Being a photographer, a leader in our Industry, and covering  once-in-a-lifetime events for clients for the last 30 years has offered me the luxury and luck of having “seen it all.”

I work so hard at what I do. The pure, sheer love of capturing a moment in time, an emotion, a “characteristic look,” and a piece of family history…  I feel I am a part of something so much greater than I know and I am adding to a family’s pictorial and historic legacy.   I am so thankful to be invited into the lives of each family we have worked with in the past and continue to work with in the future.

I always tell my clients to try to really take it all in and enjoy the “planning” experience for their child’s Mitzvah as well as the actual day! The day flies by so fast that it really is important to take the time to enjoy all of the months of pre-planning and savor every moment leading up to the big day!

Even though I’ve seen it all and know a lot, it doesn’t mean that I know it all!

Because of this, I have decided to chronicle my Mitzvah experience not only to preserve the memories, but also to offer advice and support to all of you Mitzvah moms who may be going through the same journey as me.

Here are some points of guidance that I can offer when beginning the Mitzvah planning process.

  • Surround yourself with professionals that share your vision. Real professionals that know the importance of teamwork can be one of the secrets to a successful party.
  • Make sure you are confident and comfortable with your catering manager or hire an event planner to oversee the event. It is important you are a hostess and can truly enjoy the experience with family and friends.
  • Experience brings comfort and comfort equals trust. We are all spending a lot of money to make this day special so spending it wisely is key.
  • Create a list of all the variables and things to do to pull off your event by your date. I see parties planned a month in advance and I see clients that begin two years prior. Anything is possible today, however careful planning and delegating will allow for the entire process to be fun and exciting.

I see and capture all facets of a Mitzvah and feel I have a personal as well as professional perspective and could potentially really help others going through this overwhelming process.

Please check back on our blog periodically to follow my journey as I plan my daughter Emily’s Bat Mitzvah. Below are some topics I will touch upon.

  • Location/Venue                                                    
  • Invitations
  • Synagogue
  • Photography, Video, and Montage
  • Entertainment
  • Décor/Lighting
  • Cake
  • Looking Good (Clothes/Hair and Make Up)
  • Miscellaneous (Yamukas, Tallis, Giveaways, etc.)


Selecting your location for the celebration is one of the first tasks to do once you receive your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah date from the synagogue.

There are so many great options out there. What type of space best reflects you, your family and your style and will work with your personalities on this very exciting and busy day?

I suggest thinking about these few questions below:
1)      Do you want a formal or informal celebration?
2)      Do you want a separate party in the evening in addition to a post-service Saturday morning Kiddish?
3)      How many guests will you have?  Adults? Children? (This will determine where you can fit.)
4)      Is a Havdalah service (early Saturday evening post-Shabbat) an option for your family and Temple? This would be a solution if you only want one party and are not committed to having a Saturday AM service in your Temple.
5)      Is it important for you to have children and adults all in one room the entire evening? Does the place you like fit everyone?
6)      Think about what type of a location you like:

  • Hotels-Full-service
  • Loft Space– Need to bring in tables, chairs, and rentals which might be more work and you will need to hire a party planner to help you.
  • Night Club– Great for a kid’s party, but the space may not be as clean as some others and you may need to be out by 11pm when the night club opens to the public.
  • Game Places-The food usually isn’t their specialty here, however they have built-in activities for the children like arcade games.
  • Restaurant-May be great, but might not have a large enough space for all guests (kids and adults) to sit together.
  • Country Clubs-Easy and full-service, however you may need a party planner and rentals, but it’s your home away from home.
  • Your Private Residence-The location is meaningful, but planning an event at your home can be expensive and a lot of work. You will need a tent for a rain option.

I selected Eventi Hotel after not finding a location near Central Synagogue that I liked, could afford, and thought was fun and new for us. All of my guests can fit in one ballroom at Eventi and the hotel is new, clean, cool, and perfect for my family.

This was a party that my company had shot at Eventi late last year. My daughter’s party is going to be purple, too! Stay tuned to see what my room decor looks like!


Everything was absolutely perfect for us on the day of our event.  I worked with Dino Bavaro from Eventi Hotel on every last detail!  He was incredibly accommodating both before and during our party!  He worked with my entertainment company on the timeline that Evan Tyler (E Three Productions) provided him to ensure that they worked as a team and the party flowed beautifully from one moment to the next… from entrance through to toasts, candlelighting, montage and so much more!!!   We wanted to make sure our guests had ample time to eat and party.


More photos from my daughter’s party! Gotta love the Hotel Eventi!


Selecting your invitation is one of the elements of planning your event that I find to be the least stressful.  Once you determine the location, timing and number of guests, you are ready to meet with an invitation company.  This is such an exciting part of the planning because it is the beginning of “setting the mood” for your celebration!

Each invitation company has their own favorite designer lines that they work with and will have sample books for you to go through with your child. Invitations can range from $5.00 – $10.00 for panel cards that are basic and simple to $50.00 – $100.00 per invitation depending on your budget and how elaborate the invite is.  The more expensive invitations have several cards, ribbons, layers, pockets and more!  Obviously, your budget plays a big role in what you will purchase.  Please be aware that whatever invitation you do select will have to get to your guest through the mail.  Postage can add up!  Some families even select an invite that is more extensive that needs to be hand delivered!  I have seen it all.

Below are some wording choices that you can use at the beginning of your invitation. For more suggestions, ask your contact at your invitation company. They will guide you.

Please join us as our daughter
Emily Rose
is called to the Torah as a Bat Mitzvah
With love and pride
(name of parents)
invite you to share in their joy
as their daughter
Emily Rose
is called to the Torah
as a Bat Mitzvah
(name of parents)
Invite you to join them when their daughter
Emily Rose
is called to the Torah as a Bat Mitzvah
We invite you to join our family
in ceremony and celebration
as our daughter
Emily Rose
is called to the Torah as a Bat Mitzvah

As a side note, make sure you put aside an extra set of your invitation pieces and RSVP cards so that your photographer can utilize them in your photography album.  At our studio, we scan them and create beautiful first pages in albums. 

Sometimes, clients don’t realize this and don’t keep any extras so it’s a good idea to think ahead and set one aside.

Please be aware that the actual invitation you select has one price, but there are costs to the additional pieces as well including the RSVP card and envelope, party card, and/or transportation cards. There are also additional charges incurred for calligraphy, postage, artwork and printing set up fees.

I suggest you shop at least two invitation companies to see a variety of invitation styles at different costs.  I was shocked to find out the price of invitations and did not have the proper cost on my budget list.

I also suggest you come to your appointment with some knowledge about your thematic concept for the party and any colors or logos you are considering.  This will help the invitation company prepare some samples for you before you arrive.  I am sure you have received many invitations to events through out the years, but styles change and you are now looking with a different eye.  I also suggest you discuss your budget on the phone before you go to your meeting.  The last thing you want to do is show your child a very expensive invitation that they ultimately will want and you cannot afford or do not want to purchase.

There are two invitation companies that I recommend you to check out!
1)    Judy Paulen Designs
Located in Bloomingdales 1000 Third Avenue New York, NY 10022
Contact:  www.judypaulendesigns.com

2) Alpine Creative Group
30 East 33rd Street New York, NY 10016
Contact: Laura Leigh 212-989-4198

My daughter Emily and I were late in ordering our invitations for too many reasons to get into!  The good news is that we did a Save-the-Date that we mailed out in early November so we would give our guests a “heads up” approximately 6 months before our party .  I am so happy we did that because I have already heard from at least 5 different friends and relatives that they are thrilled we had sent a Save-the-Date because they changed their plans to be with our family for this amazing day in our lives.  Please check out the PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO section of this Blog post for more information and ideas we can help you with for all your creative components for your event.


Emily and I went to Judy Paulen Designs to order our invitations!!  We are so excited about our selection and can’t wait to share what we picked with our readers soon!

2/29/12   (Leap year!)
We ordered our specialty stamps at a site called www.zazzle.com.   They do take a week to arrive at the least, so we will be slightly delayed in sending our invitations out because of this. I am also waiting on the calligraphy for the outside envelopes that I was also late on . As soon as you have bought your invitations, get your list right over to your calligrapher so they can start to look over your list and clean it up!  I found this facet to be a bit overwhelming because you think you know all the information for your guests until you realize you don’t know all the name spellings, correct addresses and so much more!

Cleaning up this list on your own early on will help you tremendously!  Trust me!  It helps you determine how many adults and children you will be inviting as well as who is considered a child and/or young adult.  This will also help in figuring out head counts and seating for the caterer–especially if you are not having assigned seats for the kids.  The caterer will need an accurate head count and this will help you organize yourself.

We are so excited!  Our invitations have finally arrived and are everything we dreamed of and more.  They are so beautiful!   We are now waiting on  our specialty stamps and the calligraphy envelopes and hope to have the invitations in the mail by THIS Friday, March 9th!  That is almost exactly 6 weeks before the party and perfect timing!  We waited too long on this stage.  Learn from my mistakes and start this process early on!


Our invitations have been out in the mail for about one month now.  The RSVPs are flowing in… and every day we get home my family is so excited to check the mail and see who is coming to the celebration!! I am happy to say that the Save-the-Date was a great idea because many people we wanted there with us can come because they knew of the date siz months ago!! I strongly suggest a Save-the-Date card to take some of the pressure off the planning.  Also thinking about who you want at your party very early on will help you have the time to reconnect with family and friends before the big day, and it will also help define how many guests you will be having and what size location venue you will need!


Now that our invitations are out I can now share it with YOU… my readers!!!


Don’t forget to take your actual invitation with all of the parts to the post office to have everything weighed.  I was thankful that my post office knows me and cares and I was told I would need to pay more postage because the invitation was oversized.  Weight was not the only determining factor in the price to mail.  It would have been an absolute disaster to mail without double and triple checking this!  I can’t imagine having all my invitations returned in the 11th hour for incorrect postage!

Having beautiful designed thank you notes to match our invitations made the thank you process slightly more fun for my daughter Emily!  She has now completed all of her thank you notes because we had the note cards sitting at home waiting for her to do them! Since Emily’s theme was baking, we decided on a concept for the thank you note that was unique and special.  I have enclosed a sketch that Emily and I came up with together for a “thank you cake” that we actually  wanted to bake  and photograph for the custom cards we were designing.  I had the luxury of designing cards that my company can have printed.  This is a creative product that we offer our clients as well.

Emily was involved in the designing of them and is doubly proud to send them out because she loves them!

Don’t forget to order additional postage for thank you notes when you order your “special stamps” if you want everything to match!


TIP: Save an extra invitation to use as a design element in your album along with any other printed materials from your Mitzvah that you had designed (i.e. escort table cards, table numbers, stamps, etc.)  


Surprisingly,  this blog entry was not one of the first for me to have discussed with you!  I am stating this because our Temple commitment  has been a strong part of the Mitzvah planning from very early on.  We have become much more involved in our synagogue and all of its requirements because of our daughter being in Hebrew school as she studies for her Bat Mitzvah.  The great news is I love my Temple!

My daughter Emily has been going to Hebrew school since she was in third grade.  I know there are so many different synagogues in the Tri –state area with one or two-day Hebrew school programs. Each Temple prepare their young Jewish adults differently.  This is the start to having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah!

My family and I are members of Central Synagogue on 55th and Lexington Avenue in New York City.  It is such a beautiful synagogue with amazing history and the sanctuary is so peaceful. I find myself staring at the beautiful, colorful stained glass and incredible woodwork everywhere around me.  We have a wonderful community with devoted clergy and I have been thrilled to welcome religion so much more into my life.  My daughter is so lucky to have our head rabbi, Rabbi Peter J. Rubinstein, officiate her service and the most amazing cantor, Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl, to sing side-by-side with her on the bimah.

Central Synagogue has a great Hebrew school program.  We have been so much more involved as a family in our Jewish traditions.   We went on a retreat last year with other families in our congregation who are also going through this exciting time. We have been studying the history of my family and of my husband’s family and our Jewish journey from Eastern Europe.  It has been really interesting to get clarification and understand who we are as Jews and why our family practices certain traditions.

So you see… it is not just your daughter or son being called to the Torah because they want a party only!  The celebration is, and should be,  a celebration of all their hard work and how proud of them we are as we see the young Jewish adult they are becoming! In life, we help to define our children and our children help to define us!


Take a look here at our portfolio collection of Mitzvah House & Temple shoots. These shoots usually occur the week of a Mitzvah where one of our photographers will meet your family for photos in your Temple clothes prior to the actual Mitzvah day. Depending on each family’s needs,  we can head back to your home for some casual family shots. We find that photographing your child in his/her room and documenting this stage of their life is unique and special and yet another way to remember your child’s first 13 years. 


Some families choose to hold a Havdalah service rather than having a service on Saturday morning. There are Temples that do not offer the option of leading a Havdalah service at their location and some of our clients hold the service at the same location as their party. The Havdalah service features a braided candle and is a nice way to close out the Sabbath. Take a look at some of our favorite Havdalah photos below.



The commitment for your child grows a lot as you get closer to the date.  I am now taking my daughter not only to Hebrew school on Mondays, but every Wednesday to tutoring with the Mitzvah tutor, and now we also have meetings with the Rabbi and the Cantor once a week until the big day!!  We are now in the home stretch!  Emily’s Bat Mitzvah date is this April 21st!

I say “we” because it truly is a collaborative effort and we as parents need to set the tone for the hard work and not complain about what a pain all the carpooling is. I am trying to savor this time with my daughter and support all her efforts and hard work on her Hebrew and Torah studies.  If I made it a chore, Emily would treat it as one, too.  I work so hard and need to take a deep breath and put the time into all of my family commitments as well.  I think this is one of the reasons why I like religion.  It provides an opportunity to slow down in a very fast paced life.


I was  SO proud of my daughter and how well she did at her service.  She worked so hard and practiced a little every day.  It made such a difference in her confidence level to continue with daily practicing and we also lined up extra help as we got closer to the date with the tutor that Central Synagogue provides.  My daughter Emily absolutely loved working with Sheera (her tutor) and it made all the difference on April 21st!!!  Emily was remarkable at her service.

I have enclosed a small paragraph of my daughter’s introduction to her Haftorah.  I found the entire religious process to be so interesting and we all grew as Jewish people through Emily’s Bat Mitzvah.

My Haftarah portion is about the Israelites worshiping the Ark of God, and them obeying God’s laws. In both my Torah portion and my Haftarah portion the Israelites have to follow the laws of God. In my Torah portion the people of Israel must follow the laws of Kashrut that God has created for them. This is similar to how God wants the Israelites to worship his ark, known as the Ark of God, just as much as they follow the laws of Kashrut. In God’s eyes both, are just as important as one another. Being Kosher is just as important as worshiping the Ark of God. I feel that both these are of the same importance because worshiping God with the Ark of God can be equal to the amount that you follow the laws of Kashrut if you do them both just as much as one another. I believe following the laws of Kashrut is another way to worship God, like the Ark of God, because you are following his laws in both circumstances.

Our Temple shoot, both inside and outside the Temple, came out fantastic and I was so happy!

Congratulations, Emily! You are now a Bat Mitzvah!


As I was reading up on information for the Mitzvah and started working closer with the temple to prepare Emily, I found I needed a Hebrew refresher course!  I came across this informative and light-hearted article that I want to share with you. I hope it gives you the vocabulary going into this special planning and preparing time that you may need!  Especially if this Mitzvah is the first one you will be planning.

Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Lexicon:

By the time your son or daughter steps up to the “bimah” one “Shabbat” morning to recite his or her “haftarah”, she will understand perfectly well what the first part of this sentence meant.  But will you?  And will you be able to explain to your guests?  So… here is a short glossary of important Hebrew phrases to know for a Bar/ Bat Mitzvah!!!

In Hebrew, the word “aliyah” means to go up, as a noun, an ascent.  During the Torah reading portion of the service, some members of the community or your family are offered an aliyah, meaning they are called up to the Bimah to perform a certain role.  This can include reciting the blessing over the Torah, reading from the Torah, dressing the Torah and returning it back into the ark, or some other function.  It is considered an honor to be called up, and as such it is usually given to family members or close friends of the bar or bat mitzvah.

 Aron Ha-Kodesh:
Literally meaning “the holy ark”, the Aron Ha-Kodesh is an ark where the sacred texts used during prayer service are held.  Mostly this includes one or more scrolls of the Torah and perhaps a similar looking scroll that will hold the “haftorah” portions.  The ark itself is meant to symbolize the “mishkan” (tabernacle) in which the ancient Israelites stored the sacred tablets Moses received on Mount Sinai.

 B’nai Mitzvah:
B’nai Mitzvah is the plural of Bar Mitzvah and is the term used to describe the coming of age according to Jewish tradition.  Literally meaning “master of commandments”, becoming a bar or bat mitzvah means the person is obliged to observe the Jewish commandments, and a ceremony, along with a celebration, takes place to mark this moment.  The bar/ bat mitzvah event is a formal and spiritual declaration of a child’s accession to adulthood.  Jewish tradition designates bar and bat mitzvah age is 13 for a boy and either 12 or 13 for a girl.

Hebrew for stage, the bimah is the raised location in the sanctuary where the Torah is read.  At bar and bat mitzvahs, family members and close friends are often called onto the bimah for an aliyah, or to assist with the service.

 D’var Torah:
Literally “a thing of Torah,” a D’var Torah is a speech that tries to convey a life lesson or message supported by the story in the weekly parasha or haftarah (scripture readings).  After the Torah portion is read, the Rabbi will give a D’var Torah, typically as part of a sermon; when a child becomes a bar/bat mitzvah, he or she delivers a D’var Torah as well, often tying it into personal experiences.

A transliteration of the Yiddish word, meaning praying, to daven is to pray.  Like in many other faiths, davening can take numerous, varied forms, from meditation to the more traditional chanting of prayer in synagogue.

Often mispronounced as “haf-torah,” the haftarah is a selected reading from one of the other sections of the Jewish Bible (Old Testament).  Traditionally, the haftarah is recited after the Torah reading on the Shabbat or another holy Jewish day, and is usually thematically related to the parasha.  It is customary for the bar/bat mitzvah to read this portion of the scriptures in addition to any part of the parasha he/she has read.

This is the blessing recited over wine on Shabbat and other Jewish holy days.  Kiddish derives from the Hebrew word kadosh, which means holy.  By saying the kiddush, one is proclaiming the holiness of the day.

The Hebrew name for the traditional head covering worn by Jews in synagogue as well as, for some, in daily life.  Often called a yarmulke, its Yiddish name, the kippah is meant to signify a Jew’s recognition of the presence of God.  In more orthodox Jewish sects, only men wear kippot (plural of kippah), though some observant women cover their heads using hats, veils, or wigs.  Less observant Jews often choose to wear kippot only during religious pursuits, such as when in a synagogue or while studying sacred texts.  And some more liberal Jews do not wear a kippah any time.

The number of people required to be present for certain prayers to be recited.  A minyan consists of 10 Jewish adults, or, for Orthodox Jews, 10 Jewish males.  When a child becomes a bar or bat mitzvah, he or she is eligible to be counted in the minyan.

This is the blessing recited over the bread, which ordains the start of the meal.  On Shabbat and other holy days, a festive, braided challah bread is used.

The weekly Torah portion read in synagogue.  On Shabbat, a cantor or members of the congregation read the parasha.  The Torah portion is divided into seven sections.  As a new member of the Jewish community, the bar/bat mitzvah will often read a section or even the entire parasha during his or her bar/bat mitzvah service.  Your child will often read from that parasha, and delivers a D’var Torah to the congregation highlighting its major themes.

The literal definition of simcha is “joy”.  Simcha refers to a special happy occasion in a Jewish life, such as a bar or bat mitzvah, bris, or wedding.

Torah has multiple definitions, but here it refers to the first five books of the Bible, also known as the five books of Moses.  For public reading, the Torah is divided into portions (each portion is called a parasha) and read weekly in Jewish prayer services.

In Jewish tradition, sacred text is customarily chanted rather than simply read, whether for public reading or for study.  Trop is the Yiddish word for the 1,4000-year-old system of distinctive marks that function as musical notation and punctuation for the biblical text.  The trop determines the actual tune used by b’nai mitzvah and all other readers for their parasha and haftorah.  As part of heir preparation, some b’nai mitzvah learn the names and tunes for each trop marking so they can figure out the cantillation for themselves.

This is a lot of information that I hope will be helpful for you and your families as you enter this exciting time of simcha!!!!!!  🙂


Now that you have your location and other vendors lined up for your child’s big day,  it’s time to shop for outfits and line up hair and makeup appointments!  We offer a complimentary shoot in our studio so that our clients can try hair and makeup “before” the big day!  I strongly recommend this.

My daughter’s outfit was a no brainer!  Everyone I have spoken with who has shopped for their daughter has recommended a shop in Westchester called All Dressed Up.

All Dressed Up

The store is owned by two lovely ladies Monique Gootkin and Betty Dayan.  Emily and I took the drive up to Westchester after school one day and found the perfect outfit on the first try!!!!  They have so many styles and colors for dresses that are age appropriate for a 13 year old.

We knew her color dress was to be purple and found a style we loved immediately. It was ordered and shipped with plenty of time for the big day.  You may need alterations, (like dress straps being tightened or dresses needing hemming) so I suggest you plan on shopping at least a month before your party.

Shoes are less of a concern because, for the most part, there are lots of options and you typically do not need to special order shoes.  I do strongly suggest that you purchase the shoes in time for your dress rehearsal at the Temple on the weekday before the Mitzvah so that your son or daughter can wear the shoes before the actual day and make sure they are comfortable and to avoid any concerns that may arise.

For my outfit for the Bat Mitzvah, I grabbed a close girlfriend for feedback and support and went to Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.  Obviously there are many department stores amd specialty dress shops out there, and some Mitzvah moms opt to have a dress made for them for the event, however I lucked out and found that the first dress I tried on at Bergdorf’s was the winner.  It was a bit more than I wanted to spend (what a surprise) but I wanted to wear an outfit that I loved and this one was the winner!
I am blessed to have one of my best friends be Laura Geller so lining up who I would use for make up was easy.

Makeup By Laura Geller
(212) 570-5477 www.laurageller.com

If you have never had makeup done before, it is a really fun thing to do with your daughter.  My daughter did not wear a lot, but we did a little something for her that day.  I do suggest that you have a trial run before to make sure you love the makeup artist and company. There is nothing worse than having amazing photos taken and not liking the way you look in the photographs.  You definitely want to feel like a million bucks!
Laura was also a guest at our party and I was so happy to share this special day with her!!!

I did my own hair on the day of,  but still feel  that you should have a trial run before the party if you have someone to do your hair  so that you are not late to the Temple Saturday morning and that you love the way you look and feel.

I also suggest for all the males and females in your family… you should plan your haircuts at the time that is best for your hair!!  I know for my family getting haircuts about 3 weeks before works better for all of us because it gave all of our hair a chance to grow in a little before the big day.  Everyone has different hair and you will know what works for your family.

For the men in your life, I suggest shopping for fun color shirts that are very “in” right now and ties that will work with the girls’ dresses.  You do not need to be “matchy-matchy,” but you definitely want to be color coordinated so that as a family you do not clash in the portraits where you will all be together!

Check out these shots of some of our Mitzvah kids for ideas!


This is a great opportunity for you to sit down with your child and “pre-shop” before you head to the stores! More Mitzvah girls and their dresses can be found HERE! The guys? Click HERE! Enjoy! 


Check out our portfolio of family photos featuring lots of past and present Mitzvah clients. Hopefully, this gallery helps you with clothing suggestions and color coordination for your own special day.


Don’t forget to line up manicures and pedicures before the big day and start to think about what sort of jewelry you will wear with your hot new outfit!

Orthodontists may need to be involved with the “looking good” part of your planning because if your child has braces on, you may want to remove them just for the Mitzvah. We decided as a family that braces are age appropriate and that Emily would leave them on for her big day.  I love the way she looks with or with out them and discussed with our orthodontist our options and what we would do! He actually brought it up to us first about 6 months before her Bat Mitzvah because if we wanted to remove them, he wanted to plan for it.


I never realized the magnitude of the role our photography and video services play in planning a Mitzvah.  I obviously understand the power of creating family heirlooms through our album design work, where  portrait coverage at an event becomes a family photographic legacy… but there is so much more to it!!  The first thing I did for the Bat Mitzvah was I dug up my husband’s and my own Bar and Bat Mitzvah albums to show Emily that we also went through this incredible “right of passage as Jews!” I was thrilled to see how far I have come as a professional in the photography business and how amazing the albums we create here at Sarah Merians Photography & Video Company are today!

As I mentioned in the very beginning stages of this blog article, rifling through old pictures for the creation of the video montage to be shown at the celebration can be an overwhelming project!  Especially if your mom is a professional photographer! I feel this is actually one of the next steps to dive into in your photography journey.   I will talk more about the montage later in this article.

Starting planning your event photography early on (I suggest a year before the event) will spark the excitement for the Mitzvah.  It is a wonderful time to reflect on what a great child you have and you can actually show them, through your personal photographs, how grown up they have become! I found looking through photos of the first 12 years of my child’s life allowed for me to understand her hobbies and interests from very early on.  It can help you and your family start to think about any theme or décor elements that you will want to bring to the event.  For example,  my daughter Emily has been baking with her father every Saturday night since she was little… while I was out shooting parties!  I was surprised to find how many pictures I have of Emily as a chef and baking!    I will also be using these images around the room as décor for her party.  Please check out more images in the DÉCOR section for how to use photography more creatively at the celebration!  Emily’s middle name is Rose, therefore the cupcake logo with “purple rose icing” has become the design element for her party.

At our photography studio we offer a great video and still package that includes a lot.  One of our offerings is a complimentary studio shoot  so that you can meet your photographer as a family to start to capture new images of you and all and your children!

I suggest booking your photographer a year before the event so that your family can organize a time to get together for this shoot.  Not only is it a great opportunity to start to plan for sign-in boards or sign-in books for the party,  but it also can be the start of all the fun and excitement.  I can’t wait to share my my daughter’s incredible sign-in book with you after her Bat Mitzvah celebration.   She and I had so much fun with our pre-shoot and my designer Angela in creating our book!

Even though I am in the business and  photograph daily, there is so much planning that goes into the Mitzvah that hiring your favorite photographer and getting some great images early on can be the perfect thing to check off your list to get the ball rolling.  Your floral and décor company may want to utilize some of these images in their design elements as well.

The pre-party shoot that we offer as part of your package with new images of your child in their tennis, dance, basketball, skating, or skiing outfits can be used as props for centerpieces or large blow-ups around the party space!  The pre-shoot could help with the inspiration and evolution of the event and creation of your child’s brand and logo  that will be used as design elements at the party.  I started mine rather late in the planning because we were the shoe maker without shoes of course!   I am creative and was able to come up with Emily’s logo with her and then our florist took the design and ran with it, but you may need more creative help earlier on.  This is why I have put this design element in the PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO  section.


4/8/13 Here  is  a portfolio of pre-party shoots we have done over the past two years. There is a combination of both studio and on location shoots here, boys and girls! 

Check out a the collection below for even more motivation! 

http://is1.sarahmerians.com/shoots/2014/PrePartyStudioShootsGirls/index.html (Girls) 

http://is1.sarahmerians.com/shoots/2014/PrePartyStudioShootBoys/index.html (Boys) 

Stay tuned for more information about photography and all aspects of it from album design, wall framing, and desk framing to large photo art for your home and lots of other creative products we offer.  I can share with you as I educate you on my personal and professional needs and experiences.  Photography and video for your child’s Mitzvah are so important because at the end of the day,  these are the memories (other than those in your mind) that you will have to cherish for generations to follow.


A special shout out to my team pictured below- Chris, Sheila, Tina, Pedro, and Liel  who did a great job capturing everything at Emily’s party! Not pictured here are Davitte, Alex, and Mike!  Love you guys! It was one of the hardest things to stand back and watch a photo session happen that I wasn’t shooting, but all of you made it so much easier!  xo Sarah


Stay tuned for more great photos and tips, including info on my DJ, our florals & decor, and Emily’s cake!!


Hello to all my Mitzvah followers and fans! I’m so excited to be coming back to my Mitzvah Moms Journal to update you that I have now finished designing my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah album and it is just about on its way to the binder! I couldn’t wait to share it with you. Click on Emily’s Bat Mitzvah Album (password: emily) to see the design! Enjoy! If you want to create an heirloom with images from one of your special events, my studio and team are happy to help!


Tips and ideas for YOUR album:

1) Save a copy of your speeches for your son or daughter that we could then incorporate into your album.  (Especially if you do not have a videographer at your party.)  We can design a couple of cool spreads in the album that incorporate the speeches so that in years to come your son or daughter can re-read your thoughts and continue to feel as proud as you were on their special day. 

Here is a sample of a speech spread in another client’s album.  I wanted to show all of you an example that features different colors and design work so I have included this sample, which is not from my party, for you all to view!

2) Save an extra invitation that we can also use as a design element in the album along with any other printed materials from your Mitzvah that you had designed (i.e. escort table cards, table numbers, stamps, etc.)


It is customary, like in the album spread above, to give a speech or a toast at your child’s Mitzvah. Take a look at this collection of images of parent toasts and speeches. Of course, there are no real rules on how to plan a Mitzvah, so if you choose to not give a speech, that is fine as well.



There are many options for how to record messages and well wishes for your child from family and friends on the big day. You can provide a sign in board or a sign in book as just two of many ideas.  I chose to design a book for my daughter because I had many images and wanted to create a piece that encompassed Emily growing up as well as utilizing our pre-party images.

I live in Manhattan and don’t have storage to put a sign-in board, plus I wanted Emily to have something she could take out and look at for years to come.  I love her sign-in book and will be enclosing a link of it to share ideas and hopefully help you with your decision.


Below is the link to Emily’s designed sign in book! (Before all the guests signed, of course!)



In addition to Emily’s sign in-book, I’ve put together a portfolio of other sign-in books and creative photo décor ideas  at the links below.

www.sarahmerians.com/mitzvahs/sign-in-book/ (Sign In Books) 

https://www.sarahmerians.com/mitzvahs/photo-decor-2/ (Photo Decor) 

Most of our clients plan for a cocktail hour before their party begins. In addition to grabbing a drink and a plate of food and mingling with friends, your child and his/her friends can start to take advantage of any extra entertainment or games that you may have booked for your event. Take a look  here for a great portfolio of cocktail hour images. 

Before your party really gets started, it is time to introduce the Mitzvah boy/girl to the guests. Some families opt to plan for a grand entrance where the Mitzvah child’s name is called (along with family members). We have clients who coordinated this grand entrance to match the theme of the party and other clients who opted not to do a grand entrance at all. Listen to your child and what they feel would be best for them when making this decision. There are no hard and fast rules here. If you and your child do want to plan a grand entrance, take a look at some suggestions in our entrance portfolio here.

Many Mitzvah parents partake  in a couple of traditional Jewish rituals to kick off the celebratory festivities. First is the “Motzi” blessing over the bread (typically a challah) and second is the hora.

A hora is a traditional Israeli/Romanian dance that is usually done at celebrations like a Mitzvah. The Mitzvah child is lifted on a chair to the tune of Hava Nagila. The rest of the immediate family is also lifted in honor of this special occasion. Take a look at our Mitzvah Motzi gallery HERE and our Hora gallery HERE

At your party, our team of photographers will always be on hand to capture all of those special moments. Our reception party candids gallery is below for you to peruse!



We are so proud to announce our new photo booth concept for Mitzvahs! Check it out at the link below! Guests receive take home prints at the party and you receive a photo flipbook and a video piece to help remember your child’s special day.



If you are considering a montage and video for your party, I do recommend that you look for a photography studio that can provide all three services . We encourage our clients to utilize images from our complimentary pre-party studio shoot in their montage and video as well as baby pictures. You will need a lot of help with these products from organizing the photos for the montage to  scanning them and cleaning them up for the piece.  We hold your hand through this process and offer a lot of assistance.


Take a look at this great portfolio of images of Mitzvah montages. We’ve also incorporated a selection of reaction shots where we’ve captured some unique candids of guests enjoying the presentation. Click HERE  for the Mitzvah Montage portfolio. 

My montage was a monster project, as you can imagine.  My daughter has been photographed by me since the day she was born and I had over 100,000 images to go through.  I was able to narrow my montage down to 407 pictures and it was 20 minutes long!!!! If you dare, here is a peak at the most amazing montage my editor Jeremy  created for my daughter! I have cried, laughed and enjoyed this piece many times before, during and after her Mitzvah.  I also found a creative way to tell the story of our montage in the actual Bat Mitzvah album! I love the way it came out!  Hope you like it, too!! Click on the Play button below to see my daughter’s montage.


Here are some suggestions for songs for your montage that my editor, Jeremy, provided to me when I was in the music selection phase. Check it out!

Songs for Mom
“In My Daughter’s Eyes”- Martina McBride
“Somebody’s Hero”-Jamie O’Neal
“Just a Girl”- No Doubt
“Thank You Mom”-Good Charlotte
“Greatest Love of All”- Whitney Houston
“I Hope You Dance”-Faith Hill
“Perfect Fan”- Backstreet Boys
“Because You Loved Me”-Celine Dion

Songs for Dad
“Ain’t No Other Man”- Christina Aguilera
“Daughters”- John Mayer
“Landslide”- Fleetwood Mac
“My Little Girl”- Tim McGraw
“Butterfly Kisses”- Bob Carlise
“Daddy’s Hands”- Holly Dunn
“I Loved Her First”= Heartland
“How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You”- James T


I feel videography is an absolute MUST at Mitzvah celebrations!  Photographs are very personal and capture a moment in time, while video is pure entertainment and kicks in at the end of the party when photography can’t capture all the great music you had at your event! Speeches and tributes from your child’s friends that night are captured forever if you have video as well as photography! From the crazy DJ action to the adults trying to keep up with their children and their dance moves, watching your child’s Mitzvah video definitely brings you back to relive the party.  I have included a video music selection list to help those of you at this stage that may need some suggestions!

Cocktail Hour/Portraits:

The Beatles “In My Life”
Colbie Callait-“Brighter than the Sun”
Foo Fighters-“Learn to Fly”
Bruno Mars- “The Lazy Song”
Donavan Frankenreiter-“Life, Love & Laughter”
Coldplay “Viva La Vida”
Coldplay “Clocks”
G Love and Special Sauce-“Peace, Love, Happiness”
KT Tunstall “Suddenly I See”
Van Morisson – “Brown Eyed Girl”
Black Eyed Peas – “I Gotta a Feeling”
Owl City – “Fireflies”
Jack Johnson – “Better Together”
Jack Johnson – “Upside Down”
Green Day- “Time of Your Life”
Natasha Bedingfield – “Unwritten”
John Mayer- “No Such Thing”
Yael Naim- “New Soul”
Selena Gomez-“Who Says”
Arcade Fire- “Wake Up”
One Republic- “Good Life”
Peter, Bjorn & John -“Young Folks”
Fun ft. Janelle Monae “We Are Young”
One Direction- “Up All Night”
Fun-“Some Nights”
Alicia Keys- “This Girl is On Fire”


The Wanted- “Glad You Came”
Miley Cyrus- “The Time of Our Lives”
Carly Rae Jepsen- Call Me Maybe”
Havana Brown-“We Run the Night”
Flo Rida – “Club Handle Me”
Flo Rida-“Good Feeling”
LMFAO-“ Party Rock Anthem”
David Guetta- “Without You” featuring Usher
Usher- “OMG” featuring will.i.am
Journey-“Don’t Stop Believing’”
Bon Jovi- “It’s My Life”
Bon Jovi-“We Weren’t Born to Follow”
Bruno Mars – “Just the Way You Are”
Black Eyed Peas-“Boom Boom Pow”
Britney Spears- “Till the World Ends”
Katy Perry- “Firework”
Pink- “Raise Your Glass”
Black Eyed Peas – “The Time – Dirty Bit”
Black Eyed Peas- “I Gotta Feeling”
New Radicals- “You Get What You Give”
Jennifer Lopez “Get On the Floor”
Maroon 5 “Moves like Jagger”
Taio Cruz-“Dynamite”
Lady Gaga- “Born This Way”
Florence & the Machine- “Dog Days are Over”
Avicii “Levels- Radio Edit”
Nicki Minaj-“Turn Me On” *pay close attention to lyrics*
Alexandra Stan -“Mister Saxobeat” *pay close attention to lyrics*
La Roux- “Bulletproof”
Karmin- “Crash Your Party”
Carly Rae Jepsen and Owl City “Good Time”
Chris Brown “Turn Up the Music”
Nicki Minaj- “Starships” (Radio Edit)


There is another fun and interactive service we provide at Mitzvahs that I want to share with you.  It is a photo station for all of your guests, where they can smile for the camera,  be a part of the day, and have a fun activity to do at your party!  The adults can gather their children for a family photo or you can use fun props and capture something less formal.

I then took all of my favorites from the “booth” and designed a great page for our Mitzvah album.  It came out GREAT!!!  We now offer this page when a client hires our photo booth so that all the festivities are represented in the story of your child’s special day.


Selecting an entertainment company for your event can be completely overwhelming because of the many companies out there and all their different styles and offerings.  I have worked with all of them!!!

I had recently done a very cool Mitzvah out in New Jersey and worked with a DJ company that incorporated live instruments in addition to the core team.  I thought this was so creative and exciting to watch, as well as  thought it added to the party and energy at the event.  Ultimately I did not end up with that concept but thoroughly enjoyed working with E Three Productions and Evan Tyler.

E Three Productions

His company has several levels of packages that can range in price depending on what is in your custom package.  I photographed Evan’s team in my studio before Emily’s Bat Mitzvah, so it was really fun to work with some of the dancers at my daughter’s party and see them in action!  Here is the team that Evan had gathered at my studio for his website and promotional materials!  I am honored that he loves these images and has them all over his website!




Evan Tyler’s crew at E Three Productions is state of the art! Take a look at these great shots from the DJ booth at my daughter’s party!


Just as photography and great food and service are important to the success of your event, the entertainment captures and controls all the energy of the night! Especially if you hire  an amazing company like E Three Productions.  Here are some samples of how E Three rocked the party with the kids, my daughter, and all the adults at our Mitzvah!


Another fun form of entertainment for your guests are games that can be used during cocktail hour for the kids to keep them busy and having fun!  There are so many ideas for  games that I will share with you.  Some of the games can be moved to the reception area after the cocktail hour to keep the entertainment going throughout your event.

I only had three activities at our party due to our budget and the space at our location.  We had a LIDS hat making station, basketball games and Foosball.  Check out what other people have done at their events at the two links below. There is also a collection of images here that may be of interest. You’ll find anything and everything from wax hands to  professional twirlers to fire-breathers, to magicians and mimes, etc!

https://www.sarahmerians.com/mitzvahs/specialty-entertainment/ (Specialty Entertainment) 

Giveaways at the party are a fun element that your child may want to be involved with!  My daughter is spoiled from seeing so many great things that I have brought home for the past 10 years from other Mitzvahs I have shot!!  She knew what she wanted and liked.  I would ask your DJ Company for a list of what they have and have fun selecting what you want at your own party!!!  Your guests will enjoy the party more with fun hats, glasses and props!


Deciding who would create our Mitzvah cake was another easy decision for us.  It was easy because of two reasons.  Eventi Hotel recommends Sylvia Weinstock Cakes as part of their catering package.  Lucky for us because she is certainly one of the top cake makers in our Industry and her cakes are absolutely delicious!!!  The second reason for hiring Sylvia is because I had worked with her before.

Sylvia Weinstock Cakes
212 925 6698/www.sylviaweinstock.com

Sylvia created the cake for my husband and I for our wedding 16 years ago in 1996!  So it was a natural choice for us to work with her again because we were so happy with our wedding cake!

Again,  knowing a theme or concept for my daughter’s Mitzvah enabled us to come up with a concept for the cake more easily.  Also traveling with a cake can be difficult and you want to work with a cake company that knows all the “ins” and “outs.”

I had the opportunity to go through our company portfolios of photographs from other parties and pull ideas to show Emily.  I had seen two cakes that I loved and knew their concept would work great for our theme of Sweet Emily’s bakery!

Here are the two ideas I found and an image of our final version that we had at our party!!!

We  needed to stay in our budget and Sylvia worked with me through drawings and concepts to come up with the PERFECT cake!  It added to Emily’s candle lighting ceremony because visually the cake was fun, colorful, and went along with all the other design elements around the room!!!

I realize that I have seen many different themes and cakes to be able to work with my daughter directly.  She was very interested in this aspect of her party.  I would come up with the theme for the party and work with your designer and cake company together to see what they have done before and what they  suggest!

I must say… cake tastings are certainly one of the fun parts of the planning!  Emily and I went down to Sylvia Weinstock’s bakery to discuss details and sample all the many flavor cakes and icings! YUM!  I have enclosed a photo I took at the tasting on my iPhone of Sylvia Weinstock and her many delicious choices for us!  I was so impressed with her actual cake and icing flavors and would suggest her cakes for your next event!

Here are two images of our actual candle lighting ceremony!!!


Below  is a link of over 100 different Mitzvah cakes. Feel free to go through with your child to see what they like. Have fun and hope this helps in your cake planning.



When deciding on a cake, you may also want to discuss the idea of a candlelighting ceremony with your child (featured in the two photos above.) A candelighting is a way to honor all of those friends and family who attended your event and to also pay respects to those who could not be with your child and are remembered in their heart. Most Mitzvah children recite a poem and call up guests to help light a candle, which makes for a great photo op! However, there are lots of ways to plan a “candlelighting ceremony” without candles at all! Take a look at some of the candlelightings we’ve covered at Mitzvahs over he past three years below. You will see some ideas that don’t involve candles here as well!



I am fortunate once again that my selection for a florist/ decorator was an easy decision! Just like there are millions of photographers and DJ’s out there… there are many floral decorators as well.  So…you ask why was it easy?

My suggestion when hiring a florist  is to interview the ones that are recommended at your venue first.   My florist that I hired was not only a recommended vendor, but I had also worked with them for my wedding as well!  I was excited to work with them again to create a magical party for my daughter!

A recommended vendor will know the ins and outs of the space and all  of its challenges as well as what works really well!  They will have a certificate of insurance on file and a great relationship with all the people that work there.

It is helpful to have a sense of budget and some concept of what you and your child want to see at your party.  Some locations do not need as much décor as others.  It is helpful to know if you are having a nighttime party or a daytime party.  Evening events will be more expensive as you feel the need to “light” the party the right way.  As a photographer that covers parties for a living, I can tell you that lighting is EVERYTHING!!!  You can have the most magical flower arrangements and really great artwork around the room and / or in your centerpieces, but if you don’t light them up at night they will not be vibrant enough for the room and your photographs.  Daytime parties have lots of sunlight and a completely different feel.

Keep in mind with planning your budget that lighting can be as expensive as the decorations!  It is well worth it!  Our new cameras can capture all the incredible lighting at events today and it makes the party so much fun.  I invested in LED lighting around the room for our Mitzvah and it made such a difference with the photography.  I had been to many parties without extra lighting and noticed how dark the images were.

The company we hired for our party was Flowers by Diana Gould.  I have worked with Diana Gould and her daughter Jen for over 20 years and love them and their work!!!  Diana was the designer for my wedding 16 years ago and now Jen was the designer for Emily’s party! Jen was incredible to work with and her concept and lounge ideas were absolutely amazing.  We knew we did not want tables for the kids to sit all night and created some funky larger tables with fun kids decorations and some thing more formal and classic for the 10 adult tables we had for sit down.

Flowers by Diana Gould
212-629-6993 www.dianagouldltd.com


You may be interested in having centerpieces that coordinate with your child’s party theme or just a beautiful array of flowers and candles in a certain color scheme. You may even want balloons or feathers in your centerpiece design rather than flowers. Take a look at the great collection of Mitzvah centerpieces below for some food for thought. When looking through this gallery, keep lighting in mind as well.




At my studio we utilize decor photographs when designing our albums.  Please feel free to click on this link to see what I did for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah Album. (Click HERE and enter password: emily). 

Even the most subtle and small details can be used in your album design. We created pillows for the lounge furniture with Emily’s logo for her party. It added to her room décor and created a keepsake for her after the party.

I will discuss this later on as well as a miscellaneous item in case you do not use the florist for these pillows.

I just designed a piece that shows more of the details that went into the decor of our party. I hope this helps and I strongly suggest working with Flowers by Diana Gould. They made it fun and easy for me.


Take a look a collection of photos from Emily’s Bat Mitzvah décor below and also check out our portfolio of Mitzvah décor suggestions and ideas here. Whatever your theme (or even if you don’t have a theme to your party) you’ll find some ideas perusing through in this gallery!


I utilized my entertainment company to make a GOBO with my daughter’s name and party logo so that it could be projected around the room throughout the party as well as on the dance floor as a design element.  This is an extra cost that my entertainment company charged me as an “add on.”  I believe the florists and designers can do this for you as well.  It is not necessary, but not expensive and a cool design element to have your daughter or son’s name in lights!!!


There are so many details that go into planning an event!  It can be quite overwhelming, even for someone like myself with “Type A” personality and with the Industry knowledge I have that most people do not.

I am going to attempt to share some of the unique details I brought to our party that could help you in planning your own event as well as add to your party.  Some of these unique products are relatively inexpensive and some are more expensive.  You will have to decide for yourself what is important to you and what your child will want at their own celebration.  Being that I am a creative person, I find that my daughter is as well and she absolutely loved a lot of the same ideas.

One idea we had was to hire a painter named Martin Hardy.  I have worked with him on so many parties and absolutely LOVE what he does!

I am a painter and was a Fine Arts major in college….so this was right up my alley!  During the course of the party or any milestone event,  Martin will paint the party on canvas, which makes for the perfect gift for any party host as well as entertainment for guests.  Martin gets to the event space early enough to scout out the best vantage point in the room  for his painting creation!  Most guests have never seen this unique product and it’s a win- win for all.  As in any product that is artistic, unique, and a work of art, this was not inexpensive… but well worth it!  We have our painting framed and hanging in our home and continue to remember our great celebration everyday as we look at it.  Thank you Martin!

Martin A Hardy
[email protected]

Here are some other creative concepts that we used at our Mitzvah that I will share with you:

1)      Basket of socks for the girls.  Shoe heels are so high these days that colorful socks for the girls (and some female adults) are very welcome.  Emily’s Mitzvah was mostly purple, teal, and fushia so we shopped for those color socks!!  We found a website called www.hue.com  that had lots of choices.  Another site for socks is www.kbellsocks.com I put them all in a large basket on the side of the stage  for when the dancing started !

2 )      Emily and I had fun researching different sites for what to do with images of her as a young child.  We found a Photofetti site, which is just as it sounds.  It is confetti with memories.  It was not expensive and a great creative addition to our cocktail tables!

3) You can incorporate your child’s  logo on a variety of printed materials. I went back and forth with my decor team at Diana Gould to fine tune the design for the logo. Take a look at the “evolution” here.

One of the first stages of creating the logo was figuring out the font we wanted for Emily’s initials.

4) We ordered small water bottles and put them on the bars for the children and strategically used as design in the surprise candy/ dessert area built at the end of the night.

5) To add to Emily’s big day, the florist put Emily’s logo on pillows that were used in décor in the white lounge areas.   They became a great prop in the portrait session with Emily.   The pillows are something that your florist can create and take care of for you.  Again, I used Jen Gould  (Diana Gould Ltd.)  It was one of the items put in my contract.

6) Cocktail napkins are also a fun and creative detail your florist can help you with.  If you are working with a party planner,  they may take care of these items as well.  I had fun sharing my daughter’s favorite colors and having them use foil stamping to drop her logo on them.  Every day I brought different things home and asked Emily what she liked.  I wanted her to feel part of the decisions and design choices because she actually really enjoys it and has a great “eye.”  She made brilliant changes to the ideas and items presented to her and I loved watching her engage and care!!!

7) We also created escort cards from scratch with our designer at Diana Gould.  She sent me a bunch of ideas and Emily and I reviewed them together and fortunately we agreed on the concept!  Selecting an escort card design is easy compared to creating the guest list of who to invite and then having to figure out who sits with who??!!  That is the tough part.  Getting RSVP’s back sooner than later is a huge help in figuring this stage out.


Take a look at this porfolio of creative escort card samples that coordinate with each Mitzvah party theme. Some of you may opt for something other than a card. I hope this collection sparks some ideas!


We continued with the purple rose theme and the cupcake with rose icing concept.  Our “theme” became SWEET EMILY’S as I started to go through old photos and found great ones of Emily baking as she was growing up!



8.) We enlarged several photographs of Emily as 30 x 40’s and placed them on easels around the room.  What better way to decorate your party than your child’s beautiful face and photographs from when they were younger to take your guests down memory lane.

The florist you hire should be able to help with all the decor elements for your event.  Especially if you hire a company with a team and a full service operation.  (Pillows, escort cards, table numbers,  kids locker tags and so much more should be handled by them!)

9.) My daughter was very involved with planning the dessert part of her celebration because, being a baking fan, this is an area that really interested her!!  What child would not want to be involved when it comes to desserts?  We had a chocolate fountain at our party which is also a fun food experience for your guests in addition to just being delicious. We also had walk around desserts which are really fun like the cake pops you see below.


I have seen lots of other cute ideas like milk and cookies and ice cream sandwiches and trays of desserts like Ring Dings and Yodels and lots of other finger food to send your guests home happy!

10.)  In addition to the photo confetti, Emily and I had a lot of fun ordering custom M & M’s with her picture, logo and date on them.  It was a sweet little munchie at the party for adults and the kids alike, as well as a design element for the kids tables. The site to go to for ordering this custom treat is: www.mymms.com





11.)  I have been to so many Mitzvahs over the past 20 years and have seen so many interesting dessert set ups.  We created a bakery/ candy store with small bags for the children to take what they like.  It was a big hit at our party at the end of the night and gave the children a take home gift from Emily.


Take a look at photos of the great dessert to-go bar we had at Emily’s Bat Mitzvah below and a photo portfolio of other candy and dessert presentations here.

12)  In addition to this edible take home, we designed cool bags and sweatshirts for the kids to take home as well.  We placed them in a “locker set up” with each child’s name on a cubby.  I hired my florist (Flowers by Diana Gould)  to bring these cubbies because they own them and were able to build them into my décor proposal and help me check it off my long list of things to do!!!  The children went back to the lockers all night to put their goodies in and their shoes if they decided to wear the socks we provided.  (Mostly for the girls.)

13.) The company that we used for the “bags and hoodies” is LPB Graphics.  I worked with Lisa Berg over there and she took this overwhelming project and made it easy.  It was very difficult to decide what to do for both the boys and the girls.  We changed up the logos for each to make the male version less “flowery.” We also ended up putting the sweatshirt logos on the sleeve, which was much cooler and different for kids that get so many of these at all the parties they go to!!

LPB Graphics/Lisa Berg
(732) 283-4333// http://www.letsprintbaby.com

TIP:  You will need to create a list for the company helping you with children “give- aways” so that they have the correct spelling of each child’s name and whether the child is a boy or girl. Most importantly,  find out the clothing size of each child early on so you can order the product ahead of time. 


Take a look at this collection of Mitzvah-themed extras (kippahs, giveaways, custom water bottles, cocktail napkins, etc.) from the last three years of parties we’ve photographed. These links may start to help you drum up some ideas for your party to help you create your own thematic party brand.

https://www.sarahmerians.com/mitzvahs/napkins/ (Napkins)

https://www.sarahmerians.com/mitzvahs/water-bottles/ (Water Bottles) 

https://www.sarahmerians.com/mitzvahs/pillows/ (Pillows) 

https://www.sarahmerians.com/mitzvahs/socks/ (Socks) 

https://www.sarahmerians.com/mitzvahs/unique-table-numbers/ (Table Numbers) 

https://www.sarahmerians.com/mitzvahs/thematic-party-branding/ (Thematic Branding) 


13.) My daughter Emily’s Bat Mitzvah celebration was during the daytime right after the temple service.  We opted for one outfit and one party instead of doing a daytime kiddish luncheon right after Temple  and then an evening party.  Emily wanted a dance club feel so we were able to lower the shades at Hotel Eventi and add LED lights around the room to have that nightclub feel in the daytime.

It was our responsibility to safely transport all the children to the reception and therefore needed to hire a bus for this.  I was recommended to a fabulous bus company named Matrix.

Mario 917-939-8552

It is so important for obvious reasons to hire a reputable company.  We all want safe buses and transportation as well as someone that will be professional and on time! I had a couple of moms from my daughter’s class who knew all of the children ride the bus with them.  That assured me that they would all get on the bus with no one left behind!

 TIP:  I suggest booking your bus transportation sooner rather than later because there are busier weekends than others and only so many companies to call.  I was lucky I had a strong recommendation because I waited until 2 weeks before the party and we almost had a problem with availability because our weekend was a very busy one!

14.) If you are in need of some assistance with your candlelighting, I know just the person to help! Jill- The Poem Lady (www.thepoemlady.com) helps Mitzvah moms with their son or daughter’s candlelighting and only needs one week to turn around the poems. Here is a sample of a poem she’s written for grandparents:

“He has a ponytail and she loves to make french toast
Enjoying all of our meals in bed is what I love the most
Whether it’s riding a tandem bike together or frequenting street fairs
They’re my New York City grandparents and no love matches theirs
They let me drive their boat and do everything I want to do
Dear Grandma and Grandpa Birdie, please come up for candle number two…”


I am going to make an attempt at listing all sorts of things to do and not forget towards the end of the planning.

I am definitely a very organized person and suggest everyone make their “to do” lists and keep checking them off!!!

Here are some things to think about for the home stretch!

-Write toasts and speeches
– Send table list of who is sitting with who to the florist for escort table cards (adult tables primarily)
– Meet all vendors the week of in the space to go over everything and make sure all the crews will work together as a team
– Final timelines for the event with your DJ and catering manager
– Write candle lighting
-Confirm all hair and make up appointments
-Make manicure appointments
– Try on outfits to make sure nothing needs altering or cleaning (people tend to loose wait before their party)
-Possibly schedule the removal of your child’s braces (Call and plan with your child’s orthodontist.)
-Review song lists with DJ and make sure your child’s music taste is represented at their party!!!
-Order socks for girls if you have not yet.
-Go over the floor plan to make sure the tables in the room will work together
-Create a final RSVP list if you have not done so.
-Confirm rehearsal time with the Temple
-Confirm with all your vendors (photography, video, montage, florist, caterer, etc.)
-Make sure you have several copies of your montage and that it is checked by your DJ to make sure it will work on your day
-Order folders or stickers for your photo booth
-Order T-shirts for DJ and dancers if you want them to wear your child’s party colors and logo
-Order custom water bottles if you want them
-Double check sweatshirts or giveaways are ready and make sure cubby attendant,whoever that may be who is helping you with this component of the party, has an alphabetical list of all kids attending.
-Double check all printed items are complete and ready (water bottles,sweatshirts or pants,candy bags, cocktail napkins, tags for kids lockers, T-shirts,  escort table cards, name tags, etc.)
-Remember tallis, yarmulkas, and yad for Temple both on weekday and actual day.
-Sign-in boards or books from photographer may need to be picked up
-Choose aliyot and honors for Temple service.
-Call guests who have not responded.
– And more!!!

So my advice to all of you going through this INCREDIBLE journey with your child and family is to make lists and due dates for yourself. Should a vendor tell you that you have plenty of time, I may suggest you follow what is in your heart and do what is right for you and how you function and not only what is good for them!

Try and stay organized with vendors names and phone numbers and enjoy every moment!  Planning the party can be very stressful but also a lot of fun if you position yourself with great vendors and professionals.

I hope this blog post was helpful for you.

XO Sarah


This guide includes image portfolios that are scattered throughout this Mitzvah Mom’s Journal.

Mitzvah Location and Studio Preparty Shoots 



Mitzvah Girls

Mitzvah Boys

Mitzvah Family Portraits

Mitzvah House & Temple Shoots

Mitzvah Havdalah Services

Mitzvah Cocktail Hour

Mitzvah Entrances

Mitzvah Motzi

Mitzvah Hora

Mitzvah Candlelighting

Mitzvah Toasts and Parent Speeches


Mitzvah Reception Party Candids

Mitzvah Centerpieces


Mitzvah Room Décor

Mitzvah Sign In Boards and Photo Décor


Mitzvah Unique Props & Details







Mitzvah Escort Card Tables

Mitzvah Cakes

Mitzvah Entertainment for Party

Mitzvah Montages


Mitzvah Candy and Dessert Table Presentations