Bat Mitzvah Party 2.0

Rylee Fox’s planned bat mitzvah bash was going to be great. When the pandemic changed the rules, it got even greater.
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Invitations had already been printed when a Wyckoff family’s bat mitzvah festivities faced a COVID curveball, and the special day they’d dreamed of for years was suddenly off track. It was an unsettling situation for 13-year-old Rylee and her parents, Amy and Jason Fox, but they didn’t let it mean defeat. After all, some- times a detour can be the best part of a trip.

Rylee’s detour swept the celebration away from the event venue, the Art Factory in Paterson, where the pandemic pulled the plug on their original June 13, 2020 date. But it opened the door to an “equally exciting ceremony and colorful celebration” in the Fox’s backyard two months later, on Aug. 8, says their party planner, Amy Shey Jacobs of Chandelier Events.

With the planner’s help, the family went a little crazy—crazy like a Fox. Their yard became Street Art Central in harmony with their originally planned theme, well suited for New York-born Rylee. (Her family calls her Smiley Rylee.)

“Within weeks, we put together an incredible event with COVID-safe solutions,” says Jacobs.

As a sign of the times, guests received masks with a pink lightning bolt and hand sanitizer.

Amy Fox agrees the event didn’t suffer for a lack of time, and she appreciates Jacobs’ efforts. In fact, they had an opportunity to proceed with a November 2020 date at the Art Factory, but decided it was too much of a wait, with no end to the quarantine in sight. The alternative, a home celebration, was exactly what it needed to be.

“The people there were family and friends,” says Fox. “We had masks; we were seated accordingly,” she says—basically COVID-safe.

As they began to plan this new venue—home—the pandemic that had originally worked against them opened an unexpected opportunity. Rylee’s mom had been following world-famous street artist Jason Naylor on Instagram for some time and thought his graffiti art would be a cool vibe for the bat mitzvah. “He was available,” she says. “Maybe it was the timing of COVID; he was just available.” (The disc jockey from Untouchable Events was also top-notch, she says—and available, perhaps also due to the coronavirus.)

Not only did Naylor create custom art for Rylee’s big day, but his designs inspired the event’s creative works, says Jacobs. She happens to be friends with the street artist; still it was a surprise when he could make the event.

To transform the yard, Jacobs used branding and bright colors, including supersized versions of Naylor’s graphics, such as his signature open heart and a special Smiley Rylee logo. “I wanted to bring to the yard some of the street elements we would have brought to the Art Factory,” she explains. “I had the graffiti art blown up to make it life-size, so we almost created freestanding walls around the perimeter of the yard.”

As a bonus, the Fox family now has hanging in their kitchen the custom art Naylor created for them, with six of his open hearts for Jason, Amy and each of their four children, ages 4–13.

Another welcome COVID twist was the socially distanced brunch with individual brunch boxes from Brownstone Pancake Factory in Edgewater and Englewood Cliffs. Naturally, these boxes would get cold if left unattended. The remedy? Personal Touch Catering Experience of Hackensack was on hand to build the boxes and keep them fresh and warm.

“It’s almost like we created a kitchen in their garage,” says Jacobs. “There were lots of fun details to deliver food in a safe way,” she says, including a cookie bar stocked with goodies. An ice-cream truck in hot pink was a surprise treat.

As another solution to keep guests safe, the bar for adults featured individual canned margaritas, Bellinis and mimosas, while the kids could enjoy mocktails at their own bar in custom graffiti logo cups. High-top tables, lounge furniture with black-and-white pillows, picnic benches and additional linen-topped tables all helped keep party-goers at a COVID-free distance.

As if this bat mitzvah didn’t face enough drama, a storm cut power and Wi-Fi in the area, a problem because the ceremony was to be on Zoom. A hotspot saved the day, allowing Rylee to perform her remote bat mitzvah with Rabbi Beni Wajnberg of Wyckoff’s Temple Beth Rishon. It was held in the home’s outdoor pavilion, where a montage aired highlights from Rylee’s life. On a day that proved picture-perfect, Rylee performed the traditional candle lighting.

In keeping with the street-art theme, guests worked with an airbrush artist from Untouchable Events to design sweatshirts they received as a gift. And those invitations that never went out? They were converted into boxes around the table centerpieces by Yena Designs. “I love a zero-waste detail, and this was one of my favorite things we did for Rylee,” Jacobs says.

Who knew there could be so much fun during COVID?

By Donna Rolando
Photography by James Clark, iNsYnc Photography

Categories: Bergen Health & Life, Homepage Features