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Bar and bat mitzvah invitations

No need to read between the lines

for The Brooklyn Paper

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A bar or bat mitzvah is supposed to be a joyous celebration for a young Jewish man or woman coming into religious maturity. There are many ways to celebrate such an occasion, whether it is with a formal affair complete with suits and a sit-down dinner or a casual afternoon fete featuring a backyard BBQ. Whatever style you choose, the invitation sets the tone for your event. Remember — proper doesn’t have to mean stuffy. With that in mind, here are a few etiquette tips on how to appropriately word your invitations so you can create the perfect correspondence.

The Style

While there is no standard etiquette for the style of a bar or bat mitzvah invitation, some people believe it’s important that the invitation reflect the sacred religious aspects of the ceremony and event. In this instance, a white or ecru-white card with engraved type in a muted hue is preferred. However, others believe that the invitation reflects the spirit and interests of the young man or woman for whom the event is being held, in which case the invitation is usually printed with vibrant colors and fun designs (see Image 1 and 2).

The Request Line

The Request Line is the line in which they invite guests to the bar or bat mitzvah. Both “honor” and “honour” are acceptable on an invitation — it’s merely a matter of preference — and is the term traditionally used when the ceremony is taking place in a house of worship.

Mr. and Mrs. Ethan Winer

request the honour of your presence

as their son

Michael Avery

is called to the Torah

as a Bar Mitzvah

A less formal invitation places the parents’ names at the bottom of the invitation and begins with more casual wording. For example (see Image 3):

With pride, joy and love

we invite you to join us

as our daughter

Emily Louise

becomes a Bat Mitzvah

Saturday, the nineteenth of January

two thousand thirteen

at 10 o’clock in the morning

Congregation Emmanuel

1500 Sunset Boulevard

Houston, Texas

Suzanne and Steven Bauman

The Name

When an event or ceremony is for someone under the age of 18, a title is never used. Therefore, a bar or bat mitzvah invitation should only read the honoree’s first and middle name (the last name is only used when mentioning the parents), without a “Mr.” or “Ms.” (see Image 4):

Correct: Michael Avery

Incorrect: Mr. Michael Avery Winer

The Street Address

While the name of the location where the ceremony will take place is always given, a street address is not always given. If a map or directions card will be included with the invitation, a street address on the invitation is redundant and therefore not necessary. If the majority of guests will be coming from out-of-town, or if there is another venue in town with the same name, a street address is necessary.

Temple Beth Shalom

1452 Coconut Palms Drive

Miami Beach, Florida

OR

Temple Beth Shalom

Miami Beach, Florida

The Time

The time of the wedding should appear on one line and with all letters in lowercase. If the bar or bat mitzvah is being held at six o’clock, the time line simply reads (see Image 5):

at six o’clock

The time line for a ceremony held at six thirty reads:

at half after six o’clock

The time line can designate the time of day by using either “in the morning,” “in the afternoon,” or “in the evening.”

Nine o’clock in the morning

For a noon ceremony, invitations should simply read:

at twelve o’clock

Unless otherwise noted, “twelve o’clock” means “noon.” If you feel strongly about indicating the time of day, you may use:

at twelve o’clock in the afternoon

The Year

In mathematics the word “and” denotes a decimal point, and since there’s no decimal point in the year “2001,” it may seem incorrect to use “and.” Invitations, however, are not mathematical equations, so the use of “and” as a decimal point is irrelevant. On bar or bat mitzvah invitations, “and” is used simply as a connective word. Also, though the “T” in “two thousand” is not traditionally supposed to be capitalized, almost all invitations nowadays capitalize the first letter. This usage is so common that to use lowercase might make it look as though your stationer forgot to capitalize the first letter. Furthermore, your invitations will look more polished if the first letter of the year is capitalized (see Image 6).

Correct: Two thousand and thirteen

Incorrect: Two-thousand and thirteen

For less formal invitations, the “and” is usually omitted:

Correct: Two thousand thirteen

Incorrect: Two-thousand thirteen

The City & State

The last line in the main body of the invitation shows the names of the city and state in which the ceremony is being held. Both city and state are included, separated by a comma.

Two exceptions to this rule are New York City and Washington, D.C. For bar or bat mitzvahs held in New York, “New York City” or just “New York” are used, since “New York, New York” seems redundant. The city and state line for bar or bat mitzvahs held in Washington, D.C., can read “City of Washington” or “Washington, District of Columbia” (see Image7):

Correct:

Temple Beth Shalom

Miami Beach, Florida

Incorrect:

Temple Beth Shalom

Miami Beach, FL

Correct:

Temple Beth Shalom

New York

Incorrect:

Temple Beth Shalom

NY, NY

Junior vs. II

Although it may seem as though “junior” and “II” can be used interchangeably, they are actually different designations. “Junior” is used by a man whose father has the same name as him, whereas “II” is used by a man who has the same name as the older relative (usually a grandfather), other than the father. The “III” is used by the namesake of a man using “junior” or “II.” When used on an invitation, a comma usually precedes the “II” or “III.” Some men prefer to omit the comma. Either way is correct.

Ethan Joshua Winer, junior

Steven Zachariah Abrahamsohn, II OR Steven Zachariah Abrahamsohn II

The Middle Name

Initials should not appear on formal bar or bat mitzvah invitations. Men who dislike their middle names and use their middle initial instead should be discouraged from doing so. If he refuses to use his middle name, it’s better to omit his middle name entirely than to use just his initial (see Image 8).

Correct: Steven Abrahamsohn

Incorrect: Steven Z. Abrahamsohn

The Invitational Line

If the mother kept her maiden name there are two things you can do. One avenue is the possibility of their using “Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jay Forrester” for purposes of the bar or bat mitzvah invitation. Another option is to engrave the mother’s name on the first line of the invitation and the father’s name, preceded by “and,” on line two. No titles are used in this format.

Charlotte Rachel Graves

and Ethan Joshua Winer

request the honour of your presence

as their son

Michael Avery

is called to the Torah

as a Bar Mitzvah

If either (or both) parents are medical doctors use their professional titles. “Doctor” should be written out, but may be abbreviated to “Dr.” if the father’s name is exceptionally long.

Doctor Ethan Joshua Winer OR Dr. Steven Zachariah Abrahamsohn

Traditionally, if the mother is a doctor, she would use her social title — “Mrs.” — on the bar or bat mitzvah invitation, so the parents’ names should read:

Mr. and Mrs. Ethan Joshua Winer

However, as more and more women have become doctors, they have felt it unfair that male doctors can properly use their professional titles while they are relegated to “Mrs.” So, they may also, quite properly, use their professional titles. If the mother chooses to use her professional title, her name, preceded by her title, appears on the first line. The father’s name and title, preceded by “and,” appears on the second line. The use of “and” indicates they are married. Not using “and” implies they are divorced.

Doctor Charlotte Graves

and Mr. Ethan Joshua Winer

If both parents are doctors, the parents’ names most properly would read (see Image 9):

Doctor and Mrs. Ethan Joshua Winer

OR

The Doctors Winer

OR

Doctor Charlotte Rachel Winer

and Doctor Ethan Joshua Winer

Ph.D. is an academic title that is used only in academic settings. The use of “Doctor” on wedding invitations is reserved for medical doctors and ministers with advanced degrees.

Correct: Mr. Lawrence Elijah Levine

Incorrect: Doctor Lawrence Elijah Levine, Ph.D

Jessica Sick is the Etiquette Concierge at the fine stationery company Crane & Co., where she offers advice to brides, businesses, and good old-fashioned stationery enthusiasts on everything from the proper way to word a formal wedding invitation to how to properly write a letter to a Duke. (Hint: It isn’t “Dear Duke”).

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