Surprise Party Ideas
Surprise parties are fun and memorable occasions. If you're considering throwing a surprise party, there's a lot to keep in mind! Logistics include deciding where, when, who to invite, how to keep the secret, and how to reveal your surprise. All these details can confuse even the most experienced party planner! If you're thinking of organizing a surprise party, read on for our best tips and ideas.
Should You Throw a Surprise Party?
The first and arguably most important thing is to decide when considering a surprise party is whether or not your guest of honor is a fan of surprises. This is usually fairly obvious, and if not, consult with a trusted friend or relative. Also consider if he/she enjoys parties, or dislikes being the center of attention. It could be difficult to throw a surprise party for a person who actively avoids the spotlight. Another crucial factor is whether or not your honoree loves to plan their own birthdays and milestones. The last thing you want to do is get in the way of someone who'd rather host their own event.
Next, make sure you have adequate time to plan the event. A good rule of thumb is to leave about 6 weeks to plan a surprise party involving around 25 people. This timeline can be adjusted for more or fewer guests, but keep in mind you’ll have to spend some time tracking down contact info without arousing suspicion. If you think the guest of honor is game and the timing is on track, it’s time to move ahead with planning the surprise!
Organizing a Surprise Party
The first and most important thing to decide is who will serve as the organizer, facilitator, and general point person for the surprise party. The planner should be close to the surprisee, but ideally not their spouse or domestic partner. The planner will need to be able to handle information and logistics without arousing suspicion, and might have to tell a few fibs to throw the guest of honor off the scent. If you doubt a spouse or partner’s ability to keep the party a secret in close quarters, it might be better to have someone else take the reins.
The most seamless surprise parties are organized around the routine of the honoree. A party that fits perfectly within the honoree’s usual plans will definitely retain the element of surprise. Regardless of where and when the party is planned, the organizer will need the help of someone very close to the guest of honor. The helper will do their best to keep the party secret, as well as ensure the honoree shows up at the right time and place. Don’t simply rely on your special guest to arrive somewhere without a little support or guidance, no matter how secure their routine is!
Timing is critical in planning surprise parties. Particularly if your guest of honor is savvy, they’ll most likely be expecting something on the day of, and they might be disappointed if nothing happens in the days following. Planning the surprise in the days or weeks before the event will keep everyone on their toes, and help maintain the element of surprise. Also, do your best to choose a time that suits your guests of honor as well the guests attending the event. A Tuesday afternoon might be a big surprise, but probably isn’t the most convenient time for the other guests to relax and enjoy themselves. For a bigger birthday or milestone, another organizational option is to plan a bigger surprise around an event that’s already planned. This way, the honoree is already prepared for an event on that day and time, but will be pleasantly surprise to find more of their friends and family in attendance!
Surprise Party Invitations
Sending surprise party invitations is a delicate balance of convenience and secrecy. While you need to make sure your guests have adequate warning, don’t send the invitations out too early. Extra time just means more opportunities for the secret to get out! Paper invitations are usually the best option, as there’s fewer opportunities for snail mail to be tracked or intercepted. Make sure your personalized surprise party invitations clearly state the event is a surprise. The last thing you need is to have an invited guest spill the beans! Also be sure to clarify exactly what time guests should arrive, and plan for a little wiggle room to make sure everyone’s in place before the big reveal. If you need guests to contribute food or beverages, make sure to have that information clearly identified.
If you’re planning on collecting RSVP’s, do your best to have guests reply to someone or somewhere separate from the honoree’s home. The fewer chances your guest of honor has to intercept an RSVP, the better.
Venues for Surprise Parties
Surprise parties are generally held in private homes. While it’s easier to coordinate details in the privacy of someone’s house, outdoor venues, bars and restaurants are also great venue options. If you’re planning a surprise in your guest of honor’s home, it’s very important to make sure you have a close friend or family member acting as an accomplice. Your assistant will need to help make sure your honoree is out of the house for a solid chunk of time. A few hours is best; a short errand or appointment might complicate things unnecessarily, or even give away the secret if your accomplice has to speed up or delay the process. If you’re hosting the surprise party in another home, an accomplice is still very necessary, as you’ll need to make sure your guest of honor arrives at the right time and place.
If you’re hosting an outdoor surprise party, flexibility is key. Make sure your decorations, food, beverages, activities and gifts are all easily transportable and easy to display or assemble. You’ll most likely have less time to attend to details at an outdoor venue, and timing is everything. Make sure the party location is accessible, and that you give your guests plenty of time to arrive and assemble before your surprisee makes their entrance. If you’re hosting a surprise event at a bar or restaurant, you may want to choose somewhere your honoree knows and loves. Choosing a known entity your guest of honor frequents will keep any disappointment or awkwardness at bay, and can help maintain the element of surprise.
Planning the Big Reveal
It’s important to know your audience when planning your big surprise. Don’t plan to jump out and yell “Surprise!” at the wrong person. That could do more harm than good! There are plenty of more subtle ways to surprise your guest of honor. See our list below for inspiration.
- Use noise as a preface. Give your guests various instruments, or instruct them to chant, clap, or sing as your honoree approaches. The noise will reveal the surprise more slowly, giving your special guest some time to compose themselves and anticipate the reveal!
- Have guests walk in on honoree, instead of the other way around. Choose a typical moment in your guest of honor’s day and instruct your guests to file in in small groups. Watch your special guest’s smile grow wider and wider as more of their loved ones arrive!
- Have a party in progress. It’s much less of a shock to walk in on a party in progress rather than one that hasn’t begun. Invite your guests early and begin serving food and drinks before your guest of honor arrives. This will help diffuse the spotlight a little, which may be more comfortable for your special guest.
However you decide to plan your surprise party, make sure to practice the reveal. Nothing’s worse than someone jumping the gun!
Surprise Party Décor, Food and Beverage Ideas
Décor for surprise parties should be simple and easy. There probably won’t be much time to set up, and you need to ensure your special guest won’t spot your elaborate décor and ruin the surprise. Food and drink options are usually light at surprise parties, depending on the venue and the number of guests. Again, there’s usually not a lot of time to assemble, so keep the offerings simple! At the minimum, include a cake or special treat. Planning to serve your honoree’s favorite dessert will definitely add to the sense of occasion.
Surprise Parties: Tips and Tricks
- Don’t single out your guest of honor. Figure out what the honoree will most likely be wearing at the time of the surprise, and advise your other guests to dress accordingly.
- Don’t give the surprise away with details. Make sure cars are parked far enough away, keep the lights the way they were, don’t leave doors open and make sure your party décor is hidden.
- Make absolutely sure your guest of honor is free. If you’re planning a stand-alone event, check in with friends, family, and even the guest of honor themselves so you’re positive they’re available at the appointed time.
- Don’t sweat it if the surprise is spoiled. With surprise parties, it’s really the thought that counts!