Guest Column

By Shelly Danz

Mitzvahs are my life. Over the past 15 years I’ve helped hundreds of Atlanta families plan bar and bat mitzvah celebrations. But when it came to my kids’ big days, I wore the hats of both the professional planner and the nervous mitzvah mom.

I’ve used what I learned in my dual role to help guide clients ever since. Here’s what I tell them:

  • Dare to be popular. Did you choose the same venue as your best friend? Who cares? Ignore the urge to be different just to be different. Our party was at a popular mitzvah venue with a
    Ryan Danz is the highflying center of attention at his bar mitzvah celebration.

    Ryan Danz is the highflying center of attention at his bar mitzvah celebration.

    popular theme, a popular DJ and a popular green screen. It didn’t matter. It was the party we wanted, and we did little things to make it our own and truly memorable. Of course, an unusual theme may dictate more unusual choices, but don’t avoid vendors just because others in your circle used them. (By the way, popular vendors and venues are booked often because they make events successful.)

  • Make it personal. Play up aspects of your child’s personality or passions so that attendees feel like they’re connected to the guest of honor. Did they choose a mitzvah project based on something they feel strongly about? Do they love a particular song or dance? Make sure your DJ or décor calls attention to that info. We displayed pictures of my son playing baseball all weekend long, and the DJ made him the center of attention all night. He was even carried around the room, which he loved.
  • Involve mitzvah kids in planning. The party is really for your mitzvah kid, and he/she needs decision-making power. My son had great opinions about things he cared about, like his green screen backgrounds, the kids’ food and what songs he wanted played. While some kids will have more input than others, make sure the party reflects your child’s preferences and not just yours.
  • Check out the kids’ space. Tour the kids’ area at some point during the celebration. It’s a great feeling to see your child and all of his or her friends having fun as they celebrate him/her. Whether your child is doing a dance you’ve never seen before or slow dancing with someone he or she likes, it’s a rare moment to see your kid totally enjoying himself/herself with lots of favorite people. (Store that mental image for a tough teen day in the future.)
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. This is my motto all the time, but especially this weekend. Something will go wrong. It even happened to me with a typo on my hospitality letter directing guests to call a wrong number (oops!). There is no do-over on this day, so get past it and enjoy all the good.
  • Let the pros do their jobs. You hired vendors because you respect their work. Let them deliver for you. If things turn out slightly different than you envisioned, it’s likely because your vendor knew this way would be better. Know that it’s in your vendors’ best interests to do terrific work. One of your guests may want to hire them in the future, or you may decide to hire them again. Show appreciation for vendors (by tipping and sending thank-you notes after the event) who went above and beyond.

    Ryan Danz’s reaction to a taste of wine gives parents Shelly and Barry Danz a good laugh.

    Ryan Danz’s reaction to a taste of wine gives parents Shelly and Barry Danz a good laugh.

  • Savor the moment. Remember your wedding? Yup, it’s going to go by that fast. Make sure you dance to the music, taste the food and admire the décor. Let your guests know how much you appreciate them being there and enjoy their company. Feel the amount of love surrounding your child and your family. Take it all in. Trust me, your joy will be reflected in the photos.

Happy planning.

Shelly Danz, the founder and principal of Atlanta Party Connection (www.atlantapartyconnection.com), has been a professional event planner for more than 15 years. She created the Atlanta Bar & Bat Mitzvah EXPO, now in its seventh year.