Friday, September 27, 2019

Planning a Simcha in the Digital Age

This year will mark the thirtieth anniversary of my bar mitzvah. As I reflect on that memorable life-cycle event, I think about how much has changed in the planning of a bar/bat mitzvah since then thanks in no small part to technology. In fact, technology has improved so rapidly that much had even changed from my oldest son’s bar mitzvah in early 2017 to my twins’ b’nai mitzvah in late 2018.



The planning process for a bar/bat mitzvah or a wedding, including the hiring of vendors, has become much easier because of the web and mobile apps. This is true when it comes to wedding planning as well. From sending out invitations and getting responses back to creating table assignments and figuring out who wants the vegetarian meal, there is no shortage of applications to help make planning a simcha (Jewish celebration) go smoothly in the 21st century. There still will be stressful moments, but technology has certainly alleviated much of the simcha planning anxiety.

The creators of the web applications that help us plan bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings experienced the hassles of those endeavors themselves. It was that anxiety-producing experience that led them to find ways to disrupt the party planning industry using new technology. Let’s look at some of the innovative ways you can save time and energy planning your next simcha.

RSVPify – Managing your guest list and keeping track of responses can really add to the anxiety of planning a simcha. Now that it’s considered appropriate to use online invitations and responses for weddings and mitzvah parties, RSVPify has stepped in as the most advanced online RSVP website. With RSVPify, you can still use traditional invitations, but your guests can respond to the invitation online. This makes it easier to keep track of your guests. RSVPify also has secondary events management to help you keep track of additional events during your party weekend, like a Shabbat dinner, Sunday brunch or rehearsal dinner. Additionally, you can ask your guests custom questions, like whether they require a special meal or home hospitality for Shabbat, size of giveaway clothing, or who needs a ride from the airport. RSVPify also has clever features like a seating chart maker, built-in menu options for dietary needs and food allergies, and the ability to send reminder emails to guests who haven’t responded. Guests are even able to give a monetary gift or make an online donation directly from the invitation. https://rsvpify.com

Mitzvah Organizer – This website really has it all when it comes to planning a bar/bat mitzvah. It is created by Mitzvah Market, an online vendor directory that has ideas and resources for parents planning a mitzvah. The Mitzvah Organizer costs $69.95 and allows you to manage the guest lists for all aspects of the celebration weekend. The user interface looks like nothing more than a branded Microsoft Excel database, but it allows you to effortlessly manage everything in one app including table assignments, a candle lighting ceremony, party favor sizes, the song list for the DJ, the synagogue honors for the service, and many other things that are easy to forget. For many parents, Mitzvah Organizer’s budget feature will help them figure out which vendors have been paid and which are still owed, in addition to how close they have kept to their original budget. Plus, the budget feature allows you to compare the costs of different vendors. Mitzvah Organizer has predesigned reports that will prove helpful to stay organized and to provide necessary information to the vendors. Like most online apps, Mitzvah Organizer can be used on a desktop, tablet or phone. https://www.mitzvahorganizer.com/

Zola – Wedding websites like Wedding Wire and The Knot are nothing new. They’ve been around for a long time and continue to add more features. Zola seems to have taken what those websites offer up a notch. Zola is a free service and does not charge for couples to create a custom wedding website. The company does sell invitations and charges a fee if wedding guests use the website to gift money to the couple. In addition to an online wedding registry (something Wedding Wire and The Knot offer as well), Zola offers expert advice for weddings, like which venue to use and how to find an officiant, how to create the guest list, what creative innovations to include in the ceremony, which activities to offer before and during the wedding weekend, reception d├ęcor, and how to choose the right photographer. Couples can send updates to guests, have a countdown clock on their website, and post videos to get their guests excited for their big day. These customized wedding websites also make it easier for the out-of-town guests, as well as guests at a destination wedding, because everything they need to plan their vacation is on the wedding website. https://www.zola.com/

Technology has changed so much about bar/bat mitzvah planning for the better and it’s done the same for weddings. Personalized wedding websites have dozens of features that weren’t even dreamed of when I got married twenty years ago. The Jewish people will continue to celebrate life-cycle events like mitzvahs and weddings, as we have for generations, but thanks to the Digital Age, we’ll be doing it easier and in a more organized way.

This article originally appeared in the Detroit Jewish News. Rabbi Jason Miller is a local entrepreneur and educator. He is president of Access Technology in West Bloomfield and officiates at weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs. Visit his websites at www.mitzvahrabbi.com and www.rabbiforweddings.com.

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