Bar Mitzvah on a Budget

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I'm what you would call a b’nai mitzvah warrior. I successfully planned my daughter’s special day nearly three years ago so thoroughly I even created a Google spreadsheet with contact numbers and prices of every single vendor we used for her bat mitzvah.

My plan was to go back to that list when it was time to plan our son’s bar mitzvah but when I finally took a look at what we actually spent, I almost lost my lunch. We had the most gorgeous invitations, beautiful dresses, fantastic location, favors, top notch photographer and much more. But what I didn’t pay attention to was the budget. But this time around, I vowed, things were going to be different!

It might take lots of Googling and a glue gun, but get ready to find out the secret to planning a bar mitzvah on a budget!

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

If you are looking to shave a ton of money off your bar mitzvah extravaganza, the simplest option is to host a “kids’ party.” Kids are much less expensive than adults and if you’re on a budget, opt for a Kiddush lunch after the ceremony with family and friends while your child’s friends celebrate later that night at a dance club. Some of the more popular options in Westchester include Prophecy in White Plains and Club Infinity in Pleasantville. The great thing about both venues is they come complete with a DJ so the fee for music is already built into the price. And it’s so dark you don’t even need centerpieces! Plus, if you serve your guests buffet style, you automatically pay less per person.

From Israel, to a ski slope in Utah, there are plenty of ways to optimize your bar mitzvah budget by making memories that will last a lifetime. Check out the Adventure Rabbi (adventurerabbi.org) for the ultimate options in destination b’nai mitzvahs.

A dance club or destination celebration wasn’t in the cards for our family. Instead, our son wanted to have his bar mitzvah at a beach club – just like his sister did three years ago. We selected the VIP Country Club in New Rochelle. The venue is beautiful, the food superb and what we loved most is there are lots of affordable menu options. Plus, they have their own lounge furniture for teens so no rental fees involved!

INVITATIONS

The main thing you need to know for this crucial task is the more layers your invitation has, the more expensive it’s going to be. The first time, we selected an invite with a whopping $2,500 price tag. While the invite received tons of compliments when it arrived in our family and friends’ mailboxes, if we had scaled back on the schmaltz, we still could have designed an invitation that was beautiful and affordable.

This time, I found an amazing website that creates quality invitations that will not cause you to have heart palpations once you receive the final bill. Visit Sarah Schwartz Stationery (sarahschwartz.com), where you can purchase invitations that range in price from $750 all the way up to those pricier versions with tons of layers. If you truly are looking to save money on paper and stamps, transforming the RSVP card into an email for your guests is an ideal option.

DRESSES

While my son’s suit purchase should be pretty simple, finding a dress for me and my almost 16-year-old-daughter is quite a different story. The first time, we chose the super expensive option. She hit the priciest boutique in Westchester that specializes in bat mitzvah dresses and I drove further north to an expensive dress boutique for women. This time, I decided to hit the department stores right after the holidays. The best part was that in every store we visited they were having huge sales. After trying on a slew of dresses, I headed home and ordered a few in my size. Once they arrived, I eventually selected a dress that was 80 percent off its original price and then returned the rest. Incidentally, my daughter found a dress from Bloomingdales and other than needing a few minor alterations, she’s going to look stunning. Her dress was more than half price too! One more option – visit Rent the Runway (renttherunway.com) online or in the Flatiron district in Manhattan where you can rent a stunning designer dress at an affordable price and then return it after the affair.

SAVING ON A DJ

While you can instantly save money by having your child’s party at a nightclub, the second best way to save is to hire the same DJ you had the first time around. If you are a loyal customer, the DJ is going to work with you on the price. If you are a first timer, make sure you ask for referrals and let the DJ know you have been recommended by one of their customers. Plus, if you want to save additional cash, you can purchase the kids’ prizes from Oriental Trading Company (orientaltrading.com). Finally, decide whether or not you need multiple plasma screens and several dancers. Trim the DJ budget on superfluous extras and none of your guests will even notice.

DIY CENTERPIECES

These days, b’nai mitzvah centerpieces look more like Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats. But the more decorative the centerpiece, the more expensive it is to design. This time, I visited a few websites where I purchased props, movie posters and centerpiece supplies. Some of my favorites include Stumps Party (stumpsparty.com), Awesome Events (awesomeevent.com), MoviePoster.com and Hollywood Movie Props (propstore.com). The posters were mounted on foam board at Staples and once the rest of the supplies arrive, my daughter and I will transform my son’s favorite movies into the ultimate centerpieces.

PHOTOGRAPH­ER/VIDEOGR­APHER

For my daughter’s bat mitzvah we hired an amazing yet expensive photographer who took incredible photos of our family and then charged us an additional fee for a CD containing 800 photos from the big day. By the time I saw those gorgeous pictures my budget was tapped out and I never even ordered a photo album. This time, I’ve decided to opt for a talented local photographer whose fee perfectly fits within our budget and I’ll have plenty of leftover funds for that album. I may even finally order one for my daughter too! Another option is to hire a photographer and videographer at the same time. One affordable local recommendation is Carlo FX Photography.

SIGN-IN BOARD

For my daughter, we ordered a $350 surf board sign-in board for her beach-themed bat mitzvah. This time, we designed a movie-themed poster with the help of an incredibly talented graduate school intern and then had it printed on poster board at posterprintfactory. com. The grand total? A minimal design fee and $63.75 for printing, mounting and shipping.

ROOM FOR A SPLURGE

Once you tally up all your savings, it’s time to allocate funds for a splurge. In our case, we’re opting for a movie-themed candy bar for the kids. Other options can include a video booth, game room, popcorn and cotton candy and more. At the heart of it, make sure your son or daughter plays a role in your party planning – from stuffing the envelopes, to devising clever party favor ideas, and anyone can plan the ultimate bar mitzvah without breaking the bank.

Beth Feldman is a frequent contributor to Westchester Family.

Updated 4:26 pm, July 9, 2018
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