alone. In the last week of planning, my spouse and I really pushed the boundaries of being in more than one place at once, and we relied on the generosity of time of so many people. 
  4. The other side of this is paying people to help you. If at all possible, include paid help in your budget (I specifically recommended servers at kiddush to set up and clean up!) and use the moments where someone else is managing the logistics to be as fully present as possible.
  5. Be as fully present as possible! Special events can pass in a flash, and grounding yourself in the moment will help those moments be more enjoyable and more memorable. 
  6. Wear what makes you feel your best, and support others in doing the same. In the case of a B’Mitzvah, help your kid find an outfit that makes them feel their best. Embrace this occasion as an opportunity for your kid to express who they are in all kinds of ways, including through clothes. 
  7. More about clothes: Do a dress rehearsal of all the outfits that everyone in your family will be wearing for all the related events. You will discover socks or belts that need to be purchased, items that need to be washed and put to the side so you know where they are day of, and, I promise, other things about clothes that will surprise you. A week before, those surprises are fine whereas the day of, they could cause a major panic.
  8. Have a plan for leftovers. Even if you’ve ordered perfectly for your number of guests, you’re bound to have some food remaining. Bring takeout containers and/or freezer bags to pack things up. Make room in your fridge or freezer or ask to borrow space in a neighbor’s fridge. Know where you can donate food and/or offer leftovers to your friends. 
  9. Build in downtime. This is, honestly, where we fell short. In our desire to spend as much time celebrating at possible, especially with out-of-town guests, we didn’t fully recuperate from one event before moving on to the next. This is another place where you need to know your kid and your family’s capacity for entertaining and plan accordingly, prioritizing the B’Mitzvah kid’s needs over anyone else’s.
  10. Ask for advice. Other people have planned these events before and there is a tremendous amount of collective wisdom out there, but you often need to ask for it in order to access what other people have learned. 
  11. Honor the people who are important to you. There are many ways to involve family members and friends in these occasions, and it’s worth thinking expensively and creatively to make space for special people to have a role. This is especially important for younger siblings of B’Mitzvah kids.
  12. This one, I think, is vital, but it’s also something that has to start before you even know when your simcha is going to be, maybe even before you have kids or have met your significant other: Immerse yourself in community. Surround yourself with people you know will be there for you and your family no matter what, who can help you figure out how many cookies you need for kiddush, and who will offer you space in their freezer for leftovers (see number 8). Know who your people are, both so they are there for you and so your children learn the value of community. Be that person for other people, too, whenever you possibly can. This doesn’t happen overnight, and I know it’s not possible for everyone everywhere, but if it’s within reach, grab it. 
  13. For this last one, I asked my kid for her top advice for parents planning a B’Mitzvah. She says the following: “Let the B’Mitzvah kid do the planning. This is for them and it should be what they want. Involve the kid in all the decisions.” As a parent, I can assure you that this method takes far more work. And, as a parent, only you will know if your kid will actually appreciate this level of involvement. But if your goal is to raise an adult, an independent thinker, and a self-advocate, there is no better place to start. 

Mazel tov in advance, and be well,