By Stephanie Kepke Kaplan, Boys, Dogs And Chaos
This may strike some of you as odd, but one of the most difficult aspects of planning my son, D’s, Bar Mitzvah has been “the list.” The guest list, that is.
I have to send my invites out in just days and I still haven’t settled on exactly who they are going to. Of course family and close family friends are a given, but there are so many Moms with whom I feel a camaraderie – I can’t possibly invite everyone. So then, where do you draw the line? And, when you draw that line what if people on the invite side talk to people on the non-invite side? Also, if you’re on Facebook, it ratchets up the list dilemma to a whole new level.
When our parents decided with whom to share their simchas, they didn’t have to worry about someone they just couldn’t squeeze onto the guest list seeing pictures of all the people who did make it on the list partying away together. This new twist to party planning causes me a great deal of stress. Before Facebook, one’s social life was pretty much one’s own business. Now, pictures are posted as soon as the event is over and everyone can see who was there – and if you feel you should have been a part of it, well it stings. This isn’t just for teenagers, even grown-ups can feel excluded. Luckily, it generally takes me months to post pictures, if they get up at all. It’s still a concern, though – others may post pictures right away and eventually I’ll post them. So, I needed to come up with some guidelines to try to minimize my guilt and any hurt feelings.
Luckily, D’s Bar Mitzvah is at the end of the year, so right off the bat I was able to eliminate anyone who didn’t invite me. I wasn’t insulted if those I considered inviting didn’t invite me – I understand the constraints of budget when planning a guest list. In this economy, many people invite just close friends and family. It was harder to eliminate others, so instead I set guidelines for who I would include, rather than who I would exclude.
The first criteria for inclusion on my guest list was longevity – anyone who came to my Wedding 15 years ago that I am still friends with (even if we only speak on our birthdays, and through the occasional text, e-mail or Facebook comment) was included. If I can maintain a relationship (as infrequent as it may be, thanks to all of our overstuffed lives) with someone for all of those years (in many cases over a quarter of a century), I want that person celebrating with us. This category includes childhood and college friends, many of whom are far flung. So unfortunately, though I’d love them there, realistically not everyone can make it.
My second criteria was to include those that we go out with socially. Sadly, this isn’t a very large category, since we hardly ever go out. But, there are a few families that we meet for pizza or friends that I will meet for a frozen yogurt once in a while. The tough call was for friends that we used to see, but don’t anymore. I had to draw the line – if it had been more than a year or two, I just couldn’t include them.
My third was the trickiest and certainly the hardest to winnow down – fellow Moms that I chat with on a regular basis. There are so many women that I chat with at school pickup or Hebrew school drop off, women that paid shiva calls when my father passed away and that will pick my kids up in a pinch. I couldn’t possibly include them all, so I decided that if we talk on the phone or text about things that aren’t kid or school related and if we have tried to go out socially, even if we haven’t succeeded, they would get a place on the list. Also, some people landed on the list if they were there for me when my father passed away, even if I don’t see or even speak with them often. But then, there’s the flip side – what if they don’t want an invite? What if they think, “But, we’re not family friends – why are we invited?” (Especially since these friendships tend to wane in the summer and pick up again in the fall – after the invites will have been sent). Well, that’s something that I suppose I can’t control. If someone who receives an invitation and doesn’t want to come – well, that’s what a response card is for. They can simply write, “not attending,” and I, again, will not be offended. Plus, as my brother-in-law reminded me when I asked him if he thought one family would be wondering why they received an invite, “Better for them to wonder why they got invited, than to wonder why they didn’t.”
My mother keeps calling me to find out if I’ve addressed and stamped my invites yet (I found a great font and will save at least $125 by addressing them myself; and if I must say so, the test prints look quite professional). I hate answering her, “no.” So, I really must buckle down and decide exactly who will share this joyous day with us – because in the end, our memories won’t be of the food or the DJ or the decorations, it will be of those that were there with us dancing, laughing and celebrating life.
About Stephanie Kepke Kaplan
Stephanie Kepke Kaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. Before kids she was an arts reporter, covering the Boston music and cultural scene (even though she is a born and bred Long Islander, she lived in Boston for nine years and her first son was born there). Now, she blogs at Boys, Dogs and Chaos (about life with – you guessed it – three boys and two dogs) and Mitzvah Mom. She is also working on a novel about a PTA mom. She has also written for Long Island Parent magazine.
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