Answer: Probably Somewhere In Between. But This Timeline Will Help You Get To The Finish Line On Time
Time, as they say, creeps up on you, and the secret of a successful event is to be organized. The more you do in advance, the more relaxing the last week leading up to your simcha will be. Here are some tips to get you started on the journey:
2-3 years before:
• Set the date at your synagogue.
• Start thinking about what this rite of passage means to your family and your child and what type of celebration you want to have.
12-18 months before:
• Draft a rough guest list and decide on the style of the event that suits your child, family, and budget so you’ll know what to look for.
• Talk to friends and relatives who have planned similar events for advice and recommendations.
Get price quotes from potential caterers, photographers, entertainers, venues, and party planners. Give deposits to any you’re seriously considering. (Many deposits are non-refundable though, so be careful.)
One year before:
• Lock in a location, band/DJ, caterer, and photographer/videographer.
• If you are using a theme and/or color scheme for the event, choose it now to help in related decisions.
• Book a block of rooms at a nearby hotel.
• Send out “save the date” cards to out-of-towners who need to purchase plane tickets, and if your event is on a holiday weekend. (Include hotel information for advance reservations.)
• Look up your child’s torah portion and discuss its meaning. Help your child choose a mitzvah project.
Six months before:
• Your child begins tutoring to learn the torah portion. Make time for such appointments and studying, and plan for upcoming meetings with the rabbi and cantor.
• Develop a guest list with current addresses. If you want, draw up a spreadsheet to keep track of RSVPs, presents received, and when thank-you notes are sent.
• Select and order invitations, thank yous, and personalized kippot if you want them.
• Choose centerpieces, decorations, and party favors.
• Get photos together for a video montage or sign-in board.
• Plan any other events for the bar/bat mitzvah weekend including a Friday evening Shabbat dinner or a Sunday brunch.
Three months before:
• Finalize menu, centerpieces, and decorations.
• Shop for clothing for all family members. (Wait until one month before event to have a rapidly sprouting boy or girl’s suit tailored.)
Two months before:
• Weigh invitations to ensure proper postage and mail them—the earlier the better. If you get lots of negative responses you may still have time invite some people from your second tier list. (Consider stamps that match your theme or your child’s interests—there are those with superheroes, sports, animals, hearts—or you can order ones with your child’s photo at www.photo.stamps.com).
• If you’re doing a candle-lighting ceremony, choose the people to be honored and work with your child to write any introductions.
• Develop a timeline for the event that includes formalities, dances, entertainment, and food service, and coordinate with the entertainers and caterers.
• Make appointments for any hair stylists, barbers, and manicurists.
• Make a playlist for the DJ and a “do not play list” if there are songs you and your child definitely don’t want.
One month before:
• Reconfirm all service providers, any special instructions, and the time they’re expected to arrive.
• Create a seating plan as RSVPs arrive. Call anyone you haven’t heard from yet. Have a calligrapher make place cards.
• Confirm a rehearsal time with your synagogue. Some will allow you to video this event in lieu of the actual service.
• Arrange hospitality baskets for out-of-town guests. Include a schedule of events and detailed directions.
• Write any speeches or toasts you plan to give.
• Have final clothing fittings.
One week before:
• Give final guest count to caterer. Remember that once you have guaranteed a number, this is what you will be responsible to pay for, even if fewer guests show up.
• Finalize seating arrangements and drop off seating cards at party location.
• Take formal family pictures in the synagogue.
• Relax and enjoy this special time with your child, family and friends!