My Frugal Simcha features reader’s stories about their beautiful simchas – on a budget. If you have hosted a budget-friendly wedding, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Brit Milah or other simcha, we’d love to read about it! Please fill out this form to submit your story.
I have twin girls, both with special needs. Initially my plan was to have a modest low-key affair, with a Kiddush at the shul, Shabbat with my immediate family, and a small bat mitzvah party for the girls at a local mini golf center on Sunday.
It morphed, however, into something unexpected and memorable. We shared Shabbat with some of our closest family and friends (and their children), had a Kiddush in the shul, and then had a sleepover with some of the girls’ classmates.
We had a Kiddush in the shul for approximately 150 people and then lunch afterward with our family and friends. We had Shabbat dinner and the 3rd meal in our home, and I did the cooking myself. I have never cooked for so many people! It was a steep learning curve, but everything was fresh and delicious.
It helped that we kept to a very simple menu. I also have fabulous neighbors and I could not have done it without a lot of support from them, the community, my friends and my family. Everyone helped and gave a lot of good advice and assistance whenever they could.
We borrowed chairs and tables from a gemach and neighbors. I was unable to borrow tablecloths from a gemach, so I used blue plastic tablecloths, covered with white plastic ones — and this layering made clean-up very easy. We also had plastic dinnerware, serving pieces, and cutlery.
We did very simple centerpieces. I bought mirrors for $1.50 and plastic blue “sparkling ice” for $2.99 at Amazing Savings. A mother of one of my daughter’s classmates gifted us bud vases and white silk flowers from the Dollar Store.
We did not buy invitations. Instead, I sent a free invitation to everyone through email using evite. People responded back by email and it made it very easy to keep track of the number of guests we were expecting.
We did not have party favors or benchers. At the last minute I wanted to do something myself, but it appeared that the amount of work involved and expense exceeded my resources.
Housing for our out-of-town guests was provided by my neighbors.
My daughters are on special diets: one is allergic to wheat and is on the Feingold diet, and the other used to be on a feeding tube. So, except for the noodles, everything was wheat free and dairy free.
For the main course, we had split pea soup, gefilte fish, 2 kinds of chicken, Italian meatballs, cold sesame noodle salad, squash kugel, salad with 2 different dressings, and cooked vegetables. For dessert, we had cranberry ice (cranberry sauce pureed with ginger ale, frozen, then re-blended) and homemade, wheat-free cookies.
I used the wings and necks from the chickens and made the split pea soup in the pressure cooker. I bought the gefilte fish frozen and baked it. I served the meatballs with noodles on Friday evening and then on Shabbat shalosh seudis, I used the leftover noodles to make the cold sesame noodle salad.
My daughters had a wonderful time. For children with special needs, they are often excluded and rarely have a chance to experience what so many of us take for granted: a sleepover party with friends. It wasn’t always easy, but overall, everyone had a wonderful time.
By having it at our home and cooking everything myself, we reduced our costs by more than 50%, and everyone was able to share in our simcha. Good times were had by all, and definitely on a budget!
Shira is married and lives in Teaneck with her twin daughters. She works as a psychiatric nurse.