A Bar Mitzvah is a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony that recognizes a boy reaching the age of 13. The age of 13 is a major milestone for a boy, as it signifies that he is now accountable for his own behavior. Prior to reaching the age of 13, it is believed that a boy's parents are held responsible for any sins that the boy may commit. Bar Mitzvahs typically take place during the morning Shabbat service, but some are held on other days of the week, such as Fridays and Saturdays.
During the Bar Mitzvah, when a boy has "become a man," he is expected to participate in the observance of the commandments. He must also:
- Guide others in prayer services
- Be counted as a member of a minyan (10 Jewish adults working as a team to perform certain obligations)
- If he is kohen, he must bless the congregation with the Priestly Blessing
- Read from the Torah for the congregation
In Jewish religious beliefs, girls come of age at 12, and this milestone is celebrated by a ceremony referred to as a Bat Mitzvah. It is explained that girls typically mature faster than boys, as signs of puberty are usually visible an average of one year sooner than boys. Similar rituals are conducted at Bat Mitzvahs, although Bar Mitzvahs are Aramaic, while Bat Mitzvahs are Hebrew.
If you're not familiar with Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, there are certain colors that the guest of honor is expected to wear. Anyone attending such an event should also adhere to a dress code, or they face possibly being seen as disrespectful or inappropriate. Here is an overview of the colors to avoid in Bar Mitzvah, so you can ensure you enjoy the event without insulting the parents or anyone else in attendance.
What Are the Colors to Avoid During a Bar Mitzvah?
There are certain colors that should be avoided during a Bar Mitzvah for a number of reasons. White is the first color that should be avoided during a Bar Mitzvah. Some other colors that should be avoided are black, denim, camouflage, any colors that are especially bright, neon colors, and red.
Why Avoid These Colors?
It is important to avoid wearing these colors to a Bar Mitzvah for different reasons. White should be avoided because it's considered to be more suitable for weddings, baptisms, and communion. A Bar Mitzvah is a cheerful celebration, and black is more closely associated with death and grieving, which is why it's frowned upon. The color red is considered to be flashy or attention-grabbing. Some might view it as not being modest enough to wear red to a Bar Mitzvah.
Neon and very bright colors can sometimes minimize the sacredness of the event, while denim can be considered as too casual. Camouflage is considered to be inappropriate, as it signifies "disguise," which is disapproved of.
Colors that are approved of are more neutral, such as gray, brown, navy blue, certain shades of pink, burgundy, etc.
Dress Code for Bar Mitzvah
The dress code for a Bar Mitzvah isn't something to take lightly. Those of Jewish descent have very specific beliefs regarding what is appropriate and what is inappropriate attire for what is considered such a sacred and life-changing event. The guest of honor is expected to wear a nice pair of dress slacks, a shirt, tie, and jacket. He may even wear a suit.
Men attending a Bar Mitzvah should wear a pair of dressy slacks with a shirt, tie, and jacket, or a suit. Women should wear a nice dress or a dressy pantsuit. Women should ensure they're not showing too much cleavage, and dresses should be knee-length or longer. Short dresses and visible cleavage could be viewed as inappropriate. Shoulders should not be visible either, and should be covered with a shawl. The more traditional the ceremony, the dressier the attire is generally expected to be.
Attire at contemporary Bar Mitzvahs is usually a bit more casual. Some boys being honored are even allowed to wear sweatpants, or whatever attire makes them feel most comfortable. However, this is at the discretion of the parents, who are often the hosts of the ceremony, as well as the specific synagogue they attend. If there is a strict dress code, it might be mentioned in the invitations.
How to Strike Balance
It can be easy to strike balance when dressing for a Bar Mitzvah event, if you want to dress in a certain manner but still adhere to the basic rules. If you desire to wear attire that isn't quite formal, you can dress more casually while "dressing up" your attire. For instance, while denim isn't typically acceptable attire for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, if you pair it with a nice pair of shoes, shirt, tie, and jacket, not many people will notice your jeans.
Another way to strike balance when dressing for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is to combine appropriate colors with those that are frowned upon. For example, if you'd like to wear a black dress, try purchasing some neutral-colored jewelry and other accessories with a neutral-colored jacket, shawl, or sweater. This will help the blackness of the dress to appear less noticeable, preventing it from appearing as if your attire is more suitable for a funeral.
Tips on Planning a Successful Bar/Bat Mitzvah
If you're planning a Bar Mitzvah for the first time, you obviously want it to be a success. For some people, planning such a sacred and special event can be overwhelming, especially if they've never done it before. Here are a few tips to improve your chances of things going well:
- Start planning the event at least a year in advance, as you will need to ensure that the date you want is available. Some synagogues schedule the dates and will inform you of the chosen day and time
- Decide on a budget. Knowing what you can comfortably afford to spend will determine how extravagant you can make the event
- Since Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are such major events, they should be memorable. Nothing can make any event more memorable than including photos. Everyone loves photos, and event photo sharing or a photo slideshow of the life of the guest of honor would likely be very much appreciated
- Write a speech to give at the ceremony
- Even though it's a sacred event, make the reception fun
- Hire caterers, photographers, videographers, etc. well in advance
- Determine which customs you're going to focus on, if not all of them
A Bar Mitzvah is a joyous event that marks the time when a boy "becomes a man" at the age of 13, and a Bat Mitzvah is an equivalent event, except for 12-year-old girls. These are very special and sacred events that many Jewish families anticipate for many years. It's important to wear the correct colors when attending a Bar Mitzvah because wearing improper colors could cause the family to become upset or even offended. That's why you should make certain that you're wearing appropriate and acceptable colors like brown, gray, navy, burgundy, or even ivory.
Can a Woman Wear Pants to a Bar Mitzvah?
In the past, traditional Jewish views suggested that women should wear skirts and dresses to a Bar Mitzvah, but modern times allow women to wear pants if they desire to. However, if a woman chooses to wear pants, she must be sure it's a fancy pantsuit. If the pantsuit is dressy, it will be considered more acceptable than a non-dressy one.
What Color Can You Wear to a Bat Mitzvah?
If you're attending a Bat Mitzvah as a guest, and you're not sure what color attire to wear, you should check with the parents who are hosting the event. Each set of parents might have different expectations, depending on their specific preferences as well as the synagogue where the event is taking place. Typically, any color is acceptable, although the most accepted choices are colors that are neutral, such as brown, beige, gray, and certain shades of pink and blue.
Can Adults Have a Bat Mitzvah?
It is acceptable for adults to have a Bat Mitzvah. Some adults may have never had a Bat Mitzvah during their youth, or they may simply desire to have a second one during their lifetime. This is fine in the Jewish community, and it happens quite frequently. However, adult Bat/Bar Mitzvahs are sometimes held during a person's geriatric years, and 83 is the ideal age for men to have their second Bar Mitzvahs. Despite this fact, there is no age set in stone at which to have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah and women can typically have theirs at any age. In fact, singer/actress Paula Abdul didn't have her Bat Mitzvah until she was 51. It had been a lifelong dream of Abdul to have a Bat Mitzvah, and her ceremony was quite meaningful.
Is it Okay to wear All-Black Attire to a Bar Mitzvah?
As a guest at a Bar Mitzvah, it is questionable whether it would be acceptable to wear all-black attire. There is no way to gauge how your attire will be accepted until you actually arrive, as you could blend in with everyone else and people might not even notice. Keep in mind that every family is different, and they will have their own preferences for their son or daughter's ceremony. The rule of thumb is that if you're not absolutely sure if it's okay to wear all-black attire, ask. Since the guest of honor should avoid wearing black, as it can appear too somber and more appropriate for end-of-life ceremonies, it's probably best to refrain from wearing all back, and instead, pair your black attire with something a bit more neutral. If you're not sure what to pair with black, perhaps you should choose attire that comes in a more neutral color, to be safe.