Bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs represent an important coming of age for children in the Jewish faith, often leading to grand parties with memorable and creative themes. You want to mark this special time with the perfect celebration, and theme mitzvahs are a memorable way to frame this important day. So, what themes are other families using for their celebrations? Good question.
Parents often go all out for the bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah. The great thing is, you don’t have to do this all by yourself. Party planners have created and refined theme ideas that will get your family and friends excited for the big day. All you have to do is pick your favorite, personalize it a bit, and enjoy.
What Is the Meaning of Mitzvah?
The traditional understanding of the Hebrew word “mitzvah” is a commandment in Jewish law. Over the years, mitzvah has taken on alternate meanings, such as “good deed,” according to Chabad.com. In texts listing the canons of Jewish law, there are actually 613 mitzvahs, and they represent directives on developing into the best possible person. For example, law 17 is translated by the JewishVirtualLibrary as a command “not to embarrass others.” Law 75: “to repent and confess wrongdoings.:
Bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs are designations triggered by age: a recognition that at 13 years old (for boys) and 12 years old (for girls), one has reached adulthood and ready to assume the responsibilities and obligations of a Jewish adult, as commanded by scripture. It is the moment, Jewish organizations explain, when children gain recognition of their spiritual obligations, not just those of the body. In that context, it is important to note the difference between “becoming” a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah and celebrating one’s bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah.
Recognizing and Celebrating the Mitzvah
While mitzvahs often conclude with elaborate parties, as you will see from our favorite theme mitzvahs, they don’t start that way. Becoming a mitzvah starts with a Saturday service in which the bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah participate in a significant way. They will be asked to recite a blessing and take part in other rituals.
And then it’s time for the party. Of course, as mom and dad, you’ll have carefully chosen a theme and the type of party that makes the most sense to your new mitzvah and the entire family. Themes are optional, of course, but they help point the way to how the party will unfold and also represent a reflection of what makes your young person unique.
Within the last decade, some mitzvahs have grown to become almost Hollywood-scale productions, with extremely high budgets. Our favorite theme mitzvahs will include some of those ideas, but we’ve also mixed in some suggestions and perspective on how to sponsor a memorable event without breaking the bank.
What to Consider
The choice of theme will lay the groundwork for your overall mitzvah planning. But there are a number of key categories that you’ll have to plan for, regardless of theme — things you’ll need to consider no matter what. You’ll see what we mean in the list of our favorite mitzvah themes.
First, you’ll need to select a date. Then find a venue and book it. That means making sure the room is big enough and the vendor flexible enough to accommodate your ideas. The theme will point the way in terms of food and drink, entertainment and decorations, and maybe even the style of invitations you’ll send out. Consider whether you will include a candle ceremony and how you’ll structure it.
Given that the bar or bat mitzvah celebration will involve the whole family, it’s likely others are coming from a distance. You will have to plan for their accommodations and maybe even parting gifts.
How We Researched Our Favorite Theme Mitzvahs
Memorable moments in life call for big celebrations. Party planning companies have long focused on mitzvahs and grow progressively more creative in their offerings to potential customers. So there are plenty of ideas floating around. To choose our favorite theme mitzvahs, we explored various sites of photographers, planners, blogs with first-person experiences of mitzvahs, and other resources. These include sites such as PartySlate.com, jacquescatering.com, Jewishexponent.com, and thecelebrationsociety.com. Keeping in mind that some celebrants may prefer a more traditional approach, we also looked at publications like the Atlanta Jewish Times. If you’re anything like us, you may find it hard to choose from our list of favorite theme mitzvahs.
Shiny Winter Wonderland
The first of our favorite theme mitzvahs takes a seasonal approach. The Shiny Winter Wonderland, created by Jacques Catering in New Jersey, is built around a clean and simple white color scheme. The basic white allows for much creativity in terms of color accents for napkins, centerpieces, backdrops, and other decorations. Make your guests feel like they’ve stepped into a wintery dreamland with freshly fallen snow, icicles, and ice-blue hues.
Jacques offers guests the opportunity for some fun custom add-ons to drive the theme home. These include items such as globe lights and acrylic chandeliers. The caterers are generous with ideas for other ways to make memories, for instance, by offering a snowflake sign-in board. Other than it might make us feel the cold wind of winter, this is a classy look for your bar or bat mitzvah.
For its fantasyland extremes, we had to put the Candyland bat mitzvah on our list of favorite theme mitzvahs. Featured on the PartySlate.com website, Candyland will take your family and your guests on a trip through environments taken directly from the classic board game. These include lands such as Cotton Candy Way, Gingerbread Road, Peppermint Lane, Ice Cream Cone Circle, and Lollipop Lane.
The party theme carried through to just about every part of the event. Guests ordered drinks such as the LemonHead Mojito and Pop Rocks Mojitos. Guests entered the room through a real candy arch, and you can only imagine that the sweets table was to die for. A+ for creativity to this Illinois family and party planner!
Make it your own by adding in your favorite parts of the classic Candyland game, and choose an outfit for the celebrant to match.
We had to add an international angle to our favorite mitzvah themes — merci beaucoup! The guests at this Chicago-area bat mitzvah were able to spend a couple of hours pretending they were attending a new gallery opening in Paris.
The room was decorated to look like a gallery with bright pink lights. Here’s one of the ways planners and parents worked together to gear the event toward the young person to make their special day. Covering the room were highlighted black and white snapshots of the bat mitzvah in various locations around this particular Chicago neighborhood.
You can tailor this theme to your mitzvah celebration easily by offering authentic French pastries and Eiffel Tower centerpieces.
Going all out to recreate a child’s board game is one approach. But we also found simple and touching creativity that emphasizes experience over set design. That’s why we had to get Purple Painting on the list of our favorite theme mitzvahs.
The party throwers aimed this event around harnessing the mitzvah’s artistic and free spirit. The theme focused on getting this across without exaggeration. The most elaborate decoration was suspended upside-down paint cans with purple cloth, made to look like they are were spilling paint. Other cute touches included paint-splattered candles and bouquets in paint cans.
The theme carried through the end of the evening. For dessert — cupcakes with edible paint palettes on them as toppings. This artsy theme was executed to perfection by a planner in Atlanta. It’s a purple world, people.
If you don’t like purple, there’s literally a rainbow of colors to choose from.
The World is Your Oyster
Since mitzvahs celebrate a coming of age, we had to add this theme to our list for you. The World is Your Oyster was an attempt to drive home the idea that the world is truly a big place, and it’s just waiting there for your exploration.
The decor included a travel-related motif — baggage tags, a globe, passports, and centerpieces celebrating monuments from around the world. Since this is a celebration about transition and discovery, the theme’s undercurrent is — Explore the world, but also discover new things about yourself throughout the rest of your life.
Classy French Affair
As we said, theme and venue go together. Just because you have a good idea doesn’t mean it will work everywhere. The Classy French Affair is next on the list of our favorite theme mitzvahs. This theme could work inside, in a museum, for example, or outside, as in this example.
This family took their mitzvah to a park outside Santa Barbara, California. The planners proceeded to create the sense and vision of a French Chateau. Having the event outside adds a touch of simplicity, as nature provides the major part of the decor. Why not start out encouraging your mitzvah to explore even while still close to home?
Since this is our second French theme, we want to remind you that France isn’t the only cultured place in the world. Is your child fascinated with Spain, Japan, or another place on the map? Use this theme as inspiration for highlighting another country’s offerings.
In our search for our favorite theme mitzvahs, we came across delightful and fun ideas. But we also landed on good advice on how to make sure the theme reflects your own special young person.
For instance, this writer on ReclaimingJudiaism.org offers the example of Seth. This bat mitzvah is very sports-minded, and the family first considered a tennis theme. But then they shifted gears and considered ways to make sports relevant on this occasion. Their choice: a celebration around the Maccabiah Games, which is an Olympic-style competition for Jewish athletes around the world.
That enabled the family to involve the entire guest list in a unique way. The guests made contributions for a trip to Israel so Seth could attend the Maccabiah Games.
Another family built a theme around a tenet that calls upon Jewish people to have a generosity of heart. That day’s mitzvah focused around the young man’s passion by encouraging others to become organ donors.
Your child’s bar and bat mitzvah is one of the biggest days in their young lives. You want to to make memories for your family, your child, and your guests. We love all these themes, and there are plenty of additional ideas to be discovered. Use them as a springboard for your own mitzvah celebration.
Choosing a fun, colorful, snazzy theme is a great way to make sure the party is memorable. For us, we see the Shiny Winter Wonderland as exactly our speed. Remember, too, having a memorable and joyful theme isn’t just about bells and whistles. Think long and hard about what makes your child special. Then find a planner who can build a theme around them. Most of all, have fun!