Got bnai mitzvah planning jitters Learn from the pros

Planning your first bar or bat mitzvah party? There are a few things you may not know that can help to make the day easier for you.

Here, from several veterans of the b'nai mitzvah scene, are some pearls of information that you may find useful.

*You don't have to pay the DJ or band in full before the affair.

Do you pay for food at a restaurant before you eat it? Everything works with a deposit, but of course most companies prefer to be paid in full before the work is done. That leaves you with no leverage in case things are not to your satisfaction.

At both of my children's parties, we gave the DJ a two-thirds deposit before the day, and the remainder as they were packing up to leave. And when, during the party, we wanted them to lower the volume, we had no problems saying, "Yes, you have to. If you want to get paid, that is."

*You can plan all sorts of activities for the kids, but one of their favorites is exploring the place where you are having the party.

One of my friends hired a security guard through the hotel where they were hosting the party. She wanted to be sure the kids wouldn't be exploring the hotel, riding the elevators and wandering through any other events. Because he was hired through the hotel, hotel management would not have held her responsible if there was any damage done by the kids.

*You don't have to have the same kind of party your sister did…or your best friend, or your cousin. Plan the affair that suits your tastes best, and don't worry about fitting into someone else's idea of the perfect affair.

*Don't worry about the kids not liking the adult-style food. The problem is more likely to be the adults crashing the kids' buffet…especially at dessert time. Make sure your caterer figures in enough to go around, or plan a security measure to keep the kids' food area separate.

*You won't recognize a lot of the music your child will want the DJ or band to play. But your parents' generation will recognize even less! Make sure there is some time for music that older generations can dance to as well.

*The candle-lighting ceremony is supposed to include only 14 candles. Remember: It's a birthday cake.

Your guests will not want to sit through 19 candles so you can honor a million people. If you must do more than the usual amount of honorees, combine some on the same candle, for instance, all the relatives from Florida, all your office friends, all your friends from the swim club.

*Even if your child's bar or bat mitzvah service will take place in the synagogue on a Sunday, that is not the day to take your formal photos.

Be sure to arrange for them to be taken a few days before the affair. You have enough to do that day, and keeping the early birds out of the sanctuary while you are trying to look happy and composed for a picture is a good way to add to your stress level.

One of my friends took her formal photos in the synagogue a few days ahead of time, and then more in the photographer's studio. They were fabulous.

*Music during the dancing portion of your party is going to be loud. Older people will complain. That's unlikely to change.

But speak to your DJ about the music to be played while you are eating. If nothing is happening except food, quiet dinner music is appropriate. If, however, the kids will be playing games while the adults are eating, remind the DJ that he should lower the volume.

It's the only time the adults will have to talk to each other, and the kids will be able to hear the music fine at a lower volume.

*When you are making out your budget for the celebration, consider how much you are willing to pay per minute for the event, which will be over in a number of hours.

One of my friends said that, after the affair, when she realized how much she was paying per minute, she wished she could go back and eliminate a couple of things that "we got carried away with."

*After you meet with the photographer and learn what standard poses he or she will be taking, think about your own particular circumstances.

Do you have extended family the photographer hasn't considered? Do you want a formal portrait that hasn't been suggested? Make your own list of poses you would like to have, and bring them with you on the day of the sittings.

*At the reception, people will be bringing gifts for your child. Ask the caterer to set up a table, in an area where it's easily seen (for security reasons), where gifts can be placed. If you are not prepared for it, your own table may get lost under a pile of packages.

*If you are having a videographer, speak to some of your friends and relatives ahead of time.

Ask if they will be willing to speak into the mike and, if so, give their names and table numbers to the videographer. Many people are dumbfounded when unexpectedly faced with a microphone, but if you warn some people ahead of time, they will have a chance to gather thoughts and not be surprised.

*Your DJ and photographers are people, too. Depending on the hours they will be working, you may want to provide food for them.

A photographer I know pretty well (OK, he's my husband) remembers with no fondness a wedding he once photographed. It started at the bride's home in the morning, continued on to the ceremony, stopped off at a park for some formal photos, and on to the party which lasted five hours.

In other words, he worked from morning to night. And, at the evening party, no time or food was set aside for him or his assistant.

Ask your DJ and photographer what they usually do. Do they help themselves to a bit from the buffet? Are they working straight through the party with no time for a break? Would they appreciate a plate set aside for them? This decision is between you and your caterer, but knowing what they customarily do will help you decide.