Not only do you need to plan a meaningful Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony, and a spectacular reception, not to mention Friday night dinner and Sunday brunch, but you also have to make sure your guests are entertained for the rest of the weekend when they are not with you!
This brings us to the dreaded Out of Towners’ Welcome Letter. Whether you choose to share this piece of communication online, or printed on a themed piece of paper to include in the Out of Towners’ Gift Bag, it has to be done. It make your guests feel appreciated, and just everyone’s lives easier. And the sooner you get the weekend schedule crossed off of your checklist, the better!
The hard copy of the letter can be as simple as a typed piece of white computer paper. It can also be as decorative and high quality as a printed invitation. There are many examples online, and you can try to match your theme, or just keep it simple. The content is really what is most important here, because it really is very helpful to your guests.
What you want to make sure to cover in the letter:
Welcome: A welcome and gratitude to your guests for joining you for your celebration.
Hospitality: If there is any kind of hospitality room, let them know. Mention the gift bag if any.
Schedule: A schedule of all of the weekend’s events by day, including meals, services, free time and reception.
(If your event is at a camp or alternate location, you will need to verify the schedule with them.)
Locations: Addresses for event locations and start time reminders. If your Saturday morning service gets going early or late make sure to note that, as well as what time the Torah Service begins. Add distances between the hotels and events.
Dress code: What to wear to all of the events.
Hosts: Mention and thank hosts for any other meals or events besides yourselves.
Observances: If there are certain Shabbat regulations things that you want people to be aware of let them know here. Example: no phones in shul.
Getting around: Best transportation options and times from popular attractions to the reception.
Contact info: Include the hosts’ phone numbers and emails. Could also add grandparent contact information, or anyone else who could be helpful to your guests.
To do: Favorite things to do.
Luckily the SF Bay Area has no shortage of sights, sweets and sips to keep your family and friends of all ages satiated!
You can compile your own list, but here a few places to add in or near San Francisco. Don’t overwhelm your guests with too many choices, and also keep in mind the ages of your guests, the weather and how much time they will have on any give day. That being said, here is a great list of SF Bay Area activities I compiled with two other bloggers: Summer Spots for Kids.
Parks: Golden Gate Park, Mission Dolores Park, Muir Woods, Tilden Park
Beaches: Baker Beach, China Beach, Crissy Field, Ocean Beach
Islands: Angel Island, Alcatraz
Jewish Sites: Jewish Community Center, Contemporary Jewish Museum, Temple Emanuel
Historical: Haight Ashbury, Mission District, Painted Ladies, Stanford University, Telegraph Street
Transportation: Cable Cars, Ferry Boats, GoCar, Scoot & Skip scooter rentals
Museums: Cable Car Museum, California Academy of Sciences, Children’s Creativity Museum, Exploratorium, Hass-Lilienthal House, SFMoMA, Museum of Ice Cream (need advance tickets), Palace of Fine Arts, Palace of the Legion of Honor, de Young Museum
Shopping: Embarcadero Center, Union Square, Hayes Valley, Stonestown, Westfield San Francisco Centre
Tourist Attractions: Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, Twin Peaks
Food: Boudin Bakery, Wine Sons’ Deli, Zuni Cafe
Foodie Areas: Clement Street, Chinatown, Japantown, North Beach
Dessert: Ghirardelli Chocolate, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, Tartine Bakery, Swenson’s Ice Cream
Review out of town letters you have received as a guest, or ask friends to see theirs, and ask about any challenges they may have had in creating them.
Make a list of your own favorite local spots, and then fill in the blanks where needed with help from friends or social media.