To DIY For: The Two Sides of Planning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah


With numerous planning options available online, just how does social media affect the fairy godmothers of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah party: the planners?

The average Bar or Bat Mitzvah takes months to plan and can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 and, in many cases, even higher.  That cost covers everything from the DJ to the caterer to even the baskets filled with goodies in the ladies’ bathroom (sorry, men). 
And with the ubiquity of social media, the pressure to make an unforgettable party — at least by today’s digital standards — can be intense. Look up the hashtag #barmitzvah or #batmitzvah on Instagram and prepare to be astonished. Kids make separate accounts for their big bash, and Pinterest boards — a space where users “pin” ideas under a specific category from other websites — abound with ideas to make the party pop that you can do yourself.
With all of those planning options available online, just how does social media affect the fairy godmothers of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah party: the planners? New York-based company, whose website features ideas for planning Jewish events including Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, has 6,200 followers on Pinterest and more than 40 boards with ideas ranging from invitation ideas to decor and centerpieces. The Mitzvah Market, another New York company, offers a website chock-full of ideas from which you can draw inspiration for your own party.
With all these ideas floating in the virtual database, is the professional sphere of Bar/Bat Mitzvah planners being threatened?
Cigall Goldman, founder of, believes social media, the DIY enthusiasts and event planners can go hand-in-hand.
“It’s funny because on the one hand, I think people like to do things themselves,” she said. “But on the other hand, I think the popularity of Pinterest and social media is creating a lot of ideas for people and they’re finding it might be a little much for them because there’s so many ideas going around.”
The plus side to these sites and the ability to easily find inspiration online is that they provide more ideas that people can relate to the event planners as they start the planning process. 
“For image-based industries like event planning, Pinterest is huge,” Goldman said. “I think people turn to Pinterest because it’s an easy way to get a lot of ideas really quickly. It’s a great destination for getting a lot of ideas in a quick manner.”
Stacey Kesselman is not a Pinterest user herself, but she does visit the site to promote the work of her company, Exceptional Events. The idea of Pinterest is good, she said, but oftentimes, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will come in with ideas they’ve seen on the site but she can’t accommodate it, usually because of the venue size.
“It’s challenging — and helpful,” she said of the role social media has played in recent years. “The helpful part is they bring colors and pictures of things they like and don’t like. The challenging part is that sometimes the venue doesn’t have what the picture shows. They want what’s in the picture. It can all be modified. It’s not our goal to mimic Pinterest.”
Kesselman has been in the event planning business for over 10 years. Born and raised in Newtown Square, Kesselman first started in corporate event planning. When that market went south, she turned instead to party planning and reinvented herself in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service planning area. 
Exceptional Events does everything from logos to favors with the help of Kesselman’s “amazing” team. For her, the business has remained something she truly enjoys doing despite changing times and tastes. She follows trends of her own, as well as whatever trends crop up as specific themes like “luau” or “beach” themes become less popular. 
Right now, the more popular themes aren’t themes at all but, rather, “feels.” A color might be a theme, or a certain feel might be the theme, like a modern feel, she said. She meets with families about six months prior to the big day and follows up with meetings intermittently leading up to it to make sure everything is still what the family wants. 
“I love seeing everything we’ve worked on come together. The months of planning and prep and meetings — on that day, when everything gets put together, it’s awesome,” she said.
The work she does is the reason she believes the do-it-yourself movement won’t get too far in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah realm.
“I don’t see it as a trend,” she said. “People have high hopes to do it but as they get into the thick of it, there’s so much involved with it — that’s why they need a planner.”
While she uses social media to promote her business and show pictures from parties her company has done, she doesn’t see it as the main competition but rather as an extra bit of help. 
“I feel like it’s very helpful to prospective clients because I feel like social media is a showcase for your work and for busy people they can look on Facebook and see recent posts and 
recent parties and see if that’s the feel they want for their party,” she said. 
On the other side of the decorating spectrum, Pamela Rosenthal used social media to look for ideas for her twin daughters Remi and Julia’s B’not Mitzvah on Oct. 17. (For more about the twins, see p. 16.)
However, Rosenthal decided to do everything herself as far as decor, just as she had with her older daughter, Abby, two years ago. 
When she and her husband, Steve, picked the date, the coordinator at their synagogue, Tiferet Bet Israel in Blue Bell, asked who their decorator would be. Rosenthal answered, “That would be me,” she recalled with a laugh. 
Rosenthal decided on thematic decorations for both the service — and the following luncheon — and the party. 
As they are twins, Rosenthal specifically wanted Julia and Remi’s parshah to be from the story of Noah, to go with the “two by two” motif. For the service, mitzvah baskets with doves will be set up on the bimah and during a luncheon following the service, there will be balloons of all colors of the rainbow as well as more doves. 
The decision to do the centerpieces and decor for the party Saturday night following the rest of the big day was in large part a financial reason, but it also gave Rosenthal the chance to contribute more directly to her daughters’ day.
“It’s definitely easier to hire people, no question. But it has to be the right decision for each person,” she said. “My husband says, ‘Why put yourself through this?’ If I can save the money, I will.”
Doing this part of the planning became a way for her to “mirror all the effort they put into it,” she said, citing all the work the girls have put in studying their Torah portions and preparing for their big day. “I thought I should do that as well.”
Julia and Remi have both offered to help, however, which Rosenthal appreciated, as it served as a lesson for them.
“It feels good, too, to see that I’ve contributed the time, not just the dollars,” she said. “It’s a lesson I want my girls to learn.”
Rosenthal looked online and did simple Google searches to get ideas to go along with the girls’ music theme. While she didn’t specifically focus on sites geared for DIY projects such as Pinterest, she did find ideas for cardholders online. Otherwise, she had her own ideas to make the party unique — and these ideas required hot glue guns. 
She found time whenever she could to work on the centerpieces and boxes that fit the theme and also featured the girls’ names as a keepsake for after the party is over. 
“It does bring some pressure because I’m not counting on anybody else to get it done,” she said, “I have to divide my time very carefully.” 
She bought everything from local stores, like A.C. Moore and Michael’s craft stores, and the flowers were from a local florist. 
In the end, choosing to decorate is a personal decision. Rosenthal has always loved crafting and finds it relaxing. That may not be the case for everyone. 
“When they’re all finished, I will be feeling on top of the world,” she said, laughing. “I really enjoy the process and sitting there and tinkering with them.” 
DIY parties are successful depending on the person, said Sheri Lapidus, founder of the Mitzvah Market, an online resource for anyone planning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. 
“Either you’re a DIY person or you’re not,” she said. 
She wouldn’t call “DIY” a trend because it really isn’t, she said. Party planners still have their benefits.
“I think there’s definitely a place for party planners — they’re a huge help because it’s a very overwhelming task,” she said. 
Lapidus said a big attribute of her website is the chance for moms to connect while they are planning their children’s Bar or Bat Mitzvahs. She has heard stories, or “mom’s finds,” of smaller DIY projects for the parties that people have done. 
For instance, one Bat Mitzvah was fashion-themed. The mother of the Bat Mitzvah bought a chair from Ikea that was then decorated with the Bat Mitzvah’s name and date of the affair and used as the sign-in chair at the party as well as the “Hora Chair.” Today — in its fully decorated state — it serves as the desk chair for her daughter.
Pamela Rosenthal, however, maintains that no matter how the Bar/Bat Mitzvah gets done whether through a planner or on your own, the day should be more than the party, which is where most of the focus lies. 
She hopes that the work Julia and Remi have put into preparing for their big day remains in their heads, not just the celebration.
“I want them to remember not so much the party,” she said, “but the whole experience.” 
Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0740


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