Hannah Kendall Thalberg celebrated her Bat Mitzvah on November 30, 2013, at Battery Gardens in Battery Park, New York City.
This weekend represented an unprecedented moment in the history of time — as never before, and most likely never again, will the joyous American and Judaic holidays of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah converge.
As our Mom blogger Marisa Thalberg tells us, “From our standpoint, history can now claim a trifecta of perfect celebrations, with the addition of our daughter Hannah’s Bat Mitzvah!”
Catch up on how Marisa planned her daughter’s celebration with our series, “Executive Mom Plans A Bat Mitzvah.“
Read below Marisa’s first person account of her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah.
Mazel Tov to the Thalberg family! We thank them for sharing their celebration with our readers.
Pictured L-R: Dad David, Sister Avery, Bat Mitzvah girl Hannah and Mom Marisa
This unique timing wound up heavily influencing our approach (if not exactly a theme) to the day. When choosing the venue, Hannah fell in love with Battery Gardens in large part due to how light it was; for as she noted, she is a “light” person, and appropriately, her Bat Mitzvah speech – connected to her Hanukkah haftorah – was all about “spreading the light.” Moreover, we thought there was something perfectly symbolic in having such a sweeping river view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on this unique weekend.
Both Hannah and we, felt it was important to infuse the whole day with a sense of meaning and connection to the act of becoming a Bat Mitzvah, and this location helped bring it all together, and inspired our concept of “thankfulness”
Aesthetically, we were drawn to a “vintage chic” look and feel, beginning with the custom invitations and response postcard.
The invitations were designed by Lucy Halcomb
The day began with our service conducted right at Battery Gardens by our Rabbi, Rabbi Burt Siegel of the Shul of New York, along with our amazing Shul Band led by Adam Feder.
Our service program had the same look and feel as the invitation
One of our favorite moments was when both Hannah and I joined the band to sing the synagogue’s very upbeat spiritual “Sanctuary” song
Hannah did a beautiful job in all parts of the service
Our younger daughter Avery brought the house down with a perfectly delivered speech on all the reasons she is thankful for and loves her sister Hannah
Immediately following the service was the cocktail hour, which we approached a little differently to incorporate more brunch-like foods in keeping with the late morning timing – with food stations that each had a special meaning.
Hannah’s Cereal Bar (a huge hit with the kids, and many grown-ups)
and the Thalberg Bagel Buffet…
And most special of all, was our “Nana’s ‘Turn Lemons-Into-Lemonade’ Stand,” to honor Hannah’s beloved Nana who famously lived by that motto. The lemonade stand was something we had planned to do months earlier to my mom’s (Hannah’s Nana) great delight
We were devastated when, as it turned out, she would not be there to see it herself (and do the hora with us as she always planned), as she passed away in August. Among her final words were, “if I do not make it to Hannah’s Bat Mitzvah, my lemonade stand will stand in my place.”… So this took on great importance for all of us and for so many of our friends and family who were feeling the absence of her very big presence
One of our favorite (and most appreciated) touches was how guests were personally welcomed with the place cards created by Ana Dolan.
Modeled after vintage luggage tags and displayed in vintage suitcases (with a subtle reference to Ellis Island’s nearby presence)
Each card not only gave a table assignment, but also had an individual message from Hannah expressing why she was thankful for them
Our companion favorite touch: when guests later arrived upstairs for the party, they were greeted by Hannah’s Thankful Tree.
This became our beautiful alternative to a traditional sign-in board
At each table were blank tags and instructions (as well as custom pens in mason jars) for guests to in turn write a message of appreciation back to Hannah, and hang them on the tree
Tables were set with simple sophistication to maximize the views, featuring cylindrical glass vases of white baby’s breath arrangements, and chalkboard table signs in mason jars.
The room at Battery Gardens
There was a vintage cage for all the gifts
Our family, and especially Hannah, loved being introduced by the DJ.
MC Jack Bermeo of LJ Productions provided the music entertainment
We even chose props with the DJ that fit our feel
MC Jack got the party going with guests (of every age) on the dance floor, and singing along
A big hora with the traditional lifting on the chair was another favorite moment for Hannah
Hannah’s greatest personal passion is performing in musical theater; while we did not want to make this the whole theme of the Bat Mitzvah, we enjoyed incorporating it by choosing a Broadway song vs. a more standard pop song to accompany each candle in the candle lighting ceremony. Each of these songs had some personal meaning (in many cases coming from a show in which Hannah had performed).
The cake was made of jelly donuts – both in honor of Hanukkah and as a nod to the donut cakes Marisa’s mom used to make for her birthdays when she was a child
In the spirit of the day, there were a variety of touching and funny speeches made to Hannah from friends, her younger cousin and others.
Hannah gets toasted by the combined team of her Uncle Rob and her honorary Uncle Rob (Dad David’s best friend)
One last and special speech was from David, Hannah’s dad, who ended by quoting from the Paul Simon song: “I’m gonna watch you shine, gonna watch you grow, gonna paint a sign, so you always know – as long as one and one is two. There could never be a father who loved his daughter, more than I love you.” Father and daughter, followed by mom and sister, then proceeded to dance to it
Much like the approach to the cocktail hour, we wanted the luncheon to feel unique and appropriate to the day, which is why we did a modified buffet with different food stations including a mashed potato (Hannah’s favorite food) and potato latke bar – perfect for BOTH Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.
Desserts were all passed, including mini-s’mores, mini-brownies with a shot glass of milk, and caramel apples!
In keeping with the vintage theme, the photo booth had a black and white damask backdrop and vintage props.
And as a unique Mitzvah favor, we hired a classic cut paper silhouette artist to create individual paper silhouettes of our guests
As a parting touch, as guests departed into the late November evening, they were offered a lidded mason jar with Hannah’s logo, which could be filled with rich hot chocolate, to go.
Savoring and reflecting on an incredible day as the sun set.
Some advice from Mom Marisa about planning Hannah’s Bat Mitzvah:
“Busy as I am, I loved and immersed myself in the entire planning process. I strongly felt the most important thing was to make the celebration feel very connected to and reflective of Hannah, us as a family, and the deeper meaning of becoming a Bat Mitzvah. Miraculously, Hannah and I were somehow perfectly aligned on our vision for the day, which was probably more akin to what certain brides envision than most 13 year old girls, but I think that is part of what made the whole sensibility of her day unique to her. I always believe that what people will remember most are the personal touches clearly planned with love – and the feeling of love, fun and joy of all the people in the room — and I think this absolutely proved to be the case for our day.
On a practical level, as an Executive Mom (both a corporate marketing executive in the beauty industry, and the founder of www.executivemoms.com), I knew that I would have a lot of ideas… and no time during the day to hunt those ideas down, so having help in a “producer” role was very worthwhile. I did a lot of my own inspiration-gathering on Pinterest (I have a public Bat Mitzvah board you are welcome to see there, and I also kept a private one). However, much of that activity was happening for me at 1:00 am on my iPad. Therefore in terms of getting that logistical help, I made an unconventional choice and did not work with a traditional Bar/Bat Mitzvah planner; rather, I tapped corporate conference producers with whom I had worked in my professional life who were branching out on their own. We took a mutual risk on each other in that they had never planned a Bar or Bat Mitzvah before, but I think it ultimately worked out incredibly well.
Lastly, I’d like to add a little emotional perspective. I was very self-aware that one of the reasons I wanted Hannah to have a big Bat Mitzvah party was to create and capture this seminal memory with our loved ones, including, if not especially, with my mom. Even though she had cancer, she had such a truly incomparable spirit that had enabled her to triumph over so much, it was inconceivable to all of us (and certainly her) that she would not be there on this day. I found out that her second cancer had metastasized on the very day that I was due to put the deposit down on our venue, one year earlier. I broke down in the back of a cab on my way to giving a speech, agonizing over what it all meant and what I should do. Of course, we did go forward… and yet my worst fear actually came true. My mom passed away 3 months before the Bat Mitzvah of her first adored grandchild. In my devastation, finishing the planning of Hannah’s day actually wound up giving me a sense of focus and purpose that helped me get through the first few weeks without my mom. And while my daughter’s big day was now filled with a much more complex range of emotions, we all embraced the joy – just as I knew my mom would want. Without meaning to be pedantic, I recognize the life lesson in all of this. It is natural for anyone orchestrating an event of such importance to feel the stress of wanting it all to be flawless – I was still that way — but there is, truly, a bigger picture. I hope no one really thinks of their child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah as something you need to “survive” (and if it is the worst thing you need to survive, consider yourself very, very lucky)! I know during the day itself I was still fighting my own deep inclination to obsess over all the details and worry about whether everyone was having a good time. But if I could do it all over again (without having to PAY for it all over again, of course), I would in a micro-second.
Being able to create this kind of beautiful memory out of a beautiful milestone is its own true gift. And while I am wistful about what wasn’t, I have the perspective to fully value all in that day that was.”
The following vendors helped to make Hannah’s Bat Mitzvah special. If you call any of them, please let them know you read about them on MitzvahMarket.com.
Venue: Battery Gardens, New York City
Party Planner: Katie Oates, Catfish Entertainment
Music Entertainment: MC Jack Bermeo, LJ Productions
Photographer: Lindsay and Greg Witts, Pinsky Studio
Party entertainment: Paper Silhouette artist: Carl Schutt
Signage, Table cards, Decor: Ana Dolan, Invitations By Ana
Logo and Invitation design: Lucy Halcomb
Florist: Plant Shed
Montage production: Permanent Treasures
Vintage prop rentals: Patina Vintage Rentals
Favors: Custom lidded mason jar mugs from www.discountmugs.com
Hannah’s Dress: Terani Couture (via RK Bridal, NYC)
Marisa’s Dress: Oscar de la Renta (via Century 21!); shoes: Manolo Blahnik
Avery’s Dress: Dimples (via Carina Boutique, Whitestone, NY)
David’s suit: Red – Saks Fifth Avenue
Hair: Josie Sanchez, firstname.lastname@example.org
Makeup: Laramie Glen for Bobbi Brown and Book Your Look