There are those that prefer to stay close to home and those who want to see and experience all the world has to offer. If a soon-to-be teenaged boy or girl loves to travel or has been to more places in the world than you can count, then a travel themed Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah celebration is the ticket to a fabulously fun celebration. The easiest way to plan an event like this is to select a theme based on their interests and personality.
So, you’ve decided on a travel theme for your teen’s special day. The possibilities are limitless, although the effort may seem daunting. One of the first steps in planning, beyond picking the venue and putting together the guest list, is to make a list of the countries or places on which you would like to focus. Have your teen pick his or her favorite countries or regions. Perhaps your teen has been to every country in Europe, or has made it a point to touch down in every state in the United States, there an abundance of imagery from which to draw that can be incorporated into your party. Much of the decor is readily available online or in discount or thrift stores, so it doesn’t have to break the bank.
The invitations will establish the foundation of the party and you can use elements from them throughout your event. Travel themes call to mind passports, visa stamps, suitcases, famous landmarks or compasses. Below is a unique selection of customizable travel themed Bar and Bat Mitzvah invitations. They are affordable, creative and offer matching suites of paper goods to perfectly convey your theme.
Travel Themed Bar and Bat Mitzvah Invitations
Travel Themed Bar and Bat Mitzvah Response Cards and Reception Cards
Other paper goods such as reply cards or reception cards don’t necessarily have to match the invitation. If there are a few similar graphic elements used it will make the pieces look like a cohesive unit, but able to stand on their own.
Travel Themed Bar and Bat Mitzvahs
Matching mailing accessories
Postage, Envelopes, Stickers and Address Labels
Travel Themed Bar and Bat Mitzvahs : Decor and Place Cards
Assign tables by regions of the country and/or world (ie: the Caribbean, Brazil, Australia, France, Japan, etc.) Add a picture of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah at a landmark from that place as part of the centerpiece along with the country’s flags or a representative item. A small Eiffel Tower for France, a red phone booth for the UK or a cowboy hat for Texas are clever, yet simple additions. Balloons are almost de rigueur at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, but you can incorporate the global theme by adding globe balloons. Get other balloons and flowers in the colors of various countries flags to enhance centerpieces.
In addition to flowers and balloons, reflect the theme with travel posters. These can be obtained free (or nearly) free of cost by writing to any country’s embassy or consulate or try a local travel agency. Mount the posters around the room at angles to add visual interest.
Don’t forget about the ceiling! Almost anything can be hung from the ceiling to add to the ambiance. If you want to use hanging décor, make sure to check with your venue to ensure that they allow items to be hung from the ceiling. Plan for more set-up time as well. For a travel theme, think of archetypal items for various countries such as piñatas, lanterns or flags. Further enhance the theme with airplanes and mock airport signage. Large white and blue poms can be hung to look like the sky and clouds.
There are many fun options for place cards that can incorporate the travel theme. Be sure to add a table number written smaller on their card in case there’s any confusion on where to sit. If you’re particularly creative, borrow a picture of each of your child’s friends and scan the picture onto a “passport,” adding the name of the friend and a country name/flag. Luggage tags can double as table cards and make a fun give-away for guests. Or collect postcards from all over the world and add your guests’ names and table assignments on the back.
Travel Theme Bar and Bat Mitzvah Party Food Ideas
At an event focused on travel, it’s inexcusable not to serve international cuisine. Flag toothpicks are an easy, inexpensive touch. A buffet-style meal can reflect the travel theme if the food is separated into regional or international stations. These can include an Italian table focusing on pastas, a New York-themed table featuring kosher hot dogs, knishes or delicatessen specialties, a southern themed station featuring BBQ, or a Mexican station where guests can make their own tacos. Dress up the tables by using small flags or tablecloth colors of those countries or regions along with representative items such as a piñata or sombrero for Mexico, a beret for France, etc. If you are serving a sit-down meal, develop a menu with your caterer or venue so that guests may choose from an international bill of fare. Specialty drinks featuring the name of the honoree are popular, so give it a regional or international flair. Work with your venue’s bar manager to create a special non-alcoholic drink for the kids, with an alcoholic option for adults.
One of the highlights of any Bar or Bat Mitzvah is the cake. Bakers are always pushing the envelope with their creativity, so you’re only limited by your imagination and budget.
- Have a caricaturist draw your guests as world travelers, posed near famous global destinations.
- Hire a band or ensemble for your cocktail hour or main reception that can play a variety of world music.
- Photo booths are popular so make sure that international backdrops are included.
- If a budget allows, hire international folk dancers to either perform or teach your guests a short dance.
When guests arrive at the party, have them sign a large poster as a commemorative guest book for your child. These can be situated before the entrance to the reception and displayed on easels. A large map of the world mounted onto foam core is an inexpensive solution for a sign-in board. Attach pens to the board using ribbon or Velcro and have guests write messages and mark where they’ve been in the world. You could also keep the map separate and have a themed sign-in board with photos of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah in various locales. Guests sign the board and on a large mounted map of the world next to it, they can place provided stickers onto the map where they have traveled. All can participate with it being interesting to see where people have traveled, and it may even lead to conversation.
An alternative is to forgo a sign in sheet and feature a welcome table where vintage postcards are laid out. Guests would be encouraged to “send” a postcard to the Bar or Bat Mitzvah with their best wishes and insert it into a small suitcase or decorated box serving as the “mailbox”.
Travel Themed Bar and Bat Mitzvah favors
Party favors are usually given to the kids and reflect the theme of the event. They are often personalized with the name or initials of the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child along with the date. Think about t-shirts, beach towels, luggage tags, water bottles, small travel bags or drawstring bags that reflect your theme printed with a simple image such as a globe or plane with a banner stating “I traveled around the world at X’s Bar (Bat) Mitzvah”. If keeping within a budget is a priority, some items don’t need to be personalized. A paper tag printed with the event name and date attached to the item is a creative and inexpensive alternative. Other fun favors include mini suitcase tins to hold mints or candies, small globe key chains or bookmarks in the shape of landmarks. Dance floor freebies are always fun and hats, glow sticks, light-up necklaces, Mardi Gras bead necklaces, grip socks, slap bands/slap watches can also be travel related.
It is common for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah to do a mitzvah (a good deed) in conjunction with their celebration. In keeping with the theme, why not support a needy organization in a favorite country in which the honoree has traveled to or one that helps globally. Start with a search of charities and community non-profit organizations helping in the chosen region or country. The hard part will be choosing, but you’re sure to find some organization or cause to which your Bar/Bat Mitzvah feels drawn.
As much as the task of planning this special day seems overwhelming, taking it step by step is the key. If you stay organized it will cause much less grief and anxiety in the end. Above all, treasure this time, have nachas and make it a day your Bar Mitzvah boy or Bat Mitzvah girl will never forget. Bon voyage and mazel tov!
Thank you to these blogs and websites for their photographs:
- Mindy Weiss Party Consultants
- Pink Cake Box
- enJOY event design
- Style Me Pretty
- Paradise Gourmet
- Dogwood Blossom stationery
- Amazing Celebrations
Ilene Sternbach Aldridge is the designer and owner of Star Stream Design, an independent design firm specializing in paper goods, gifts and apparel for any occasion. From weddings to graduations to holiday parties to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, we pride ourselves in the wide variety of styles and occasions for which we design. Through a number of Print-on-Demand sites and Etsy, most of our products are customizable in some way. It's smart design, customized by you.