A successful surprise party can be a fun way to celebrate the birthday of a family member or friend.   Surrounded by friends and loved ones, the person celebrating their birthday may not even care that they are now a year older.   However, a successful surprise party doesn’t just happen by chance.  It takes planning, preparation and coordination to really make it a party to remember.   Not sure where to start?   Not to worry.  Listed below you will find step by step instructions for throwing an amazing surprise party.   

Step by Step Guide to Throwing the Perfect Surprise Party | shadowbreeze.com

8 Steps to Throwing a Successful Surprise Party

1. Personalize Your Party Plans for the Guest of Honor

The best surprise parties are those which have been personalized specifically for the guest of honor.   For purposes of this article we will assume that you as the host are confident that the person you are throwing the party for would enjoy being the center of attention.  If you have doubts you may want to consider a different type of party or event.    

To start the planning process, you should consider four key areas:

  1. Budget: The cost of a surprise party can vary significantly depending on such factors as the venue, number of guests, food, gifts, etc.  The first step in your planning process should be determining a budget.    All of the decisions you make will be influenced by your budget.
  2. Number of Guests to Invite: Will your party be a small intimate gathering with only close friends and family, or will it be a large party with co-workers, neighbors and casual acquaintances?   The number of guests to be invited will impact the choice of venue, food and entertainment.
  3. Location: We will discuss location in more detail later in this article but it is important to reserve a party venue in advance that will accommodate your party size and is appropriate for the activities you have planned.
  4. Theme & Activities: This is where your personal knowledge of the guest of honor will come in handy. What are her interests, hobbies, passions, etc.    Would she enjoy a karaoke machine and light horderves or would she prefer a more formal setting with a sit down dinner, etc.   

Once you have identified your budget, the number of guests you would invite, the venue and the theme you are ready to proceed to step number two.

2. Select the Right Party Date

Pick a Party Date | shadowbreeze.com

While you might be tempted to schedule the party on her birthday, you are much more likely to keep the party a surprise by holding it before her birthday.    Select a date a couple of days or even more prior to her birthday.

Another thing to consider when selecting the day is are there any guests that you really want to be there.   This may include close family members, close friends, etc.   If so, you should call them and ensure they are available on the desired date before booking your venue.

One last thing to consider with the date is to make sure it works for the guest of honor.    Where appropriate you should check her calendar to ensure she does not have plans.   It may even be appropriate to reach out to boss to make sure she won’t have to work late or travel on your selected day.    Be sure let them know that you are planning a surprise party and not to mention your conversation to her. 

 3. Pick the Perfect Party Venue

Party Venue shadowbreeze.com

Now that you have a date it is time to select a venue.  When reserving your location, you need to make sure it is large enough to comfortable accommodate all of your guests.   Not all venues will require a reservation.  If you are planning to hold the party in your home or a home of a friends just be sure that the space is large enough.   

When selecting a location, you need to keep in mind that you will need a ruse to get the guest of honor to that location without suspicion.    If you select a location that she would not normally visit you need to start thinking about how you will get her there.  

Many venues will require a non-refundable deposit, so it is important to have your date set I stone by this point.    Whenever possible you should visit the venue prior to reserving it so you can be sure the space is appropriate for your activities, etc.   When consider the price of the venue you should consider everything offered.   While a large empty hall may seem like a better deal at first, if you have a location that already has some decorations, tables, chairs, etc., it may save you money in the long term even if the price of the venue is a little higher.

 4. Inviting the Party Guests

Party Invitation

With a date and location selected it is time to start inviting guests to your party.     This should be done with a printed invitation.   As you design your invitation keep in mind there are four important pieces of information that should be displayed prominently on your invitation.  

  1. Name & date of the party
  2. Location of the party
  3. The fact that it is a surprise party and they should contact or mention it to the guest of honor
  4. A clear request to RSVP with specific deadlines and instructions

    By asking your guests to RSVP you will have a more accurate count for food, drinks, table settings and activities.     If you live with, or frequently interact with the guest of honor, you should have the RSVPs go to a friend instead of to you.   The birthday girl might become suspicious if you are trying to hide texts or emails from her or are running to the mailbox each day.   By having a close friend receive and keep track of RSVPs it will be much easier to keep it a surprise.    

    In addition to those four key pieces of information your invitation might include such information as suggested dress, theme, gifts or no gifts, where to park so she doesn’t see all the cars, etc.

    5. Coordinating Food, Drink, Decorations & Activities

    Now it is time to schedule the caterer, restaurant or to recruit friends and family member to help with food, drinks and activities.   Most catering companies will allow you to give an initial estimate on guests and then adjust it up or down a week or two prior to the event.    Be sure that your RSVP date is before the date you have to have a final count to your caterer, so you don’t end up paying for food for people who don’t come.

    In addition to food and drinks you will want to make sure you have party decorations based on your theme.   When it comes to decorations you can spend as little or as much as you like.   At a minimum you should probably have balloons, a happy birthday banner, noise makers, etc.    If you party has a specific theme you will want to make sure your decorations fit within that theme. 

    When considering activities, be sure you consider any items that will be required.    For example, if you are playing games or signing karaoke, be sure you have everything you will need.

     6. Recruiting Help for Your Surprise Party

    To throw an amazing surprise birthday party you will want to recruit a few friends or family members to help.    By outsourcing some of the activities and planning you will be less stressed, and it will be less likely that she will become aware of the party.  In addition, by involving more people in the planning of the party you will have more ideas than you would planning everything yourself. 

    Some tasks you might want to consider having friends or family help with include but are not limited to planning games, setting up decorations, buying a birthday cake, picking the perfect birthday gift for her, sending out email reminders, etc. 

    7. Getting the Guest of Honor to the Party

    Surprise Party for Her

    Your big night has arrived and now it is time to get her to her surprise party.    The first rule is to make sure that she arrives after the guests.   If your party is scheduled to start at 7:00 PM you should make plans to get her there approximately 20 to 30 minutes later to allow time for late guests to get in place. 

    A few days before the scheduled date have one of her friends schedule a night out with her.   If you have to you can be the one to bring her but it would be better to have a friend do it so that you can get to the location before hand to deal with any last minute issues and to ensure everything is ready to go.  

    When the friend sets up the ruse activity be sure the dress code for that fake activity is the same for the party.    You don’t want the guest of honor showing up in sweatpants and a tee shirt if all the guests are dressed up.  

    Be sure that you have worked out the cover story with this friend, so everything feels natural.   By this point you have put in a lot of time and effort and would hate for the surprise to be ruined.   You should discuss possible contingencies and code words ahead of time in case a last minute change is needed.  

    Depending on your venue, as you near the time of her arrival you should discuss what the group will do.  You might want to turn off the lights and hide or just keep everyone quiet.   Will the group shout “surprise” or just cheer when she arrives?    There is no right or wrong way to do it.   The key is just to make the guest of honor feel welcomed and special.   

     8. Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy the Party

    Sit Back and Relax

    All the planning, organizing and maybe even a little stressing have paid off in an amazing surprise for her.     Even if somehow, she had suspicions about your party beforehand, she will still appreciate all the time and effort you put into making her feel special.  Now it is time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.   As you visit with your gifts thank them for coming and give a special thanks to those who helped with planning or other tasks.  You will also want to follow up with thank you cards for those who helped.      

    Share Your Surprise Party Experiences 

    We would love to hear about your successful surprise parties, your not so successful parties and anything else you think we have missed in the comments below. 

    If you need birthday gift ideas for women check out some of our top Birthday Gift posts below.

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    July 21, 2021 — Matt Graham

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