What to wear to a bat or bar mitzvah

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What to wear to a bar or bat mitzvah

Earlier this month I traveled to North Carolina for the bat mitzvah of my college roommate’s daughter.

This required two things: accepting the fact that I am old enough to have a friend with a 13-year-old, and figuring out what to wear since I’d never been to either a bat or bar mitzvah before.

Facebook to the rescue! I solicited advice from my Jewish lady friends and this is what they suggested.

What to wear to a bat mitzvah

First, understand that there may be several events over the course of a weekend, with the bat mitzvah itself typically taking place on a Saturday and held at the family’s synagogue. There is usually a reception event the same day, and there may also be a shabbat dinner Friday night. Dress for each event can vary depending on where the event is held.

  • For the bat mitzvah service: Dress nicely; think of what you might wear to a wedding or to another house of worship, like church. Keep on the conservative side: cover your shoulders and avoid flashy or bright clothes.
  • For the reception: Start with your invitation; it may have dress suggestions. Or ask the mother of the honoree. In many cases, this will be the dressiest event of the weekend, especially if it’s held in a venue like a ballroom. Some are dinner dances where a cocktail dress would be appropriate and my friend Hallie attended at least one that was black tie optional! Bring your dancing shoes: this is a festive occasion.
  • For other events: If you are invited to a dinner after services on Friday night before the day of the bat mitzvah ceremony, the dress code is the same as the ceremony. Because it’s in the evening, you could choose a party dress, but you could also opt for the same outfit you’re planning to wear to the service.

Since I was traveling to this event, I played it safe by bringing more options than I strictly needed, just in case I got there and found out the other guests were dressing up a lot more (or a lot less) than I was. I kept everything in the same color family so I could bring a limited set of shoes and accessories.

Beyond the dress code, I found these articles helpful for understanding the etiquette of being a first-time guest at a bat mitzvah.

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19 Responses to “What to wear to a bat or bar mitzvah”

  1. Rabbi Ruth Adar

    Great advice! “Crowd-sourcing” is a wonderful way to find out about local norms – your use of facebook was spot-on. The dress code may differ slightly depending on the part of the country and the formality of that particular synagogue culture, so asking questions is the way to go.

    Thank you for the link, also. I look forward to linking back to you!

  2. MaryAnn

    You read my mind – this Presbyterian southern lady is heading to Milwaukee in November for a dear friend’s son’s bar mitzvah, and I have been stumped by this very question. Thanks for the advice and links.

  3. Callie

    Thank you so much for this – we’ve been invited to attend a family friend’s Bat Mitzvah in April (we’re in London, UK – they’re in MA, USA) and I’ve been panicking over what outfits to bring, given limited suitcase space! Brilliantly helpful!


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