Tag Archives: surprise party planning

Planning a Surprise Party

surprise party invitationsAny party can be a surprise, from birthday or anniversary, to a new baby… from a small reception or dinner to a big bash with a band.

If you want to throw a party for someone who likes surprises, but won’t miss the prep and planning for a big party, a surprise is the way to go! They are fun to plan, and create absolutely no work for the guest of honor (until party clean-up!) Surprise parties also work well for someone who would say no to any party for himself… if they knew about it in advance.

So how do you make your surprise a success? Communication and planning.

1. Be sure that everyone invited is very clear that this is a surprise party. They need to understand when to arrive, and when the “surprise” will happen, so they don’t ruin it. Be sure to give a cushion of time between when the guests arrive and when the honoree arrives. Choosing a party date before or after the actual event, such as two weeks before the birthday, makes it easier to conceal the surprise.

2. Use a routine event or a poker-faced friend to get the honoree to the planned location. For example, if you hold it where he goes every Friday, you won’t need to drag him there blindfolded. Or, have a close friend “invent” an event to attend with him, like another friend’s party. If this “cover event” is set-up in advance, he can’t drop out or plan something else. Plan to have the honoree wearing something he will feel comfortable wearing at the party. If he shows up in workout clothes, and everyone else is in semi-formal wear, he is going to feel out of place.

photo centerpiece3. If you want to play up the drama, start with a bang!

  • Use huge party poppers to shoot confetti 15 feet.
  • Fill the room with helium balloons with colorful strings hanging down
  • Use music and lights for dramatic effects
  • Decorate with bold colors. Disco ball? Strobes!
  • Perhaps when he pulls open the door to the party, a wall of balloons falls onto him.
  • Have him greeted at the surprise party with a crowd of people holding up masks or his face. Or all wearing his favorite team colors.
  • Before he arrives, hand out “Jake’s Fan Club” badges for everyone to wear.
  • Create a memory wall or have framed pictures from throughout the years scattered around the room. Photo centerpieces are great conversation starters.

4. Incorporate his favorites! Favorite dinner, dessert, colors, music, friends and family.

5. Go with the flow, and have fun. If the surprise is given away before he arrives, he can still have fun at the party. The important part is that your guest-of-honor sees all his favorite people gathered to celebrate with him, and knows you cared enough to create this wonderful event!

If you also need gift ideas for a special birthday, check out this article on 70th birthday gift ideas for inspiration.

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