Just add water
While some local families opt for bar or bat mitzvah celebrations in synagogues or hotel ballrooms, others are drawn to a more intimate destination with a stunning backdrop: the Pacific Ocean.
There’s a certain romance tied to beachfront weddings, and that appeal extends to b’nai mitzvah ceremonies, according to Ruth Hurwitz of kosher caterer Tarte Catering. She cautioned, however, that the reality of what’s required for beach events may pose a challenge to the fantasy.
“We cater events at places like Zuma free beach … One caveat is you cannot serve alcohol on the beach, and another more important one is that you need to get a permit from the county and city to stage something on a free beach with sand on your toes,” she said.
Securing the permits can be complicated, but information is available at marinadelrey.lacounty.gov. Other challenges to consider, Hurwitz said, include the parking situation, restroom availability, furnishing a site with party rental furniture that will be stable in the sand, and creating a beachfront menu that will mitigate the chance of bugs and sand getting in the food.
Hurwitz recommends a barbecue format, where food is fresh and grilled-to-order, adding that the familiar banquet style doesn’t mix well with the beach.
“We work with several South-African Jewish families who have us create a traditional braai [barbecue] experience,” Hurwitz said. “Persian and Israeli families have us create a menu involving cooked kabobs on skewers, and our equipment includes 2-foot swords to roast meats and vegetables. As we’re based in Malibu, we do a lot of work with local farmers and bring in a lot of that “farm-to-table” produce experience, giving the party freshness and color.”
Dana Bresin, a professional event planner and owner of DB Creativity, has extensive experience with beachfront event planning. She said those smitten with the idea of having the ceremony outside underscored many possible difficulties, including taking the Torah out on the sand, where it is vulnerable to wind, and the possibility of people being less comfortable outside, as it can be a long ceremony.
She encouraged people to use a planner to help facilitate the permits and the necessary preparations. A planner, Bresin said, will organize the information required for the permits, approach the county’s parks and recreation bureau, recommend and procure the right rental furniture and help pinpoint the best location.
Rooms with a View
The venue doesn’t have to be right on the sand to have the beach-like feel. Several waterfront hotels and restaurants in Los Angeles County not only offer the valuable commodity of location, but also high-end hotel amenities and services along with the ability to stage a bar mitzvah on the waterfront — or at least facing it.
Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes has much-touted waterfront space and myriad other features. Event spaces include the Catalina Room — complete with an outdoor terrace — the Marineland Ballroom and Palos Verdes Terrace. The Palos Verdes Grand Ballroom, Terranea’s largest space available, can accommodate up to 900 people.
Leslie McCammon, senior catering sales manager at Terranea Resort, said Terranea works exclusively with Pat’s Kosher Catering in West L.A., and a satellite kitchen can be built for those events.
Terranea also boasts a cadre of other activities for adults, teens and kids to enjoy before or after the party, including golf, spa, Pointe Discovery activities (falconry, horseback), as well as the Tide Pool Kids Club.
For those who want an oceanfront/maritime ambiance but are not fond of sand, The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Rey offers custom bar and bat mitzvah packages.
“For smaller bar or bat mitzvahs, The Ballroom Terrace welcomes up to 70 guests (50 with a dance floor), breathtaking views of the marina, and is a wonderful space for candle lighting and other elements of the ceremony,” Hernan Berlese, the catering sales manager, said. “For larger parties, our Marina Vista room on the lobby level delivers ambiance without worries of sand or rain, along with a private verandah with panoramic marina views and luxurious crystal chandeliers.”
Although the hotel does not have a kosher kitchen, Berlese said it refers to a list of recommended kosher caterers and the Rabbinical Council of California, which gives the hotel the ability to kosherize its kitchen.
“We can also do kosher-style for less religious families, using kosher meats and ingredients, without the Mehadrin kosherization in the kitchen and dining room required for glatt kosher,” he said.
Style in Santa Monica
The waterfront flanking Santa Monica offers families a banquet of other choices. According to Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel’s senior catering manager Li-Ling Li, the airy, contemporary property includes the Venice Room and the Ocean & Vine Restaurant, which are connected and feature ocean views and an outdoor patio — perfect for families planning to separate adults and kids during the reception. Loews also has many different dietary needs covered.
“We offer kosher-style and glatt kosher catering since we have a kosher kitchen,” Li said. “We also allow outside catering as long it is through a professional caterer. We offer nontraditional and traditional bar mitzvah set-ups all within one beachfront property.
“Loews is a kid-friendly hotel, and we always have plenty of activities to offer. We are also located on the beach and within walking distance to the Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach and the Third Street Promenade,” Li said.
While neighboring Shutters on the Beach and Hotel Casa Del Mar have long been fashionable destinations for both local and out-of-town visitors, they also offer their own unique takes on the Santa Monica bar or bat mitzvah experience.
Shutters on the Beach has a simple but luxurious beach-house vibe. Neighboring Hotel Casa Del Mar has history going for it — the 1920s structure has been beautifully restored to its Renaissance Revival architectural perfection.
What both hotels have in common, in addition to a view of the festive Santa Monica Pier, is a catering/events team headed by Stephen Friddle. According to Friddle, Shutters on the Beach’s Pacific Terrace rolls out to beach and ocean views, making it a perfect pre-dinner reception space. The Grand Salon, Shutters’ main ballroom, seats up to 220 guests with a dance floor and features a working fireplace. The Promenade Room and Terrace, adjacent to the Grand Salon, is often used as a separate kids space for activities, games and food stations, he said.
Hotel Casa Del Mar’s Colonnade Ballroom, distinguished with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the ocean, seats up to 270 guests. The ballroom configuration is ideal for lounge-type seating and vignette play spaces. The outdoor terrace, meanwhile, is a fun area for food stations, a s’mores bar, or, in the daytime, beach activities.
Both properies offer a la carte menus and bar or bat mitzvah packages, and Hotel Casa Del Mar is equipped for hotel-approved kosher caterers.