How to trim your bar mitzvah guest list

Project guest list: Are they in or are they out?

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Bar mitzvahs can be extremely expensive and many families try to cut corners without piercing anyone’s feelings. And it’s because of this that the guest list always seems to escape trimming.

But this aspect of the planning process should not be overlooked, especially when you are trying to stay within budget. After all, less guests means more money to spend on the important stuff such as decorations, food, entertainment, and of course, some well-earned cocktails for the adults at the reception.

So, who should you invite?

Close family — grandparents, aunts, uncles, and first cousins — should be considered first. But then, who else? Here are a few types guests to mull over before you lick stamps and send everyone a formal invitation.

Distant relatives

Distant relatives should be considered after immediate family. Maybe there are some distant family members who have a special bond with you child, but they have not seen your kiddo since the last family reunion two years ago. In this kind of circumstance, you need to consider whether or not this person has regular contact with your child. Do they speak to you kid on phone or Skype often? Are they even friends on Facebook? If so, invite away! If not, don’t guilt yourself into inviting them. If you or the bar mitzvah boy does not have a close relationship to this person, it is okay to leave them off the list. And the same reasoning should be applied towards your friends.

Also keep in mind that distant relatives that you’re not close with may attend out of a sense of duty, not because they really want to be there for the big day.

Distant close relatives

What about close relatives, such as aunts, uncles, and first cousins you or your child has an acrimonious relationship with? For instance, if your son’s first-cousin, Michael, always picks on him, it may seem unfair to invite Mean Mike to your child’s bar mitzvah. Yet, he is your kid’s cousin and your nephew. Michael, though a nuisance, should be invited — but keep him far away from your child.

And make sure to check his pockets for hard candy he may be planning on throwing during the bar mitzvah service.

Another type of family member you may want to consider is someone like your troubled brother Maxwell, your kid’s Uncle Max, who may not stay in touch with the family and has a history of stirring the pot. This is a guest that you, your kid, and your spouse need to have a discussion about. Consider whether this person is particularly close to your son, you, your spouse, or someone special who is attending the bar mitzvah, like your mother or father. Maxwell may be a misfit, but his presence might mean the world to your mother-in-law.

Your kid’s friends and Hebrew classmates

Your child is becoming an adult and it’s okay for you to encourage him to make good decisions about who he includes during the special moments of his life. So, let him decide, and if you’re concerned about money, budget him to a certain amount of guests.

The only sticky situation that can come of this situation is if your temple requires you to invite your child’s entire Hebrew class to his bar mitzvah. In this instance, do as your temple instructs and then adjust your guest list accordingly. Believe us, there is a method to that kind of madness.


Co-workers and bosses are another grey area. It seems rude not to invite the people you spend most of your time with, but it is not. Yes, you do see your boss and your co-workers for eight or nine hours, five days a week, but proximity does not necessarily foster close interpersonal relationships. If you do not have personal relationships with these people, leave them off the list. That is unless your boss makes it known she wants to attend — in that case, you may want to invite her.

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