Never collected the names and addresses of all your friends and family before? Here’s how to get started and get it all organized.
In this post, I’m going to focus on creating a bar mitzvah guest list for a few reasons:
- That’s the only type of guest list I have experience writing.
- For most people, it’s the first major guest list that they need to write (although I do have a friend who made two weddings before she made her first bar mitzvah).
- A bar mitzvah list is entirely up to you. Weddings I imagine get more complicated because there are two sides.
- Once you have made your list once, all subsequent lists are easy to update.
One note: As many of you know, Syrians families like mine mostly do not make sit down affairs, so we are more liberal with our guest list-making. Most of us do not use RSVP cards. The amount of people we expect is a percentage of the amount of invitations that we send. So, some of these categories might seem superfluous to you. If you are making a small event with “just family” or “just family and some close friends,” obviously you don’t need to go through all these steps, but they might still be helpful in preventing you from forgetting someone important.
PAPER VS. TEXT MESSAGE
I understand that many people forego paper invitations for any event other than a wedding today. Paper invitations are still more formal and make your guest feel thought of. If you plan to send text invitations to any type of event, though, you should still use these tips. Why? Because when people send text invitations, they most often forget people. They go through their contacts or Whatsapp groups and send or post the invite. Sure, it’s less work. But because they never make a formal list, they never know who or how many people they actually invited. AND they most often forget people. Because, while you’d think all your closest friends and family would be in your contacts, that’s not always the case.
I highly recommend using Google spreadsheets to keep your list organized. It’s just easier to access, update, and share a list on Google sheets and most people have a gmail address today (if you don’t have one, make one, even if it’s just to use Google sheets. It’s free). In the next part of this post, I’m going to explain how to use Google forms to collect addresses but first we’ll go through WHOSE addresses you want to collect.
Ok, here goes. It’s overwhelming to try to make that first list. So let’s go through the steps of collecting the names of people you might want to invite to your simcha.
- Family. This one is easiest, as you’ll just need to go through you and your husband’s family tree. It’s likely that many of your aunts, uncles, and first cousins are not in your phone contact list. It’s not easy to collect these addresses, but at least you can get cousin addresses from each aunt/uncle. Of course, in smaller families, you might be super close with your cousins, but in large families, there might be cousins you don’t even know (if they live out of town and are not coming anyway, it’s still nice to send an invitation. Keeping extended families apprised of simchas keeps them somewhat connected). Don’t forget the parents of your brother-in-laws/sister-in-laws. They’re not in your family tree, but in many families, these mechutanim/consuegros are also close family.
- Your School List and Shul List. Often, the people in our circles are often the people who either send to the same school as we do or go to the same shul. This is different for everyone. For me, my boys’ school list was a virtual guest list, as I live in a small community where everyone knows everyone and most send to the same boys’ school. A shul member list, though, was not really relevant to me. This might be very different for you. These lists are great to use if you can get them because they already come with addresses.
- Rebbeim/Menahelim/Teachers. Particularly for a bar mitzvah boy, the Rebbeim and Menahelim relevant in your son’s life should be on there. Often, teachers or hanhallah of other children are also relevant (i.e. the playgroup Morah you see every single day).
- Neighbors. Scan your eyes up and down your block and the immediate streets next to yours and you’ll immediately know just which families whom you’re close enough to invite to your simcha. If you are making a simcha in your home (a tented event in the backyard, or a engagement/vort), you’ll always invite more neighbors than you would in a hall.
- Work Friends. These are the people you speak to day in and day out, and it’s likely either you or your husband will have co-workers, colleagues, and/or customers that make the list.
- Your Phone Contacts. Now, go through your contacts and see who you missed, as there are many people among your contacts who might not fall into one of the above categories.
- Ask Your Mom/Mother-in-Law. Sometimes they have close friend(s) who they don’t want to miss inviting to a gran
- The Most Important. There will be people that don’t fall into any of these categories. You will forget many obvious people. That’s why it’s good to start your guest list early and mark down names as you remember them. You can create one “Guests” Whatsapp group with you and your husband, so you can both mark down names as you remember or bump into someone. If you don’t use Whatsapp, make sure he texts you names as he remembers them and make note of them.
NOW, the HOW
If you have phone numbers of most people you want to invite but find it hard to collect addresses (or just want to make sure you have the most updated addresses), you can use Google forms to create your list).
It’s easy and it’s so cool! Basically, you send a link to your contact where they can fill out their name and address. They submit it and the information is automatically added to your spreadsheet.
Here’s how to do it:
- On your Gmail screen, click on the Google Apps (the nine dots) icon on the top right of the screen and select ‘Google Forms.’
- Name your event and write a description (i.e. “We’d like to invite you to join us to celebrate…please share your address.”)
- Create a ‘short answer’ slot for each piece of information needed. On the right side, you’ll see a little plus sign where you can add more entries to your form. These entries should include title (i.e. Mr. & Mrs., Rabbi & Mrs.), First Name, Last Name, Address 1, Address 1, City, State, Zip. The “required” toggle should be clicked for everything except for Address 2.
- Click “Send” in the top right corner. Then, you can choose to email links to this form. Or, you can simply copy and paste the link into a text message. When your contacts fill out the form, it will automatically be added to your list.
- To view your list, click on “responses” on the form. There’s a little spreadsheet icon on top right corner. Hover over it and you’ll see the words ‘View responses in Sheet.” Click that and you’ll be able to see all guests and addresses in the spreadsheet format. You can add any address you want to this list (i.e. the people who you are not sending the link). As your guests insert their addresses, the list will automatically add them in a push the entries you manually inserted further down on the list.
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