Contact Us

Your Big Day: How to Celebrate Your Bat Mitzvah

Your Big Day: How to Celebrate Your Bat Mitzvah

 Email

Let’s Celebrate!

Let’s talk parties. You’ve probably already given your party some thought, but now it’s the real deal; time to plan.

Have you been to other bat mitzvah celebrations? Perhaps you have older sisters, cousins or friends, even classmates who have already celebrated their big days. What did you like about their parties? Were there parts that had you thinking, “I wouldn’t want that at my celebration?”

Picture the type of celebration you would like, and then try to break it down piece by piece. Each of those pieces is something you’ll need to think about, plan and prepare in order to have the party you’re picturing.

Size

Do you enjoy crowds? Or do you feel more comfortable around close friends and family? For some, a big event is fun, for others it’s just plain stressful. There are no rules; it’s up to you and your parents to decide what suits you best.

Consider: Will your party be just for your school friends? For friends and family? Will your parents’ friends also be invited? Think about the size of your family. If you have a large extended family, a small party is probably unrealistic. Who else will you include? Do you have friends from camp, Hebrew school, after school activities, or synagogue that you’d like to invite?

When inviting friends, be considerate. Does your school have a policy about who to include? If yes, make sure you follow the guidelines. If there is no rule, general etiquette would be to either invite your whole class, or just a handful of friends. You certainly don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

The Venue

Where will you have your party? You’ll want to think about how many people you’ve invited, as well as what type of event you’ll be hosting. Will there be messy activities? Loud music? Lots of children? Do you want one big room, or will you want to break up into smaller groups for some parts of the party? Will your party be outdoor or indoor? If you’re thinking of planning an outdoor celebration, make sure you have a back-up plan in the event of inclement weather. Think about size. You definitely don’t want an overcrowded event, but a half-empty room isn’t ideal either.

Décor

How will you decorate the venue? Will you use a theme or a color scheme? Are you going for elegant or fun? Soft colors or bold? Flowers, balloons, geometric shapes – there are so many options! Try to choose colors which complement each other. You might want to stay within a particular color and just use alternate shades. For example, royal purple, lavender, and baby purple with white and silver accents can look pretty. Or you might choose seasonal colors – oranges, browns and greens for fall, for example.

Think centerpieces: If your party is not on Shabbat, you should include a tzeddakah box on each table, to give your guests the opportunity to do a mitzvah. You might also want to include a meaningful poem as part of your centerpiece. Perhaps “What bat mitzvah means to me.” You can print it on pretty paper, and put a framed copy on each table.

Food

What kind of food will you serve? Of course, the menu will depend on the time of day. Is your party a Sunday brunch, a Shabbat lunch or an evening affair? Will it be catered, home-cooked or pot luck? Whatever the menu, make sure it’s kosher! Keeping kosher is one of the most important mitzvahs in Jewish life. You’ll want to make sure your first event as a Jewish adult is kosher.

Seating Arrangements

Will you have set seating or will everyone seat themselves? Will there be certain tables for family, and certain tables for friends? Will there be a children’s table? Having tables clearly marked for friends/family/children can help keep people organized and comfortable without going to the trouble of seating each person.

Do all your guests know each other? If you have some guests who might not know anyone, consider asking someone to “take care” of them. If you have 20 school friends who all know each other, and 2 friends from gymnastics class who only know each other, they might feel uncomfortable. Ask one or two of your good friends to make an effort to befriend and include them in the group.

Activities

Think of something exciting you can do with your friends. If your party is not on Shabbat, arts and crafts are a favorite.

Here are some suggestions:

Candle-making

Lighting Shabbat candles every Friday evening is one of the mitzvahs given especially to women, so this is a great bat mitzvah activity. You’ll need some plain white candles and buckets of colored, warm wax. Each guest receives one or two candles, and, holding the candle by its wick, they dip it into the colored waxes, creating patterns, designs and volume. The wax sets quickly, and your guests can take the candles home with them at the end of the party. You can prepare a pretty bag and a card with the blessing for lighting them, so that they can do this mitzvah at home themselves.

Woodworking

Know someone good with wood who might be interested in helping out? Prepare enough wood for everyone to make a specific project, and some extras for “free art.” You might want to build mezuzah cases, challah boards, menorahs or graggers for purim. You can also build photo frames and have a photographer on hand to take and print pictures of your guests at your party.

Once the items are built, it’s time to decorate. You can use an assortment of paints, glitters, sequins, even mini tiles. Make sure you have enough glue and paintbrushes for everyone!

Baking

Will you have access to an oven at your party? Challah baking is another favorite bat mitzvah activity. Get everyone involved. Prepare lots of mixing bowls, have your guests divide into groups of five or six and each group can make their own dough.

Do you know someone who is an expert at braiding? Ask her to come and teach your friends some new ways to braid the dough. Have a selection of challah toppings available – cinnamon sugar, onions, garlic, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, mini chocolate chips, sweet crumble, raisins, pesto etc. Have a bake-off competition. Whose challah will come out the best?

Note: Before you braid, don’t forget to do the mitzvah of taking challah. This is one of the mitzvahs given especially to Jewish women. You can find the text of the blessing here.

Each guest will go home with a freshly baked challah to share with their family. Make sure you have some sort of packaging to send the challah home in.

Beading

Beaded jewelry is beautiful, and so much fun to make. You can buy all the supplies and tools at a local craft or breading store, or online. Decide what you’ll be making. Will everyone make the same item? Will you have options available? You might want to have each guest make 2 pieces of jewelry – one to keep and one to donate to needy children.

The Speech

Decide when you will give your speech. Try to schedule it for a time where there isn’t anything else competing for your guests’ attention. During the meal is often a good time. Give people some time to get their food, find a seat and settle down, and then give your speech. Eating makes for good listening! Check out our guide to creating the perfect bat mitzvah speech for more help!

Who else will be giving speeches? Your parents? Grandparents? Rabbi? Teacher? Decide how you want to space them. All the speakers deserve your guests’ undivided attention, but many people find it difficult to sit and listen for a long stretch of time. You might have your parents speak at the start of the event, sort of a “welcome speech,” give your own speech during the meal, and another speaker later on during dessert.

Are you nervous about speaking in front of a large crowd? It’s completely understandable! Remember that everyone is there for you. They are interested in what you have to say. So take your time. Enunciate clearly. The more you practice before the big day, the more confident you will feel at the actual event. Practice in front of family members, on your own, and in front of the mirror. If you’re extremely nervous when you stand up to speak, choose one person in the audience to focus on. Pretend no one else is there and you are talking just to that person. If that doesn’t help, just tell yourself that in five minutes it will all be over, and just focus on getting through those five minutes.

Your speech is also a perfect opportunity to thank the people who helped you prepare and plan your bat mitzvah and to mention your mitzvah project.

Ceremony

Will there be a ceremonial component to your party? Your bat mitzvah is when you embrace your Jewish womanhood – share that joy with your guests!

Some suggestions:

Candle-lighting Ceremony

Decide beforehand how many people you will honor. Many people pick 12, one for each year of the bat mitzvah girl’s life. If you need to include more candles so you don’t miss out anyone important, of course that is fine too. Who will you honor? Perhaps grandparents, aunts, uncles, people who have passed away, or weren’t able to attend, people who have travelled far specifically for your celebration, your rabbi or rebbetzin, important teachers, etc.

Before your celebration, think about each of these people. What do they mean to you? What have you learned from them? Which of their qualities would you like to emulate? Write a few lines about each honoree – make it personal and specific. At the ceremony, light a candle, hold it and begin talking. As you speak about each person, call them up (if they’re present), hand them the candle and they will use it to light one of the 12 (or more) candles you have arranged. If they’re not present, you can light their candle yourself.

You may wish to use decorative candles for the ceremony, and place the candles in candles holders. You can coordinate these to your theme or color scheme. You might also want to have soft background music on and dim the lights during the ceremony.

Eshet Chayil Presentation

On Friday nights, before Shabbat dinner, it’s customary to sing the Eshet Chayil, a song which praises the Jewish “woman of valor.” Some girls spend time studying the text and its meaning in the months leading up to their bat mitzvahs.

You will need to prepare before your bat mitzvah, and decide which people you want to honor. It could be parents, grandparents, teachers who have had strong positive influences on you. At your celebration, read through the Eishet Chayil, stanza by stanza. Explain to the guests what each verse means. For each description of womanly strength and inspiration, refer to one of the women in your life who exhibits that trait. Specify, give examples, and explain how you will try to emulate that quality in your own life as Jewish woman. You can also call each of these women up and present them with a framed wall hanging of the Eshet Chayil song.

Gifts

You will most likely receive gifts at your celebration. Some people might drop gifts off at your home before or after the event, but there will almost certainly be people who bring gifts for the party as well. Set aside an area for gifts – somewhere safe, and appoint somebody to keep an eye on it.

The idea of giving thanks, known as “hakarat hatov,” holds a very important place in Jewish life. We thank G‑d for all the kindness he bestows on us, and we also make sure to thank people properly whenever it is required. Make sure to thank everyone sincerely and genuinely, regardless of the gift. When you open the presents – after the party – keep a log of who gave you which gift so you can write accurate thank you notes.

Mementos

Do you want to send home a memento with your guests? Something to keep your party alive in their memories long after they leave?

Many people like to print personalized grace after meals booklets/cards. You can choose the colors, the wording on the front and back covers, the size, etc. You might want to include a “thank you for joining me in my celebration” and a picture of yourself or your family on the back cover.

Another idea is a decorative Eshet Chayil wall hanging, again – personalized with your name and the date of your celebration.

You might want to buy some sheer, shimmery bags and include the memento with some other small items. Some candies in your color scheme, a decorated cookie, a bracelet, etc.

Planning Tips

When it comes to planning a party, organization is everything. Start planning well in advance. Starting early will help minimize the stress closer to your actual Bat Mitzvah. You want to be able to enjoy the day and feel it meaningfully.

Buy a notebook (you can choose a pretty one to make it more exciting), and do all your planning in there. That way, everything will be in one place and easy to reference. Write down phone numbers, guest lists, ideas – everything. Make lists, cross things off as they get done. Organize, strategize and outsource when necessary. The more organized you are, the more smoothly your party will run, and the more you and your guests will enjoy the event.

The most important thing is to remember that no matter what kind of party you have – even if you have no celebration at all – the day you turn twelve is the day you become a Bat Mitzvah, an adult Jewish woman with the spiritual maturity and responsibility to fulfill all the mitzvahs. A party just helps you celebrate and share that event with family and friends. Big party, small party, rained out party, or no party – you are now a fully-fledged adult Jewish woman. Mazel Tov!

© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Start a Discussion
1000 characters remaining
Related Topics