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How to Plan a Surprise Birthday Party

How to Plan a Surprise Birthday Party

How to Plan a Surprise Birthday Party

There’s almost nothing quite as satisfying as the moment someone walks into their surprise party, totally oblivious, and everyone leaps out and shouts, “Surprise!” The birthday person’s reaction, a mix of shock, confusion, excitement, and happiness, is something you never forget. 

 If you’re the lucky one getting surprised, it’s hard to match the feeling of delight. But that final moment of surprise is equally exciting for the host. After spending months planning a surprise party, it’s incredibly gratifying to see it come to fruition. 

Surprise party planning can be daunting, and getting to that point takes a lot of time and effort, but with the proper process and a solid plan, you can get the guest of honor across the finish line without becoming a ball of stress.

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Not everyone is a fan of surprises. For some, the shock can be overwhelming. Some may not like being the center of attention. So before you book a location or contract with a DJ, make sure your celebrant is interested in a surprise party

 If you’re planning their surprise, there’s an excellent chance you know them well enough to make the determination, but if you don’t, seek out a friend or family member that might know. If you can’t find a reliable source, you’ll have to make the call based on what you know about their personality. If you’re still not sure, consider that everyone deserves a surprise party at least once in their life.  Just like you should consider your friend's preferences when considering gift ideas, you should think about them when party planning.

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Guy helping hang balloons at a party.


Surprise parties have a lot of moving parts. If you have a group of mutual friends or family members willing to help out with planning festivities, take them up on the offer. It’s far easier to stage a party with help than going it alone. 

 Even if you can’t get help planning, you’ll likely need compatriots to help pull off the surprise. You’ll often need someone to babysit the party recipient and keep them occupied while you’re setting up the party. The same person or group of people can also transport your guess to their party at the designated time. Of course, if you’re the person responsible for getting your mark to the party, then you’ll need help getting things set up.

Find some way to keep in conversation with your helpers. Using a group chat or a private Facebook group is a great way to plan all the fun for your birthday guest as efficiently as possible.


Stealth is the name of the game. You need addresses for physical invitations and email addresses for digital invites. You should also try to collect Facebook handles if you plan to create a Facebook event. The trick is that you can’t get them from the person you’re planning for.  

 You’ll know some of their friends and family. They’ll be able to connect you with the people they know. From there, expand outward. The people they know will know people, and the people they know will have contact information for even more. Using email, Facebook, and chat, you should be able to collect all the contact information you need without the party recipient ever realizing you’re looking.

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A possible party venue. It's an all-white rental hall.


Choosing a party location is more problematic when it's a surprise. You're going to have to create a cover story that convincingly delivers your celebrant to the location without them suspecting, so your site has to fit into the surprise plan. You also have to be able to set up the party without the recipient being aware. 

 Compile a list of possible locations. These can be restaurants, bars, rental halls, or someone’s house. Cross off any that aren’t large enough for the likely guest list or are too far away or otherwise inconvenient. Then look at those remaining and figure out which would most easily lend itself to a surprise. Which is the location your recipient is least likely to suspect? And which has enough parking to accommodate all your guests? Once you find the sweet spot between all of these considerations, you’ll have your location (and your cover story.)


The devil is in the party details, and a party without these three elements isn't a party. Consider your likely guest list and plan enough food to feed everyone. A buffet is usually a good choice. You might also do large submarine sandwiches, a potluck, sit-down meal, or heavy hor d' oeuvres. For inspiration, think about what your friend might like if they were planning their own party. Think about what all their friends might appreciate as well.

 It’s hard to have a party without music. The most common choices are a DJ, a band, or a playlist out of Spotify or other music streaming services. Make sure you have the requisite amplification equipment if you choose to stream. Your phone speaker won’t be powerful enough. 

 You should also decide on games, activities, and other pastimes for your guests. Also, consider furniture arrangement in your main party room and other spaces, making sure to allow groups to chat, both standing and sitting. 

 Finally, walk your location and come up with a decoration plan. If there's a party theme, try and imagine a decoration scape that fits your story and space. Otherwise, just try and make the place as festive as you can.

Remember that your plans should fit the birthday girl or birthday guy. You would likely make very different choices if you were planning your mom's birthday versus one for your football buddy. Your pal might have walked out of surprise party if he got your Mom's party!

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A photo of a surprise party invitation.


Once you have a date, time, location, plan, and all of your guests’ contact information, send out your invitations. For an upscale party, you’ll want to send traditional invitations through the mail. Simply Noted can help you send elegant or fun, handwritten invitations automatically using our state-of-the-art handwriting machines. We can help with birthday cards as well. 

 You might also opt for a digital invitation. Of course, you’ll likely have to send a combination of invitations, depending on the type of contact information available to you. You won’t be able to mail someone a card if you can’t get their physical address, and an e-vite won’t be possible for those lacking an email address. 

 You’ll want to give people at least three to four weeks notice, to give them time to make travel plans if necessary. More time is better, though if you send them out very early, it’s wise to send reminders to make sure the date isn’t forgotten. 

 Be sure to inform people about any surprise plans they need to be aware of. Traditionally you’d let them know how soon before the surprise to arrive. If they can’t aarrive within that window, advise them to wait to come in until after the surprise to avoid accidentally spoiling things by arriving at the same time as the celebrant. Also, make sure people know to park far from the location, so their cars don’t give things away.

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If you’ve done your planning, the day of the party should go swimmingly. When your guests arrive they'll know where to be and what to do, your co-conspirators will be working to prepare the party and keep your celebrant in the dark, and the final moments when the surprise is sprung will hopefully be a...SURPRISE!!!!