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Making Memories at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Sweet 16 Parties and Quinceañeras

Photographers, Planners and Florists Partner with Local Families to Make Each Celebration Special

Article by Lauri Gross

Photography by Jack Hartman, Monica Vidal, Ricardo Reyes, Alison Tremblay, Tony Powell

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

While it may take a village to raise a child, it takes a team to make a big coming-of-age event a reality. None of these celebrations occur spontaneously. And yet, it’s often the spontaneous moments that arise in the ebb and flow of the day that become especially meaningful. Usually unnoticed, photographers and florists are key to the most memorable parts of any event.

At his bar mitzvah, the celebrant glances at his mom as she delivers a heartfelt speech. A girl marking her quinceañera twirls shyly before a mirror. Surrounded by friends at their Sweet 16 party, the guest of honor is lost in a sea of hugs. The guests in attendance may not even notice these moments. The honorees themselves may not recall the details. But the photographer didn’t miss a thing, capturing these and countless other glances, expressions and emotions, in a space brought to life by the spirit of the day but also made more magical with special touches, starting with flowers.

Steve Ornstein, owner of Edge Floral Event Designers in Gaithersburg says, “When people walk in, flowers set the mood. It’s when the tone is set. It’s like a canvas and you are part of that painting.”

Elise Kolle, director of marketing and retail at Edge Floral says that clients are getting more creative. “I love when clients want to be who they are and not who their friends want them to be,” she says as she adds that these coming-of-age celebrations are “their moment and they get to express themselves. So, we sit down and we design something that is impactful.”

Besides flowers, Edge Floral offers many additional ways to enhance and personalize the atmosphere at any event. When talking with a family about bat mitzvah plans, Elise recalls, “I heard the child say she loves (the game) Tetris so I designed their cubby in a Tetris shape,” referring to the space where guests could stow their shoes and bags. She adds, “My suggestion for parents is to let the child have input. Let the kid be who they are.”  

Other enhancements from Edge Floral include up-lighting and displaying the child’s name in a vinyl decal adhered to the dance floor. To create just the right lounge area for each event, Elise and her team have a warehouse full of furniture, from a hot-pink couch to custom-built farmhouse-style tables.

Monica Vidal, partner at Washington Talent Agency in Rockville, and one of the photographers there, talks about getting to know the people she plans to photograph. “You have to have a connection with your subject,” she says. “It starts with the family. We get to know them and what they are looking for.”

            At bar and bat mitzvahs, Monica explains that there are usually formal, posed family photos as well as more casual, candid shots during the reception. “I also get to know a little about the child and what they like and what are they all about,” she says. “Some love big parties and some are more low-key. The more of a bond I create, the better the photos will be.”

            Monica adds that, at Sweet 16 parties, there are not typically family portraits. “These would be more like a pool party or some other kind of big celebration,” she explains. Quinceañeras, she says, “are a little more ceremonial. There are dances that the kids will do and a dance with the girl and her father and the changing of flat shoes to heels,” she adds, referring to another traditional element of a quinceañera.  

When an event is over, Elise said she gets “Lots of hugs and lots of tears. They are blown away.” She laughs as she adds that during the weeks prior to the event, clients might be nervous about how it’s all going to turn out. “But,” she says, “We promise them. We’ve got you.”

            For Monica, the best compliment, she says “is when clients tell me they didn’t even realize I was there.” She describes a mom who initially didn’t want a photo album from her daughter’s bat mitzvah. “The mom told me her daughter wasn’t that interested in photos of herself,” Monica recalls. “However, once it was over and the mom saw the photos, she was elated and ready to make an album.”  Monica adds that, often, it’s the photos of the child with grandparents that become most treasured. “Families often tell me how much these photos mean to them,” she explains.  

Reach Washington Talent Agency at or at 301.762.1800. Also, visit In addition to photography, the agency provides DJs, MCs, karaoke set-ups, casino tables, confetti canons and much more.

Reach Edge Floral Event Designers, or at 301.330.5232. Also visit and check them out on Instagram and Facebook.

PULL QUOTE: The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (for boys and girls, respectively) is a Jewish coming-of-age ceremony for 13-year-olds that combines a religious ceremony and a celebration, while a Sweet Sixteen party symbolizes a move toward more freedom and responsibility.

PULL QUOTE: A Quinceañera (translation: “15 years”) is the traditional celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, and her transition to adulthood. With roots in Mexico, the occasion is celebrated throughout parts of Latin America and in some Latin American communities elsewhere.

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