Tips From the Pros

Planning a bar/bat mitzvah can be overwhelming. Thankfully there are professionals who specialize in helping you make the day everything you want it to be and more.


Melisa Imberman, owner of The Event of a Lifetime, has a motto that she lives by – “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” These are wise words from a woman who runs a full-service event planning company that serves clients in Westchester, New York City and Fairfield, Conn.

Imberman says planning a bar/bat mitzvah is more complicated than planning a wedding. “You are actually planning two events,” she explains. On one hand you have the general celebration with details such as venue, photographer, and music. You also have to contend with details of the kid’s celebration like a logo, theme, favors, and exit treats. “There are a ton of small details,” says Imberman.

It is critical you don’t get caught up in the details in the beginning. Planning should start with the big picture. “Setting a budget is critical and should be done before you book any venue or provider,” says Imberman. What many families forget to consider is the importance of timing and the coordination of vendors. “I create a timeline of the day and make sure to review it with all the vendors,” says Imberman. For instance, it’s important to coordinate the caterer and the DJ so the meal isn’t being served as the candle lighting ceremony is taking place. “The event should have an easy flow,” says Imberman. As you fill in the big picture then you can get down to the tiny details like socks for the kids to dance in advises Imberman. Taking care of everything systematically helps to avoid conflicts on the day of the event. If you have never planned a bar/bat mitzvah you might not even know all that’s required. Imberman says her clients often tell her that she did things for them that they didn’t even know they needed to do.

Picture perfect

If there’s another aspect of the day that needs considerable planning it’s creating a photo montage. A highlight of the bar/bat ceremony, the photo montage basically traces the past 13 years of your child’s life.

The Montage Maven is a Purchase-based company that specializes in montages for bar/bat mitzvahs and other events nationwide. Owner Jackie Marek advises her clients not to overthink the project. “There’s no need to get every single family member into the montage,” she says. “Remember your guests are there to honor you and your child, they aren’t looking to see themselves on the screen.”

It is important, however, to set aside a good amount of time to sort and organize your images. Marek says allow about three months from the start to the end of the project. To begin she advises her clients to gather all the photos they think they may want to use in the montage and then sort them by category, such as baby, elementary school, family, friends, and activities. When putting the montage together Marek suggests avoiding a chronological approach. “Chronological montages aren’t really interesting for your guests,” she explains.

Marek says the ideal bar/bat montage runs about eight to 10 minutes. Putting the montage together is the art. Marek guides her clients through the process so that the end result is interesting, surprising and memorable.

Super sound

Nothing can make or break an event faster than music. Every minute you spend selecting and booking the right band, DJ and MC is well worth it. Where do you start?

“First get your date and select the venue,” says Jill Prince co-owner with her brother Jay of Hal Prince Music and Entertainment. The family-run, Mt. Kisco and New York City-based, company was started by their parents more than 50 years ago. To say she knows her music is an understatement. In fact, Hal Prince is a 2019 Best of Weddings Pick by the knot.

Most bar/bat mitzvahs call for a package with DJ, MC (master of ceremony), and motivational dancers. Live bands are also an option. Prince has seen some families do a combination of live music and DJs. “The electric violin is very popular right now,” says Prince. A live musician can play along with a DJ. “It can also be lovely to provide some live music for the adults during cocktail hour,” she adds. It’s a time when the kids are usually enjoying their mock-tails with games and music of their own.

Because bands and DJs are contracted well in advance you’ll need long term planning for this. “Start interviewing DJ companies one or two years in advance,” advises Prince. Ask for recommendations from your venue, your party planner, your florist, your family and friends – everyone, and then set up an interview date.

Prince says at the interview it’s very important that the DJ and MC show you their demo. You’ll want to se the DJ, MC and even the motivational dancers in action. Also note whether the DJ and MC pay attention when you discuss the tone and pacing you want to create. They should be good listeners.

Once you’ve booked your team there’s still more to do. Prince says parents should prepare a song list for the DJ and the kids should do the same. “It’s important that you each also create a ‘do not play’ list,” she adds.

About one month before the celebration Prince highly recommends that you have a meeting with the DJ and MC. “This is the time to carefully go over the order of events and formalities,” says Prince. “And this also gives you a moment to create a rapport with the DJ and MC, which will make everyone more comfortable on event day.”

There’s so much you can do to add to the musical experience says Prince. “I’d advise parents to provide dance floor swag for the MC so he can use to them to keep the party going – and light up dance platforms are very popular right now – with kids and adults.”

Taking the proper planning time to find the pros that are a perfect fit is important. Remember, these are the pros that will create the entire entertainment environment for your event.

Jean Sheff is editor of Westchester Family.