This evening I went to PTA conferences for three of the kids, and teacher after teacher was coming up to me to congratulate me on the bas mitzva. They said that it was the talk of the teacher’s room! Two teachers and later a mother of one of dd’s classmates told me that the girls who attended were all talking about it as well, and unanimously agreed it was the best bas mitzva any of them have ever attended!
This was really nice to hear – dd12 is one of the youngest of her class, so there have been plenty of other bas mitzvas that the girls have been to. We didn’t set out to make a party that would ‘wow’ anyone – not at all. That’s not our style. Our focus was that it would be meaningful and enjoyable for our family and dd’s friends, and I’m grateful we were able to achieve that.
I don’t feel I can take credit for how well it went because you can plan and do your best, but what happens really isn’t in your control. However, I think there were some things we did that might be helpful for others, so I’ll share what I think were the factors that contributed to it being a success, as well as things we put effort into that didn’t really make a difference.
Firstly, the food. We could have made a much simpler spread, eliminated all of the salads, put out only crackers and dips, and later three or four cakes and cookies and it would have been fine. I’m not sorry we did what we did, because the adults who came appreciated it! It definitely added visual appeal to have a full table of salads, but as far as the girls, the snack foods were what had the most interest.
Speeches – three of the four speeches were given by family members (me, dd17, dd16), and except for me, none of the speeches was more than a few minutes. (Dh wasn’t timing but when I asked, said I might have spoken for as long as ten minutes.) Everyone focused on dd12 rather than abstract ideas, and I think that the personal and sincere sharing was appreciated – I saw dd’s teacher had tears in her eyes when one of the talks were over and she told me today how moving it was. Long speeches are hard for young girls to sit through, and they seemed to be listening and paying attention to everyone who spoke.
Decor – we rented a youth center for the event, because having enough space for dancing was a critical factor in choosing a venue. Though the colorful walls weren’t elegant and would have probably detracted from a more formal event, both teachers attending told me they felt it added to the evening and made the girls feel like it was really an event geared towards them.
And the most important factor – dancing and music. I felt having something for dd12 to do with her classmates in which she could participate equally with them without the pressure to speak in a language she doesn’t yet feel comfortable in would be very important in making the evening enjoyable for her. Getting everyone involved in simple but fun dances was a great way for everyone to enjoy herself and was a bonding experience for them all. The teacher led the dances and the girls were able to learn the moves as they went along, so everyone felt comfortable joining in, regardless of if they knew the steps previously or not. The teacher told me the next day that the girls were commented on how nice it was to have dd participating fully with them – they were able to see a side of her that they don’t get to see in school.
As far as the music, we had very upbeat music with a nice beat for dancing, and the right kind of music keeps everyone going longer than they would with something less fun. I’ve been to a couple of events when the music wasn’t loud enough to enhance the atmosphere; this was a large room with a high ceiling and I wanted the sound to fill it so we got speakers to amplify the music. We also had a microphone, and though this wasn’t necessary, there’s something about a microphone that brings out something in people! Towards the end of the evening, every girl took a turn (with the microphone), giving dd12 a birthday blessing.
None of these factors were expensive. I don’t know how much the food cost since I didn’t keep track of the grocery receipts – the extra food costs were all absorbed by our regular monthly food budget; we prepared everything from scratch so that kept costs down. I also didn’t track how much we spent on paper goods and drinks – I’ll estimate 150 shekels but that’s a high estimate. The hall rental was 200 shekels. We borrowed speakers, a microphone and music cds. We planned to pay someone to lead the dancing, but the person who I asked (who ended up being sick and not being able to come) doesn’t do it in an official capacity and told me she didn’t want to accept money for it.
So that’s really it – we probably spent less than any of her classmates on their bas mitzvas, though it didn’t look cheap or skimpy. As I’ve said before, spending more money doesn’t make for a better outcome in whatever the given area is, and was definitely true in this case!