Should we attach our bubbe to a Bungee cord, or put her in a bumper car instead

When we revealed the tentative plans for our son Will's recent bar mitzvah celebration, some people told us we were crazy. A few know-it-alls tried to talk us out of our unconventional arrangements. And when the invitations arrived in the mail, I'm sure many of my stuffy relatives were scared away by the words "fun" and "casual attire"; those sophisticates prefer reading "valet parking" and "black tie."

But for the 70 kids and adults who came dressed to play, sharing our simcha was a blast. Will didn't want a party that was just another cookie-cutter catering hall or hotel affair. He wanted to do something different, but the question was did we dare? Sure, we could have started with a basic ballroom package and added some flair. But do you know what flair goes for these days?

For about $2,000, your guests can have digital portraits pasted on mouse pads, mirrors, magnets and magazine covers. For about the same price, you can hire a troupe of stilt walkers and fire-eaters.

For another grand, you can rent a Velcro wall — that would surely stick in everyone's memory. And a flight simulator would guarantee a soaring experience.

With a bunch of these add-ons, you can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. But with our budget set at $10,000…well, you do the math.

We considered an informal reception at an indoor sports facility that had a basketball court, batting cages and a small party room. But that place had many drawbacks including a strict "no alcohol" policy. Although we weren't inviting any serious drinkers, we didn't want to look cheap. And, personally, I knew I'd need a couple of adult beverages to mellow the moments when the inevitable bloopers blind-sided us.

We decided to go glitzy and booked FunMania, a sparkling, high-tech, futuristic indoor amusement park in Miami Beach. Its party room was large enough to accommodate the crowd and the disc jockey and his entourage and equipment. Plus, it had an adjoining restaurant that was South Beach chic with tropical murals, glass block walls and striking teal and pink neon lights.

The management had no problem with serving beer and wine. And just to be on the safe side, everyone who attended our reception was carded at the door. Yes, everyone. Even the bar mitzvah boy's graying mother had to wear a wristband to get a drink.

The biggest selling point of FunMania was the arcade. It was loaded with 170 of the coolest games, everything from classics like air hockey and Skee-Ball to cyber simulations of snowboarding, motorcycle racing and interplanetary travel.

Besides the latest in interactive play, there were boardwalk attractions like claw machines, photo sticker booths and rides — a flashing, twinkling, chiming wonderland of techie toys. Plus, it had a miniature golf course and a driving range and a prize center, where winners could cash in their points.

And best of all, we would have it all, the facility that is, for the entire evening and not bust the budget. The 26-acre entertainment complex would be closed to the public, and we'd have wall-to-wallfrolicking friends and family.

When word got out that Will was having his party at FunMania, his popularity skyrocketed. Suddenly, kids he hardly knew invited him over to their house. Kids he hardly knew offered to do his homework. And a seat at his lunch table went for $1,000 on eBay! OK, I'm stretching a little. But an invitation to Will's bar mitzvah was the hot ticket in town.

We planned every detail with FunMania's creative director and hoped we had all the ingredients for a spectacular evening. We had a place with pizzazz. We had gourmet kosher food. We had the music, the decorations, the T-shirts, the glow necklaces and the goody bags. But there was one reason to worry — we had no track record. Ours was the first bar mitzvah reception at FunMania, and being a party pioneer made me a wreck.

Will's party plan called for more than just four hours of rides and games. He wanted to incorporate some of the traditional trappings as well. So Uncle Eddie said the motzi over the 3-foot-long challah, Will read the rhymes at the candlelighting ceremony and the DJ played the familiar Jewish melodies during the chair-lifting and subsequent dancing.

Although slow motion footage of Will's 90-year-old bubbe in a bumper car would have made an awesome opening for our party video, we didn't think it was wise to risk her new hip on a stunt like that. So we hooked her up to the Bungee jump instead. No, but she did try the video slot machines, and she hit the jackpot! And when she heard "Hava Negillah," Bubbe threw down her cane and danced the hora, something that seemed impossible just a short time ago.

We took a chance and lucked out. The things that went wrong, like the rainy weather that kept us off the putting green, were tolerable. The things that went right… There were so many, they clearly outweighed the minor glitches.

We dared to be different. If you've got a little chutzpah and a kid with a dream, so can you.