DIY Simchas

Tips on what you can do yourself and what you should leave to the professionals


By Chandrea Serebro

Making a simcha is becoming increasingly expensive and harder to do, but there are ways to save if you do it yourself, or even at home, and it can still be amazing! Just make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew – the pitfalls of a DIY simcha are many, and sometimes it can end up costing a whole lot more in time, money, and irritation. Here are a couple of things to think about if you want to do it yourself, whether at home or at a venue.

Numero uno – don’t try to be a superhero if you want to enjoy your party at home. Hire in some professional help, including waiters, barmen, and chefs to help with serving and cleaning up. If you are using outdoors at all, having a rain plan is imperative as well as adequate heating in winter and ventilation in summer. Don’t debut your new recipes at the function. Always test your menu out in advance to make sure that the recipe prep is well-oiled rather than just oily. Family members make good guinea pigs. Decide what part(s) of the menu you can buy and do that to eliminate some of the load. It makes it so much easier to handle, and it works out not so much more expensive, yet relieves a large portion of the stress. And don’t forget the basics – make sure you have adequate heating and refrigeration available, as well as crockery, cutlery, and glasses in abundance. What can be prepared before, should be, so that there are no surprises on the day!

Shelley Geffen, Shelley Geffen Catering

Lightning is critical. I would always employ a professional for this. It creates a wonderful mood using different colours. You can also use the lighting to highlight aspects of your venue, no matter where it may be, even at home. The other things I leave to the pros are the audio/visual equipment and definitely the music! A DJ can make or break the event. Thinking about décor? Most venues will supply you with white linen, so use fabric to add interest to your tables. Make table runners (not overlays – dates your function!). You can buy cheap fabric that adds to your theme and just hem the edges. If you like, you could even make matching serviettes and chair tie detail. Always ask for a roll price – it’s much cheaper and you’ll probably end up using it all anyway.

Consol glass jars are fantastic and diverse. Spray paint them, use different sizes, use them for flowers, candles, LED lights, balloon weights, put a photograph inside and use as frames, print a number and use for the table numbers – there is so much you can do with these simple glass jars. Choose a theme or colour that you love, and stick with it. This makes it so much easier to make your event look chic, and will help you streamline your décor and props so nothing ends up going to waste or not being used. Design a logo for your event – there are so many online programs available, you can do it yourself without a degree in graphic design. You can then use this same logo for your invitations, and do them simply yet elegantly. Less is more – use a few striking elements rather than spend fortunes on a million little things. Remember – no matter how little or how much you spend on decor – no amount of money can buy a great atmosphere. My best piece of advice for a great event: invite people who want to celebrate with you, and your day will be one to remember.

Hayley Haberer, professional event manager from concept to clean up

Balloon décor is all the rage, with people spending a small fortune on setting the tone for the event. There are ways to do some of the elements yourself when decorating with balloons. Remember – always get a professional to inflate the balloons with helium. Inflated helium balloons should last for 5 – 7 hours before they start to deflate, so try and inflate the balloons as close to your function as possible. Keep your balloons in a cool environment and out of direct sunlight so that they keep their shine. If your balloons start going a milky or cloudy colour, use a can of dashboard cleaner to get them back to their shiny best! Remember that balloons are significantly bigger when you blow them, so if you take your balloons to be filled up with helium, keep in mind that they might not fit in your vehicle and you may need to budget in extra for delivery. There is nothing worse than a beautiful balloon flying to the heavens before it has served its purpose – fill another balloon with water or sand to act as a weight for the helium balloons so that they stay put. Foil balloons are great value for money – they will remain in perfect condition for 3-4 days. They will then deflate slightly but should remain afloat for four weeks, for the kids to enjoy.

Daniel Shapiro, Flair Balloons

General tips…

Always remember – if you do it yourself, there is no one to turn to when things get sticky or on the day itself when you want to mingle with your guests. It helps to have a couple of key members of family or friends for support who can help you problem-solve along the way, and make someone rosh simcha (head of the party) on the day to handle crises of the moment! Have you thought of the most mundane things, which can often make or break your function? Consider hiring a port-a-loo, as the traffic will put your guest loo under strain and you don’t want guests traipsing in and out your bedrooms. It is a good idea to think about laying down flooring so that your guests’ stilettos won’t sink into your grass, or spoil your laminate forever. It’s also safer and more streamlined to do this. Don’t forget to notify the neighbours, especially if you’ll be having loud music and lots of cars lining the road. Nothing will spoil a simcha more than the police at your door before the music has even been turned up to full volume.

Consider hiring a car guard to look after cars as well as guests who might have to walk a way to their car in the dark, and even to help with parking and directing traffic. Make sure you have adequate space to actually hold the function at home – stuffy seating will become stifling and hard to manoeuvre, and no seating at all will only make your function short and less than sweet so don’t forget to hire chairs and a few tables so that the guests don’t have to stand. When it comes to the bar, make sure your guests don’t go thirsty. Rather buy more of the things you can take back to the shop than risk running low on the basics – like water, cold drinks, alcohol, and don’t forget the ice – even those chilled drinks will be lukewarm by the time your event gets going.

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