Sprucing up the modern simcha

Click photo to download. Caption: Tiny ice cream sundaes make for passable treats to save sit-down time at your simcha. Credit: Farmer's Daughter Catering.

By Diana Burmistrovich/JNS.org

If the words “kosher catering” conjure up visions of bland and unhealthy food, and memories of bar and bat mitzvahs past still haunt you, remember that planning your upcoming simcha doesn’t have to be a monotonous process full of seen-it-befores or tried-that-onces. With the help of creative kosher catering professionals—or by simply looking within yourself—your special day can be one of a kind.

By including yourself in the process of creating (not just planning) your simcha, the event itself automatically creates a more personal feeling. One way to do this is by making invitations by hand, which allows control over color scheme, font, and design; you can make the invitation an extension of your celebration’s theme or personal interests. Imbuing the invitation with your personal style makes the atmosphere both more memorable and more meaningful.

Rebecca Friedman of Asheville, NC-based Farmer’s Daughter Catering suggests crafting your own table centerpieces as a way to infuse personality into the event’s ambiance. She also mentions that many clients want to work with the party planner, rather than allowing the planner to have total control.

Others may break from the traditional style of first having a cocktail hour and then a formal dinner for weddings, or from having separate meals for adults and kids.

“When working with a client, I always ask them what they’re envisioning with regards to the flow of the celebration,” Ellen Vaknine, vice president of sales & marketing for New York City’s Espirit Events kosher caterer, tells JNS.org.

Vaknine notes that for simchas being planned for 2014, she is seeing more people “opt for the extended cocktail [hour] with passed hors d’oeuvres and stations,” without having a formal sit-down dinner. That way, children, young adults, and adults have the option of spending more time together, and kids don’t have to face the ubiquitous schnitzel and pigs-in-a-blanket offered at so many simchas.

Click photo to download. Caption: Soup shooters in egg shells from New York City kosher caterer Espirit Events. Credit: Ellen Vaknine.

Even for the parents who do choose to have “kid food,” Vaknine suggests updating the presentation with funky touches. Soup can be served in eggshell bowls, and kebob skewers can be made from bamboo.

Customizing menus to include today’s culinary trends is another way to modernize an event. Friedman—who specializes in catering using only organic and local ingredients, and typically provides farm-to-table food options—notes the growing trend in using vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and dairy-free foods as part of the simcha menu.

“Although kosher food is usually unhealthy, it is slowly getting on board with foods that are more environmentally friendly and healthier,” says Friedman. “I've had a bride who grew her own herbs and greens to incorporate into my catering menu. It took a year in advance [to plan], but everyone remembered that part.”

Friedman suggests looking into old family recipes that can be used as part of the catering menu. That will create a catering menu that many guests haven’t seen before, and relatives will enjoy the sentiment.

Whether it is through personalizing decorations or bypassing traditional kosher fare, party planning doesn’t have to be dreaded and stressful. With just a little bit of creativity, and by recognizing exactly what you want for your special day, you can make your dream simcha a reality.

Download this story in Microsoft Word format here.

Posted on December 31, 2013 and filed under Bar Mitzvah, Special Sections, Wedding.