Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review July 16, 2003 / 16 Tamuz, 5763

Secret's out and now I'll suffer; focusing more on the ‘bar’ than the ‘mitzvah’;give up control of my wedding?

By Wendy Belzberg | Q: I am expecting my first child and for medical reasons my doctor has already scheduled my delivery date. With no mystery about when the baby is coming, both sides of our family have already booked their plane reservations and are planning to show up en masse. I want to have some time alone with my baby and my husband beforehand. This may sound selfish, but it's how I feel.

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A: As the expectant mother you are entitled to have exactly what you want. But you should have thought about what you wanted before revealing your delivery date to your entire family. Your family members have no doubt already booked cheap flights with huge penalties attached in the event of changed dates. Or worse, non-refundable tickets. If such is the case, the only way to get yourself out of this one is to reimburse everyone for their expenses and tell them how you really feel. Hope they will not take it personally — good luck — and arrange to have them come after you've had a few weeks alone with your baby. If you can't afford the expense you can still tell your family members how you feel and hope they'll do the right thing on their own. Again, good luck. Remember that this is one of those small concessions to family, which is to say to future babysitters.

Q: Is there proper etiquette for the seating arrangements at a Bar Mitzvah? Is there a head table and, if so, who should be seated there?

A: Always so many questions about the party and so few about the ceremony. The significance of a bar mitzvah is to recognize that a boy is now a man in the eyes of the Divine and of his community. That small detail can easily be lost in the over-the-top parties; it certainly was at a bar mitzvah I recently attended, at which the 13-year-old girls were wearing higher heels and more makeup that I was.

Forgive me for sounding off. A head table is perfectly acceptable for the parents and grandparents of the bar-mitzvah boy. The bar-mitzvah boy himself would probably rather sit with his buddies — a reasonable request given his diligence, and the message of the day. Depending on the size of your immediate family and the distance some guests have traveled to attend, you may want to honor select others by also seating them at the head table. If you choose not to have a head table, that is also OK. It's your bar mitzvah and you can do what you want to. Your son, of course, may have an opinion too.

Q: My fiance and I are planning and paying for our own wedding. We have eliminated as many extras as possible so we can maximize our guest list. Still, the size of the wedding dictates that we invite no children at all — a decision that seems to be raising quite a firestorm. There is not enough space in your column to tell you how each family member explained why his or her child deserves to attend. My future sister-in-law has even said that she would pay for her son's dinner. When we held firm to our decision, brothers, sisters, cousins and even my mother-in-law threatened not to attend. My fiancé is so broken up that he thinks we should just elope, but that would break my parents' hearts.

A: As long as you and your fiance are on the same page, proceed as planned. It is your happiness that matters here, no one else's. Including your parents, I might add, though, it sounds like you, too, would like to walk down that aisle. Family members who choose to boycott the wedding will open up a seat for a friend who is delighted to attend. Clearly your families have forgotten who is getting married here. Their behavior is outrageous. Why don't you suggest to one of them that if they feel the children need to celebrate with you, they organize a children's party in your honor? While they're at it, they can buy you a second dress for the occasion. You may feel that the deck is stacked against you but think again: you are holding all the cards — and the invitation list to the hottest game in town.

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© 2002, Wendy Belzberg