DIY Centerpieces

If you’re willing to put in a little time, creating your own centerpieces is one way to save money for a mitzvah party.

Celebrating a child’s bar or bat mitzvah is an important and meaningful milestone — and an expensive one. It’s akin to a wedding, with all the range and variety that implies. From a small and simple $7,000 celebration to a tens of thousands of dollars-level spectacle, this is no minor affair.

“People don’t really love to hear that, but if you’re getting food for 100 people at a private venue, it costs what it costs,” said Brynne Magaziner, the owner of Pop Color Events, a planning business. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a bar mitzvah or a wedding.”

But there are a few ways families can try to shave off some dollars, according to event planners. Of course, those using event planners likely already have a larger budget than others going totally DIY, but these tips are universal. Plus, both Magaziner and Andrew Grosshandler, event planner with Parties by Terrye, say they can be as involved — or not — as families want, depending on desires and budgets.

“I get a lot of people who start out thinking they’ll do everything themselves, but then realize it might not work,” Grosshandler said.

So, for those with a bar or bat mitzvah on the horizon, here are six tips from Magaziner and Grosshandler:

1. Prioritize

“I think the most important thing I tell people is to pick their priorities,” Grosshandler said.

If your boy of the hour is a foodie, put your money into catering and food he’ll love. But if the bat mitzvah girl wants to party, spring for the better (and pricier) DJ.

It’s also about prioritizing your own time. If someone in the family is crafty, then handmade decorations might be worth the time for the money saved, for instance.

“It’s a very tricky balance,” Magaziner said. “It’s either time, money or convenience. You can save a lot of money, but it will be inconvenient and cost you a lot of time. But if you have the time, go for it.”

2. Start early

Trying to book a venue with just a few months’ notice is a difficult task, especially if you have a certain price in mind. The more time you have, the more leisurely the planning process, Magaziner said. It gives you time to think through your decisions and comparison shop.

3. Do your research

This is especially important if it’s your first child going through a bar or bat mitzvah. Getting the lay of the land will help give you a sense of prices and realistic budgets, Grosshandler said.

“Most people, especially if it’s their first kid, don’t know what anything costs and there will be sticker shock to some extent,” he added.

4. Don’t forget to ask about taxes and fees

It’s all about asking the right questions and being an informed customer.

“The one thing that people always overlook is taxes and fees” Magaziner said. “People might be quoted one price, but you should always ask if it includes taxes and fees.”

5. Take a hard look at your guest list

This is probably the hardest part, because families, naturally, want everyone to come celebrate their child’s special day. But a high guest count is the No. 1 driver of cost, according to Magaziner.

“The number of people you invite is the number of mouths you have to feed,” she added.

If you really want to save money, think about how you can keep the guest list smaller.

6. Keep the focus on your child

At the end of the day, this party is for the boy or girl. Grosshandler said he tells parents to stay “focus[ed] on the kids — what makes them unique and what will give them a good time. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top.”

Some of his favorite parties are ones where he can go, “Oh, that’s so that family.” In other words, parties that fit the family, especially the one whose special day it is. Theme parties, Grosshandler added, are making a comeback because you can design around your child’s interests — often without breaking the bank.

No matter how much you spend, he said, “it should be fun.” JN

Hannah Monicken is a senior writer for Washington Jewish Week, a publication affiliated with Jewish News.