(If you’re confused as to why this guide begins at #27, click here for Part 1)
You’ve survived the service. You’ve properly enclosed your cash or check into an appropriately themed card and sealed the envelope (remembering at the last minute to add your name to the card). But you’ve only just begun your journey. Consult your original invitation, curse yourself for accidentally throwing out that helpful directions card, drive successfully to the proper location, reluctantly hand your keys to the valet knowing how long it will take to get your car back at night’s end, and make your way into the main event.
THE PARTY, HOUR 1 – THE “COCKTAIL” HOUR
- When you arrive at that evening’s party for the “cocktail hour”, you will immediately notice the attire worn by guests. Adult women will be wearing stunning dresses from Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, while the teenage girls will be dressed like hookers.
- Concurrently, the suits worn by both boys and men will be at least two sizes too big. This will not matter, for within the first 10 minutes all boys will deposit their suit jackets on the floor of the reception hall, and will later return home with the wrong coat belonging to a camp friend from Massachusetts.
- As you enter, adults and children will split into two rooms. The kids will move to a room filled with games, candy, unlimited pizza and organized activities, while the adults will file into a room with elegant music and fine passed hors d’oeuvres.
- Most adults secretly wish they were in the kid’s room.
- The name “cocktail hour” is misleading. Despite the moniker, this is not really about cocktails. It’s about FOOD. As Jews, we are trained at birth to crave appetizers, and consumer research shows that when given the choice between a libation or a toast point with filet, Jews will choose the beef 89.7% of the time.
- The sheer volume of food offered during the cocktail hour will be staggering. You will be offered a stuffed mushroom or a piece of meat on a stick at least once every 14.3 seconds.
- Despite this, you will still complain about the length of the line at the moo shu chicken buffet table.
- No matter how elegant the appetizers, nothing will be more treasured or fought over than a passed tray of mini hot dogs wrapped in puffed pastry.
- And they won’t come easy. A Bar Mitzvah professional knows to scope out all entrances and exits to the room like a secret service agent, eventually positioning themselves as near as possible to the entrance used by servers and aggressively attacking the mini hot dog server until there is nothing left on their tray besides parsley and a lonely dish of brown mustard. If you desire the mini hot dogs, don’t make the rookie mistake of getting stuck in the middle of the room with the dieters. Be a pro.
- This strategy should also be employed for potato pancakes.
- Conversely, take your time with the chicken satay. There will be plenty of those left.
- If you are male, within 10 minutes of entering the event you will spill some kind of red sauce on your white dress shirt. You will attempt to cover this up with an awkward combination of club soda and potato pancake grease (assuming you positioned yourself properly, see previous note) and hope your wife is too distracted by the action at the sushi table to notice.
- You will quickly surmise that a Jewish man must have three hands. There is no other explanation as to how he manages to hold his wife’s plate of salmon, her Cosmopolitan, and either her purse or his own fought-for mini hot dog without the pile tumbling onto his already-stained dress shirt. This may also explain why most Jewish men are thin, as they lack the necessary number of available appendages to hold or utilize a fork.
THE PARTY, HOUR 2 – ENTER THE ROOM
- Just as you manage to penetrate the gold rush that is the open bar, you will begin to hear a faint but building sound in the background, a kind of “oontz – oontz – oontz” you only hear when your daughter hijacks your Spotify account. At that very moment, you will be tapped on the shoulder by a harried event organizer, informing you that the hosts would like you to join them in the main room for dinner.
- You will ignore this person for at least 20 minutes, eventually irritating them to the point that they become agitated and physically begin pushing you and the other guests out of the cocktail room like cattle.
- As you enter the main room, and your ears adjust to the cacophony not unlike that Van Halen show that caused you semi-permanent hearing loss back in 1983, take a moment to look around. If you have forgotten the name of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child, you will he helpfully reminded by the colorful signage lining the walls displaying their first name in neon. Possibly flashing.
- You will also be given your first taste of the evening’s “theme”. It will either be related to sports, candy, musical instruments or some version of the color pink.
- Your eyes (like your ears) will need a moment to adjust. They are likely to have never before seen such an intense combination of white couches, colored lights, enormous draping, floating candles, personalized linens and oversized table centerpieces that decimated the floral populations of at least 12 local farms.
- It will take you 15 minutes to find your place at Table 14, because Jews have a sense of humor about non-linear table placement. Table 14 will somehow be located in a row adjacent to Table 3, Table 9 and a numberless table featuring a picture of Harry Styles.
- As you reach your seat, you may notice a group of 2-3 young women, all in skintight black clothing and gyrating on the dance floor like they just walked off stage at FlashDancers. These are not strippers, but are instead professionally referred to as “motivators”, ostensibly hired to interact with the kids and encourage them to dance.
- This is only partly true. You may also notice that the adult men are visibly straining not to ogle the motivators. They inevitably fail miserably, which is somehow both gross and accepted under the circumstances.
- You will quickly be greeted by the dominating voice of the soiree’s MC, a 27 year-old male wearing a vest, slicked-back hair, a shaved chest and the confidence of a young man with a microphone and a paid gig. As electronic trumpets blare, he will call each family member one by one into the room with fanfare, not unlike a British Royal Wedding. You will be implored to “give it up for Mr. and Mrs Shapiro!!!”. What you are required to give up at this moment is not made clear.
- The overall message, however, does come across: these are your kings for the evening, and you are their loyal subjects, grateful for being chosen to fill the king’s court during this ball to celebrate the magnificence of their offspring. Instead of bowing in acquiescence, scream loudly so that the parents acknowledge your presence.
- The Bar or Bat Mitzvah child will be carried into the room like the Pope.
- They will be mildly upstaged by their younger brother or sister, who will also be carried in but will be wearing adorable sunglasses and a fedora. If they are under the age of 9, this will act as the live-action equivalent of watching a viral panda video.
- At this point, the chest-shattering, lung-collapsing bass will be abruptly replaced by the modern sounds of clarinets and accordions. Before you have a chance to try to run, you will be grabbed by the sweaty right hand of Uncle Irwin, who will pull you into a dance circle surrounding the family called the hora. You will grab the non-sweaty left hand of a random female guest, who will look mildly disgusted by your sweaty right hand.
- After several sweaty-handed orbits around the family of honor, a chair will brought to the center of the circle. As much as you are tired of dancing in a circle, and as tempting as an open chair may look, do not sit in this chair. This chair is reserved to individually raise each family member in a Lion King-like salute to their power and authority over you.
- Chair lifters should generally be both physically fit and of reasonably close emotional proximity to the family. There will be one odd friend who barely made the invite list that will push his way into the lifting squad and will confuse the family 20 years later when they are looking at party pictures.
- During the hora, one family member will hit their head on a dangling chandelier, one will need to hold her dress down in order not to flash the audience, while another will try not to look embarrassed by the number of people required to lift them.
- The song being played is called “Hava Nagila”, which roughly translates from Hebrew into English as “Get me off this $%&# chair before someone drops me on the DJ”.
- The music will soon die down, at which point you’ll be asked to take your seat. During the shuffle of bodies, the boisterous DJ will ask Grandpa Stan to come to the stage to say the blessing over an enormous challah, ignoring the fact that half the room doesn’t eat carbs or gluten.
- Despite being given a microphone turned to maximum volume, none of the words coming out of Grandpa Stan’s mouth will be audible to human ears. Clap anyway as he slices the first piece of bread and possibly his own index finger.
- While the motivators attend to Grandpa Stan, the MC will ask you to take your seat for the beginning of dinner. When you arrive back at your table, you will notice a tilted chair or strategically-placed purse in the location in which you thought you were sitting. The territory officially marked, you will inevitably be seated to the left of a random out-of-town cousin that forgot to RSVP, causing a last-minute scramble to squeeze an extra place setting at your already crowded table.
But wait, you’re not done yet!! You haven’t even had dinner! Part 3 will walk you through the must-knows on Hours 3 & 4, including the meal, the speeches, the dancing, the swag and more. Read it here.
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