Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, like weddings, take a great deal of planning.  As the event planner, you spend a lot of time with the family during this process.  Every now and again, I’m blessed to work with a family that just has a huge heart.  One that takes me into their fold and makes my job, and the event itself, not just about the final product, but the overall experience.  One of my most recent mitzvahs was just as I have described.  It was also one of the most fulfilling of my 20 year career.

My clients decided to hold the event in their home. The week before the actual mitzvah, I set up shop in their kitchen, supervising the load in of tents, lights, furnishings, and all the other necessities that turned their house into a party space. This meant I was also there for all of the personal moments that accompany events such as these: the arrivals of family, the organizing of rehearsals, and the inevitable nerves that set in.  What became immediately apparent to me was that this was a family in the purest essence of the word.  This feeling spilled over into the entire experience.  One could not escape the warmth, the care, and the love.  Truly this was a party with heart.

It was determined early that the “theme” for the weekend was to be “laid back and comfy”.  Something as wide ranging and ambigious as that can be tricky for a planner. What it really translated to was simply celebrating the twins who were being b’nai (meaning two) mitzvah'ed.  To begin, we created a personalized logo, using their initials and favorite colors. This was then carried through on all of the items created for the weekend - from the welcome tags to the programs at the temple.  We simply “branded” our weekend. Every part was somehow connected to the others, and guests were constantly reminded about whom this was about.

As I always do, I asked each of the kids what they liked - the young man answered “yellow”, but I misheard him and thought he said “pillow”.  I went into an excited 15 minute rant about all the things we could do with a pillow.  At the end of my monologue, the young man smiled sweetly and said, “I actually said, yellow, but pillows sound fun”.  Hence we included personalized pillows as the give away.

The thing that was so great about these twins was their willingness to include the other in decisions.  When questioned their first response would always be, “what did my sister/brother say?”.  It was very sweet.  He liked lights, so we had neon signs with their names. She liked photos, so we had a photo booth chock full of funny dress up clothes.  They both liked candy, and so we set up a cart filled with their favorite treats.  And really...that was what it was all about.  Good food, good music, and fun times with friends…

One of the dearest things though was the decision by both teens to donate their time, means, and energies to two charitable organizations in the Bay Area.  Family House provides a home away from home for families with a member undergoing treatment at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.  We came up with the idea to create centerpieces that could be donated, along with the supplies to decorate them, to the facility so that the children residing there could have something creative to do during their stay. 

 The other organization, 826 Valencia encourages young people to share their experiences through writing, so we included journals and articles written by members of the organization as well.

The weekend was filled with so many simple, heartfelt moments: the twins helping me take apart their backyard trampoline, the cousins and siblings all sitting in the front room playing Uno and building giant towers out of Legos, the elder siblings making gingerbread houses for their cousins to decorate, the whole family heading to House of Air to bounce around and let off some steam, and finally at the very end of the weekend when all the family, guests, and classmates gathered together arm in arm to dance to the last song.

Parties like this remind me that’s it’s not “stuff” that makes a event special, it’s the family and their commitment to one another.

That is what makes a party a celebration.

A special thanks to Anne Hamersky for allowing us the use of these wonderful photos.