Holding a surprise birthday party can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a headache if you don’t use proper planning. Just incorporate the following steps and you will be yelling “surprise!” at the top of your lungs in no time.
Decide who you are throwing the party for
Who wouldn’t want to have a surprise birthday party? Actually, plenty of people. Not everyone likes surprises, so make sure you choose your victim err, surprise-ee carefully.
Choose a date and time
You will want to determine the date and time for the party at least a month in advance if not longer. Make sure that the surprise-ee is available of course. You or one of the other guests, who shall be called the “duper,” needs to ask the surprise-ee to go to a movie, help paint the house, babysit, or anything else that will encourage him to keep that date and time available.
If you’re having the party at a hall or restaurant, call and make a reservation. Give an estimated guest count if you don’t have a firm number yet.
Invite the guests
When you invite the guests, whether it be by phone, email, snail mail or in person, be sure to let them know that the party is a surprise so that they don’t call up the surprise-ee and ask him what he’s going to wear, send him their regrets that they can’t make the party, etc. If you know Aunt Millie will not be able to keep from spilling, just make sure she keeps the date open and then fill her in on the details at the last minute.
If you live with the surprise-ee, make sure you don’t ask guests to RSVP to your home phone number. You don’t want the surprise-ee hearing replies on the voicemail. The same goes for if you share an e-mail dress. Create a new one just for the event if you have to.
*It is not recommended to allow invitees to invite additional people to the party. This is just more people to unknowingly blow the surprise.
Pick a theme
No “surprise party” is not a party theme. You’re going to have to do a little bit more work. Just pick something that you know the guest of honor will like, be it birthday cake, pizza and party games; wine, fondue and classical music, what have you. If nothing comes to mind, there are plenty of websites you can visit that can help you decide on a theme, such as party411.com.
Get the supplies ready
There is no shame in asking guests to help you assemble the food, beverages and party favors. Many guests will probably ask you when invited if you would like them to bring something with them. If you’d like to save some time, money and aggravation, go ahead and take them up on this offer. Then get to shopping to pick up anything you still need to buy. Take a shopping list with you so you don’t forget anything.
Note: If you live with the surprise-ee, you will need to store all of the party paraphernalia at the office or at someone else’s house, especially if he tends to be snoopy.
Distract the surprise-ee
On party day, you will need a way to either get the surprise-ee out of his house so you can set up or get him to the site of the party. He should be headed to meet the designated duper for the babysitting, movie, painting task. Have the surprise-ee begin said task to avoid any suspicion. For example, the duper should tell him the kids are at a “friends’ house and need to be picked up,” drive towards the movie theater and then mention the need to “run an errand” first, or realize he “forgot” the green paint and ask the surprise-ee to accompany him to the hardware store.
Set up for the party
While the surprise-ee is being led around town by the duper, the other guests need to be at the location setting up for the party. Tell everyone beforehand that they need to be on time, about a half hour before the expected arrival of the surprise-ee. You don’t want the surprise-ee to see a bunch of his friends running into the building carrying gifts.
Keeping the food, gifts and guests a secret is fairly simple once you get them all inside the area where you will be holding the party. Once the surprise-ee arrives, you will be letting him know about the party immediately anyway, unless you are particularly vindictive. The only problem you may run into is the guests’ cars. Have them park a couple streets over if possible, or in a garage, and don’t forget to hide your own car – unless you are the duper of course.
Also, decide on a way for the duper to signal to the other guests that the surprise-ee is on his way. Usually a phone call or text message is easiest. Don’t have the duper say something obvious that the surprise-ee will overhear, such as “the bird is in the grass.” Just have him say something mundane, such as “John, do you know what time Mary is getting home?” Simple is best – and least obvious.
Send in the surprise-ee
Once you have everything set up, have a guest signal to tell the duper that it’s okay to bring in the surprise-ee.
A lot of people like to hide and jump out when the surprise-ee walks in, which is fine, as long as the surprise-ee does not have a heart condition. (Come on. We have all seen the movies.) The easiest way to do this is to gather everyone in one room, cover the windows and turn out the lights. Then when the duper or surprise-ee opens the door and flips the switch have everyone yell surprise. You can even throw confetti, release balloons or spray Silly String to add to the drama. (This is a very good time to snap that embarrassing picture.)
Note: If you are at a restaurant, this will probably not be possible, unless you have a private party room. If you are in the general area of the restaurant, please resist the urge to push out the chairs and hide under the table.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, you don’t have to worry about sneaking around anymore. Just kick back and have fun enjoying your successful surprise.