Becoming bar or bat mitzvah takes study, commitment and a lot of hard work. When the big day comes, many say it’s time for a party. And, like any celebration, decorations make the event stand out and shine. From simple to sky’s-the-limit, design decisions affect ambiance and mood.
“What’s fun about a bar and bat mitzvah is the chance to celebrate what makes the person unique,” said Hailey Bernstein of Zest Floral and Event Design (www.zestfloral.com, 503-887-1544). The daughter of Tom Stern of Lake Oswego and granddaughter of Jerry and Helen Stern, Bernstein and her family have helped Portlanders celebrate for generations. Now, she handles events from soup to nuts.
“It’s showcasing the personality and what he or she is interested in,” Bernstein said. She advises involving the child as much as possible in the event planning. “Is it baseball, animals or the color pink? It’s about a great accomplishment and making the event true to whoever the person is.
“We had one bat mitzvah where the girl loved candy, so we had a dessert lounge,” Bernstein continued. “It was such a hit. You’d expect the kids to swarm over it, but it was really the adults. After the candle ceremony, we opened the drapes, and it was like a candy land. Even the cake replicated the bat mitzvah girl’s dress.”
“Fun linens are a great way to bring in color,” Bernstein said. “For the candy bar, we had black-and-white cabana stripe napkins, and we’ve used sequins. Some boys aren’t into dancing, so we set up Wii or casino games. The theme can be baseball or a carnival with concession stands.”
Ideas for creating the perfect space include clusters of balloons, inexpensive glitter and gift baskets of colorful favors like socks. Don’t forget a sign-in book or welcome sign.
At Havurah Shalom, centerpieces often reflect the celebrants’ tzedakah project. One girl who helped at the Oregon Food Bank displayed cans of food, while Humane Society volunteers often showcase animal photos.
Jennifer Greenberg, the program director at Congregation Neveh Shalom, had her own event design business for several years. She recommends considering your synagogue’s facilities first.
“There are advantages in planning your simcha at a synagogue,” Greenberg said. “You are in the crux of your community. It’s a relatively affordable option, and you’re supporting your community.
“Our caterer can do fun things like cotton candy or popcorn machines or a kosher mini-donut maker,” she continued. “We’ve had a circus-theme event with stilt walkers and fried Oreos. A bat mitzvah in our courtyard had a long buffet running around the side and a sweet puff of color on each table. Spaces are transformable, and there are a lot of options. Think outside the box, anything is possible.”
The Mittleman Jewish Community Center is another popular venue for bar and bat mitzvah celebrations. From services to pool parties and dance parties, the MJCC provides a versatile space, catering and access to everything necessary to create an amazingly memorable experience for the bar/bat mitzvah.
Nature and fun combine for interesting venues at The World Forestry Center, which has an extensive caterer’s list to meet any budget or menu need. The natural slate dance floors of Miller Hall and Cheatham Hall, which has the option of a rotating mirror ball, create an atmosphere for a perfect dance party.
For families wanting time together while everyone is in town for the big day, Mama Mia’s is a perfect venue for a pre bar/bat mitzvah family dinner, with seating for up to 30 people.