Bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs are significant coming of age events for young men and young women. These once-in-a-lifetime events should be given the care, respect, and consideration they deserve from all involved. Perhaps you are of a different faith, or maybe you will be attending your first mitzvah. Regardless of your familiarity with this powerful event, take the time to familiarize yourself with these critical etiquette best practices to help the family celebrate this momentous occasion.
Mitzvah Etiquette for Guests
- Dress modestly. This requirement is necessary especially if you will be attending the ceremony in the synagogue. Men should wear a suit and tie, and women should wear a modest dress or pantsuit, and your shoulders should not be exposed.
- RSVP promptly. Just like a wedding, the family of the bar or bat mitzvah celebrant has spent a significant amount of time and effort planning the ceremony and the reception. Be sure to RSVP promptly to confirm if you will be able to attend so the family can plan accordingly.
- Arrive on time. The young man or woman who everyone is celebrating has spent years preparing for this special ceremony. Make sure you arrive before the ceremony beings so that your arrival does not disrupt the proceedings.
- Do not bring a guest. Unless your invitation encourages you to do so, do not invite a guest with you to the ceremony or the reception.
- Turn off your cell phone. Whatever your faith, once you enter a synagogue, you are in a house of worship. Silence your cell phone, put it in your pocket, or your purse and do not use it until you have left the ceremony.
- Wear a yarmulke or appropriate head covering. If you are a man who has his own yarmulke, bring one with you. If you do not have your own, but one is provided to you, consider wearing it, even if you follow a different faith, as it shows respect for the event and your presence in the synagogue. If the synagogue in which the ceremony is taking place requires that women also cover their heads, adhere to its requirements respectfully.
- Consider wearing a tallit. A tallit, or prayer shawl, is traditionally worn by Jewish males and by Jewish women in some congregations. If you are offered a tallit by an usher at the door, consider wearing one if you are comfortable.
- Do not take photos during the ceremony. Traditionally, photography is forbidden on Shabbat. Also, the family has likely hired a professional photographer to take pictures when and where appropriate and will likely share them with friends and family after the event. Please refrain from taking photos yourself, particularly during the ceremony.
- Remain quiet during the proceedings. Show your respect for the event and the young man or lady experiencing this important rite of passage by remaining quiet during the ceremony. If you have questions, ask a friend or member of the family who can answer them for you later during the reception.
- Participate in the proceedings. You may not be familiar with the traditions or procedures of the event, and perhaps it is the first Mitzvah you have ever attended. Regardless, out of respect for the ceremony, follow along with the congregation, standing when others stand or humming along to songs when appropriate.
- Bring a gift. It is customary for friends and family to give the bar or bat mitzvah celebrant a gift. Bring it to the reception, not to the synagogue. The family will likely have set up a gift table inside the reception area. It may even be located near the dessert table or candy buffet.
If you are in the early stages of planning a bar or bat mitzvah and are searching for some inspiration, check out our gallery of mitzvah invitations and day-of stationery.