Counting on a sensational event

Sam Kingsley has 18 years’ experience of event planning. Here’s her step-by-step list of what needs to be done


Remember to enjoy the planning - it’s all part of the celebration. Photo by Getty images.

Organising a bar/batmitzvah involves careful planning and coordination over a two-year period.

Two years before

  • Contact your synagogue and confirm your allocated date (if you are having a religious ceremony). Your rabbi will help you find a teacher and sign you up to the necessary classes.
  • Create a budget for the event, outlining all expenses and the approximate number of guests.

The budget should include essentials such as a photographer, videographer, décor (balloons, flowers, light-up letters, table centres etc). Many people like additional entertainment such as dancers, video games, glitter tattooists, face painters, magicians. All these “add-ons” need to be considered when doing your initial budget.

Often overlooked when budgeting is the number of outfits needed for each event and for each member of the family. And accessories. Also, hair and makeup for each event and perhaps for multiple children.

  • Call round/email venues and get a feel of what is right for you.

Most venues offer dry hire and allow access to kosher caterers. Some venues have an exclusive deal or a preferred list of kosher caterers you must use.

The barmitzvah groups on Facebook are excellent places to find a kosher caterer, as are online searches. Asking around in the school playground or in the local delis and butchers is a great idea too. If someone takes the time to make a recommendation, it speaks volumes.

We find most people are flexible on the caterer and are much more set on their venue. So it is best to select the venue first and then the caterer. You may find you are more limited if you go to a caterer first.

At my venues, Twenty and The Sorting Office, my team would send a brochure and price list for the venue you’re interested in hiring. We then invite prospective clients to see the place in action, to get a feel of how fabulous we will make their special occasion.

  • Once you have decided which venue you would like, book it, receive paperwork and pay your deposit. Don’t delay, as venues are snapped up quickly.
  • Our venues include catering (unless clients would prefer a dry hire) but if your chosen venue doesn’t, the next thing on your list will be to secure a caterer. The London Beth Din website has a list of kosher caterers under its supervision; other kashrut authorities will have similar lists. Word-of-mouth recommendation is always a good idea.
  • Next, pick a DJ. This is a huge part of your simchah, as a good DJ will be running the show. Most DJs hold an initial meeting so you can make sure you’re a good fit.

18 months before

  • Book the photographer and videographer - social media makes it easy to get an idea of their style. Contact the ones you like best; get prices and get booking.
  • Choose a theme or colour scheme. At my venues we use the event logo as part of the decor for the function, so you really want it to stand out. Contact your invitation/logo designer and set up a meeting for your invitations and save the dates.

One year before

  • Book your glam squad (make- up artists and hairstylists). Start thinking about entertainment/ games/glitter tattooists/dancers and check availability and prices so you can book your favourites.

You might want to start shopping for outfits; this can take time. Always keep your eyes open for the perfect outfits. Evening wear shops aren’t “seasonal”. They carry the most beautiful dresses for all seasons all year round (eg summer colours all year round as well as black, navy and red). In mainstream shops, I find September is always a good time to look for “party” outfits.

For synagogue, look online for a great dress or two-piece.

Nine months before

  • If you are sending a save the date, this is the time to do it, to ensure all your guests have it in their diary.

Six months before

  • At this stage, we call in all our clients for an extensive planning meeting. This is when we discuss everything including décor, entertainment, timings and other lovely touches to make your event personal.

The whole family is then welcome for a menu tasting and cocktail tasting - definitely every client’s favourite part of the planning process.

Choose who will be doing your speeches and toasts; order your T-shirts and novelties.

Three months before

  • It’s the big day for the invitations to go out — and once you start to receive RSVPs you can put together your list of guests’ dietary requirements.

Two months before

  • Meet your DJ to decide your song choices and soundtrack for your big entrance into the room. They will then put together a time plan for your evening.

One month before

  • Have a final planning meeting with your venue and suppliers. Finalise your numbers of guests and pay outstanding balances to your suppliers.

The Big Week

  • Enjoy every minute of your special time, as life should not only be lived it should be celebrated! Remember this is a general guideline, and sometimes things don’t go to plan. We have pulled together the most beautiful functions with only a month’s notice, so don’t be disheartened if your timeline does not fall into the above category.

Sam Kingsley is owner of Twenty Events & The Sorting Office. Twenty at N20, in north London, is a stunning event venue offering modern elegance and versatility. The Sorting Office in Temple Fortune is a new, stylish event space known for its contemporary design and versatility,

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