Creating your child’s bar or bat mitzvah guest list is a challenge. Here’s a simple guide to determining who gets an invitation.
If your teen considers someone a friend, that person should make the list. It is his/her party after all. Draw the line at acquaintances — those your child likes but doesn’t socialize with outside school, a club, etc.
But if your teen wants to invite members of a sports team, camp cabin or performing troupe, the entire group should receive invitations. You wouldn’t want hurt feelings to arise over one or two kids being left out.
If your child’s friends are traveling from out of town but you don’t know the parents, do not feel obligated to invite them. You can offer to assist with accommodations and transportation (in town) for the friend if the family needs help.
When it comes to your adult and family friends, invite the people who are important to you right now. Forget the guilt factor; otherwise, you’ll be inviting everyone you’ve ever met.
If you’re on the fence about a guest, you might decide to “test the guest” and invite only those who know the bar/bat mitzvah child. If your teen has no clue who it is and a quick reminder doesn’t help, perhaps the guest should be cut.
Remember, you do not have to invite an entire family when all you want to do is invite the parents (or the one child who is friends with your child). It is perfectly acceptable to address an invitation to only the family members you want in attendance.
Your parents (the grandparents) may want to invite several friends to share in the simcha. While having too many grandparent friends changes the celebration atmosphere, a good compromise would be to offer them one table for their closest peers.
A final word on the friends front: Just because you like someone doesn’t mean he or she should receive an invitation. You can’t invite everyone.
Clergy and Tutors
Hopefully you have a relationship with your rabbi and cantor, in which case an invitation is a gesture of appreciation for their spiritual guidance. Most clergy don’t attend the celebration, however, because if they went to one, they would need to attend them all.
Tutors who prepare children for Torah reading often form strong bonds with their pupils. If your child feels a connection, send an invitation to the service, even though the tutor may also be a member of your synagogue.
Tennis instructors, piano teachers, sports coaches, nannies — they all have connections to your teen. But they shouldn’t all be on the list. Open a dialogue with your child to confirm which ones they truly consider important.
Then take it step further: Does he want to see Coach Ken on the dance floor next to Aunt Deborah? If the answer is yes, and your budget and venue space allow, invite him.
If the relationship is close but not cry-during-the-montage close, consider a compromise: Invite favorite teachers, coaches and sitters to the service and luncheon, but not to the formal celebration.
But if the party immediately follows the service, note that the invitation must be all or nothing.
You may feel obligated to entertain co-workers at your big event, but do they belong there? Consider whether you socialize with these people outside the office, and, if so, do they know your child well enough to be part of this special day? If the answer to these questions is no, they shouldn’t be on the list.
Listen to your teen and your gut when making final decisions on the guest list. And remember, just because you like me doesn’t mean you should invite me. I’ll understand, and so will friends and acquaintances.