My Frugal Simcha: A Simple Bris At Home

Rebecca Bris Baby Boy 1024x680 My Frugal Simcha: A Simple Bris At Home

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 Rebecca Weiss

I realize that this isn’t what most people want to hear. But sometimes you just need to do less. I think most people probably want to have a huge 200-person event with balloons, centerpieces, and all the works.

I think I could only do this because of sticker shock when I got married and my husband having a 4-year dry spell of looking for a job. Looking at a fistful of bills made me reassess a LOT of things.

This was our second bris, thank G-d, and things were different from our first. Both my father and father-in-law passed away in between our two smachot. They had wanted to pay for certain parts of the bris, which is customary since time eternal for the Sandek to do. This time around, we were definitely going to be operating on a significantly smaller budget.

Our first obvious cost to cut was the hall. The bris was on a Sunday and allowed us to let men daven where they wanted and come to our home at 9 after pretty much all minyanim were finished. We decided not to invest in favors, large amounts of flowers, a party planner, and more.

Instead, we opted to invest in something that would “kill two birds with one stone.” We painted the rooms where the event would be taking place in our home. They were in need of a paint job, and this would also allow me to rely on the appealing (bolder) colors as one angle of decor. I figured it was a worthwhile investment.

We invited the neighborhood and friends over for an ‘open house’ to enjoy pastries, coffee, OJ, and the ceremony. The coffee, sweetener, disposable Dixie coffee cups, and Tropicana OJ were deals that I had scored months earlier and stocked up on. The OJ froze beautifully.

After the ceremony we set up 2 tables quickly (I come from a family of uber helpful folks, where setting and cleaning up just happens and we love it. We’re good at it, too.)

The affair was Cholov Yisroel, so that wasn’t cheap for the cream cheese and cheeses. Since it was less than 30 people, though, one brick was enough. I found friends to do the food prep of a cheese platter, tuna, and egg salad at their home the night before. I provided them with the tuna and eggs that I had gotten a deal on.

For drinks, I only served water with slices of lemon. I think it’s classier anyway, truthfully. No soda, no juices. I used all my own serving pieces, which cut the cost of disposable serving-ware drastically.

We did not have birkonim or centerpieces. We had two simple bunches of sunflowers from Trader Joe’s, tastefully arranged by yours truly in vases I already owned. I had bought the vases with entertaining in mind, so they look good solo on our Yom Tov table or at an affair in pairs.

I skipped a chair rental and borrowed from a local Gemach. I skipped a photographer and went with two friends who are amateurs and like reasons to use their new D-SLRs.

Another option (that we didn’t go with) is to find a Mohel who does not accept payment (which is customary – the money you pay is a ‘gift’). It ran us $700 in Baltimore. If we could have gone the gift route, I would have found a big ticket item for a steal of a deal, or even a gift card deal.

The most important thing is that I kept my expectations *really low* and focused on enjoying the baby and the people there.

The My Frugal Simcha series is being sponsored this month by SimchaCentre.com, home to the “bencher pen” craze. Find deals on kippahs, benchers, ketubahs and more for your next simcha at SimchaCentre.com.

Rebecca Weiss is wife to a wonderful husband who recently found a job, and mother to two exciting boys. She also works full-time for the federal government. With her husband’s job being pretty close to minimum wage and daycare for two little ones being more costly than tuition, they cut corners where ever they can. Rebecca is able to enjoy saving by having a money-saving buddy/BFF (shout out to Nechamah C.!) and making a ‘game’ out of it, instead of feeling down about herself for not having a greater cash flow.

Comments

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Comments

  1. Rebecca: Sounds like you had a wonderful simcha surrounded by the people who you love and were thrilled to be there for you! Jodi (Chesterfield, MO)

  2. We just hosted a bris in November- we had it at our shul. Our home isn’t big enough and our shul community is a family to us so it was important to make the inclusion. They just accepted a donation which we were able to do reasonably. We did use a caterer- but we went really simple- just bagels etc for a light brunch. The caterer we used happens to be a friend, so he threw in some extra stuff as a gift, which was really nice. No extra decorations etc. and they weren’t missed. Our community was there and it was focused on our family and our son which is the important part. No distraction from all the extras. The people really made the event.

    Also, something that really helped with the mohel costs which I didn’t know until he gave us the paperwork for it- most insurance companies consider circumcision a medical procedure, so we were able to submit the costs and we got a good chunk back from our health insurance. Not all, but with the reimbursement it made the initial $800 a lot more reasonable!

  3. How much did the whole affair cost, then? Would you have repainted if you weren’t hosting a bris? For my son’s bris we used the shul my husband davened at – free – plus about $450 for a catered bagel breakfast, plus $350 for the mohel. That was it – never heard of party planners! Though admittedly I’d like to have spent less on food.

  4. It sounds lovely! I also used flowers from Trader Joe’s for my son’s Aufruf and they were perfect. I had bought 24 small glass vases at some outlet store and have been sharing them with my sister for all our simchas. Other than needing a cup of coffee, I think I would have loved this Bris!

  5. I can attest, as one of the amateur photogs (pic is good, no?), that it really was a nice bris. Having a bris at home makes it so comfy for mom and adds an extra bit of warmth to the “event”. I have a small house, so I could not have my son’s bris at home. Plus in my husband’s family they have a meat meal for a bris. To save costs, I limited the # of people who would come by having the bris later–that way only the people who were close family friends would stay for the meal. I also used a caterer who has his own hall in a local synagogue. My dad paid for the Mohel. We hired a photography student for $50 and got a CD full of awesome pics, I used a groupon to make a photobook out of them. No flowers or favors. So I think the grand total came to be around $1K, and since it was our first boy, it was well worth it, but very hard to shlep out to a hall 8 days after having a c-section.

  6. We were able to save some money by using a caterer that was already doing a bar mitzvah (I think) at the shul for lunch, so was able to cut set-up costs….they were already there and just had to throw together some platters of bagels, spreads and pastries on top of their event prep.

  7. Here are some other nice perks of doing an at-home bris:
    1. For those of us who will not be having a fully catered bris and will have to do our own set-up, it was really nice not to have to send my husband out to set-up at the shul/hall. We could set-up here and there on our own time.
    2. I did not feel the same pressure of getting a newborn and multiple siblings dressed and out of the house early in the morning. In fact, one of my kids had a meltdown and refused to get dressed. I was able to say “so stay in your pajamas!”
    3. After the bris ceremony, I was able to bring my baby upstairs and take care of him in my own space. It was comfortable and quiet and I was able to focus on myself and the baby.

    The one thing that I spent some money on was cleaning help. I hired my regular cleaning lady to come to our house early the morning of the bris to straighten up and to clean up afterwards.

  8. Houston Ima says:

    Wow – I’d never heard of all of those “extras” for a bris….and I’m so glad. Favors? Centerpieces? What are “the works”? Thank g-d I have 3 of my own kids (including 1 boy)…hosted all their brises and namings plus my nephew’s bris at my own house and each one was incredibly lovely and low-cost….why would people spend the money on “extras”? When did we lose the focus on the things that really matter?

    • Mara Strom says:

      I think this may also be a “regional” issue. In Kansas City, britot are also much lower key. I actually was thinking to myself that anyone who hires a party planner clearly must be finding out the gender ahead of time!

  9. Thanks for posting our simcha!
    @Carie – good to know about the insurance! I’ll have to call them, thanks!
    @Rachel – I’d have to go back and look at the receipts but it was definitely under $1K (remembering $700 of it was for the mohel.) Yes, our house was in need of a paint job, badly :-s We actually pushed to have it done before the simcha when during any other year I would have waited another few months for Pesach
    @surella – We had coffee! It was out for the first wave of folks that didn’t stay for the Seuda :-)
    and I do have to give credit where credit is due, I wouldn’t have done it so quickly had it not been for @Rivky S a good neighbor who paved the way!
    @Houston Ima, this was an East Coast simcha. I’m all for people spending lots of spare $ on smachot; it’s a wonderful thing! Better that than $ on ‘shtuyot.’ It’s our way of saying, ‘Thank you, H-shem! What a wonderful thing, the birth of a boy, to enter into your Covenant!’ You give me $ and I will spend it to glorify Your Name!’ That said, sometimes people go over the top and it’s distasteful, true. I’d rather see folks spend lots of money on a Simcha than on a luxury car, TV or Super Bowl party, frankly.
    In the more greatly concentrated Jewish communities you don’t need to know the gender of the baby to hire a party planner these days. Brooklyn, Lakewood, Toronto, LA, they’ve got you covered with 7 days (or less!) notice.

    • Mara Strom says:

      Wow – less than a weeks notice… I’m surprised! I guess that’s what happens when you have a super niche market though.

  10. This post briefly touches on dealing with a spouse’s long term unemployment. Is that a topic you would be willing to address in greater depth?
    Thanks for your great work!

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