Cell Phones: A Mitzvah Planners Best Friend and Worst Nightmare


It goes without saying that Cell Phones are a great invention. They help us get from point A to point B (sometimes without thinking); they make it easy to keep in-contact with friends, family, and business associates; and so much more. Cell Phones have become a staple of life, and the age at which one has a cell phone keeps getting younger and younger. According to recent studies, the average age a person gets a cell phone is 10 years old. Given that the average age is 10, it is safe to assume that the majority of your 13 year old’s friends have cell phones … so what does this mean for your party?

Just like in everyday life, cell phones are useful and entertaining at your event. Here are some of the ways they assist both the hosts and the vendors.

  1. Guests take their own photos at your event and post them on social media. These photos are available instantly and allow you to see photos prior to the edited ones from your professional photographer. As planners, we have been taking photos, and videos, not only to keep for our records, but as something we share with our clients the following Monday. It is a way for them to see and relive their party immediately following the event. One way to up the ante is to have a personalized geofilter or hashtag to make it a more interactive experience for your guests.
  2. Just like in everyday life, emergencies can occur at events. They can be as simple as a child no longer feeling well and wanting to go home, to fires and other types of life-threatening emergencies. The child having a cell phone allows them to contact their parent directly, or if necessary provides a planner with the parents’ phone number in the event a child can no longer call themselves. One way we personally benefit from this is having parents call either us (we encourage our clients to include our cell phone numbers in a email to parents as an in-case of emergency contact), or their child when they arrive to ensure kids do not simply leave the property. Then we have security escort them to their parents if the parent cannot easily walk into the building. This makes for a safer and easier experience.

With all of that said, if you ask party planners, MCs, and parents what the biggest challenge is at parties, they would say keeping guests off their cell phones. It is difficult to keep a captive audience if the kids would rather spend their time on their phones, especially when there are sporting events. As a company, we have yet to find a perfect solution to this problem, and it’s likely that there isn’t one; however, we have come up with a list of tips that we find discourage cell phones from being used as much.

  1. A parents letter. Before the party, the hosts/parents should consider sending an e-letter to the teen guests’ parents explaining multiple things: covered shoulders at the temple, not talking during services, etc. In that email you can ask the parents to discourage their kids from using their phones and reminding them that they are attending to celebrate with the honoree. While this will not solve the problem, it encourages the parents to get involved ahead of time which often helps.
  2. Have exciting activities at the party – photo entertainment, airbrush, pop-a-shot, patch hats, tattoos, zap-shots, live-video-stream, etc. Having all these options will give kids who do not necessarily enjoy dancing alternatives that do not involve their cell phones.
  3. Give the younger guests a “cocktail hour” room. Having a group of 13 year old stay in one room for four or more hours means that they get used to the space and are more likely to get bored. In venues that have enough separate areas, this can be extremely beneficial in building the excitement throughout the evening. If a separate room is not an option, consider doing something to change the space; beginning with blacklight, or very specific activities like laser tag or giant twister that take over the dance floor allow for constant change that keeps teens more engaged.
  4. Have the MC start his or her time with the teens by announcing teasers regarding prizes (gift cards, giant candy bars, etc.). Include in the categories for potential prizes that there will be a prize to the teen that stays off their phone the longest. You can also have the MC start by encouraging them to put all their “stuff” in cubbies or at their seat – if you combine this by starting with an active game they are more likely to do it as they cannot hold personal items in their hands while doing the activity.
  5. The opposite of staying off the phone the longest: bringing the cell phones into the planned party. Have a trivia game that encourages them to search their phone for the answers. Have a selfie contest, or a specific time for photos. Create a geotag or put their hashtagged posts on the screens throughout the party. By encouraging them to use their phones for specific reasons at specific times, you can help “get it out of their system” and allow them to focus on the party when they should.

The one thing we feel you really should not do is collect cell phones. While in theory it should work just fine, it becomes a liability. At one of our parties a couple years ago, cell phones were taken out of two cubbies and they were never recovered. While those two guests were certainly encouraged to put their phones in the cubbies, they were not forced; therefore there was no specifically responsible party. If a person – planner, MC, etc. collects the cell phones and one is damaged or goes missing it is a liability issue for the vendor who collected the phone, and the party host who agreed to have the phones collected. Similarly what if they have a family emergency and cannot be reached. Again, in theory it should all go fine, but is it really worth taking that risk? Besides it being a liability, you don’t want to start a party by taking something away from a teen; it doesn’t necessarily set the right tone for a fun-filled evening or afternoon. As they always say, making something “against the rules” increases the appeal. Instead, we suggest creating fun signage that sets the tone, “This is a Cell Free Zone”, “Our Event is Unplugged” or “We want you to be in the moment” all nicely remind guests to get off their cell phones.

Obviously, everyone feels different on this subject, but these are some proven tips that we have found help set the right tone.

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