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    5 Ways to Plan a Bar & Bat Mitzvah On a Budget

    (1) Remember the meaning is in the mitzvah.
    It is the coming-of-age ceremony that brings meaning to the bar or bat mitzvah. Sure, you want to have a nice reception or party, but when you find yourself tempted to over-extend your budget, remind yourself: my child is becoming a member of the Jewish community, as did his/her ancestors for generations before, and this is why this day is special. When your teenager hock mier en chinik to hire the local celebrity bar mitzvah band: close your eyes, breath-deeply and chant three times:

    The Meaning is in the Mitzvah


    Here are four more pointers to ease the financial burden of a bar or bat mitzvah party, without compromising on quality or fun.

    (2) Be your own party planner.
    If you have the time, energy, and gumption, planning the mitzvah party yourself may help you save in two big ways: (1) skipping the party planner fee and (2) exposing yourself to less pressure to spend more. You can buy a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planner Book for around $14.

    (3) Consider a reception in the synagogue hall (why not?) or community hall.
    I've seen many synagogue reception halls and most of them are lovely, if not blank canvases that can be transformed by decoration into anything you wish. Another less expensive option than hotels or event spaces are community halls. For example, our old neighborhood had a big room in renovated loft space with a catering kitchen to rent for around $200 a night. The space was cool, modern and cheap. You may have a local park with a community room or a municipal building that rents the lobby space. For starters, go to local.google.com (set your location to your own zipcode) and then search for "community hall".

    (4) Rent a jukebox or fill up your teen's iPod.
    Consider renting a jukebox for around $300 or create your own jukebox ala iPod. Your teen can choose the music or you can download a Party Music Essentials playlist from iTunes. You may want to designate a friend or family member to DJ the iPod and make sure the sound system is set up to connect with it.

    (5) Make it more meaningful through borrowing.
    Borrowing Grandpa's tallis, yad or kiddush cup or Grandma's Shabbat candlesticks or Havdallah set doesn't just save you money: it is apropos. Your child's mitzvah signifies Judaism being passed down to a new generation.

    Borrowing for centerpieces can be an easy money-saver. Most people have a few clear glass or crystal vases in their home. Ask to borrow from your friends and family clear vases (telling them not to loan you anything sentimental or expensive). You can create centerpieces by grouping 3-5 vases together. Unify the pieces by using one or two varieties of flowers in coordinating colors. You can buy flowers in bulk either through Costco, Sams Club, your local farmer's market or online, for example: The Flower Exchange. The picture at right is from ApartmentTherapy.com.

    How to Green Your Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah: 5 Tips

    Finally, going green is no longer a fringe mission but something most of us are trying to integrate into many aspects of our lives. Kate Harrison of Green Mitzvot shares with us how we can make even bar and bat mitzvah greener.

    By Kate Harrison, Green Bar Mitzvahs

    Protecting the earth has always been a Jewish value:

    God placed the human in the garden of Eden to serve and keep it.
    Genesis 2:15

    Here are five ways to make your Bar or Bat Mitzvah eco-friendly:

    1. Invitations: Come to My Green Bar Mitzvah!
    Instead of buying glossy-coated Bat Mitzvah invitations that can't be easily recycled, pick invitations made from post-consumer waste (PCW) or recycled cotton. Electronic Bar and Bat Mitzvah invitations are another green option because they eliminate waste entirely. A number of Web sites now offer Jewish-themed animated cards as well as online RSVP tracking.


    2. Decorations and Favors: Style Your Bar Mitzvah PartyKobo soy candles @ ModernTribe
    Whenever possible, skip one-time-use disposable items like balloons, streamers, and plastic tablecloths for your Bat Mitzvah party. Instead opt for items that can be reused or that are made from sustainable materials. If you want to use candles, pick candles made from soy or palm oil instead of non-renewable petroleum to lessen their environmental impact. Avoid giving plastic toys and trinkets as favors--give guests favors they can use. Popular green favors include tree seedlings, organic or fair trade chocolates, and donations to charity.

    3. Flowers: A Bat Mitzvah That Respects the Earth
    Many Bar Mitzvah families decorate the bimah and reception tables with cut flowers, but most of the flowers available in the United States are grown overseas using harsh chemical pesticides. A great way to decrease the carbon footprint of your event while protecting workers and the environment is to buy locally grown organic flowers. Search localharvest.org for a list of growers in your area and consult your florist about local, seasonal options. Ask your florist if he or she can recycle the flowers by donating them to a hospital or charity after your Bar Mitzvah. Potted plants are another great choice because they are reusable and make nice gifts for friends and family to take home at the end of the night. Plus, they fight global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

    4. Food:
    My Organic Bar Mitzvah
    Whether you are cooking yourself or having your Bat Mitzvah catered, try to include seasonal organic ingredients as much as possible. Many companies now offer kosher organic meat and poultry; you can find organic fruits, vegetables and baking supplies at most supermarkets. Choosing organic food grown in a sustainable manner not only reduces your impact on the earth, but also ensures the freshest, most delicious flavors. Don't forget to ask your caterer about composting and recycling options, and see if leftovers can be donated to a charity like Mazon, a Jewish organization that provides food for the hungry.

    Go Green necklace @ ModernTribe
    5. Gifts: Green Bat Mitzvah Gifts
    Before your Bar Mitzvah, let your friends and family know what you want by registering for gifts so you don't end up with things you will never use. Try to pick eco-friendly items made from sustainable, recycled, organic, or natural materials. When looking for Judaica, select Bat Mitzvah gifts from Israeli artists or those made from renewable resources.