A theme isn’t necessary for a Bar Mitzvah, but it can make things more fun — and simplify your party planning. Why? When you’ve got a theme in mind, picking out party details is that much easier — details that fit with your theme and palette are in, obvious mismatches are out.
Brainstorm with your son to come up with a theme that plays up one of his passions, whether it’s basketball or video games. We asked a professional party planner for five inspirational ideas for Bar Mitzvah themes, and then came up with an example for each.
A vacation spot — or a dream destination — can provide great fodder for a Bar Mitzvah theme. We chose Hawaii.
Key decor: Evoke the islands with Hawaiian-print linens, tiki torches (if you’re outdoors, of course), and tropical flowers in the centerpieces — think birds of paradise, hibiscus, and lilies.
Entertainment: Have a troupe of hula dancers come and give a performance after dinner. You could even ask whether they can give a lesson to the kids (don’t forget the grass skirts!).
Catering: Do a fruit smoothie bar for the kids with plenty of tropical choices like mangoes, papayas, and pineapple in addition to the classics (strawberries, bananas, and OJ), and a tropical signature cocktail (mai tais, anyone?) for the grown-ups.
Favors: Tiki-style cups or Hawaiian-print boxer shorts make fun takeaways for a Hawaiian-themed Bar Mitzvah.
Extras: Use postcards from Hawaii as place cards — and “address” each one to each guest at their table (if you’re really ambitious, have the Bar Mitzvah boy include a note to each of his friends or to special relatives).
Hobbies and Passions:
Could he spend all day playing the saxophone? Are you always on your way to or from his soccer practices? Spotlighting your son’s number one pastime is a great way to make the Bar Mitzvah all about him. We chose basketball as our example.
Key decor: It’s all about b-ball, so be sure the spotlight is on the sport. Life-size cutouts of favorite NBA players make for fun decor (and great photos). Basketball trading cards can be scattered on tables or used as escort cards (cover up the names on the cards and fill in guests’ names instead).
Entertainment: Rent an arcade-style hoops game, whether it’s basketball-themed pinball or arcade machines, or an Alley Hoops or Super Shot basketball game for high-scoring fun.
Catering: Go with kid’s fare that fits with a fun, casual theme — mini burgers are a yummy (and trendy) way to go. Another kid favorite: A french fry bar where you can choose your own toppings.
Favors: Personalized mini basketballs are a great take-home for this Bar Mitzvah. Customized basketball jerseys also make a great favor.
The perfect theme for the kid who’s not that into having a theme is to go with his favorite color to tie everything together. These ideas will work with any color, but we went with blue.
Key decor: Blue balloons are fun, and blue linens are a natural. To make things a little more dynamic, vary the shades — like indigo, cerulean, and sky blue — instead of doing all one hue.
Centerpieces: Boys aren’t always so into flowers. How to do a cool blue centerpiece? Think of non-floral elements that could fit your theme. Small table lamps with fun blue shades add a little light to the space. Another option: faux gifts wrapped with different blue papers and ribbons.
Catering: Do an all-blue candy bar so kids (and adults) can pick out treats to enjoy at the party (and afterward — don’t forget take-out containers so guests can take some home). Blue M&M’S, rock candy, Skittles, jelly beans — the choices are endless. Another option: Rent a cotton candy machine.
Extras: Going for a cool blue? Get extra cool with an ice sculpture or two with your son’s initials as an adornment for the entry or buffet area.
Favorite Time in History:
Looking to the past can be a terrific source of inspiration for your Bar Mitzvah. Choosing a specific decade (like the ’50s) or going even further back (think ancient Egypt or the Renaissance) can put a unique spin on your son’s Bar Mitzvah. For our example, we chose the ’60s.
Key decor: Decide first if you want to go ’60s mod or ’60s hippie — for a more mod look, juxtapose bright colors (poppy centerpieces, maybe?) with black and white. For a hippie vibe, think daisies, lava lamps, and beaded curtains for your decor.
Entertainment: Celebrity impersonators can interact with guests and give you some seriously funny photos. For the ’60s, The Beatles or Ed Sullivan could be fun. Though he’s technically from the ’90s, hiring an Austin Powers impersonator will definitely impress the kids.
Favors: Get guests in on the act with sunglasses and love beads. Another option: tie-dyed T-shirts customized with the Bar Mitzvah child’s name and birth date.
Extras: Number tables with images of the Bar Mitzvah boy in costume as various ’60s icons, or with their picture created in the style of different artists from the era (for example, Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein).
The movies are a major source of inspiration for Bar Mitzvah themes — no surprise, since Tinseltown is everywhere these days. A Hollywood theme can be as broad as, well, “Hollywood,” or you can opt to focus on one of your son’s fave flicks.
Key decor: You can go in any direction with this theme as far as colors go — it’s the fun extras that will make it fit. Movie posters, faux film reels, and a red carpet entry will give it a Hollywood feel.
Entertainment: Screen actual movies by the dance floor — and you don’t have to have the sound on, it’s more for the ambiance. Something with lots of color and excitement (and that everyone knows so well that they can enjoy a minute or two sans sound) works best — think classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or The Wizard of Oz.
Catering: Serve concession-style snacks for the kids’ dessert. Rent a popcorn popper for fresh popcorn all night long, or have your caterer dream up their version of classic sweets like Ring Dings or Ho Hos.
Extras: Name the tables for each of your child’s favorite films, and label them with a mini version of that movie poster.