Now in her eighth year at the helm of Atlanta Party Connection, founder and chief party officer Shelly Danz is gearing up for the 15th Bar & Bat Mitzvah Expo Sunday at Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta.
The expo began while she was working for the Atlanta Jewish Community Center, as one of many events Danz coordinated.
“I was running it, but people afterwards were always calling me and asking if I knew the best DJs or best photographers,” she said. “I realized there really wasn’t a good resource out there with all the information.”
At that point, Danz had already planned one bat mitzvah, for her eldest daughter, and had another coming up for her son three years later.
APC was born in 2011 and now specializes in two types of events through Atlanta Mitzvah Connection and Atlanta Wedding Connection. With two mitzvah expos each year, they feature upwards of 75 vendors, photographers, DJs, caterers, decorators and more, attracting over 500 people.
The goal of the expo is to take some of the stress out of the planning process, Danz explained, by providing all the resources in one place necessary for putting on a fantastic event.
“The main thing I learned that I try to pass along to parents is that, while they often feel like they have to do something to make it different, it’s really about making it personal to you,” she said. “You can do it at a popular venue with popular vendors, but there are little things you can do to make it yours.”
It’s important not to get overwhelmed, she said, “to take a breath and realize that this is a time to bring all the people who care about you and your teen together for a weekend.”
Danz, with a perfect vantage point to watch trends develop, said that the traditional bar and bat mitzvah classics are still favorites, but fun new twists can add a layer of excitement.
“The dinner-dance with the DJ and montage and photo booth is still going strong. They were around when I had my bat mitzvah,” she said. “Sometimes people change it up, by not having a seated dinner, or having a cool dessert vendor, … or even a food truck at the end of the night.”
Danz added that for those who weren’t seeking a traditional dance party, venues that include activities, such as bowling and golf, were very popular.
Now with plenty of practice putting on the expo under her belt, Danz said that it was still vital to keep an informal feel to the day.
“It’s a family event. It’s not just moms rushing around collecting business cards. It really is a party atmosphere,” she said. “It really is a way for people to try things firsthand and get a feel for it.”
Parents often come year after year, both because bar and bat mitzvah dates are handed out so early and because it really brings people together, Danz said.
“Besides the fact that you can get things done, it’s also a social experience, because the Jewish community is so connected, you’re seeing friends and your kids are seeing their friends.”
The importance of her role helping to organize such notable milestones is not lost on Danz.
“The fact that I can celebrate these lifecycles and bring people together is really special to me,” she said.
The Bar & Bat Mitzvah Expo takes place from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta. The event is free, but to pre-register online and skip the lines, visit: www.atlantamitzvahconnection.com.