Bar or Bat Mitzvah ranks among the most traditional of all Jewish events — for good reason.
Strip away all the fun party details and glitz, and a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is meant to mark the transition of a boy or girl into the full responsibility of being a member of the Jewish community.
It’s an event backed by centuries of tradition, but that doesn’t mean the celebration afterward has to be that traditional.
In recent years, many parents planning parties for their son or daughter have moved away from the traditional trappings, such as country club luncheons. Event planners in the Philadelphia area have, of course, seen the trend and made the moves to accommodate it.
“They’re not so much off the beaten path,” Stacey Kesselman, owner of Exceptional Events, said of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah venue choices in modern times. “They are just different venues outside of a country club or hotel.”
Sports and Centrifuges
Kesselman, who also coordinates weddings through her business, has years of experience planning Jewish ceremonies and events. Those include Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations in unusual places.
In October, she planned a party for a soccer fan at Talen Energy Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union. The event included decorations with the colors of the team and other soccer-related items, such as place cards and water bottles.
They also had soccer jerseys as a giveaway gift for party guests.
Kesselman said she has held parties at the Wells Fargo Center, home of the 76ers and the Flyers. But it was the 76ers that were the focus of one particular Bar Mitzvah, where everyone attended a 76ers game first and then stayed after for the party.
While the stadiums are fun, Kesselman said among the most unique places she has coordinated a Bar Mitzvah was at The Fuge. “The Fuge,” she said, “is very cool.”
So what is it? Located in Warminster, The Fuge is a completely round facility with 12,000 feet of space. It houses the world’s first and largest centrifuge, according to The Fuge website.
Kesselman said in addition to the unique space, The Fuge offers two large movie screens that can show a live feed of the party or a montage of videos and photos. The facility also has a staff of chefs and caterers to handle all the food needs.
The Philadelphia area boasts many such facilities for a different kind of Bar or Bat Mitzvah venue, including some of the following.
Lincoln Financial Field. The home of the Eagles and a venue for big concerts also can host a party. The stadium is able to host parties as small as a half dozen or as big as 5,000. The stadium uses Aramark Catering for events.
Fels Planetarium at the Franklin Institute. This is a cool place to visit at any time, but it especially shines for big events. The ceiling can display lights, stars, a full moon or any images you can think of. Much like The Fuge, this is a unique space.
Battleship New Jersey. Got a kid with a thing for ships, the sea and history? The Battleship New Jersey is open for tours, and also rents out space for specials events such as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. For those who choose to hold their party on the main deck, the Philadelphia skyline and the Camden Waterfront provide a spectacular view. The ship has 11 different venues that can handle groups as small as 15 and as big as 3,000. The venues include the Officer’s Wardrobe, the Crew Mess, the Captain’s Cabin, the Admiral’s Cabin and the Main Deck.
Adventure Aquarium. Located near the Camden Waterfront, the aquarium houses more than 8,500 aquatic animals and holds more than 2 million gallons of water. How’s that for unique? Adventure Aquarium rents out space for corporate events, birthday parties and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. The aquarium provides chefs to make food exclusive to the party, including entrees and desserts from Mexico, Italy, Asia and France.
Material Culture. This art, antiques and hand crafts emporium is located near Fernhill Park north of downtown in the former train station at the Atwater Kent Radio Factory. The building has more than 60,000 square feet of space for events, as well as plenty of art, antiques and architectural elements from around the globe on display. Food is prepared for each event using local, seasonable and sustainable ingredients by Baba Olga’s Kitchen. It’s all overseen by Chef Aliza Green, a member of The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Culinary Hall of Fame.
Prices vary for any of the above venues and in different seasons. They also can change based on the size of the party.
Still, some parents might not want to tackle the price or the level of planning needed to use a large event facility. Karen Pecora of Philadelphia Event Planners said she often will discuss with parents options for how to decorate for a party that can turn more conventional spaces into a themed Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
“You have to remember, the party guests are mostly children,” Pecora said. “You want to think about convenience for them and their parents.”
Parents often feel more comfortable attending Bar or Bat Mitzvahs at more traditional locations, such as country clubs or hotels, she said. That said, “They are used to going to the same country club again and again,” Pecora said.
A solution for those who want something different but don’t want to rent out a large venue is to invest in decorating the space uniquely for a specific theme. Pecora said for some Bar or Bat Mitzvahs she will “strip it down” within the venue and completely redecorate. “You can turn any space into anything you want [such as] a ski lodge, for example,” she said.
She’s also turned traditional venues into mini-football fields or baseball fields for sports-loving fans.
Whether renting a unique venue or decorating a traditional one with a different look, Pecora said one piece of advice applies to all: People almost always need more space than they think. Pecora said she nearly always recommends a larger space once parents give her their idea of what they need.
“Bigger is always better,” Pecora said. She then added, laughing, “You can quote me on that.”