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.
By Suzannah Luchins
We recently relocated from North Jersey to Houston, Texas. Along with recovering from the cost of a huge move, we had our daughter’s bat mitzvah four months after we arrived in our new city. We were fortunate enough to rent a big house with ample entertaining space, so we decided to have her bat mitzvah at home – which helped us save immensely on shul rental costs, waiting staff, and clean-up crew.
Instead of having the cost of two sit-down Shabbat meals, we decided to have a big kiddush and invite everyone from the community. We felt a kiddush was more casual and would allow us to meet more people from our new community. We anticipated about one-hundred guests.
A friend of ours loaned us 4 long tables, plastic platters, plastic bowls, and more from her son’s bar mitzvah last summer. This was a tremendous help, because serving pieces can be very expensive. We purchased the remaining supplies from Party City. We actually ended up returning what we didn’t open, so be sure to always hold on to your receipt!
One of the biggest challenges was the food. It would have been much easier to have it catered, but the estimates we got were extremely pricey. We decided to make most of the food ourselves. I asked a friend, who had recently attended a huge Chanukah kiddush, to help me plan the menu.
We came up with simple dishes: pasta salad, other various salads, vegetable trays, cholent, confections, and potato kugel (which I made with the bulk potatoes we had bought for making latkes, as the bat mitzvah was right after Chanukah). We made a dish each night during the week of the bat mitzvah in order to budget our time well. We purchased everything from Costco, using the member coupon booklet, of course!
A friend made pink and white cookies (a special request by my daughter), and another friend made challah rolls for us. My mother-in-law made her famous cholent. I realized that I was going to need more than 2 crock pots to cook it in, so I bought two patterned 4.5 quart crock pots on sale at Target for $15 each. I put them on the serving table and received so many compliments on them! I kept them and use them weekly now. We also ordered a cake from a well-known bakery and cookies from a local restaurant.
We had purchased Daphna’s dress for $10 from Goodwill two years ago. The dress had been a little big at the time, and now fit her perfectly for the bat mitzvah. We bought her a Kikki Rikki from a Chanukah boutique to match it (the dress was strapless), and shoes from Payless.
My dear friend made gorgeous bentchers with her color printer. She also hosted dinner and seudat shelishit for our immediate families and a close family friend, who all flew in from New York.
I was concerned, because Daphna’s bat mitzvah wasn’t going to be as extravagant as some of her friends’. She was very happy with the outcome, however, and said that she loved it and it turned out better than she could have hoped!
Suzannah is married to her husband Mordechai. Together with their two children – Ben and Daphna – they recently relocated as a family from New Jersey to Houston back in August.