We all know the bat mitzvah is a monumental milestone in the life of a young Jewish girl — or should I say woman. Because what says, “Today, I am an adult,” more than stumbling through the Hebrew Torah portion about the Jewish laws relating to suspected adulteresses, and then following it up with a party at a convention center thematically tied to Will Smith’s 1997 album, “Big Willie Style”?
When I came of age in the northwest suburbs of Chicago in 1999, huge bar/bat mitzvah bashes seemed like the only way to go. DJs, DJ dancers, strobe lights, smoke machines, Elizabethan-style dessert tables, personalized t-shirts (or scrubs, or socks, or…), inflatable saxophones, and memory montages were pretty much a given. I’ve since learned that not all bar/bat mitzvahs were quite as extravagant as the ones I went to every single weekend of 7th grade, but frankly, I wouldn’t want them any other way. Because if you didn’t have an ice sculpture at your party, was it really a party at all?
Let’s take a walk down Jewy memory lane and look at some signs that you may have had an over-the-top bat mitzvah, too.
1. The Place Card
Your guests walk into the ballroom of the convention center to find a table of place cards. But we’re not talking cardboard tents with a name printed on one side and a table number on the other — no no. Because my theme was music, I personally went with CD Jewel cases featuring an image of myself sitting on my bed with a mini boom box and CDs spread around me (and a Tickle Me Elmo in the background, natch). Upon opening the CD, my lucky guests found not only the name of their assigned table (examples included TLC, Backstreet Boys, and my head table, Will Smith) but also a chocolate CD ready for consumption. Let’s get this party started.
2. Not just a theme, an experience (™)
Like I said, my theme was music. But I couldn’t just leave it at boring old music — I had to create my very own music festival called “Mollypalooza.” Mind you, my parents made this up because at age 12 in 1999 I had no idea what Lollapalooza was. But this moniker made its way onto everything, from the decorations to the t-shirt giveaway. Looking back, I appreciate this early experience in working on my #personalbrand.
3. The grand entrance
A bat mitzvah girl does not simply walk into her party. I made my grand entrance to the tune of “Good Golly Miss Molly” (obviously) while being carried on the shoulders of two very hunky DJ dancers in silver sequined vests. I will never again make an entrance like this. I will never again feel this cool.
4. Performance (including wardrobe change)
I started the evening out in an elegant, floor-length black dress with a butterfly-print lace overlay. But that wasn’t gonna cut it when it came time to perform the dance I absolutely needed to perform for my grateful guests. I studied the choreography with the DJ dancers for weeks leading up the main event, and chose the perfect song for any Jewish rite of passage: “Welcome to Miami” by, you guessed it, Will Smith. So to look the part, I slipped into a funky number including a silver spaghetti strap top and tight black dance pants and took my place at center stage. This is also when the smoke machines made their appearance. Reader, I crushed it.
5. Sweet sweet table
The dessert table is obviously the most important aspect of any major event, and when it comes to a bat mitzvah, the bigger the better. Mine featured your cakes, your cookies, your chocolate covered Oreos, your fruit for the elderly, but also something very important that is not pictured above: A Dippin’ Dots station. Because you can’t enter into womanhood without “the ice cream of the future” on tap. You just can’t.
There you have it, folks. A party that was most likely more extravagant than any future (totally hypothetical, I’m like very single) wedding I ever may have. Did I learn what it means to be an independent adult? To take on the responsibilities the Torah asks of a grown woman? Not totally clear. But I did come away with a lifetime of memories and a really cool purple shirt I still sleep in to this day.