By Stephanie Kepke Kaplan, Boys, Dogs And Chaos
Two weeks post Bar Mitzvah, I am happy to report that everything got done, despite my anxiety that it wouldn’t. My last minute dress was ready, though not until late Friday afternoon before the party. In fact, as I suspected would be the case, quite a few things were last minute. Three months ago when I started writing this blog, I decided to focus on how to plan a great party at the last minute, while staying on a budget. I could not have known how fitting that theme would turn out to be. Every day the week of the party I was out running errands – completing my hospitality bags; buying more DJ give aways (which I provided, rather than the DJ, to save some money); buying new bags for the favors, because the seventy five bags I bought were too small and my son thought they looked purple, not blue; ordering food for Shabbat dinner; buying about six different undergarments for my very clingy dress – (which was sure to show panty lines without the perfect pair). You get the picture.
But, it wasn’t just little things that were resolved at the eleventh hour – I wore my husband, Jeff, down and he agreed to a second dancer four days before the party. Three days before the party, we completely changed the décor. We kept the baseball theme (in my last blog, I shared that I changed the centerpieces for the kids’ tables a week and a half before the Bar Mitzvah – thankfully Angela of Party Excellence was very flexible and the centerpieces – for which I provided the base – looked amazing). But, in addition to the baseball theme, my son had been begging me for lounge décor for at least a year. It simply was not in the budget. Imagine our surprise and delight when we found out on the Thursday before the party, that Paul from Party Interiors & My Glow Party was able leave the lounge furniture from a synagogue party the night before for an incredibly affordable price. The stars suddenly all aligned for one fantastic party. The centerpieces combined with the fabulous lounge furniture left more than one guest gushing that the ballroom at North Shore Synagogue looked “magnificent.” (Our guests also raved that the food was delicious, which meant just as much to me, if not more, than the decor.)
The best part though was seeing my son’s face when he saw the room. Somehow we kept it a secret from him in the days leading up to the party – one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Every time he complained about not having a lounge, I wanted to yell, “But you’ll have one! You’ll have a whole room of lounge furniture – not even just the kids’ area.” But, I didn’t and when those doors opened, his jaw dropped. It was an amazing moment knowing I made his dream party come true.
Another amazing moment was when my son played the drums for all of the guests at the party. Yes, it was difficult for Jeff to bring his whole drum kit to the synagogue the morning of the party and set it up. And yes, he was late for the pictures because of it, but boy was it worth it to see my son doing what he loves for all of the people that we love. Everyone raved about his musical talent – most people had never heard him play and were astounded by his skills. After his initial performance of an original musical piece he had composed, he played along with a few of the DJ spun tunes, as well. My husband is an incredible drummer and my son showed everyone that he’s following in his footsteps. If your child plays an instrument, sings or even dances, I highly recommend encouraging him or her to perform for your Mitzvah guests. It puts a personal stamp on the day and makes it truly special.
I also put a personal stamp on the day by creating the place card display (of course Jeff and I were up until 12:30 am the night before gluing artificial turf on foam board, but it was worth it). I also made all of the place cards (a challenge, because I didn’t decide on the final seating arrangements until two days before the party) and the stickers for the favor bags. I have to admit that it felt pretty wonderful when our guests commented on how great everything looked. In fact, Jeff (and more than one guest) encouraged me to start a new business addressing invitation envelopes and providing place cards, stickers and other custom items. I used to have a business creating Bar and Bat Mitzvah sign in books (of course one for this party), so it seemed a natural progression. I christened the business Wishes, Ink and just launched a facebook page. So, you never know where your Mitzvah journey may take you. In creating a special day for your child and family, you may discover hidden talents that will take you on a new career path.
You also will likely discover many attributes you didn’t know you had – the ability to organize and keep track of all the vendor information; multitasking skills supreme; haggling skills and more. You may also discover a strength you didn’t know you had if your Mitzvah is in the aftermath of a loss. If you read my previous blog posts, you know that my father passed away just shy of six months before my son’s Bar Mitzvah. I really didn’t know how I would make it through what was supposed to be a joyous occasion without shedding tears. Watching my father-in-law make the motzi over the challah was particularly difficult and watching the amazing montage my niece created was heartbreaking. So, I turned away as my eyes welled up. I had watched it enough times to know each picture, each note, so I felt that I didn’t need to watch it that day. Of course I cried anyway, but when the time came for me to make my speech just a few moments after the montage ended, I managed to gather myself and speak from the heart to Drew, even though I hadn’t written anything down on paper, only in my head. That thread of bittersweet joy wove its way through the day and made it one we will all remember.
Thank you for sharing my Mitzvah journey. I have two and a half years before the next Bar Mitzvah – my middle son’s in May 2014. It was supposed to be in January, but with lots of out of town guests, I couldn’t risk a blizzard, plus I needed a bit more of a break! I’m sure the next two years will whiz by and I’ll be back here sharing my experiences, but with a bit more wisdom under my belt next time. Until then, Mazel Tov and enjoy your Mitzvahs!
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.
Editor’s Note: Mazel Tov to the Kaplan family. Read The Kaplan Bar Mitzvah Family Spotlight story here.