Tag Archives: staying under bar mitzvah budget

Making it personal: bar mitzvah decorating ideas

Ok, last bar mitzvah post (for now!)… but the others have been popular so apparently there’s a hunger for planning info…and/or people are just nosy and like to see what others are doing.

I get it!

This one focuses on decorations and how we tried to make the Kiddush lunch and evening party personal.

Bar mitzvah decorating, personalizing: Custom M&Ms

You can buy services for just about anything you want when planning a bash. In an effort to save money, I didn’t hire a party planner, or anyone to do flowers, décor, or favors. While I’m not crafty, I have some creative vision and enjoyed putting the party together on my own. The down side is the time and energy self-service entails. I was busy researching and ordering online, and borrowing or gathering items around the house for many weeks leading up to the event. The last two weeks required a lot of schlepping. But to me, it was all worth it.  (Wilson may have another story.)

If you’re interested in personalizing your party it might help to make a list of all the things your kid (or whomever is your guest of honor) loves. Jacob is a sports fanatic so that was an easy place to start.

Kiddush lunch personalizing:

I tried to stay basic for the lunch: white tablecloths—you can do paper or linens, depending on your budget—because they’re bright, classic, and everything goes with white. I bought plastic plates and cutlery from PartyCity.com  (they have great color variety) in chocolate-brown and had a roll of burlap ribbon and hardware store twine to accessorize. I bought hydrangea plants from Home Depot for each table, and took some home to plant and gave others to friends who helped after the party.

Bar mitzvah decorating personalizing cookies

Another way we cut corners was doing dessert ourselves, instead of including it in the catering package. (I could have skipped it altogether but I love sweets too much.) I got a “J” cookie cutter and made 5-dozen sugar cookies the week before the bar mitzvah and froze them so they stayed fresh. When several wonderful friends offered to help, I had them bake their favorite treats, which I displayed on my own platters and baskets from home. The wide variety of homemade desserts was a huge hit with guests.

One personal touch I added was ordering custom M&M’s with messages like  “Mazel tov,” and “Jacob 3-23-13.“  Another was this cool sticker gum with Jacob’s face on it that a friend made for us.

Personalizing bar mitzvah sticker gum

Since I had already endured the arduous task of gathering photos for the video montage, I also made a photo book of Jacob for guests to sign.

Evening party:

Think about who your kid (or party focus) is and bring that into the room.  My kid’s obsessed with sports so we took the sports team pennants hanging in his bedroom and hung them across one wall of the party space, punctuated by holiday lights. Maybe your kid is a big reader so you could use a pile of favorite books as centerpieces, or instruments for a music fan. Bringing items from your home (in good condition) can add ambiance and connection to a generic space.

Bar mitzvah decorating personalizing sports pennants

I went to an event-planning warehouse and bought fake wheatgrass and natural wood boxes, which I accessorized with our own sports balls as centerpieces. I had several of the football, soccer, and baseballs autographed by Jacob’s team members and the kids were excited to find their names at the party.  The centerpieces turned out well and it was all reusable stuff.

Bar mitzvah decorating personalized centerpieces

When we didn’t have enough centerpieces for small high top tables we used some of Jacob’s trophies with candle votives.

We used a ton of candles all over the room, which adds light and movement, and creates a cozy atmosphere. I also stole an idea from my friend, Jen, and repurposed pasta sauce jars to hold candles outside the club, which is a very Martha Stewart-y move if you have outdoor space.

Bar mitzvah decorating personalizing outdoor candle jars

Over the fireplace mantle in the middle of the room, we used family photos in frames from my living room. Photos are a great, easy and inexpensive way to personalize a room. You can use the frames you have at home or buy basic ones at Target or Bed, Bath, and Beyond and pop in pix from every year. Everyone loves adorable baby pictures and those awkward school shots.

Bar mitzvah decorating personalized photo canvases

I picked three of my favorite photos of Jacob—one with his brothers— and two with a sports theme and ordered framed stretch canvases to decorate the walls. The canvaslifestyle.com site was easy to use and now I have art to hang in his room or the basement.

We took bringing home into the space so seriously, we took Jacob’s bedroom door off the hinges and had everyone sign the back of it. It looks really cool in his room and brings back memories of the weekend.

Bar mitzvah decorating signing bedroom door

Try to gather ideas in advance if you can, so you have time to shop around for the best deals. I knew I wanted the custom M&M’s so I waited until the site had a holiday discount. I found coupons online and researched which companies had free shipping. I kept an eye out for Groupon-type promos and got a great deal on the photo canvases.  Although it can be a time suck, online research inspires creativity.

Bar mitzvah decorating friends help

I could not have pulled the room together if it weren’t for the help of my friends and family—especially my enthusiastic mother.  Many stayed up late stuffing favor bags, while others balanced on ladders to hang lights and photos.  Wilson gallantly loaded and unloaded the minivan countless times. It was a group effort that made “do-it-yourself” possible, and a lot more fun.  Shout out to my crew—thanks ladies!

Bar mitzvah decorating friends help

Hope you’ll be back for more in 2016!

Please ask questions and/or share your decorating ideas in the comments.

Bar mitzvah planning tips that won’t break the bank

As I mentioned in my last post, my oldest son, Jacob’s bar mitzvah was last weekend. Planning was daunting so I thought I’d offer some ideas I learned along the way to help anyone planning a bar mitzvah or other big event without a big budget.

My first piece of advice is to think outside the box when approaching planning. There can be pressure to “keep up with the Schwartzes” and do things just because you’ve seen everyone else following suit.

Resist the urge!

The purpose of the day is to celebrate your child so I tried to focus on the meaning of the milestone and making it personal.  I also needed to find ways to save money so that can also inspire creativity.


The invite sets the tone for the event. Printed stationary can be expensive, not to mention, calligraphy and postage. I decided I wanted to do an e-vite but with a twist.  PaperlessPost.com has beautiful invitations that are free for basic options, or very inexpensive for upgrades.  We had no problems gathering our guests’ email addresses, the site efficiently tracks RSVP’s, plus it’s the greenest way to go.

Bar mitzvah video invitation

Bar mitzvah video invitation

Keeping it personal, I created a PP evite and added a link to a video invite, starring Jacob. There were some invitees who had never attended a bar mitzvah so I saw this as an opportunity to educate people about the history and meaning of the ceremony. It was also a window into what Jacob’s all about.  Writing and shooting the video zapped a lot of my time but it was well worth the effort. My amazingly talented friend, Amy– who has a video montage editing business– put it together and added some funny and clever touches that made it a hit.

You can watch it here.  My favorite part is the surprise movie homage at the end!

Even if you don’t have the time or resources to do this type of video, you can shoot video on an iPad or even smart phone these days. Come up with something simple that suits your kid, sends a message, and makes people laugh.


I wanted to make a logo for the party that would tie things together and say what the day meant to us. You might be able to make one yourself but art is not my strength so I researched designs online and had a graphic artist create our logo with words that summed up what the party was about:

bar mitzvah logo

I worked that logo baby. Knowing I would have paper goods instead of fine china and silverware at our Kiddush lunch and evening party, I ordered paper napkins with the logo from partyinnovations.com. I also made logo stickers, which I used on hotel gift bags for relatives, decorations, and favor bags for kids. I even put the logo on a $15 rubber stamp on rubberstamps.net and used it in several places, including personalizing thank you notes.

Is a logo necessary? Of course not!  But it added a personal touch to the party that made it special, and doing it yourself can save money on customized items.

Bar mitzvah logo rubber stamp for thank you notes


Many hosts give out sweatshirts, jerseys, and t-shirts as favors for bar mitzvah parties, which are always popular with the kids. But how many hoodies and pj pants does a kid need?

We decided to change it up on favors and do a mitzvah (good deed) as a way to mark the joy of the day.  Each kid received a $10 gift card to CharityChoice, which they can use to donate to any of the 250 charities the organization supports.  Jacob appreciated the idea, but also wanted to give the kids something fun, so we compromised and also gave out a personalized zip drive with a recorded voice intro by Jacob and 15 of his favorite songs for kids to download.

Bar mitzvah creative favors

I hope the kids liked the favors as much as we enjoyed giving them, even if they couldn’t wear them to school on Monday.

Perhaps some of these bar mitzvah planning tips inspired your own ideas.  I’m working on one more post this week on decorating …and then I’ll shut up about it!

I’d love to hear any of your party ideas or questions in the comments.  I have two more boys to go (2016 and 2019!) so brainstorming is always welcome!