How to Plan a Surprise Birthday Party

Three Parts:Planning the SurpriseSetting UpUnraveling the Curtain

It's always fun to throw a surprise party for a friend, and planning it and keeping it a secret is the best part of it! So if you've got someone special in mind and want to surprise them, read on...

Part 1
Planning the Surprise

  1. Image titled Plan a Surprise Birthday Party Step 1
    Think about what kind of surprise party you want to plan. The list of things you can do is limited only by your imagination. Don't worry about execution just yet. Ask yourself the following questions and consider the answers when planning the party.
    • Hobbies. Does the person have any hobbies they're passionate about? Would it be feasible and fun to make the surprise party revolve around this hobby? Planning a football surprise party is a lot easier than planning a skydive surprise party.
    • Likes/Dislikes. Keep in mind the things that the surprise likes and dislikes. Pack the surprise party with things the surprise likes and your party will be a hit. Load it with things the surprise dislikes and someone else will be responsible for heading the planning committee next year.
    • Personality. Is the person intensely shy, making a surprise party of more than a dozen people simply a bad idea? Or is the person more outgoing, letting you think about inviting even people that the surprise doesn't yet know.
    • Timing. Is there a good balance you can find between picking a time when the surprisee will be totally baffled and letting everyone, including the person being feted, enjoy themselves? Picking a Tuesday afternoon would certainly surprise them, but it might not offer everyone enough time to relax and enjoy themselves.
  2. Image titled Plan a Surprise Birthday Party Step 2
    Start planning a theme. As mentioned earlier, there are tons of different kinds of surprise parties. Here are some ideas for surprise parties that might get your creative juices flowing.
    • Throw a surprise party at home. Find someone who will occupy the surprise somewhere else for the time it takes to set up; text to stay in communication with your conspirator, making sure your surprisee doesn't come home sooner than expected.
    • Throw a surprise party in the great outdoors. The woods or the beach would be a great location for a surprise. You could have a Survivor-themed party in the woods, or a luau-themed party at the beach. Outdoor games are especially fun at these events.
    • Throw a holi(birth)day surprise. If the surprise's birthday happens to fall in between the holidays, they'll often be forced combine a birthday celebration with a holiday celebration — with half the presents. Throw a birthday party for the surprise during the holidays, and the surprisee will thank God that someone finally recognized their perilous bad luck.
    • Throw a double-surprise party. Surprise the person once, all while another group of their friends are off in another room. After the shock of the first surprise has died off, surprise them again with the second group of people!
  3. Image titled Plan a Surprise Birthday Party Step 3
    Find a chaperone who will escort the surprisee while others plan/set up. A chaperone is really vital to the surprise. If you don't have a minder along with the surprisee, the surprisee could come and ambush the party before it's adequately set up.
    • Typically, a best friend or spouse acts as a chaperone. This is because the surprisee feels comfortable with them, and won't feel any social anxiety, causing him or her leave unexpectedly.
    • If you're planning the surprise party at home, have the chaperone take the surprisee shopping, to a movie, or on a hike. Plant a firm time commitment in their minds. Give the organizers at least two hours to set up. If the surprisee only expects to be out of the house for a short time, they'll catch on when the chaperone keeps deflecting and delaying.
    • Have the chaperone do something fun with the surprisee. A boring outing will make the surprisee want to go home sooner. Plus, wouldn't the surprise be even more memorable if the surprisee and chaperone had a blast on their own before they went to a legendary surprise party?

Part 2
Setting Up

  1. Image titled Plan a Surprise Birthday Party Step 4
    Decorate the party. Right after the chaperone leads the surprisee away from the house, start decorating your party. Ask a few good friends who will attend the party to come and help set up the decoration before the rest of the guests arrive.
    • Pick decorations that have his or her favorite colors, or decorations that share a theme with the party's activity or the surprise's hobby. Even if the decorations are tacky, the surprisee will appreciate the effort.
    • Think about whether it's possible and/or appropriate to have balloons, streamers, tassels, candles, centerpieces, or a bar at your surprise party. Keep in mind whether it's going to involve primarily kids, primarily adults, or a mix of both.
    • Decorate the main areas first. If you have time, put a little attention into beautifying the bathroom/s, the kitchen, and the den. Each new decorated room will be a surprise of its own.
  2. Image titled Plan a Surprise Birthday Party Step 5
    Choose food for the guests and the surprisee to eat. No party is complete without at least snacks. If you expect the party to last for more than three hours, or if the party overlaps with lunch or dinner, plan to offer more filling food to the guests.
    • Pick out a birthday cake or pie. If you want to bake a cake or pie yourself, try doing it at a friend's house. Plan on having cake that the surprisee will want to eat, both during the celebration and as leftovers.
    • Choose snack foods that don't take too long to make. Pigs in a blanket; various dips (guacamole, sour-cream, salsa, hummus) along with breads, chips and vegetables; small wraps or sandwiches; or skewers all make good snacks.
    • If you're planning on going all-out, cook one main dish to go along with some snacks. You can roast a turkey or a ham; make meatloaf (very 50s); bake pizzas; or cook paella or fish tacos. Obviously, the surprisee's favorite dish is always a good bet.
    • Find out if anyone is allergic to anything, so you can plan your menu accordingly. You don't want people getting anaphylaxis when they eat the paella. Not a good recipe for a party.
    • Plan out low-fat, vegetarian options for guests, if possible. It's a little extra work, but you want everyone to enjoy eating at your party, especially if there are drinks: People who skimp on food will feel the effects of alcohol more, and could cause a stir.
  3. Image titled Plan a Surprise Birthday Party Step 6
    Choose drinks that will be appropriate for the occasion. Depending on who the surprise party is for, you'll want to serve a variety of drinks so that everyone can get something they enjoy.
    • Consider setting up a bar or hiring a bartender if your party is mostly adults. It's a little more expensive, but hiring a bartender relieves you of the duty to serve drinks all night.
    • Think about setting up a punchbowl for alcohol — rum punch, caipirinha, or Prosecco punch, to name a few. Round out the alcoholic offerings with beer and red and white wine.
    • If the party is mainly for kids, think about setting up non-sugary drinks in addition to the cola, root-beer, and lemonade. After so much sweet stuff, water is a really welcome sign. Water and non-alcoholic drinks should be plentiful for adult-only parties as well.
  4. Image titled Plan a Surprise Birthday Party Step 7
    Choose music that's appropriate for the occasion. Obviously, if the surprisee hates jazz, it's not a good idea to have even Miles Davis trumpeting in the background. Try to find music that is interesting without being obtrusive.
  5. Image titled Plan a Surprise Birthday Party Step 8
    Invite the guests. Invite the very close friends of the surprisee. For an intimate surprise party, it's best not to invite any acquaintances or coworkers unless you think the surprisee would very much want to see them.
    • Keep the guest-list small. It's easier to manage set-up and set-down, and you lower the risk of someone accidentally blabbing.
    • Ask your guests to bring either a present for the surprisee or something that will help you set up the party (food or drink). Don't ask the guests to bring both. If you're throwing the party, take responsibility for it and practice good etiquette.

Part 3
Unraveling the Curtain

  1. Image titled Plan a Surprise Birthday Party Step 9
    Go through a checklist of things before the surprisee arrives. This checklist will help make sure the party stays a surprise for the person being feted. It's not the worst thing in the world if the surprisee knows, but you want to try to keep everything under wraps.
    • Make sure that guests' cars are parked far enough away. The surprisee could catch on if a bunch of cars are parked outside their otherwise lonely house.
    • Make sure everyone knows it's a surprise party. Stress it a couple times. People should fully understand that it's a surprise party so that they don't casually leak information to the surprise.
    • Make sure that lights are turned out if it's nighttime and no one is supposed to be home.
    • Have all the food/drinks/decorations already set up. You want to be able to surprise the person and then immediately jump into the party. Have one person be responsible for music, one person responsible for uncorking champagne, etc.
  2. Image titled Plan a Surprise Birthday Party Step 10
    Have a plan to lure the surprisee into the party. You'll need a pretty good excuse to either get the surprisee out of the house or lure them over to where the party is going to be. Here are some suggestions.
    • Have an old friend ask the surprisee over for drinks. The old friend shouldn't stir any suspicion for the surprisee. Plan the party at the friend's place or use the friend as a distraction while you set up at home.
    • Accidentally “forget” something important at your house (while you're out with the surprisee) and go back to fetch it.
    • Ask the surprisee to do a favor or errand you know they'll do. If the surprisee is expecting to something not-fun, and is eventually surprised with something fun, the party will feel a whole lot nicer.
    • Ask the surprisee to help plan a surprise party for someone else. This is a bait and switch. Actually, the surprisee doesn't know that the surprise party is for them. Put them in a different room from everyone else, and then just surprise them.
  3. Image titled Plan a Surprise Birthday Party Step 11
    Consider these quick tips for making your surprise party memorable and fun. Finally, consider some other things about the party that you might have missed when planning.
    • Make sure the surprisee doesn’t have any plans of his/her own. You don't want them going off to another party when they're supposed to be at their own.
    • It’s better if the surprise party is a few days before/after the birthday. Otherwise the surprisee might guess what's going on.
    • Only enlist people who want to help out. If you're twisting peoples' arms to help out, they're not going to their job with much enthusiasm.
    • Don't worry if the surprise turns out to be not so much of a surprise. It's truly the effort that counts. Your friend/family member/spouse will love you for simply putting the surprise together.

Article Info

Categories: Theme Parties