Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebrations: Anything Goes

Micah Topche celebrates with grandparents Gary and Randi Topche. Photo by Ben Ross

Ellen Braunstein

Anything and everything goes these days for bar and bat mitzvah parties, planners say. The common thread is creating an event that’s personalized, unique and memorable.

Micah Topche’s family of Center City rented a gymnasium at Total Turf Experience in Pitman, New Jersey, for a party for the adults and teens. Micah played competitive soccer for years and wanted to just play sports – basketball, indoor soccer, volleyball and more — with his 85 friends at his bar mitzvah celebration.

His mother, Elle, put together an event on March 18 that was fun and casual for his friends and the adult guests.

“They’re a super sporting family,” said Li Halpern of Li Halpern Events of Philadelphia, who helped Elle Topche plan the celebration. “The kids moved from court to court playing different sports.”

Adults enjoyed cocktails and appetizers and spent the last two hours of the party having dinner and dancing. The dress was casual, “sporty chic,” according to the invitation, and no heels that would scuff up the gym floor.

Elle Topche wore a black sequined jogger suit and pink sneakers.

“Micah said he wanted a party that reflected him,” she said.

“The week before, we were at a music theater,” Halpern said of her clients. “The week before that, we were in a building that doubles as a wrestling stadium.”

She added: “The trend right now is not to follow trends and to be as untraditional as people want to be and have a great time celebrating with friends and family.”

As for a move to more casual affairs, Halpern doesn’t see it. “More personal is the case.”
Food stations over a seated dinner are for those wanting a more casual party.

“People are trying to get more of a fun party vibe than the traditional party,” said Hila Shiff of the Party Artist in Philadelphia.

“We’re doing a lot of alternative seating and open parties where the kids and adults are eating from the same buffets,” said Janet Silver of Philadelphia Event Decor. “Today’s kids have a little bit of a more mature pallet than they once had. So, they don’t just want chicken fingers and French fries. They are happy with lamb chops and sushi.”

The swag shop at Lyla Bronstein’s bat mitzvah
Photo by Kristin Chalmers Photography

Dessert bars are common with miniature servings.

“Anything from cotton candy to cake pops to brownie bites, anything that doesn’t stop the dancing where people have to sit down and eat it. Even the mitzvah celebration cake is disappearing,” said Valerie Felgoise of Let’s Party by Valerie.

The mitzvah candle-lighting ceremony is kept shorter, Halpern said, so it stays, not dull, but an emotional and unforgettable moment.

“Families are opting out of the full 13 candles,” Halpern said. I’ve had clients do as few as three, like a past, present and future candle.”

Another trend planners are seeing is the creation of a bar/bat mitzvah teen’s logo and its use in the decor and lots of favors and event swag.

For Lyla Bronstein, the letters L and Y played on a peace sign. She also used a designed image of a VW hippie bus for her February 2020 party. Robyn Platoni at Chick Invitations & Design brought the whole vision to life. The message was “Live the LYfe You Love.”

“Lyla is a very free-spirited girl, so that is where that came from,” said her mother, Christie Bronstein, who now lives in Vermont. After the services at Temple Adath Emanuel, the family and guests partied at SPIN Philadelphia, a Ping-Pong club.

The favors, ranging from T-shirts to hoodies to pajama bottoms and winter caps – all branded with Lyla’s logo – hung in a gift shop near the exit at SPIN.

“Swag and logos have become more popular than in the past. Instead of just one favor, they’re giving away a lot of swag; it’s New York-style giving,” Felgoise said.

“The giveaways come at the end of the night, and they are becoming a big deal,” Silver said. “We set it up like a whole retail store, and they get a bag and get to pick one from this wall and one from that wall, as many as they want.”

The photo booth is still popular, but what’s new are TikTok booths where videos are made and uploaded to the social media app.

Some families are still COVID cautious and opt for a tent, making sure there’s fresh air and space for people to move around in, Halpern said. “People love a good party in
a tent.”

“There is still a lot of charm to tent parties in a beautiful backyard,” Felgoise said. “They are lovely and warm and inviting.”

The pandemic created a pent-up demand for people to gather with friends and family, Halpern said. “They are looking for good causes to celebrate.”

A spectacular party took a backseat to her daughter Lyla’s ceremony at the synagogue, Bronstein said.

“The party was cool, super fun, super well done, but the main event, her actual bat mitzvah, was amazing. She did a beautiful job.”

Ellen Braunstein is a freelance writer.


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