Mitzvah Market Magazine: Should I Have An Unplugged Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

Mitzvah Market Magazine: Should I Have An Unplugged Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

By Hollee Actman Becker

The morning after my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, I glance at the clock — 6:00 am. I’ve barely slept three hours since I basically spent the night replaying the entire celebration in my head, but I roll over and reach for my phone anyway.

What I find there is amazing. Text after text from my friends and my daughter’s friends filled with all the pictures and videos they captured during the night. There’s our entrances, the chair going up during hora, the father/daughter hip hop dance that brought down the house.

On Instagram it’s the same story. We gave all of our guests a custom hashtag to use, and man, did they use it. I saw images of our friends dancing and our family members laughing, plus close-up shots of all the party details I had spent months pulling together. Being able to re-live everything so soon after it happened was truly the best feeling in the world. After I finally finished scrolling, my face hurt from smiling.

It’s now four years later, and suddenly, throwing an “unplugged” event — where you collect kids’ cell phones on the way into the party — is starting to become a thing. I totally understand why. Cell phones can be a major attention suck at an event. You want your guests engaged and involved in what’s going on in the room, not sprawled on a piece of LED lounge furniture watching Ninja play Battle Royale.

But, while I agree that electronics can sometimes be a major bummer during a service — Addisyn, stop snapping dog filter pics during Emily’s haftorah! — I don’t think banning phones during your celebration is the answer, either. In fact, I think it will probably be a big turn-off for your guests. And maybe even for you, since you might end up feeling like you missed out on the whole social networking experience we’ve all become so accustomed to.

The bottom line is that technology is a huge part of both our lives and our kids’ lives, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. What we really need to do is embrace it and find ways to use it to our advantage instead of being so afraid that it will take something away from our celebration.

I’ve been on the Mitzvah circuit for almost six years now, and I’ve seen some pretty great ways to keep all the kids involved in the party without making them give up their phones. The key, it seems, is to find the place where cell phones and engagement meet. And if your DJ is a good one, the kids will be totally present at your party, whether there are cell phones in their hands or not.

That being said, I think a nice little sign set up near the entrance of your synagogue that says something like “This is an unplugged service so please turn off your phones” is a good idea. Same goes for having cubbies at your party with the kids’ names on them, or drawstring bags on the backs of their chairs so they can quickly stash their phones when they want to hit the dance floor.

At the end of the day, whether you choose to ban cell phones or not is up to you. But remember, most of the people using their phones to snap pics at your party are doing it from a place of love. You’ve chosen to share your special celebration with all the important people in your life, so why not let them share it through pictures and videos as well?

Here are six ways to encourage them do it.

1. The Custom Hashtag

Creating a custom hashtag for your Bar or Bat Mitzvah is one of the easiest ways to engage your guests in the celebration. They take pictures during the night, post them to Instagram using your event hashtag and boom — you get to experience the night through their eyes. Pretty cool, right? It’s like the 2018 version of all those disposable cameras we used to place on our wedding tables once upon a time.

2. The Snapchat Filter

I’m not gonna lie — I love a good Mitzvah snapchat filter, and so will all of your younger guests. It’s pretty much the first thing they look for when they enter the room. You can create your own filter or lens to frame your event right on the Snapchat app, even if you don’t have an account. It takes less than five minutes, costs less than five dollars, and is a super-easy way to involve your guests and make the night feel special. If the idea of using Snapchat seems too intimidating, just ask your kid to do it for you.

3. The Hand-Off

One of my fav ways to incorporate cell phone pictures and videos into your event is to have the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child hand their phone off to one of their friends, and then have THEM capture all the amazing moments of the night. Your kid is hands free for the night, but won’t miss out on a single recorded moment. Total win-win.

4. The Group Selfie

Remember when Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Oscars and took that epic group selfie? Or when Justin Timberlake took one from the middle of the stadium during the Super Bowl? Everybody loves crowding around a single phone to take a selfie, so set it up ahead of time with your DJ. Trust me, your guests will LOVE it.

5. The Giveaways

While I’m on the topic of your DJ… there are so many cell phone-related accessories you can order to have your MC toss out as giveaways. Some of the ones I’ve seen recently include logo-ed ear buds, PopSockets, Bluetooth speakers, wireless chargers, cases, ring holders and wallets, and fans that plug into your phone’s charger port — a huge hit with all the, ahem, older women.

6. The FaceTime

Finally, don’t forget about FaceTime and Skype. While some synagogues will now stream your service online for those who can’t be there in person, not all of them do so. Using FaceTime or another live video app during your service or even during your candle lighting ceremony is a great way to include far-away relatives. The grandparents of my friend Rochelle’s husband couldn’t make the trip from Florida for her son’s big day, so they decided to record it using Facebook Live. “They got to see their first great-grandchild Bar Mitzvah’ed live,” she said. “They felt like they were a part of it, and it was so special for them.”

So today, when some high-end restaurants and clubs are banning cell phones to keep a quiet and respectful atmosphere, it might be appropriate to do the same in synagogue; but I don’t think we need to go that far at most Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations. Instead, help your guests use their electronics in a fun way. Bottom line: like anything else in planning your perfect party, do what feels most comfortable for you and your family. And enjoy the moment both on and offline.

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