A bar mitzvah is a stepping stone in the life of a 13-year-old Jewish male, signaling the time when he is held responsible for his actions and knowledge of the Torah. Invitations are sent to the homes of invitees by the people hosting the event -- usually the parents. While the bar mitzvah ceremony is open to the entire congregation, it is customary to invite some people to the celebration that takes place afterward the ceremony itself.
As with invitations to most major events, bar mitzvah invitations should go to guests at least one month in advance. The Emily Post Institute suggests that bar mitzvah invitations should be sent out four to six weeks before the event. Request a response for the party at least three weeks before the event. No RSVP is needed for the ceremony.
People who should be invited to a bar mitzvah include family, classmates, friends and members of the synagogue congregation. After the congregation's reception, close family and friends are often invited to a private party. In many cases the guest lists are different for the ceremony and party. It's customary to leave the party details off the general invitation and include a separate card about the party for those invited to that event.
The invitations should reflect the formality of the bar mitzvah and after party. For example, if the party will be black tie, the invitations and RSVP card should be elegant and include a notation about "black tie only." On the other hand, if the party will be a causal event at the parents' home, the invitation can be less formal. An RSVP card is expected, regardless of how formal the event will be.
What to Include
It's customary to include the name of the child who is having his bar mitzvah, as well as the names of the hosts -- typically the parents. You may also include the name of the grandparents on the invitation, under the parents. If you elect to include your child's Hebrew name, you can place it where it looks best, such as one of the invitation corners or centered at the bottom. Also include specific information about the event, such as the exact address of the synagogue and the time and date.
When the parents are separated or divorced, the parent hosting the bar mitzvah should be the one to send out the invitations, but the names of both parents and current spouses, if applicable, should be on the invitation. RSVPs should sent to the party host.