Mitzvahlous: Putting the ‘Art’ in Party

While our weddings deservedly take up a great deal of air time, there is quite a lot more to our repertoire than nuptials alone. Our corporate events, for one, are anything but business as usual, and our social celebrations and galas tend to raise both eyebrows and the bar.

A chic corporate affair featuring white box shades and a stunning gala featuring hundreds of hand strung butterflies.
L: Black, white, and chic corporate. Photo by Phil Farber Photo Images, Inc./ R: Thousands of hand-strung butterflies help make a tented gala unlike any other. Photography by Tay.

But what is perhaps the most uncharted arena of our operation is the sometimes whimsical, often fanciful, always original world of Mitzvahs. Although signifying the entrance of a Jewish child into adulthood, these celebrations are anything but juvenile. In his 25+ years in events, Senior Event Designer Burt Rubenstein has designed around 250 Bar & Bat Mitzvahs, and notes that although the celebrations are for young adults, parents absolutely count on an affair that will delight and entertain their adult guests as well.

A Hollywood inspired Bat Mitzvah featuring custom signage, palms, and dancefloors.
Our take on the Hollywood Hills, featuring custom signage and graphics. Photo by Bob and Dawn Davis Photography & Design / Coordination by Reva Nathan & Associates

We caught up with Burt, Bill Heffernan and Rishi Patel to learn a bit more about the wonderful world of Mitzvah design.
BurtRishiBill The incredibly prop-focused, highly-custom, extremely imaginative cousin to weddings, Mitzvahs provide ample opportunities for our graphic, art, and design teams to shine. With a desired theme as a springboard, these celebrations feature more art-related projects than any of the other types of events we produce. “The artwork needs to be highly original in every respect,” says Creative Director Bill Heffernan. “So it’s both fully customized to the teen and applicable to myriad different design elements.”

Bill paired street-art inspired backdrops  with smeared paint patterned centerpiece cubes for this expressive soiree.
Street-art inspired backdrops were paired with smeared paint patterned centerpiece cubes for this expressive soiree. Coordination by Paulette Wolf Events

Coaxing and cultivating a teen’s chosen theme can often be a challenge. “You have to consistently stay on edge with what’s the latest and greatest in the eyes of a thirteen year old,” says Rishi Patel, Vice President of Sales & Design.

As teens often follow the herd, the challenge often lies in keeping it fresh. “There is a heightened want for individuality,” notes Burt, which can be a  challenge when many themes are reiterative: basketball, love, modeling. Thus, every team working on mitzvah design has to keep inventiveness at the forefront. “The next should never resemble the last,” adds Rishi.

Always a popular theme, see how basketball changes through the years, from the 1980’s through the present:

A basketball themed Bar Mitzvah from the 1980's by HMR Designs
Jumping through hoops: a basketball themed Mitzvah from the archives.
Designs for a basketball themed Bar Mitzvah by HMR Designs
L: A rendering for a hoop themed stage display & dancefloor. R: A ceiling focal.

Once arriving at a theme, though, what follows is a truly pleasurable challenge for all teams involved. “Playing with the theme is the most fun,” notes Burt, “as there are so many more opportunities (for the client) to express themselves.”

A constructed tourbus welcomes guests to a Hollywood themed Bat Mitzvah.
Tour de force: Guests were welcomed through a custom tourbus entryway. Photo by Bob and Dawn Davis Photography and Design / Coordination by Reva Nathan & Associates

Where weddings often strive for timelessness, regardless of the style, Mitzvahs embrace the trends and whims of pop culture. In that regard, they are far more uninhibited, offering the ability to adapt art and graphic in mediums and ways that are otherwise not explored:

LARGE-FORMAT GRAPHIC APPLIQUES FOR BACKDROPS AND DANCEFLOORS:

Gigantic Cherry Blossoms on a printed backdrop for a summer-themed Bat Mitzvah by HMR Designs
Blossoming: Gigantic printed Cherry Blossoms create a stunning backdrop for a summer-themed Bat Mitzvah at the Art Institute Chicago. Photography by Tay / Coordination by Reva Nathan & Associates
Fruit and vibrant colors make for a gorgeous Bat Mitzvah Design.
Fruit loop: Carmen Miranda inspired the vibrant designs that covered every inch of the Four Seasons Chicago. Kent Drake Photography / Coordination by Paulette Wolf Events

ARTISTIC ORNAMENTATION IN CENTERPIECE DESIGN:

A fashion theme calls for centerpieces featuring bodices wearing dresses constructed entirely out of paper.
Form and fashion: bodices wearing dresses constructed entirely out of paper take center stage at a fashion-inspired Mitzvah. Fandl Photography / Coordination by Reva Nathan & Associates
Good sport: illuminated lucite chard centerpieces pair with graphic wall focals  to carry an ESPN theme. Photography by Tay
Good sport: illuminated lucite chard centerpieces pair with graphic wall focals to carry an ESPN theme. Photography by Tay

MATERIAL REPETITION:

Ribbons adorn every inch of a love inspired Bat Mitzvah by HMR Designs
Ribbon nation: ribbons were incorporated into everything from table design, ceiling decor, and as part of giant custom focal pieces for striking result. Fandl Photography / Coordination by Amanda Weil

TABLETOP & BAR GRAPHICS, ETCHING, CEILING DECOR AND PROP LIGHTING (CLICK THE ARROWS BELOW TO SCROLL THROUGH IMAGES):

  • 'Zip it: Unique lampshades made entirely of zippers. Fandl Photography / Coordination by Revan Nathan & Associates'
  • 'Give them an etch: guests names and table info etched onto a mirror. '
  • 'Stick to it: sporty graphics for ceiling balloons and a dancefloor.'
  • 'On all sides: graphic surrounds subtly incorporate the theme. Kent Drake Photography / Paulette Wolf Events'
  • 'Raising the snack bar: there is nowhere that graphics can't go. Photography by Tay'
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Perhaps it is this unrestricted liberty in design that makes mitzvahs so much fun. But that’s not to say that discernment and attention to detail go out the window. Quite the contrary.
“Just because it’s a kid’s party, it should still feel very edited and elegant,” adds Rishi. “Any good party should.”

Bullseye tabletop graphic for archery themed mitzvah
Tabletop graphics bring centerpieces to life. E3 Photography / Coordination by Designer Event Chicago

Special thanks to Burt, Bill and Rishi for their designs and contributions, to our amazingly talented Art & Graphics teams for bringing it all to life, to our fabulous clients for trusting us with their ideas, and to all of our vendor partners who make these events so spectacular.