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Attending Your First Bat Mitzvah: What to Expect

(Photo: Westminister Synagogue)

Have you been invited to a bat mitzvah, but it will be the very first time that you’re attending this type of event? Then you may be wondering what you should expect. Continue reading to learn more about what a bat mitzvah is all about so that, when you arrive, you won’t feel completely out of place and confused.

It’s a Formal Event
A bat mitzvah is a formal event, which is why the bat mitzvah venue that you’ll be at will likely be quite elegant, much like At the P, as an example. Also, guests will be required to wear formal, but modest, attire. Therefore, men can wear a suit, while women can wear a pantsuit or a dress. Depending upon the community and how traditional it is, you might even need to dress in even more formal clothes. For example, women might be required to wear a dress rather than pants, and they may even have to wear hats.

You’ll Be Required to Maintain the Sanctity of the Event
Every participant and guest at a bat mitzvah will be required to respect the prayer service’s sanctity. You’ll have to set your smartphone to vibrate only, and you may even need to turn it off completely. You won’t be allowed to take any photos, and in some traditional settings, photography will not be allowed at all for Shabbat. There’s also no smoking allowed, you aren’t allowed to speak during the services, and you aren’t allowed to write either.

You’ll Be Asked to Give a Gift
Giving gifts is expected, but not required, at a bat mitzvah. You can give a gift of money or you can make a donation to a charitable organization in the name of the person being celebrated. For good luck, stick with monetary amounts in multiples of 18. So, for example, you can give a gift of $18 or you can give a donation of $36. Give your gift at the party rather than at the synagogue during the service.

There Will Be a Lot of Sitting and Standing
Be aware that worship services in the Jewish faith are considered quite active. You’ll frequently be given directions to sit for certain prayers and stand for other prayers, so you’ll have to listen to the instructions or observe and follow along with what the other guests are doing. You should follow along as a sign of respect, as standing and sitting don’t constitute religious belief or significance. However, during those times throughout the service when you have to bow, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, as this would be a religious act. Instead of bowing, you can simply remain seated or standing.

Now that you know a few of the things that you can expect when you attend your first bat mitzvah, you can arrive with more confidence, take in the experience, and learn a few new things about the Jewish faith. And remember that this is a party, so go ahead and celebrate and have some fun.