This week, I’m finally going to give away some trade secrets, in response to the people who ask me, “How do you come up with all these articles?”  Though it just now occurs to me that they’re not actually asking for a way to do it (it clearly doesn’t pay a lot), but it’s more like when your wife asks, “How can you just stand there?”  She’s not looking for tips.  But it’s too late now, because I generally come up with the introduction last.  That’s tip #1.  First I have to find out where the article is going. 

The Dining Room Rules

It’s back-to-school time, which I’ll admit isn’t super exciting, seeing as most people are probably just going back to the same school they’ve been going to. But the good news is that every school is constantly trying to get better.

So you’re making a simcha.  Mazel tov!  Have you sent out invitations yet? 

That’s what everyone wants to know. 

“But I don’t know where I’m making it,” you’re saying. 

Too bad.  You need to send out invitations. 

You figure that the main things you have to do first are find a venue, a caterer, a musician – anyone who, if you call them too late, will tell you that they’re already booked – and that’s it.  How long does it take to take care of invitations, right?  You can do them the night before!

You can’t.  For one thing, you have to send them enough in advance that people can make plans, though not so far in advance that people will put it on their fridge and forget about it.  So in other words, you have to know the people you’re inviting (always recommended), and then decide when to send each individual invitation out based on the person.  Or you can print double what you need and send out two copies – one 6 months before and one a week before. 

Also, it doesn’t take one day to print your invitation, for some reason.  When you’re at home and you want to print something, you just hit print, but if you go to an invitation place, it takes two weeks.  My guess is that the fancy cards keep getting stuck in the printer.  They have to have a guy feeding them in one at a time. 

So you have to go pick out invitations a good few weeks before, and then that lights a fire under you to get moving on food and music and centerpieces and tablecloths, because now people are coming, and if you don’t want them to come, you have to go back to the invitation place and order reverse invitations that say, “Don’t bother coming,” and those will take another two weeks to print, and you only have 3 weeks left in total.  But that’s okay; you don’t want to send those too far in advance either, or people will forget not to come.

There are several steps in printing an invitation, and your wife will make you sit there for all of them.  For the last bar mitzvah we made, I tried to order the invitations myself.  I was on the phone with the invitations place, pricing them out, and I said, “Okay, so let’s order them.”  So the woman asked, “Well, do you want them in white, cream, or antique white?”  And I said “White.  Wait, I should ask my wife.”  So my wife arranged an appointment, and we sat in this woman’s house for an hour and my wife narrowed down the choices slowly until she decided on white.  This is why men don’t plan bar mitzvahs. I’m glad I left it up to her, because otherwise I would have picked white without agonizing. 

You’re also going to have to decide if you want the invitation to be just a card you can mail or a two-page booklet.  You have to know your people: Is anyone going to read two pages of invitation?  I personally just read the name and the place and the time.  And for some reason, I read the bottom to see if they included grandparents.  I don’t know why. 

Who reads two pages?  Is it for chazara?  Do people pick one language and just read that?  Who do I know who’s just reading the Hebrew?  Are they doing it to see how good our Hebrew is?  Because, to be honest, we just copied from the pile of invitations we’d saved for just this purpose.  But everyone does it, because to justify the expense of the card, you have to fill up the entire thing with words.  For example, you can’t just write, “We’re making a wedding on Sunday,” it has to be like, “Here’s a passuk about weddings.”  Like the person has never heard of weddings before.  “…And therefore, we’re going to have a wedding.”  Now he can’t toss your invitation ever.  It’ll have to live on his fridge. 

You have to keep going out of your way to stick extra words on the card.  You say things like, “We will be honoured to have the favour of your presence on Thoursday, the twenty-fourth of the mounth of Octobour.”  Because it’s classy not to be able to read the date.  Now I have to read the entire invitation every time I want to confirm when it is.  “Let’s see… It’s b’shaah shtayim v’shloshim v’chameish…  What?”  And if it’s a bar mitzvah, you have to write things like “baneinu hayakar.”  I wasn’t sure what “yakar” means, so I looked it up, and the definition I got was “expensive.” 

“You’re invited to be mishtatef (chip in?) on the bar mitzvah of our expensive son, Daniel.”

I say it should be like an upsherin invitation; no full sentences – just colons and information that we need to know: 

WHO: ______________

WHAT: ______________

WHERE: ______________

WHEN: ______________

WHY: ______________

GRANDPARENTS: ______________

And maybe have a picture of the bar mitzvah boy smiling.

Our invitation lady sent us a few choices of tefillin graphics.  And every single one looked like it was designed by someone who had only seen tefillin once and decided to draw a picture from memory.  The straps were attached incorrectly and were halachically way too short, and I think the shin was wrong.  In short, we have passul tefillin on our invitation. 

Your other option is to do a monogram.  Most people don’t really opt for a monogram for bar mitzvahs, because it will never once come up after this.  Knowing that his initials look like tefillin will not open a serious number of doors for him in the future.

But a lot of people do make monograms them for weddings, so the couple can know that their initials, when put together, look like a flower.  It’s always a shape that has some meaning for the kallah.  If it was for the chosson, it would be a piece of steak or something.  The shin, for example, would be lines of steam.

When you finally decide what you want on your invitation, you’re still not done.  They send you proofs.  Proofs of what?  We’re not denying this!  And it doesn’t really matter, because no matter how much back and forth there is before the invitations go out, there will always be one mistake on the actual invitations, zecher l’churban. 

“Um… This is someone else’s monogram.”

Then they ask you how many copies you want.  And they have rules, like you have to round it up to the nearest hundred.  You can’t print 173.  I’m like, “I have a printer at home; I know how printers work.  I can print 173.  Why am I throwing out 27 cards because you don’t want to do math?  What if you charge me the full amount, but you throw out the extra 27?  At least save on shipping.”  So now I have to figure out 27 new people I want to invite.  I don’t have time to make new friends.  I have a bar mitzvah to plan.

And then you’re still not done.  They want to know: Do you want reply cards or not?  Do you want to just guess who’s coming?  Do you want to just make phone calls last minute?  As it is, the people who were bugging you for invitations the earliest are the ones that are least likely to send back the reply cards. 

So you have to design the reply card.  For starters, you want to leave a bank space for the person’s name, but you also want to put a large M there for them, to start them off.  In case they forgot how to write their names.  “Mr. and Mrs. X will be coming.”  If you’re not on a first name basis, why are they invited?  And what if they’re a rabbi?  Do they have to write “Maran Hagaon X will be coming”?  “Medical Professional X will be coming”?  I’m just speculating here.  I just fill in “ordechai”.

And then what do you put in for after the name?  Well, some people give a checklist to fill out:

- Accepts with pleasure

- Declines with regret 

There’s no “accepts with regret” or “declines with pleasure.”  They don’t really want to know the circumstances.  They’re making a simcha; they don’t have time for your sholom bayis issues. 

The other option is to write “will _____ attend,” and the person gets to fill in some adverb, like not or IY”H.  What do atheists write?  “Will coincidentally attend”?

And even when you’re done picking out invitations and reply cards and envelopes and little maps, you still have to mail them.  Even to your next-door neighbor.  You can’t just hand deliver them, because that’s not classy.  With everything else in the world, if you hand deliver it, people know that it’s special.  But apparently, if I take time to drive around town and drop off your invitation, I’m saying you were an afterthought.  So your best idea, if you want to save money, is to drop it in their mailbox.  That way they’ll rip it open before they notice that you never put a stamp on it.  Handing it to them in person is awkward anyway, because they don’t immediately know what it is, so you kind of have to stand there and watch them open it, like it’s a letter from their relative in the 1800s.  Or else they look at the closed envelope and ask, “What is this?” and you don’t answer because you’re already halfway down their stairs. 

You don’t have time to answer them.  You’ll see them at your simcha; they can ask you then.  Or they’ll figure it out.


Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist, and has written six books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Sometimes, as a parent, there comes a time when you have to step up and be the hero, even if you have to make it up as you go along and hope that you’ll figure it out when you get there, or that there’s some massive hashgacha pratis that shows that Hashem, as our parent, has our backs as well.