Ask My Readers | Bar & Bat Mitzvah Invite Question

Reader Q&AIf you’ve been reading KOAB for a while, you might remember my post last year about Bar & Bat Mitzvah expenses. The best part of that post (as with many!) was the discussion that went on in the comments section – so definitely check it out if you haven’t read it before.

Today’s Reader Question comes from Julie, who recently posted a question in that comment thread about invitees to her daughter’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah. Since we’re still five years away for our first Bar Mitzvah, I thought I’d hand this question over to those of you who have been-there-and-done-that.

Here’s Julie’s question:

We are planning my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah next summer. Instead of a luncheon/evening after her service, we are planning a trip to Israel the following July with extended family members. We are having a small kid-focused event the night of the service, but just with HER friends.

This being said, I am struggling with my invitee list. Because we aren’t having a large function, do we still invite cousins, our parent’s friends, co-workers who would have been invited if we were having a luncheon instead? We are planning to have a more extensive oneg after the service offering bagels, deli, kugel etc for about an additional hour but other than that, they wont be invited to any other sort of party.

I don’t want guests to feel they are invited to just bring a gift, but want them as part of this simchah. I am torn as to what the right thing is to do.

I am trying to think of a way to incorporate guests knowing about our Israel trip so they also aren’t confused as to why there isn’t any function information in the invite.

Can you help Julie out? Let’s talk about that tough subject of culling the Bar/Bat Mitzvah guest list!

Do you have a question about budgeting, couponing, menu planning, Bar Mitzvah planing or anything else? Please send me an email – I love hearing from my readers!


  1. Marcia Schorr says

    You could have an open house on Sunday after the Bat Mitzvah. You could keep it to about 2 or 3 hours & include the people who won’t be going to Israel.

  2. Sara Sue says

    I don’t know that you could do this – but we live in a different town from our family and were the first to have a simcha. I told everyone that in our area the norm is a large kiddush and a small party that night just for the kids – anything else would be considered “gauche” LOL!
    Seriously, the simcha is the fact that your child is being called to the torah and will be accepting their position as an adult – not the food! It is hard to remember that. Send the invitations to whomever you want and note that they are invited to join you for the services and kiddush. You might wish to include a card saying that any gifts will be used toward your childs Israel experience.
    Move yourself to higher ground – remember the spiritual aspect of this event and focus on that. If you keep your mind focuses on that everything else will be perfect!

  3. My son put on his tefilin at the Western Wall 2 weeks ago. His Hebrew birthday in on a Thursday, so we’ll do a little cake after morning services that day. For the “bar mitzvah” – we’ll be 15 people instead of 5 (3 grandparents, 4 cousins, 1 aunt, 1 friend) and having small family meals. The only thing we’re adding to the regular kiddush is a nice cake.

  4. I like the open house idea mentioned above. I do not know what your budget is, but everything adds up – and adds up quickly. I nearly choke every time I buy paper products for events at my house. We just had a Bar Mitzvah and decided to take the family to Israel. My husband was in a year of mourning so we only had a sponsored sit down Kiddush in the US after services and no US party really. We took some of his friends to the zoo. I did not send out any invites in the US except to out of town friends and family since we were trying to remain low-key. I may have offended people, but it was not with malice. I am interested to see what everyone writes. My etiquette is not up to that of Miss Manners. I need to get much better before I have to plan a wedding.

  5. Jennifer says

    I had one daughter become a Bat Mitzvah 2 years ago and I have another one coming up next year. I felt so pressured to include everyone and live up to everyone’s expectations that we ended up borrowing money and are still paying it off. I have definitely learned my lesson and will not do that again. You said that you are not having a big party, so don’t. I think that people will appreciate a nice kidush and in the invitation you should print that you will celebrate as a family in Israel. I think that people will realize that you are spending the money on the trip and they won’t expect to have a big party. If they are your true friends, they will be so happy for you. Don’t give into the pressure, your daughter will enjoy a party with her friends much more and the day should be about her, not the guests. Good Luck!

  6. On the invite, you simply invite them to the Morning service and write “Please join us at the brunch Oneg immediately after services”.
    You send the invite to EVERYONE that you can think of. It’s up to them if they come to the service/oneg.

    You may be over-thinking this and worrying that you’ll offend family/friends. Just keep it simple. People understand and people that KNOW you and your family should know that you are planning a trip to Israel. You could even ‘announce’ your trip to Israel on your FB page (once you think you’ve verbally spread the word to everyone).

    People should want to be there for your daughter and celebrate her Bat Mitzvah and the simcha whether or not there’s a 5 course sit down meal and disco…

    Julie- I sell invites on Etsy… contact me if you need help with that but certainly don’t feel bad for not having a huge ‘do’ for her Bat Mitzvah

    Hope this helps 🙂

  7. My son absolutely didn’t want a big party. He wanted a trip instead. He didn’t mind what we did for the kiddush. We did a big kiddush and included all the friends and family that we would have included had he wanted a party. I don’t regret doing for a minute what was right for my son and nobody seemed upset by just having lunch at the shul. I do think that we may have had fewer out of towners without a party, but those that really wanted to be there came regardless of a party. Just because convention says you do something doesn’t mean you have to do it.

  8. Also, if you prefer your son not to receive gifts you could tactfully put something on the invitations. Either no gifts or suggest a gift in his honor to a charity.

  9. Your kiddush idea is lovely. No need to do more. Tell whoever asks that you’re having a kids only party and add “no gifts” to the kiddush invitation as suggested above.

  10. It sounds like you are like me and do not want to leave out the people you care about and who are important to you. What I did was simplify my menu considerably and found the cheapest place possible and then was able to have all of my favorite people share in my simcha. If you really don’t want presents write so on the invite but I wouldn’t worry about that – let people do what they feel.
    There are so many ways to cut costs – paper goods at the dollar store or amazing savings if you have one, e-mail invites instead of mailing them, simple inexpensive foods like pasta, etc. Cut the costs, not the people you love!

  11. For my daughter, who is the oldest, we did the “traditional” thing and had a Shabbat morning service, Shabbat luncheon, and then in the evening we had party with a DJ for her friends. We got a lot of grief from family members, how come we didn’t invite them to the evening party. The reason was that it was a party for HER friends, not mine, not family, just her friends. In fact, my husband and I were the only adults there.
    For my son, we did something totally different. We had a morning Rosh Chodesh Shacarit service. We invited our closest friends and family. We had a small brunch and then the kids went to school, and we went to work. We had a party the following weekend for my son’s friends from school (he goes to a day school). The following summer we went on a trip which included another “Bar Mitzvah” in Israel. My parents, in-laws, and my brother’s family joined us. I don’t have any regrets and my biggest advise is: DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO, AND DO NOT CAVE INTO PRESSURE FROM ANYONE ELSE. IT ISN’T THERE CHILD OR THEIR AFFAIR TO MAKE. Good luck!

  12. You can actually print on the invitation something to the effect of “we will be continuing the celebration in Israel on this date…Please let us know if you will be in Israel …we’d love to have you join us.” Chances are there won’t be too many but at least you’ll feel like you did your part.

  13. Something that I tell everyone is to not overspend. One of the ways we
    saved money was to order our invitations through They had
    a nice selection, good suggestions, and great customer service. The
    Hebrew and English selections turned out great. Best of all, besides
    being the right price, you can request a sample invite.

  14. Personally I think it is a cop-out to go to israel INSTEAD of having a
    function for our bat mitzva. Just have the kiddusch and kids party,
    and go to israel without announcing it to everyone. Who says a nice
    kiddush is not enough?

  15. Invite everyone who you think would like to share your simcha. Having
    a kiddush luncheon afterwards is enough to keep anyone from feeling
    you’re just asking for gifts. If you have anyone coming from out of
    town, invite them to the kids event and have a table or some activity
    at that event that will interest the adults.

  16. we just had a similar event for our sons bar mitzvah so i couldn’t
    resist sending the wording we used on the main invite:

    ‘with overwhelming joy and thanks to hashem we invite you to share in
    the simchat bar mitzvah of our son….when he is called to the torah
    (insert date)…at the kotel, jerusalem, israel.’

    we had a separate card inviting those we wanted to join us for the
    siyum he made in his school a few weeks later. this way everyone we
    wanted to feel included could get the main invite, and those closest
    also got the small.

    julie can use the wording above for the service/oneg which is
    ‘telling’ people about it vs. inviting, especially since there is no
    rsvp card. good luck!

  17. I agree that “Your kiddush idea is lovely. No need to do more. Tell whoever asks that you’re having a kids only party”, but I would not say “no gifts”–whether or not people bring gifts doesn’t have to do with the fanciness of the party! Plenty of people do what you are doing without inviting people to a fancy Sat. night thing.

    You will probably want to have a Shabbat dinner for out of town guests on Friday night (or make sure everyone has home hospitality and dinner with their guests, and maybe arrange a dinner for any people staying at the hotel at which you’re reserved rooms, if any?).

    You are making a fine choice; there’s no issue/problem, IMO!

  18. Michelle says

    We had a kiddush, and meals for the out of town guests. No more. We also had a kids party on Sunday; it was paintballing. The out of town guests were invited. Only the kids actually came.

  19. We just had Bat Mitzvah for my daughter. She had a party for her friends and with the exception of a few adults that she had a relationship only kids were invited.

    She also leined on Shabbat and afterwards we had a nice hot kiddish (with rolls so people could wash). We had no official seating except for cocktail tables and we had no flowers. We invited good friends and family and that was it. It was a really nice event and everyone said that it was so nice to be at a low key event.

    If people get upset about not being invited to a simcha that is really their problem. The community needs to get over this whole giant simcha thing. It is a waste of money, resources and energy.

    By the way what ever you do do not waste any money on invites. You can do them free at evite or for a small fee at Paperless Post which has prettier invitation options. They aslo make it really easy to keep track of the guest list and to send out messages to the guests.

  20. Natalie Wolf says

    Our children have never received birthday presents from friends as it seemed over-indulgent given their blessings in general, so I would put on every kid birthday invite “Best Wishes Only – if you wish to honor child’s birthday, please consider making a donation to (insert charity chosen by child).” Good luck!

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