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A safe bet

for The Brooklyn Paper

Planning a bar or bat mitzvah requires the strategic skill of General Patton, the patience of Moses, the fortitude of Job, and the wisdom of Solomon — along with a year-long supply of antacids and arch supports.

Columnist, Joanna Del Buono planned a large fete for her daughter using a Las Vegas theme and hit the jackpot in terms of success. Take a safe bet and follow her guidelines and advice while planning the perfect celebration for your kiddo:

Guest list and location

First things first, figure out how many people you intend to invite. If you don’t have monetary limitations and plan on inviting every person your darling has known since infancy, look at a large venue — say Madison Square Garden. If not, and you have a modest budget like mine, then look for a hall to fit approximately 50 to 100 people (that’s about the average amount of guests). When booking my daughter’s party, we began the “Catering Hall Cruise,” about one year in advance of the date. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find the perfect place on your first outing. It takes many days, many miles, and many gallons of gas to discover that illusive location. In our case, the trek was so arduous that when we finally booked the hall, we had a mini celebration with confetti, cake, and a bottle of sparkling cider to cement the deal.

What’s it all about?

Once you have the place locked in, the next thing to consider is the theme. These days that can be as lavish as belly dancers at an Arabian nights party to a flight simulation machine and a helicopter ride at a aviation themed shindig that takes place in the terminal of an airport. I knew someone who used a Cinderella theme and had a pumpkin carriage in the middle of the hall. It can also be as simple as come-as-you-are and have a good time. Our’s was middle-of-the-road extravagant, with our daughter opting for a Las Vegas night, complete with dice, cards, and toy roulette wheels.

Since the venue and theme are the largest (and most stressful) decisions you make, once they are scribed in stone (or at least a hefty deposit is made) everything else — aside from your child’s actual ceremony — should be easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy. But each stage does bring it’s own level of agita, negotiation, and compromise.

In the cards

Invitations, decorations, centerpieces, entertainment, and food quickly followed suit. My advice is to try to fit everything into the theme. For instance, with a Las Vegas theme, a buffet made perfect sense and was very affordable. And a cute parting gift for this kind of theme can be a bag full of chocolate coins.

There’s also a lot of additional costs you may not anticipate at first. These includes tipping venue staff and entertainers, labels on personalized bottles of water (you don’t want the kids to get dehydrated with all the dancing they’re likely to do), complimentary yarmulkes for guests to wear during the ceremony, amenity baskets — one for the yarmulkes and one filled with toiletries (another additional cost) for the ladies’ bathroom — a bus to transport kids from the service to the party, a day-after brunch of bagels and lox for close family and friends, and socks. Yes. Socks. Lots of little girls love to take off their shoes soon after the celebration begins (at 12 and 13 they haven’t yet mastered the “beauty is pain” mentality) and you’ll want to protect their feet while they slide all over the dance floor. And speaking of “sliding” consider getting party insurance as well if you’re planning winter time soiree.

And if you have a girl, the same goes for hairstyle, dress, and accessories. In regards to the dress, there’s thousands of styles and hundreds of stores (read our article about the best dress for every body type), so how do you choose? As I told my daughter, “When you try the right one on, you’ll know.” The same logic goes for hair, nails, and accessories.

Band-aid and more

When choosing entertainment decide if you want to go with a band or a DJ. We went with a DJ. This in itself required decisions. Do you have fog machines, jumbo screens, and dancers or escorts? And if so, how many screens, how many fog machines, and how many escorts? We had two dancers, no fog machines, and one jumbo screen. There were also choices to be made for all the giveaways traditionally thrown into the dancing crowd. Since our theme was Vegas, we went with dice-beads, blow-up-dice, day-glo necklaces, and rubber bracelets.

After all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so we continued our decorations with chocolate dice lollipops (hand made, of course), roulette wheels, decks of cards, dice sets, Vegas scratch-off lottery tickets, balloon centerpieces, arches, and towers, and finally, Las Vegas card holders.

The final countdown

After all the planning, plotting, and negotiating, in the end, I was just happy that my hair stayed in place and my feet still held me up.

Was it worth it? Certainly. To hear my daughter tell me, “You know, Mom, this was the best day of my life,” was priceless.

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