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Printing & Design Tips

How To Plan a Surprise Birthday Party

Posted by Clash Graphics on

Prevent your bestie’s birthday from being a dull, boring, and forgettable experience. Knowing how to plan a surprise birthday and pull it off can create a fantastic experience for all involved.

Surprise birthday party celebration gathered the following information about the steps needed to plan a surprise birthday party and keep it a secret until the reveal.

1. Planning a Surprise Birthday Party

Planning a surprise birthday party will require you to be a little stealthy in your planning and execution. The following steps will help you get started:

Choose a Date and Time - When selecting the date and time for your surprise party, you’ll want to avoid the guest of honor’s actual birthday. Most people expect some sort of shenanigans on their birthday. By holding a surprise party in advance, you are enhancing the element of surprise.

Select a Party Theme - Selecting a theme for the party is entirely optional. However, an easy way to get people excited about a surprise party is to give it a fun theme. Guests get to come up with an outfit or costume, see everyone else's, and you have the opportunity to show off your creativity for decorations, prizes, and activities. The theme can be anything; sit-com-based, cartoon-themed, period dress (1920’s, 1980’s, etc.), color-themed, or even holiday-themed.

Determine a Party Location - Just as important as the party itself is the location you select. This location could be a restaurant, a friend’s residence, or any venue that’s familiar to the guest of honor.

Tip: If a restaurant is the venue of choice, make a reservation at least a month in advance to guarantee enough space for everyone in your party.

Guest Selection - When determining how extensive your list will be and who will make the cut, consider the following:

  • Smaller groups (10 to 15 people) make it easier to reserve a location, keep the party a secret, and provide a more intimate experience.
  • Larger groups (more than 15 people) present challenges for keeping the party a secret and coordinating the party guests.

Tip: Make an ordered list of people to invite, starting with family, then close friends, acquaintances, etc. This way, if you have to shorten the list, you can work your way from the bottom up.

Party Invitations - Hand deliver or mail (cleverly worded and themed) printed invitations at least a month in advance with a deadline of one week prior to the party for RSVPs. Don’t forget to add "Shhhh!" or, “Keep Quiet! It's a surprise party!” somewhere on the envelope or the face of the invitation. Hence, there is no doubt that it is a surprise birthday party.

Printed surprise birthday party invitations

As partygoers confirm, add them to a group text or an email thread to receive updates and instructions as the surprise party approaches.

Set Up The Ruse - The magic of misdirection will help you keep your surprise party a surprise. Create a “fake date” for you and your guest of honor to keep him/her from committing to some other event or outing.

As the party date approaches, be sure to confirm your “fake date” while preparing for your epic surprise party.

Note: This “fake date” or “cover plan” will help you keep the guest of honor occupied on the day of the party. This will buy you time while the venue is prepared and guests arrive.

Surprise birthday party cover plan

2. Preparing for the Surprise Birthday Party

Now that you have nailed down the basic structure of the party. Here are a few ideas and tips to help you prepare for it:

Enlist a Close Friend - Even though it’s a surprise party, it can still be stressful to take on all of the responsibilities. To help ease the load, select someone close to the guest of honor to help you.

Your newly enlisted helper should be someone reliable and trustworthy in holding down a secret.

Gather Decorations, Food, and Supplies - Depending on the venue or location you selected for the party, you may only need minimal decorations and food. If you selected a restaurant, they can provide hors d’oeuvres and drinks, and decorations may only be balloons, party favors, and of course, a cake.

Surprise birthday planning and cake

Whether using a venue’s amenities, catering, or going “pot luck,” don’t forget to make dietary accommodations for those with food allergies or restrictions.

If you’ve selected a theme, it gets even easier as you’ll have fewer options to choose from. The following party supply stores can help you with your theme:

Keep everything put away and out of sight until the day of the event.

Note: For venues without food or entertainment, hire a catering company or order food from a restaurant that can deliver to your event. Entertainment can be in the form of a band, a jukebox, a DJ, or party games from a party supply store.

Tip: Except for catering, place online orders with enough advance time (10 to 15 days) for shipment and returns (if needed).

Reconfirming Guest Attendance - If you have been using a text or email thread to keep everyone in the loop, just send out a reminder message the evening before the surprise party. For those who are slow to respond or may not be checking their messages, call them.

Party Day Set-Up - Set up the party location two or three hours before the guest of honor is scheduled to arrive. Getting an early start will help you in fixing anything that goes wrong. Depending on how much there is to set up, have one or two of the guests show up early to lend you a hand or run an errand or two.

Surprise birthday party setup

3. The Party

The final stretch of your efforts is to deliver the surprise. The following will help you seamlessly put the final touches on your party and welcome your guest of honor:

Guest Arrival - Have all of your guests arrive one hour early. So, if your party is set to start at 7:30pm, have your guests arrive at 6:30pm. Since there are always stragglers, you can have everyone together by 7:00pm to organize the big surprise.

Tip: For those arriving “on time,” have some snacks, refreshments, and activities ready, so they aren’t left hungry and bored.

Teamwork - It’s time for the friend you enlisted earlier to play a significant role in making things work. One of you should be at the venue, making sure everything is ready, and guests know what to do. The other should be with the guest of honor doing whatever your cover plan was, eventually leading him/her to the big reveal.

Tip: Having someone with the guest of honor allows them to communicate when they are on their way or for you to request that they stall for time. This way, the only surprise will be on the guest of honor.

The Big Reveal - Make sure everyone in attendance is aware of how the big reveal will work. Here are a few ideas:

  • Lights off! This is the classic reveal where everyone hides with the lights off, the guest of honor arrives, and everyone cheers “SURPRISE” when the lights come on.
  • It’s just a regular party. In this scenario, your guest of honor thinks he/she is attending someone else’s party until you give a cue for everyone to gather around and reveal that the party is actually for him/her.
  • Where’s the party? For this one, all of the guests will exit the venue while the guest of honor arrives. Then, on cue, everyone files in and surrounds the guest of honor singing and dancing.

Surprise birthday party guests

Tip: Enlist a guest or two to help you gather decorations and leftover party favors as the party winds down. Keep your guest of honor from doing anything but having a good time and being celebrated.

Planning a Surprise Party

In this article, you discovered the organizational steps and level of secrecy required to pull off a perfect surprise birthday party.

When you take steps to carefully plan and execute a surprise birthday party, you can create a sensational and unforgettable experience for your guest of honor.

Haphazardly stringing your event together can dissuade guests from attending, blow the surprise, and wind up having a lackluster party.


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