Ask Margot-Should she accept this invitation?

She's been invited by her boyfriend to a religious event. What should she know before she goes?

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I’m dating a Jewish man, and he’s asked me to attend a bat mitzvah. I’m not super-religious, but I’ve never been to any Jewish celebrations. I’m nervous that I’ll say or do something wrong. I want to decline, but it seems kind of important to him. What should I do?
—Nervous in New Haven

Dear Nervous,
I know how you feel. I remember being invited to my first orthodox Bar Mitzvah. I’d only been to the party part of bar and bat mitzvahs as a kid, and this time I was invited to the “whole schmear,” as my friend called it. Coming from Catholic and
I had no idea what to expect. And I was freaking out.
Methodist families, and being raised in a nondenominational church, I had no idea what to expect. And I was freaking out.

How did I handle it? I simply talked to my friend. I made a list of questions — and I didn’t worry about feeling dumb about asking. I looked at it this way: It was an important event, and she didn’t want me messing up any more than I wanted to call attention to myself by making some sort of egregious gaffe. By being honest about my concerns and seeking answers to my questions, I had a great sense of what was important and what wasn’t. A big bonus was that because I wasn’t wigging out about goofing up, I really enjoyed being a part of the festivities!

Attending family events like this is important in a relationship. It’s a great way to show support for the person you love and to begin to get a deeper understanding of his religious background. Plus, religious observances are more than just faith-based events. These rituals have sociological, cultural and historical elements that are interesting, informative and sometimes even entertaining.

When you start looking at something like a bat mitzvah from this perspective, it seems a little less scary, doesn’t it? And one last bonus — it can bring you and your boyfriend closer together. By participating together in meaningful events like this, you’re strengthening your bond as well. Shared experiences are part of the foundation of a solid relationship.

So, I suggest you make a list of all your questions and fears about attending the event. Some questions you’ll definitely want to include are:
  1. What should I wear? (You could even ask him to you choose the right outfit.)
  2. What are my responsibilities as an attendee?
  3. What’s the most important thing I need to know about the ritual?
Now, because this kind of event is old hat for your man, he may think you’re worrying too
Shared experiences are part of the foundation of a solid relationship.
much or being a little obsessive. That’s understandable, but it’s not constructive. If he takes this tack, ask him to bear with you. You don’t want to do anything to embarrass anyone, after all. This is another reason making a list of questions can help — if you’re thorough, you won’t have to pester him with pesky inquiries.

You can also talk to your non-Jewish friends who’ve been to bar or bat mitzvahs to learn more about their experiences and get their tips. But I wouldn’t overdo it. You’re not writing a research paper, and you don’t want to get overwhelmed with information. You just want to walk away with a few tips and some clue of what to expect.

Now, if after all this, you still feel freaked out about going, talk with your boyfriend. Be honest with him about your feelings and see if you can attend the party after the religious portion of the ritual. Whatever you do, don’t make excuses or try to cover. And make sure you keep this focused on you and your nerves. You don’t need to make him feel guilty or bad about wanting you to attend with him.

Personally, I’d encourage you to get over your nerves and go to the bat mitzvah. If this guy is going to be a part of your future, there are going to be a lot of religious observances to attend and you might as well start building your confidence and increasing your comfort level with attending them. Plus, showing up will allow his family to get to know you better, which is always the best tonic for any miscue you might experience.

So start making that list of questions, talk to your man and get ready to have a great time. Let me know how it goes!

Margot Carmichael Lester also writes for Florida Weddings and Hemispheres. Send your dating questions to
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