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Have you ever been to a surprise party? Planning them can be so much fun, waiting for the moment when the guest of honor realizes
you’re a true mastermind you’ve pulled together an event just to celebrate them. Use this giant guide covering how to throw a surprise party to get all of the details right.
As long as your guest is the kind of person who will actual enjoy the surprise, use this guide to learn how to throw a surprise party to beat all other surprise parties. We cover the basics of planning, planning for specific occasions, organizing at different venues and, of course, a great list of excuses to trick people into arriving at their surprise party.
This post has everything, literally everything, you need to throw the best surprise party for every occasion.
How to Throw a Surprise Party
The key, obviously, to any successful surprise party is truly making it a surprise. That means you’re going to have some great surprise party planning skills and a little bit of cooperation from family and friends.
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The basic steps to throwing a surprise party
- Start planning several weeks ahead and make a budget.
- Choose a date, time, and venue. Make bookings if necessary.
- Decide on a party theme.
- Come up with a guest list.
- Invite the guests discreetly. Stress that it’s a SURPRISE.
- Make plans to have a chaperone to get the guest of honour to the venue or out of the house.
- Pre-plan decorations, rentals, entertainment, and food but keep them well hidden.
- Enlist help to decorate and make food the day of (so you can get it done in time).
- Get everyone to the venue at the appointed time (make sure it’s at least 20-30 minutes earlier than the guest of honour is due to arrive).
Tips for throwing a surprise party
- Keep the invitations and party details offline, or use a secret event or group on Facebook.
- When guests arrive, make sure they park away from your house or venue. Nothing gives away a surprise party like their friends’ cars in front of the house!
- Use an upcoming event or a chaperone to distract the person the party is for.
- Make sure that the dress code is clear – if the person who the party for is coming from somewhere casual you don’t want them to feel upset or embarrassed that they didn’t change beforehand. Have guests dress similarly!
- If the party is being held at their home, tidy up beforehand on their behalf (if necessary). Also make sure to stay for clean up.
- Make sure you invite everyone there’s nothing worse than arriving at your own party only to have a dear friend or loved one missing from the festivities.
- Have a way of contacting guests should there be any change of plans. Like an early or late arrival, for example.
- Instruct guests to arrive 20-30 minutes before you plan for the surprisee to arrive to account for late guests and early guests of honour!
- Make sure your guest of honour likes surprises. Some people don’t!
- You don’t have to hide and “surprise”! Another idea is to have the guest of honour show up to the party only to find out on their own its for them (make sure the cake and decorations reflect that).
- Don’t surprise at the wrong time. Imagine coming home from the gym, unchanged, to find family and friends gathered at your house! You want them to enjoy the party so make sure they will be dressed and “ready” for the event. Same thing if it’s a time you think they’ll be exhausted.
How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party
If you want to throw an amazing birthday party definitely consider having a surprise birthday party. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing all your friends together to celebrate your special day, especially when you didn’t have anything planned. Surprise birthday parties are perfect for kids and adults!
Tips to throw a surprise birthday party:
- When throwing a surprise birthday party make sure you invite all the friends and family the birthday person would normally invite to a birthday party!
- Invite the guests discreetly and make sure you stress to keep it a secret so no one spoils the surprise.
- Make a plan for decorations and how you’re going to get the surprisee out of the house or to your party venue.
- Don’t tell too many people, especially young kids. If you’re having a kid-friendly surprise birthday party let their parents know in advance but don’t tell the kids (they’re not always great at keeping secrets).
- Pre-plan and prepare decorations, food, etc but take great care to keep them away from the guest of honour!
When you’re throwing a surprise birthday party it’s important to keep in mind who you’re honouring. Make sure the guests, decorations, cake, and party plans suit the individual. You’re aiming for the kind of party they wish they could have.
Don’t forget the cake and birthday gifts!
How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party for A Teenager
When you’re throwing a surprise birthday party for a teenager you have to take other things into consideration. First of all, make sure that you know your teen’s personality and what they like. Or if you’re throwing it for your friend, check with parents first to make sure everything you have planned is ok!
Tips to throw a surprise birthday party for a teenager:
- To find the guest list talk to your teenager’s friends, especially their closest ones. Enlist some “best friends” help to invite them or to get their phone numbers.
- Figuring out how to get your teenager out of the house while not with their friends can be tough. Use a close friend to take them out while you decorate and the guests arrive or plan the party for when they finish work.
- Teens might also enjoy surprise parties at certain venues like restaurants or recreational facilities like laser tag, arcades, trampoline parks, bowling, etc.
- If you’re a teenager trying to plan a surprise party for your friend talk to your or your friend’s parents for help.
How to Throw a Surprise Birthday for your Best Friend
Throwing a surprise birthday for your best friend is probably one of the best ways you can be a best friend. Give your friend some extra special celebration and surprise on their special day!
Tips to throw a surprise birthday party for your best friend:
- Even though you’re the best friend make sure you don’t leave out any of your guest of honour’s friends or family when creating the guest list.
- Enlist help! If the birthday boy or girl usually hangs out with you you’ll need someone to help decorate the party space while you chaperone or have another person to chaperone in your place.
- Since you know your best friend decide on a party theme that really reflects their personality. Make the event all about them!
- Even if the party is at their place make sure you stay for clean up so they don’t have to do a thing.
A sleepover surprise birthday party might be fun for your best friend too, especially if you’re young (but not exclusively.) Alternatively, if you know them well enough, you could even surprise them with a weekend trip together for their birthday celebration.
How to Throw a Surprise 30th Birthday
I’m going to sneak in a little bit of positivity here because I’m turning 30 next year but a 30th birthday doesn’t have to be something depressing. A surprise birthday is a great way to celebrate with someone who isn’t planning to do anything special for their birthday. Entering a new decade is something to celebrate!
Tips to throw a surprise 30th birthday:
- When you’re 30 you’re kind of in full adulthood. It can be tough to find a time and place that works for everyone and leaves room to surprise the guest of honour. You’ll need to have a bit of careful planning, and some luck, to pull this off but it can be done.
- Plan in advance, especially to get the surprisee out of the house or to your venue.
- If they have young kids, arrange a babysitter or enlist their spouse to make sure the kids are taken care of so they can enjoy.
- 30th birthday party themes can really be anything! Look at the person you’re honouring interests to decide. You can do the typical adult party with alcoholic drinks or do something more “childish” like a trampoline park. Who says you need to grow old when you get older?
How to Throw a Surprise 40th Birthday
Surprise! You’re 40. A lot of times as people hit this milestone birthday they don’t feel like planning a party. That’s where friends and family come in! Instead of just planning a regular 40th birthday bash, though, why not make it a surprise 40th birthday party?
Tips to throw a surprise 40th birthday party:
- Since you’re planning an adult birthday party it might be trickier to get them to the venue. Check out the list at the bottom of this post for excuses to get someone to a surprise party.
- You can throw the party at your place or venue but for the biggest surprise make it at their home. Enlist the birthday boy or girl’s spouse to help!
- The best theme for a 40th birthday is obviously “the big 4-0” but you can do something more creative too.
- How do you find surprise 40th birthday party guests? Check with their partner and family, talk to close friends, and look to guest lists at any recent parties for ideas.
How to Throw a Surprise 50th Birthday
Throwing a surprise 50th birthday is a lot like throwing a 40th one only everyone is a decade older. They say 50 is the new 40 though, so get your party on! The tricky part about throwing a surprise 50th birthday is keeping it a secret because they probably have a lot of friends and family to invite!
Tips to throw a surprise 50th birthday party:
- When planning a surprise 50th birthday party make sure to consult with family and friends on the guest list. This is such a big milestone and a great time to invite childhood friends!
- Instead of the classic 50th birthday themes you can buy consider theming the party after the guest of honour or their birth year.
- When you’re 50 the ages of the friends (and family) you invite will vary. Make sure to take into consideration the physical capabilities and interests of the surprisee and the guests.
How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party for Your Mom
Mom does so much for you but how often does she take the time to plan a party for herself? Probably not often. The other thing about moms is when you start planning a party and involve them they will try and help out too much. The solution? Plan a surprise party for your mom.
Tips to throw a surprise birthday party for your mom:
- Ask your dad (or your mom’s partner) for help, especially when it comes to the guest list.
- Let’s be real, your mom’s best friend is probably your best resource here. Use her! She’ll likely know who your moms friends are and what kind of party she’d enjoy.
- Decide what type of party you’re going to throw. Is it a family party where kids/grandkids are invited or an adult only party?
- Mom would probably prefer the venue to not be at her house. That way there’s no clean up for her to do and she doesn’t need to worry about whether or not her guest bathroom is clean when she sees she has unexpected company.
The best part about doing a surprise birthday party for your mom is that she just has to show up and enjoy.
How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party for Your Dad
What kind of surprise birthday party are you going to throw for your dad? Well that all depends on your dad’s personality. Some dads might enjoy a backyard BBQ or surprise your dad by arranging a viewing party of a sports event that he’ll enjoy.
Tips to throw a surprise birthday party for your dad:
- Enlist help from your mom (or dad’s spouse) if he has one. If not, chat with his close friends and relatives to figure out what might work best for a party theme and guest list.
- Think about the things your dad loves and plan the party around that. After all, it’s all about him! Have the party at his favourite restaurant or serve his favourite snacks at home.
- Make sure your dad can relax and enjoy his party. Don’t choose a venue that he might have to clean up or worry about!
How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party for Your Girlfriend
She might be the birthday girl but you’re going to be a star if you throw a surprise birthday party for your girlfriend. Invite her family and/or all her best pals over for an unforgettable birthday bash. This is an especially great idea for a girlfriend who doesn’t want to plan her own party.
Tips to throw a surprise birthday party for your girlfriend:
- It might be hard to keep the party under wraps if she’s itching to celebrate. Enlist family and friends to help tell a white lie, like planning a small birthday dinner to keep her busy while everyone else sets up a surprise party.
- Since it’s for your girlfriend (and you’ll be there) make it a couples’ party! Specify on the invitation that partners are invited too.
- If you haven’t been dating that long, or you’re afraid you might miss someone, ask her closests friends or even her mom and dad for guest suggestions. The guests you choose are going to mean a lot to her!
- Don’t forget to stock the party with your girlfriend’s favourite foods and (adult, if you want) drinks.
- If you live together, find a friend who can stash all your party supplies and decorations before the big day.
How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party for Your Boyfriend
Whether you’re newly dating or in a long term relationship throwing a surprise party for your boyfriend’s birthday is going to be a ton of fun. There’s so many cool ideas to choose from when it comes to venues or just do it at home where he’ll be the most surprised.
Tips to throw a surprise birthday party for your boyfriend:
- It’s a good opportunity to surprise your boyfriend with a trip to a local venue that he’s interested in. Think things like board game cafés, video game bars, and even fun places like go karts.
- If you’re having the party at home make sure to serve his favourite food and drinks (and have plenty!)
- Create a great birthday playlist with his favourite artists and music styles.
- For decorations, you can go with general birthday parties or make it a fun themed party based on something your boyfriend loves.
How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party for Your Wife
Being married isn’t an excuse to stop having excitement and surprises in your lives. If you’re a great party thrower for your wife then this will be another one but if you’ve been slacking over the years of marriage a surprise party is the perfect way to show your wife how special she is.
Tips to throw a surprise birthday party for your wife:
- Unless you’re going to clean the house the way your wife would before a party consider throwing it at someone else’s home or a venue.
- Find childcare for any young kids in the house even if they’re going to be at the party so your wife can enjoy herself.
- It might be hard to find a way to get her out of the house, especially if you don’t go out a lot, so you may need to get creative. It might be better to have one of her friends, or even her parents, invite her out.
How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party for Your Husband
Whether you’ve fallen into a marriage rhythm where there’s not a lot of spontaneity or you’re the kind of person who loves to throw bigger and better parties each year a surprise birthday party for your husband is just the ticket. Especially when he’s the kind of guy that doesn’t ask for much for himself.
Tips to throw a surprise birthday party for your husband:
- Definitely take your husband’s personality into consideration. Is he the big birthday party type or does he prefer smaller get togethers?
- Don’t be suspicious! Sending him out golfing for the day for no reason is going to make him wonder what’s up. You can always disguise it as his birthday present though.
- Food is super important, especially at a man’s birthday party. Serve up a selection of his favorite food and drinks.
- Consider a fun, personal, or cheesy theme – whatever you’d think he’d like. Or plan a sports party and watch the game, fight, or race together.
How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party at a Bar
So you’ve decided you don’t want to throw a surprise birthday party at home. What are you options? Well for adults one of the most popular birthday party locations, surprise or otherwise, is the bar! But how do you throw a surprise birthday party at a bar?
- Pick the right venue. Does the birthday girl or boy love to dance? Do they prefer certain foods? Should you pick a speciality or novelty venue? Are there any special events you want to work into the party?
- Contact the bar and make a reservation. It’s not a great idea to plan an event like this at a place that doesn’t take bookings because you might not get to sit together (and that’s not very fun).
- Find out all the details of the venue. Is cake allowed or do they have a special dessert? Can you bring balloons and decorations? If the venue doesn’t allow decorations you can still bring party hats or other party novelties for everyone!
- Invite the guests and stress that it’s a surprise party. Make sure they know what time to be there for the surprise!
- On the day of the party you or someone else should go and decorate, if allowed. If not make sure someone is there early to direct guests.
- Getting them to the bar without spoiling the surprise is the hardest part. There’s a few ways you can do this: a) invite them out, just the two of you, for a drink (as a bonus you know they’ll dress up). b) invite them out to something else then insist you stop for a drink on your way back. c) as a last resort, especially for people who say no a lot, tell them you’re taking them out and they don’t get to know where.
- Don’t forget to put some money on a tab or give a gift card so the person who’s celebrating their birthday can enjoy food and drinks without worrying about costs. You can also ask guests to pitch in.
How to Throw a Surprise party at a Restaurant
Throwing a surprise party at a restaurant is a lot like throwing one at the bar, but with some exceptions. Here’s some extra things to keep in mind when booking a restaurant for a surprise party.
- Will children be coming and is the place family friendly? Make sure you reserve enough highchairs and booster seats.
- Is the food affordable for everyone?
- Does the venue have a private room for parties?
How to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party at a Hotel
Throwing a surprise birthday party at a hotel is tricky but not impossible. It can be a really great start to a big birthday bash or party of an existing holiday. Even as a staycation, throwing a surprise birthday party at a hotel is a way to let loose without having to worry about driving home, perfect if you live a little bit too far from local venues.
How to throw a surprise party in a hotel banquet room
One way to throw a surprise party at a hotel is by using their banquet room. Guests can enjoy the evening events and have a place to stay the night too. Plus there’s not as much work in regards to set up and clean up as having it at home.
- Book the venue. Make sure you know what’s included in the price!
- Book a hotel room for the person celebrating their birthday, as well as yourself and anyone else who may need one. Or reserve a floor if it’s a big celebration.
- Invite the birthday party guests and let them know it’s a surprise.
- Make arrangements for food and drinks. Many hotels have services for a fee to make things easy.
- To get them to the party the easiest way might be to tell them you’re taking them to a different event. Say it’s a special interest expo, award night, seminar, anything to get them to come along.
How to throw a surprise party in a hotel room
If you want to throw a surprise party inside a hotel room that’s a little different. For someone who’s already on vacation, just use the general tips at the top of this post. If they live in the area then getting them to a hotel room is a little bit more tricky.
First of all, when throwing a surprise party in a hotel room make sure you book a big enough room. Adjoining rooms are great for this too. Or consider reserving a whole floor for a big birthday bash. (This is great if lots of guests will be from out of town!)
Second, load up the room with decorations but make sure to use removable tape or sticky tack so you don’t damage anything. Balloons, streamers, banners, and tablecloths are great ways to make it feel like a party.
To get them to a hotel room surprise birthday party you’re going to need to be crafty. Some ideas might be having another friend come in from out of town and ask them to meet them at their room, suggesting a staycation (if you’re a couple), or saying the party is for someone else.
How to Throw a Surprise Anniversary Party
Birthdays are not the only occasions to throw a surprise party! Consider throwing a surprise anniversary party for yourself, your parents, or any happy couple in your life!
Tips to throw a surprise anniversary party:
- If it’s for your partner you probably already know who to invite but for other family members it might be more difficult. Try and find their closest friends and family members then ask them for ideas. If they’re celebrating their first anniversary or a big milestone try and invite the people who were at their wedding.
- For a milestone anniversary try and decorate with that theme. For example, a silver 25th anniversary could have silver plates, balloons, decor, etc.
- Consider a venue like a hotel banquet, a nice backyard, local hall, or even your home for the party.
- Are you booking entertainment for the anniversary party? Live music or a DJ are popular choices. You could also plan games or activities based on the couples’ personality.
- Try and find out some elements of their wedding to bring into the party. What was their wedding song?
Another thing to remember is that for an anniversary party the couple (and guests) probably want to be dressed more formally. To get the guest(s) of honour into something nice you might need to tell a white lie. Plan to “take them out” to a dinner at a fancy place, to the theatre, someone else’s party, or to any high end venue so they’re ready for their party.
How To Throw a Surprise Party on the Cheap
One of the best things about a surprise party is it’s a really inexpensive way to go big with a party. The surprise and careful planning is party of the gift so you really don’t need to go crazy when it comes to spending money if you don’t want to.
Here’s some tips to a low-cost surprise party:
- Rent, borrow, thrift, DIY, or shop the dollar store for decor. You don’t need much to make it feel like a party! Balloons, streamers, garland, banners, tablecloths, plates, and fun hats are all great, inexpensive ideas.
- Ask guests to potluck or contribute to the venue or dinner/drinks out instead of bringing a gift.
- Have guests BYOB.
- For parties at home, stick to activities you have on hand. Think: Backyard games, a bonfire, board or video games, karaoke, etc.
- If it’s a theme party pick something that’s easy to do, like a certain decade, colour, sports, etc.
- Doing a party at home is cheapest but if you must use a venue, look for low cost options like local halls and clubs, board game cafés, or affordable restaurants.
- Don’t overdo it, that includes the guest list.
Surprise Party To Do List
𝥁 Pick a date and time for the party
𝥁 Set a budget
𝥁 Choose a venue or party location
𝥁 Make a guest list (consult close family and friends if needed)
𝥁 Book any venues, entertainment, etc
𝥁 Choose a theme
𝥁 Send out invitations (make sure they have all instructions!)
𝥁 Arrange for someone to be a chaperone
𝥁 Make plans to get the guest of honour out of the house or to the venue
𝥁 Purchase or prepare decorations, store them out of sight or the house
𝥁 Order the cake
On the day of:
𝥁 Designate someone to film the big “surprise!” moment
𝥁 Prepare any last minute food or drinks
𝥁 Decorate, or arrange for someone to decorate if you’re chaperoning
𝥁 Confirm plans with the guest of honour and make sure they’re party-ready (even if they don’t know it)
𝥁 Make sure all decorations and signs of the party are not visible from outside
Excuses to get someone to a surprise party
So you have the party planned and the invitations sent out. Now how on earth do you get them to the surprise party?
True story, my ex tried to surprise me with dinner and a movie once for my birthday. He kept asking me if I was going to get dressed but I didn’t clue in until the babysitter arrived that we were going out. Sometimes subtlety doesn’t work when it comes to surprises.
Ways to get someone out to the surprise party venue:
- Tell them you’re going to dinner or drinks, just the two of you.
- Say there’s a special event or guest speaker and you want them to join you.
- Piggyback the party on another activity. Do they have another event they plan on attending, for example?
- Make a fake invitation for someone else’s party or another event so they think they’re going to that.
- If it’s at your place, tell them you need them to come over at a certain time and it’s really important (think: personal issue, home repair, help with kids, whatever excuse will work).
Getting someone out of the house for a surprise party:
- Take them to birthday lunch or dinner.
- Invite them on a date.
- Ask them to help you with something.
- Plan the surprise party for when they’re done work.
- Have them join you at an event, seminar, or trade show.
- Go to the movies together (great because it has a set time!).
Don’t plan anything too extravagant or tiring. You want them to enjoy the party still! And remember to do things that are normal for you guys to avoid suspicion.
Use a scavenger hunt
This is another great way to get someone to a surprise party. Tell them you planned a scavenger hunt for their birthday and at the end will be their birthday gift. Use a chaperone to guide them throughout your local area or city to find the clues. Which of course will lead to an amazing surprise party. It will take a lot of planning and timing but if you get this right it will be amazing.
One more thing! Don’t act like you forgot their birthday, anniversary, or special day!
This last, but definitely not least. If you’re planning a surprise party don’t make them think everyone important has forgotten all about their special day. Talk about their birthday and even make plans to do something, ideally after the surprise party has occurred or that’s really small. You can even use these plans as an excuse to get them out of the house or to the venue.
Make sure you let everyone who’s “in” on the surprise know your plans so you don’t get conflicting stories!