Let the Web help you plan all of your happy occasions

Simchas are by definition joyous events, but in practice they often produce stress on an epic scale. Fortunately, the World Wide Web offers dozens of sites that can make your own simcha a little easier to deal with and maybe a little more memorable.

A good place to start for the broad view is the always excellent Jewish Family and Life, an online magazine about — you guessed it — Jewish family life.

Go to the lifecycle events section and check out the assortment of interesting articles that may help you get some perspective on your own simcha.

A recent edition of this e-zine includes an article on "what do you do about all those bar and bat mitzvah no-shows, crashers, non-RSVPs who play havoc with best-laid plans?"

Another profiles an adult bat mitzvah student; still another discusses the questions of those with special needs and their lifecycle events.

One particularly interesting feature deals sensitively with the question of marking adoption with a Jewish ceremony — a particularly relevant issue for many Jewish parents these days.

Want to know the Jewish perspective on baby showers? This is the place to look.

You can check it out at www.jewishfamily.com

Other sites focus more on the nitty-gritty of these events, including the often agonizing process of planning a big Jewish shindig.

Here, your computer can be a lifesaver if you use any of a number of event-planning software packages. One example is B'nai Mitzvah for Windows, a program that provides "everything you need to plan the perfect party," according to the makers.

That includes keeping detailed guest information, tracking responses to your RSVP requests and even estimating how many guests who have responded will actually show up on the big day.

And, of course, the program will help you keep track of gifts. Unfortunately, it won't actually nag your wayward kid to write those thank-you notes.

Check out the program and download a trial version at www.castlecomputer.com/bnai.htm

Let's not forget weddings, the Jewish parent's surest route to the poorhouse.

Jewishbride.com is basically an online store offering all kinds of stuff for the happy couple and the stressed-out parents. That includes books, items for the reception — disposable cameras for the guests are popular — and keepsakes for the newlyweds. One example of the latter is a transparent plastic cube to preserve the shards of the shattered glass.

There's everything here from little gifts for guests to Hebrew-inscribed wedding rings. There's also a bar and bat mitzvah section, so you can take care of other family members at the same time.

You can check it out at www.jewishbride.com/

Also take a look at http://myjewishwedding.com It provides links to many vendors and useful things like checklists and work sheets as well as an Ask the Rabbi feature and an online wedding counselor. Lots of info here.

There are countless other Web sites about the brit milah, most of them thinly disguised advertising for mohels. But many of these have useful and interesting information. Here's a tip: Just do a search for brit milah on any of the big Web search engines.

Also take a look at the Being Jewish Web site — www.beingjewish.com — which has a lot of useful brit information in its lifecycles section as well as some good stuff on Jewish weddings, making shiva calls and "How to Dress and Act at a Jewish Occasion," a good guide for the clueless.

Increasingly, people like to put up Web sites about their simchas. Some are like online scrapbooks, allowing guests and those who couldn't attend to check out all those wonderful pictures. Some even provide directions and online RSVP services for those who will attend.

It's a cinch if you're a Web programmer, but for those who aren't, SimchaSites can help. The company will "design and create custom personal Web sites pertaining to lifecycle celebrations such as b'nai mitzvah, weddings, new babies, anniversaries and family reunions."

Several basic packages provide a good starting point for your personal site.

You can check it out at www.simchasites.com

The writer is a Washington-based correspondent who has been writing about Jewish Web sites since the early 1990s. His columns alternate with those of Mark Mietkiewicz. Besser can be reached at [email protected]