Even though it should all be about the journey into manhood and the spiritual introduction to religion, the reality is that for most of the parents - it is a celebration - having friends and family enjoy this special occasion.
In truth most families, and moms really look forward to it, especially the planning - and in many cases dads just pay the bill - which in many cases can go overboard. In all fairness to moms, this is the most important event that is their own; no other family involved and no in-laws to deal with.
Looking at it from a spiritual and religious point of view, coming into the age of 13 and being Bar Mitzvah is more than just a reading from the Torah, it is really a journey into a way of life, a Jewish way of life.
The journey begins with the date, as with every event, we need THE date and in this case it deals not only with the secular date but it is based on the Jewish calendar on the day you are born. We follow our Rabbi's teachings and we take his advice on how we should approach this, whether it is a path through orthodox, reform, conservative or any path in between, it is about learning and understanding the week's parasha known as the weeks teaching from the holy book, or Torah.
Tefilim is introduced to the boy at this point, and it is taught that its meaning is much more than just some leather straps that they put on. It is about becoming not only a man, but becoming part of a very special group called a Minyan, where you not only become part of your community, but also are counted as one to complete this special group in any prayer according to the Jewish faith. A Miyan (group of 10 adults) is needed in order to begin the prayers not only the day of your Bar Mitzvah, but to celebrate any of the Jewish events as well as the being part of the morning prayer.
The leather straps are the spiritual connection that the boy has to G..d where he can create his special bond, especially if he continues with the law that says you have to put them on every morning.
Moving forward and into the "celebration" part, the planning begins. The venue, the list, the theme, the details, the entertainment, and off course the budget. Weather we choose to get help from a professional or decide to venture alone, all this has to be done in order to create the experience and the memories we desire.
After everything has been decided, negotiated, and signed, we come across “Jacob's story". A very excited, yet shy young man that has no clue how to dance or even socialize with girls. 13, is an extremely difficult age that comes with anxiety; facing manhood according to the religion and its leaders, and on the other hand a social affair to celebrate the journey. Social = girls. That is another subject to consider. According to the Jewish tradition girls go through the same face of becoming a woman, even though in many communities - orthodox especially - it is not celebrated in the same way, they "enter" this journey a year earlier at 12.
So now we are at 13, a year older and being invited to THE Bar Mitzvah, is where we continue with Jacob's story. The common denominator is going to a party to have fun. Even though the other "Jacob's" are as nervous about the social interaction.
In Jacob's case, the mom was very well aware of his shyness and asked that we concentrate our planning and budget on making this a very special occasion and into making him feel good himself and here is where we made the difference…
His hobby is skateboarding, so we created a special skateboard, glow in the dark to complement the theme and the entertainment.
To break the ice of getting there, a team of professional skate boarders were at the entrance to greet them and guide them to the party.
Once inside, an interesting character was welcoming them at the door plus all the waiters with an array of appetizers. Instead of the normal, DJ music and dancing time, the skate boarders changed into a more urban outfit, and while the guests were entering the room and just having some appetizers, they started a break-dance show. No kids involved, just a show. Soon after they started teaching the kids how to do it, and one by one everyone was dancing and learning the steps. The ICE was broken and the confidence skyrocketed. So now the DJ is in full blast and with he help of the dancers everyone was dancing and having a great time.
Not done, buffet opened and kids start getting "tired" and looking for food, but we can't let the high come down, so after a short period of food and drink, lights turned out and a very interesting character came out with glow sticks and glow glasses, getting the kids and adults a little more energized and ready to go again. A very cool show inspired by the famous "Black Theater" in Prague, goes full force and ending with everyone on the dance floor just "glowing".
After all this, the kids started winding down and the dancers brought out a lighted cake and dessert buffet opened giving everyone time to relax and slow down.
For Jacob who was dreading the "social" scene, his words were: "the best, best time ever, and the best best Bar Mitzvah anyone has ever had. “
This was the "best" for all of us: we juggled with budget, avoided expensive centerpieces, chose a different menu to cut costs and made this THE BEST Bar Mitzvah ever...