Raising the Bar

by LM

There are a lot of different types of parties. There are the weddings and  the corporate summits,  fashion shows and after-parties,  product launches and the editor’s breakfasts, the publisher’s dinner,  exhibit openings, and those occasions at home.

And then there are the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, otherwise know as the birthday party us protestant kids could only dream about. And what fun they are! They are a blast to plan and produce – an opportunity to create a sophisticated and fun event that celebrates the child becoming an adult. It’s the best of both worlds.

I’ve done quite a few mitzvahs in my few years as an event designer in New York. As a product from the west coast, I will admit this was not something that I had much exposure to. It didn’t take long after moving to Manhattan to quickly realize that they were commonly regarded as either lavish-over-the-top-verging-on-gauche productions or silly theme parties with football helmets stuffed with wheat grass and surrounded by personalized M&M’s. Neither concept holding any interest to me.

And then my friend Melissa (svelt and sexy mama of triplets and one singlet) came to me to produce the party for her triplets. Melissa led to Margot, led to Sheryl, led to Amy back to Margot… so on and so forth. These are a kicking group of upper east side women who like to have fun, have amazing taste and don’t take things too seriously. We get along just fine.

The point is,  apparently there is a market for the sophisticated mitzvah. And apparently when they say “…something different” they don’t necessarily mean “avante garde”, “jazzy” or “thinking outside the box”. I don’t need to say “all terms which I hate” because that’s obvious, right? They want it to be beautiful and chic without pretense. They want it to be festive, creative and well styled without ostentation and silliness.

Obvious or subversive, every party has a theme. I prefer subversive. “Under The Sea” in the whale room at the Museum of Natural History simply means that if you have a 30′ wale overhead, you might as well work with it. For me, this translates to Atlantic blue cloths and mirrored covered tables with all organic material specifically chosen for its form and vague resembelance to something that might sprout from the ocean floor. “Urban and Organic” takes inspiration from city developments and their symbiotic relationship of architecture, nature and public art. And “Girly and Happy” in Central Park matures into  Lewis Carolle meets Lauduree.

While these are events that celebrate the birthday of a 13-year-old, in my humble opinion it is best to regard them as young adults instead of kids. These guys act in the manner that is expected of them. When a party is planned that allows them to have fun but also act like a grown-up, they rise to the occasion. Push them off to the side, stuff them full of cheap candy and give them dumb decor, well, what do you expect?

We have several good ones coming up this fall – “Tree of Life” at the Four Seasons Restaurant (I can’t even begin to describe this one) and “Andrew’s Sport’s Bar” at Guastavino’s. Think Bruce Weber images – vintage inspired benches and lockers – canvas slipcovered lounges, hunter green varsity letters, vintage loving cups and trophies…maybe a Golden Retriever…

A Bat Mitzvah at Tribeca Rooftop.The ceiling was tented with yards and yards of fabric and ribbons. Lush pink peony and carnation centerpieces surrounded by pierced ceramic lanterns and tissue votive cups. Hand painted chair covers reflect the paisley design that was on the invitations and table number signs.

A triplets Mitzvah at the Museum of Natural History. The escort card display played off of the Cabinet of Curiosities theme – especially effective with the dinosaur looming overhead. The dinner space was transformed with long tables and organic material specifically chosen for their resemblance to underwater plant life.

At the Bowery Hotel – the kid loved hockey and the theme was simply ice. Mirror boxes with candles and shattered glass rocks decorated tables and the room was surrounded by huge arrangements of snowy branches that sparkled with thousands of glass beads.


A glamourous party that evoked the spirit of the legendary El Morocco. Zebra linens and chair covers, palm trees and simple arrangements of gorgeous Yves Piaget roses.


At Guastavino’s. The mother was Chinese American so it was important to bring in an Asian undertone to the design. We kept things masculine and rich – with a sharp color scheme of chocolate, brown, rust and shades of burnt umber. Antique Chinese elements were used with more modern table lamps and the flower material was chosen for it’s unusual and textural quality.