How To Avoid Planning the Biggest Event of Your Life

April 19, 2016 — 79 Comments

avoid planning


I got married at city hall. I wore a white leather mini dress and white leather boots. I was going for an ‘Amy Winehouse retro’ look but ended up more ‘boozy Nancy Sinatra’.

Afterwards, we had a barbecue in our backyard. My lawn caught fire which I expertly handled by drinking copious amounts of tequila. I’m told I ran around the backyard in various states of undress, but I have no memory of that. It was pre-camera phones. Thank God.


I love to throw big parties, although admittedly, it’s been a while. I provide excessive amounts of food and alcohol, make an 8-hour mixed tape that whips the crowd into an orgiastic frenzy of dance, and pray that no one pees in my living room.

What I can’t do – or rather, what I loathe doing – is plan events like weddings. I got married at city hall precisely because I’d rather set my teeth on fire than worry about center pieces and invitations.

This is where “you do you” comes in. I’m sure there are scads of people who wouldn’t devote an entire Saturday to hunting down a Partridge Family lunchbox, like I did.


According to everyone in the free world, I should already have started planning my kid’s bar mitzvah. It’s in November. Most mothers where I live would have already booked a summer face lift.

There will be a Saturday morning service at the temple, at which time my kid has to read his haftarah– a portion of the Torah.

It’s endless pages of hieroglyphics, and everytime he practices it, I marvel at his ability to learn a language that’s written right to left, in a completely different alphabet. Considering most people I know mangle this one.

There’s a small brunch-y reception right after the service,the kiddush, and then a big party that night. I have to decide what we’re serving at both those events and it has to be kosher, and what foods are kosher?! and did I forget to mention that my Ex used to call me “the Shiksah” because I don’t know jack shit about my own religion?

I should have already picked a venue. Places are booked a year in advance. But they won’t re-open CBGB’s to host a bar mitzvah, and beyond that, I don’t care.


A month ago, I was asked what my kid’s “theme” will be.

Theme? I was having a fun little fantasy wherein I begin every conversation at the party with “So, these adult diapers I’m wearing” and then this…theme thing happened.

I went into protective mode. I became a hedgehog whose life is threatened. I shot up my prickly spine and hissed and hoped it would all go away.

The decor and centerpieces are supposed to reflect said “theme” and I’m wondering if the theme can be “themeless.” Just like this blog.

My kid is looking forward to a party – after all, he’s been studying for 5 years – but he’s not invested in how elaborate it is. He did, however, also ask about the “theme.” HISSSSSS.

I have to pick out invitations and pre-invitation invitations, ‘Save the Date! notices. This locks people in so they can’t get a better offer at the last-minute and ditch us.

I have to decide who we’re inviting, and who we’re leaving out because we’re not inviting everyone we’ve ever known and I’m capping this bitch at 50 people.

We’ll need a DJ. But not JUST a DJ.

You need pyrotechnics and flashmob choreography. People hire entertainment companies, complete with girls dressed like rap video hoes, to get everyone shaking it on the dance floor. And to get air humped by pubescent boys.


Traditionally, the bar mitzvah boy has personalized yarmulkes (beaniescreated in his favorite color, with his name and date printed inside. Little Dude cannot make up his mind what color to have, and recently suggested rainbow-colored. Which would be convenient, if we were going straight from the bar mitzvah to the Gay Pride parade.

I need to wear grownup clothes to this. Not just one outfit – I’ll need TWO. One suitable for a morning service at the temple, and one for the party that night. I have to buy these because I DON’T OWN CLOTHES LIKE THAT.

I’ll probably break tradition and wear a rock tee-shirt and jeans to the party that night because (this is becoming my mantra for the event) WHO CARES? My kid is fine with that, but has already put me on notice that I have to wear something “mom-ish” to the morning service.

I’ve decided to purchase an expensive, tasteful dress at a local department store. I’ll wear it with the tags still on it, Febreze the shit out of the armpits and return it the day after.



My mother passed away last fall, and while going through her belongings, I found ancient family photos. One yellowed packet contained photos of my eldest brother’s bar mitzvah. It was right before my father died, leaving my mother a widow with six kids.

It’s the only bar mitzvah my family had, although I have no memory of it beyond these photos.

I am 3 years old in the pictures. I don’t remember my father, or the mother of those pictures. She is laughing and whirling. She is beautiful; her body svelte and her flaming red hair matching her red lips. She is holding a cigarette in slender fingers just like mine, elegantly photographed at some catering hall in the Bronx, I suppose.

I do remember my brother, although he too, is gone now. There’s one picture of him holding me, laughing. Behind us are our parents, who are smiling for the camera, but mostly for the day and the joy it held.

Everyone but me in that picture is gone.

All that remains is a faded analog reminder of a different era; a time when we were all still alive and together and happy.


My son deserves his day.

Tomorrow, I start planning.


Are you good at planning these events? Do you want to plan this one?
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

Join me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter  so I can have friends without leaving the house.

79 responses to How To Avoid Planning the Biggest Event of Your Life

    Gretchen Kellaway April 19, 2016 at 11:23 am

    Why not a Rock Concert Theme- you could totally make that happen!?! Then wearing your skinny jeans and a concert tee makes sense!

    I DJ’d a bar mitzvah once and it was so geared towards the adults that I finally had to stop my boss to get the kids up to dance. We also did Karaoke- which the kids loved. It was way more subtle, but that was 15 years ago and apparently these too have changed to something a bit more like the crazy weddings I have attended in recent years. I don’t DJ anymore. Of which some days I am sad.

    If you need help, let me know, I am the queen of budget friendly party planning!


      Yes, PLEASE do help me! And you live pretty close to me, too!

      Only, I can’t just decide to do a rock concert theme! This is LD’s party, not mine! He probably wants the theme to be “Ancient Egypt” and I’ll have to build a sarcophagus…

        Gretchen Kellaway April 19, 2016 at 7:00 pm

        Ancient Egypt is totally doable! I have a book on it with hyroglyphs and everything. I made a sarcophagus in 7th grade, sacrificed one of my barbies to be mummified! Coolest project ever.

        Centerpieces being ancient urns with gold hyroglyphs! Get the dude on it!


    I LOVE doing theme parties!! But like you, I wouldn’t have any desire to plan a wedding. Ick.


    My sister got Yarmulkas for her wedding from
    They have fun bright patterns, and aren’t hideously expensive.

    If your synagogue does events, it might be easier to just hire their event planner for this. It’ll make your life a lot easier.
    (Our wedding was planned in about 6 hours, and turned out exactly as we wanted it.)



      Little Dude loves these! I like them too – thanks for the link!
      It’s going to take me a little longer than 6 hours, but I think I can get it done with minimal stress. Good food, alcohol and good music are universal to every good party.

      It’s really nice to see you! Thanks for stopping in.


    You are the best mom, ever, Sam. LD will have His Day and years in the future you will be so happy when you look at the pictures of the smiling happy people. Fist pump for courage and hi^5 in advance for a party well planned.


      I don’t know if I’m the best mom, but I’m pretty dang good.
      Except when I’m not…

      Hey, don’t you have a birthday today? Happy Birthday!


    I’m with Gretchen – you would kill a rock concert theme. I have no other input aside from the fact that I can’t get a picture of you in your wedding dress out of my head.


    Rock concert theme! Yes.
    And you go, Mama. You’re going to rock this event in total LD/Samara style. And you are going to create a party no one will forget (whether or not there’s photographic evidence to be used against you in a court of law.)
    Loved this post. (But then again, you know how sentimental I get…)


      Whoa, everyone has me deciding on a rock concert theme! haha!
      But this has to be LD’s decision, not mine, and he is NOT a huge rock music fan.

      He probably will want The Cosmos, or something nerdy like that. I have no idea. Oy.


    I feel like the same thing is happening with my wedding! “What’s your theme?” “Uhhh…me.”


    Thank God for the internet!! You can search for ideas and cheat. LOL. I’m one of those people who loves to plan events and I get totally into it. Wish we lived closer!



      Okay, so what do I search on the Internet? “Bar mitzvah planning for idiots?”


        LOL! There must be a Bar mitzvah for dummies book out there! If you want to give me a list of the things you need, I’d be happy to do some searching. I’m a good travel agent as well! 🙂


    I’m dying over rainbow colored yarmulkes and your phrasing!
    Yeah, no, I don’t even throw big birthday parties for my kids, and I got married in a sundress in my parents’ back yard, so I have no idea how to plan a bar mitzvah in this day and age! I read a book about a woman planning her daughter’s bat mitzvah, and while the character went into the details of those she attended, I basically thanked God I was a heathen and I wouldn’t need to do such a thing.
    Things have gotten a little too… extravagant in the last decade or so, me thinks.


    A city hall wedding would be a flashy and grand affair compared to mine. However, looking at the pictures years later it really doesn’t matter where it or how it happened – and it might not matter to you or LD later either.
    …I wonder if you can do the bar mitzvah at the city hall….


      THAT’S a great idea – I wonder?

      The important thing here is celebrating the fact that LD has worked really hard. And that I’m incredibly proud of him.

      Now, if we can just figure out a way for me not to have to wear a mom dress…


    Hehehe a) I kind of love the idea of rainbow yarmulkes, and b) you were reading my post and commenting while I was reading yours, which is AWESOME!

    I can’t BEGIN to tell you how pleased I am to know you’re capping at 50 for the party, because (if I make the cut) I think many more than that and even MY extrovertism would be stretched past a limit or six.

    So proud of LD for all his hard work and his amazing knowledge and all the things which go into the preparation for Bar Mitzvah. I know he’s worked really hard and it’s lovely to celebrate his success and this important milestone.

    As for themes you both could work around – how about books?


    I have many thoughts. Let’s start with harder and work toward easier. First, it just split my heart open to learn that your entire family of origin, including siblings, is gone. How can that possibly be? I am so sorry. Now more positive. Congratulations to your son! Even if he is not religious, there are important lessons about ethics and goodness that will remain. And, finally, I am proud of you as a mother and generally as a very fine person and friend.


      Hi Mr. M – I do still have a sibling left – my parents and other brothers are gone. But thank you. It is very hard to not have much family.

      My kid is growing up with an appreciation for his religion. Whether he will retain that appreciation is another story, but I like the idea that this gives him a choice.
      As always, thank you for saying such complimentary things. xo


    Your lawn caught on fire? Oh my. So much about this post made me laugh. Do the absolute essentials..themes etc. The rest will sort itself out. LD is a smart one so I’m sure he will think of a memorable theme. You will throw a bash in your style. If people have issue with it, screw them. Your memory of the picture choked me up. You have a way of drawing out my emotions. I told you that before. ❤


    Good luck with this. 🙂 I completely understand your reluctance.


    I’m kinda in the same boat. My boy’s annaprasan ceremony (which basically celebrates the first time he will eat solid food) is in three months, and I just got a 100 person guest list from my mom, which she insists is all family. I’ve to book a fancy-ass place, send custom invites, and then make phone calls to every single family. There has to be breakfast followed by a one hour ceremony followed by elaborate lunch. Fuck me twice on Sunday.
    I’m probably not doing it.What does a six month old care about ceremonies anyway!


      Is there seriously such a thing?? Oy!! Good luck lol!


      Oh my word! 100 person guest list? Parents are wonderful, aren’t they? They never want to exclude “anyone,” including their former neighbors from 30 years ago (true story). I never knew about this ceremony – so I learned something new! Good luck. 🙂


        Apparently these people (family, friends, neighbors, neighbors’ family and friends, etc.) have to be invited because they invited us to their parties and now we’re indebted to them for life.


        Haha! Apparently it works the same way for the Jews. My in-laws keep adding to the guest list for the 50th wedding anniversary I’m hosting for them. Mom keeps calling me with, “I’m only adding one more, I promise.”


        Yeah, fuck that.


      Holy shit, for a 6 month old??? Nooooooo! hahaha

      I do enjoy hearing about the customs of other cultures, though. Thanks for telling me about this!


        Seriously. Does it seem curious that people make such an issue out of my feeding my child in public right now, but want me to throw a party when I feed him in public later. Nutcases, I tell you.
        Btw, each of our customs is crazier than the last. Not fun if you’re living it.


        Jewish customs are BIZARRE. I may do a whole article about them.


    I do enjoy event planning. I enjoy it more on someone else’s dime. 🙂 Everything is so expensive these days. We did our own wedding in our backyard and it was very lovely and very us. You’ll do fine, and there will be photos that someone will look at years from now to prove it. 🙂


    I was loving this post, especially your wedding memories, and then wham! You hit me with the losses you’ve had. And I just want to say I’m so sorry. Now that that’s out of the way – I am feeling your pain about event planning. I grew up in the restaurant business, cater weddings alongside my mom when she needs me to, and so I know I know a thing or two. HOWEVER, in a moment of complete insanity (and maybe a few cocktails) I announced that “I” was throwing my in-laws their 50th wedding anniversary party in June. AT OUR HOUSE. (I will be blogging about this just as soon as the alcohol wears off.) My MIL is a wonderful lady who has wonderful ideas, though the last ones were abhorrent suggestions of adding pickled herring and gefilte fish, and then I wondered if SHE’D been drinking. Anyway – the bar mitzvah will be wonderfully You and little dude (good luck keeping that bitch to 50). My nephew’s bar mitzvah 3 years ago was themed “Joseph’sTechnicolor Bar Mitzvah” – his name is Joseph, of course), with tie-dyed t-shirts, printed with the title on the back, for everyone and tie-dyed yarmulkes. Very cool. Maybe you just do a rock and roll theme?


      Oh, and FUCK the mom dress. I think you should channel your old wedding attire. Especially the boots.


      That disgusting fish stuff is what’s typically served at the breakfast reception after the service, with bagels and lox and stuff. VOMIT. I want quiche and pancakes. Bacon, too, but that’s not gonna fly.

      I LOVE the technicolor idea! Because what else do I need besides tee shirts and tie dyed yarmulkes?


    Hey lady! You know we had our bar mitzvah a few weeks ago! But we’re not gonna compare our bar mitzvahs, are we 😛😛
    Mine was orthodox 😉 I hate planning but it was actually fun in the end! We don’t do themes, thank G-d!!! I lived on Pinterest for a few weeks and the result was stunning! (Did you see the pics on my blog?) but I would freak out too if I had to start so much planning… good luck and find someone to help you!!


    Not making this up. In 2005, Aerosmith, the Eagles, and Tom Petty were paid millions to play a bat mitzvah. Now, THAT’S a theme. You might want to consider something like that. If you do, I’m coming.


      Dude, I KNOW you’re not making that up, because I wrote about it in another blog post. Ha!

      I checked the Stone Pony, too, and they wanted like $20,000 grand to shut the place down for a party. I passed by one night and saw a bar mitzvah there, and snuck in. Very cool. There was a big black dude giving out autographed basketballs. I think he was an NBA player.


    Isn´t bar mitzva already a theme? 😀 I refused to plan my own wedding. I said we were having none else than the public ceremony and then gave in after my mothers low angry voice talking in style of “you can´t do this to your grandmother”. So I said, if she wants the party, she can organize it herself (I enjoyed it greatly all as I didn´t have to move one finger for it). Maybe if I wouldn´t have been spending months dealing with marriage with a foreigner paperwork, I would have cared more about the actual ceremony and party. Anyway, my dress cost me 50 euros and I´m planning to wear the shit out of it this summer although it is a little elegant. It has flowers on it so I hope the dirt won´t show too much. As for the guests, we had 26 (or 24?) and I felt it was just about right. (His family couldn´t attend unfortunately.) I got to talk to everyone at least. I am thrilled to see how your planning goes on the other hand!


      Sadly my kid has no grandparents, which would be the only compelling reason to make a big party out of this.

      25 people sounds perfect! Maybe I’ll chop the guest list in half.


    FUCK no – I do not like planning these things one bit. I am good at small, intimate events like the surprise-party for my son’s 21st birthday. I’m still proud of that even though all it required was a batch of my famous empanadas (kosher, but only if the dough and sofrito are made from scratch leaving out the “ham flavor” and whatever kind of lard they traditionally use in dough), a purchased cheesecake and a series of texts to his best friends.

    My husband & I did the elopement wedding – which I first had to explain to the hubs after he had already blabbed to his sisters who hounded us for the date, time and place. His youngest sister didn’t speak to me for at least 4 years after that because I didn’t do it her way. Fuck that bitch…

    Hey – my husband used to DJ at the Breakfast Club in NYC back in the day! He is affordable, plays real-deal music of your choosing and actually knows how to MIX; unlike the jackheads of today who set their laptops & iPods to “random”. He still has 2 turntables! (& also uses the electronic mixer/iPod combo which mixes, fades & samples like old-school equipment). Ok. Enough free advertising for the husband…

    Good luck! Mazel Tov or whatever they say…(from the “half-Jew”; remember?) 😉


    **We recently saw Fiesta Entertainment (in the Bronx, in action at a wedding in Long Island. The DJs were good and they do this slideshow thing with their own photographers. They did the photo booth at the wedding also.


    My bar mitzvah was low key. It was supposed to be a big dinner party – which is what my parents wanted, not me – but plans got changed when my grandmother died.

    Okay, I’ve suitably brought the mood down. Now go plan!


    So … How goes the planning? 😉


      It doesn’t. 😳


        That’s my kind of planning! The best parties are the ones that just get made up as they are happening. Too much structure takes the fun out of it.


        I agree usually- but we can’t do that for a bar mitzvah! I have to at least book a place and hire a DJ (um- hello?). I won’t be able to get that if I wait too much longer.

        That’s it, though. I’m not worrying about theme and centerpieces and outfits and goody bags and invitations.

        Ugh. I do need invitations. I’ll do that online in 5 minutes.

        I’ll think about food closer to the event. There must be good desserts.


        On a side note, I think it’s time for me to sell my turntables and maybe ditch the dj part of my name.


        NO NEVER!!
        Ugh. Too many things are changing right now. I’m clinging to my youth, and yours as well.


        Things are always changing. The only difference is sometimes we are paying attention.

    Jessie, FlusteredMom April 24, 2016 at 10:06 am

    I waited until the last minute to plan my daughter’s sweet sixteen and it was awesome. We had a black light theme. Rented a bunch of black lights and decorated with neon gaffers tape and lots of white. Come to think of it…I planned my wedding in six weeks and it turned out beautiful…too bad the marriage didn’t lol.

When I see the orange light, I have a BLOGASM...

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