Planning My Weekend Bar Mitzvah Meals for 40 Guests

Tuesday is the day for Time-Saving Tips and Techniques. Today I will share details of my own cooking project.

My family will be celebrating my son’s Bar Mitzvah in a few weeks.  Since observant Jews don’t drive on the Sabbath, we’ve invited part of the extended family to stay overnight so that they will be able to walk to the synagogue service.

In practical terms, this means I’ll be responsible for feeding three major meals to 35 or 40 people. In addition, we are hosting a kiddush in the synagogue, a  mini-meal for around 200 people. I plan to purchase the food for the kiddush, and cook the other meals myself. My sisters-in-law will contribute a dish or two.

Cooking is the easy part. What gets complicated is the logistics:  sleeping accommodations, speeches, supplies, shopping, clothing, heating and serving food, seating, lighting, and dozens of other details. As a bonus, I have painters coming this week for a long overdue house painting project.

Today I made a list of supplies. I avoid disposables in my daily life, but don’t have an easy solution for this many guests. So I set up a chart with columns for each meal and calculated the number of plates and utensils that I need. After I buy them I’ll count out the pieces and divide them up into four packages, one for each meal.

I also consulted with my neighbor, a caterer. Not only did she give me  great ideas for cooking, decorating, shopping, and serving, she offered to lend me tablecloths, cloth napkins, table runners and serving trays.

Readers, I need feedback here. Do you want to hear more about this or do you prefer the regular format?


  1. I’d be interested in hearing more about this sort of topic. My husband and I are (hopefully) moving soon. And we plan on having house guests at our new place much more often than we do now (i.e. never). I’d love some suggestions on how to manage all the meals and other logistical issues.

  2. I would LOVE to hear more. We are having a double bar and bat mitzvah in August and will be having 30 – 40 guests for two Shabbat dinners, and possibly lunches, with people floating in and out of the house for ten days. I plan to buy a lot of ready made food but I would love to hear any and all suggestions.

  3. Mrs Belogski says

    Mazal tov! Would love to hear more about this. I catered the seudas mitzvah for my daughter’s Bas Mitzvah ( 80+ people) but it wasn’t on Shabbos, but we have made a number of both sheva brachos and kiruv events on Shabbos for 40ish people. Always interesting to see how other people approach things.

    my tip: if you want to cook rice for this many people, make sure you have a pot with a really heavy bottom! i am an expert in serving rice which is raw on the top and burnt on the bottom…

  4. Yes, I’d love to hear more. Although i work outside the home, I have this delusion that I can do everything. Even I can’t convince myself that I could prepare and host those kind of meals in my current circumstances (or even otherwise).

  5. I’d like to hear more. I find myself assisting with this sort of thing every time there is a family simcha.

    Mrs. Belogski – We fight over the “burnt” rice in our house. BUt we make it with oil on the bottom so the burnt part is actually crispy and delicous.

  6. Good luck with all your preparations. I am convinced you’ll do fine but it still is a lot of work.

  7. yes, I would be interested in learning how to do this, since everyone has to do this at one or another, also some tips may help for serving a large family. 🙂

    Yes, I would love to hear all the details and how you are managing the logistics. Esp how you figure out how much food to prepare for each dish at each meal – I have this fear of not having enough, and then I make too much and it’s such a waste. And what you can make in advance and it stays good and what has to be last minute. And so on and so on…

  9. I also subscribe to (she teaches how to clean your house in 15 minutes a day) she would probably say to freeze as much as possible for meals for your guests.

  10. Mazel tov! Yes, I would love to hear more as I would be fascinated by how you will pull all of this off. (Not that I doubt that you can, but it is a tremendous project).

    Best of luck.

  11. Also flylady is free and I think she has a Twitter-although I prefer the more detailed email-she teaches how to flyfish and is married to a judge and started a website with ideas how to clean your house in 15 minutes from people that are natually born organized-(she still has good ideas even if you are)-like seting up a “launch pad” area for each person for the mornings for school-work-congregation etc. She helps 1/2 million people.

  12. The key is organization and really great planning. I suggest a grid with a box for each meal and how many adults and kids for each. If there is a “theme” try to incorporate it into at least one of the meals. For example, we used local specialties and favorites from the Detroit area and our out of town guests loved being exposed to new treats, etc.
    Once you figure out how many for each meal then decide where the food is coming from for that particular meal. After that, a list is fairly easy to compile and you’ll have all the ingredients for each meal. I also recommend keeping the fare light, as often we feel that we go from meal to meal during the mitzvah weekends and by Sunday night the clothes aren’t fitting quite the way they did on Friday morning.
    If you need help selecting a venue, this is a great article.

  13. Making a Barmitzva is a subject that is always helpful .I am sure that a series of articles about this could be interesting.

    Personal note: we made 2 so far, the first we bought food and served it ourselves (30+) people. The second, we cooked ourselves and got girls in to serve
    Every penny we paid to girls to serve was worth it. So recomend getting help in for serving (I have sisters, daughters and nieces but it was much more comfortable for everyone)

  14. Sorry for not responding earlier. Thanks everyone and I hope you saw the update. Rhonda, ask Keren, I even met Flylady at a conference once and brought her a gift from Israeli flybabies.
    I hope you all saw my update on the menu. I’ll be posting more this week. Today I baked the challah.
    Keren, to me having people to serve seems intrusive, but I agree that it’s nice to sit down the whole time. Still, I hosted 21 once–the same people–and serving went fine.
    Roz, it’s hard to keep the menu light as you will see when i post it. But there will be salads.

  15. Mazel tov!