The last decade has seen a major shift in how we invite people to milestone moments like weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs.
For starters, the advent of sophisticated, fun, and bespoke digital invitations has changed the game. And yet, the “paper vs digital” debate sounds downright quaint next to the list of decisions families need to make around bar or bat mitzvah invitations in the age of Covid-19.
These days — as many adults are vaccinated but kids under 12 are not yet eligible — many families are opting for a “hybrid” event; a combination of in-person and online festivities. As such, most families can divide their guest list into three main groups:
- those invited to only attend virtually
- those invited to a virtual service but an in-person celebration
- those invited to mark the day entirely in-person
From there, your guest list could require further sub-groupings, like friends from school and friends from the neighborhood or local family and out-of-town family.
Regardless of how complex your invitation landscape looks, every host shares the same goal: to provide guests with clear information that reflects the joy and meaning of the day. Read on for our comprehensive guide on who, and how, to invite guests to your child’s big day.
1. Go the digital route
A digital invitation offers tech-supported ways to customize your invitations and organize your guest list into different categories. It also provides a quick and easy way to shift your guest list, if necessary — you can add invitees if you have more in-person space, or include more people on the invitation to a virtual event. Each platform is different, but here are some of the features you’ll find with an online invitation.
Clone your invitations — Some platforms like Green Envelope have a “clone” feature, in which you can distribute different versions of your invitation to different groups of guests. This approach allows you to create a single design but customize wording around Zoom links, RSVP dates, or in-person locations and protocols for each group of guests.
Sub-events — Some websites also allow you to create “sub-events,” so people can see a list of what they’re invited to and respond accordingly.
Track RSVPs online — Sites like Evite enable you to see who has opened the invitation — a handy way to make sure everyone has gotten the memo… and the RSVP date.
Tags — Some invitation websites allow you to upload your invitees as a single list, while also providing a “tag” function that easily allows hosts to communicate directly with sub-groups of guests around the information that pertains to them.
2. Send “smart” paper invitations
Paper bar and bat mitzvah invitations famously come with a number of inserted cards, allowing for directions, RSVPs, and information about additional events like Friday night dinner or Sunday brunch. If you are using a paper invitation, consider this set-up to be an asset in keeping your guests informed and yourself organized. Give your paper invitations extra time to arrive — send them at least 8 weeks before the event, if possible, to account for any postal delays. You can smarten-up your paper invitations by providing a URL or email address people can follow to RSVP (though some bar or bat mitzvah kids will want the excitement of getting their RSVPs by mail). You can also provide a single card with multiple options people can check off (virtual service, backyard celebration, etc), or add multiple inserts to the envelope, one for each aspect of the celebration.
3. Create a website
The invitation doesn’t have to be the only source of information for your guests! A simple website — which can be created on a platform like Canva, or by working with a designer — can allow you to stretch out and share additional information about things like child’s mitzvah project and a full list of safety protocols. A bar or bat mitzvah web site can also have a virtual guest book and a password-protected link to the streaming service or Zoom room.
4. Hybridize your invitations
For many families, a combination of paper and electronic invitations make sense — particularly if paper invitations are a tradition that your family had long been looking forward to. The paper invitation can serve a practical function of having guests save the date, and it can then direct guests to a website or online RSVP form. If you are planning a hybrid bar or bat mitzvah and your in-person list of guests is small, you can send everyone the paper invitation announcing the virtual plans, and then personally reach out to in-person guests to share additional plans.
5. Set clear RSVP expectations
It’s important your guests know when and how to RSVP — especially if you are having an in-person component with limited capacity. Consider setting an RSVP date earlier than you otherwise would, in case you need to follow up with some people — and don’t be shy about saying space is limited. You can keep an accurate count of your virtual guests by only sending the Zoom or streaming link to people who have responded. And state clearly that if an in-person invitee can’t or isn’t comfortable physically attending, you will send them the virtual information so they can join from their own space.
6. Ask kids to sign up for in-person party slots
If you have space constraints, consider having a rotating plan for in-person guests, particularly friends of the bar or bat mitzvah child. Use a platform like Sign-Up Genius to let people sign up for a time slot of their choice, or encourage groups like school cohorts, neighborhood friends, or religious school classmates to sign up together. This is particularly helpful if you have an activity like s’mores-making, a food truck, or an art project that kids can do in a short time like 30 minutes. Allow 15 minutes in between each group to make sure people have time to come and go, knowing some will do so in a more timely way than others.
7. Choose your words carefully
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to craft the perfect wording in your invitation. But it’s worth spending a little time wordsmithing to make sure you’re meeting the moment with both clarity and joy. Ask yourself whether each thing you share is both informative and celebratory. For example, if your service will be virtual, you might want to say “Broadcast via Zoom / Streaming hosted by” the name of your synagogue, rather than simply writing the name on the invitation, so people don’t get confused about whether the service will take place in the building or online.
As long as you have been clear about what each guest is invited to join you for, and how they can get in touch with you, your invitation will be helpful and love-filled, which is as it should be.
Header image by Grace Yagel