Keeping a Surprise Party a Surprise

If there was one piece of advice I would give to anyone considering throwing a surprise party it would be to keep it as uncomplicated as possible. The simpler the plan, the less likely that someone or something will ruin the surprise.

When making reservations or signing contracts I was sure to never use an address or telephone number that could be used to contact me at home, avoiding the chance that someone would inadvertently reach my husband instead. I used our daughters address, cell phone number and email address as contact information even for the invitations and rsvp’s.


Birthday save the date announcement
We mailed Save the Date cards 2 months before the party. Our guests appreciated the extra advance notice and it gave us plenty of time to make adjustments to any incorrect addresses we may have had.  If a Save the Date was returned, we knew we had some research to do.

The hardest task was finding a way to insure that my husband would be at his own party.  How was I going to get him there dressed in his best and on time?  I decided that our having to commit to an event well in advance with an Rsvp might work.  I sent an invitation to our home for a make-believe wedding .  I used the date, time and location of his party and the name of someone that I worked with as the bride. A name he would recognize from conversations about the office but not someone he knew personally.  It was a name I wouldn’t forget if it happened to come up, which was part of the ‘keep it uncomplicated’ plan. It worked.


Photo Birthday Invitation
It was important for us to make the décor as personal to my husband as possible and it was relatively inexpensive to add little touches to the room. Do some research to see what color choices are available at a local discount or party store. The colors we chose were common and they matched the colors of a car my husband had hand-built and painted. We had photos at different ages blown up in various sizes, used low-cost clear plastic frames and placed them throughout the hall. Life-sized photos showed him in one of his first ‘big boy’ suits along with a picture of him in a tuxedo for his first prom. The photo for his invitation was at the age of 1. A picture of his blowing out the candles on his eighth birthday was placed on the cake table, etc.

Party Table Decoration CenterpieceThe party was a combination retirement/60th birthday so there was a birthday cake and a cake in the form of the logo of the company he was retiring from.

The photo centerpieces were a huge success. They were unique and quite the topic of conversation. We found at the end of the evening that several of the photos from the centerpieces had been taken home as momentos.

A no-expense touch that our guests commented on was that we pre-set the tables.  Rather than stack the dishes, napkins and silverware at the buffet table, guests arrived to find their place setting ready to go. They were items we would have purchased anyway, but arranging them on the table in advance made the room look terrific. We found a heavier plastic white dinner plate with silver trim that looked like real china at our local party store.  We then placed a smaller matching appetizer plate on top of that and then placed a clear plastic candy box filled with color coordinated foil-covered candies and tied with a satin ribbon in the center. We placed a matching folded dinner napkin and the silverware look-alike on either side of the plates.  Once the small battery-operated candles that we placed in clear glass votives were lit, the tables were attractive without being expensive.

The last obstacle was the parking lot.  How could we arrange for my husband to not recognize guests’ cars?  Once the majority of the guests arrived, we blocked the entrance with a “Parking lot full” sign which forced him to park in another location a short distance away.

by: Anita G

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