Sunday, June 16, 2024

Organize a successful surprise birthday party in 8 key steps

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This year, you are organizing the surprise birthday of someone dear to your heart. It’s not easy to plan everything, so to help you I’ve prepared a guide in 8 key steps.

You have taken charge of the organization of the surprise birthday of your mother, your husband or your best friend and it is a heavy task that weighs on your shoulders. You do not know where to start ? Don’t panic: I put myself in your shoes, and after having carried out my investigation, I concocted a guide for you to manage the organization of the event from A to Z. From the choice of time, date and from the theme to the decoration, the birthday cups, the establishment of the guest list and even the cake and the gift, let’s go, take notes!

1. Choose the date and time to organize the birthday

If the birthday falls on a weekend, it makes things easier for you because you know that people will be more available than during the week. However, choosing the big day to organize the birthday may not be a good idea, because your main guest could already have something planned, or anticipate the surprise.

If the birthday falls in the middle of the week and you decide to wait until the weekend to organize the party, the person might think that you forgot! A few days before the event is therefore a good solution for a successful surprise.

However, if like me you are the superstitious type, you know that celebrating a birthday before the real date is a risk of jinxing it. In this case, send a little message on D-Day to your loved one to say that you have thought of him well, and do not hesitate to organize the surprise party the following weekend to be sure that everyone is available.

Regarding the time: for a family party, bet on an afternoon instead. Indeed, we will for example avoid organizing a party until the end of the night for his 80-year-old grandpa or for his 60-year-old mother (although your grandfather or your mother can be big partygoers ). 

For your 30-year-old best friend, your 40-year-old husband or your 20-year-old boyfriend, I recommend a Friday or Saturday night, or even a whole weekend to party.

2. Choose the theme of the evening

Choose a theme for which it is easy to imagine decorations and costumes. Going on “The Mongol invasions of Burma in 1277 and 1287”, even if your friend is a history buff, is not necessarily a good idea.

I’ve put together a short list of themes to inspire you, based on the profile of your guest of honour.

50 year old mom’s birthday theme

– Disco: disco balls and bell bottoms! – Chic and shocking detail: if your mum likes to dress up but is also a joke – Gold and silver: for a luxury or bling evening- bling– Black & White: with plays of light and shadow – Garden party: for the beautiful hot summer days

Theme for husband’s 40th birthday

– Movie characters: expect to meet Rambo in the kitchen – Rock’n roll: electric guitar, eccentric outfits and crazy atmosphere! – Famous duos: like Tic et Tac, Marge and Homer, Asterix and Obelix or Sherlock and Watson – Football: don’t forget that even if you don’t have the same jersey, you have the same passion! Forbidden to judge yourself according to your favorite club – James Bond 007: super-villain team or secret agent team?

30 year old best friend birthday theme

– 60s: Flower Power, peace & love and psychedelic decoration – Fantasy: with unicorns, centaurs, elves and other cursed forests – Come as you will never be: your very feminine girlfriend in big bearded or your hyper classic dad in punk, unheard of!– Superheroes: from Batman to Kick-Ass, there is no shortage of masked vigilantes to embody – White party: to announce the looming sleepless night

Theme for her boyfriend’s 20th birthday

– Angel and demon: which side will you choose? – Harry Potter: you can choose from the classics Harry, Ron and Hermione but also aim for difficulty by playing as the Sorting Hat, Buck the Hippogriff or Dobby the House Elf – Video game characters: Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, Fifa , Sonic, the Sims… so many possibilities!– Zombies: for a bloody and apocalyptic atmosphere– Fluorescent: through paint, make-up, clothing and accessories. If they are phosphorescent it is even better!

The essential: if it’s a fancy dress party, plan a costume for the person whose birthday it is! Otherwise, he/she will feel sadly alone among all these hippies.

Finally, for an original idea, #Starface offers personalized masks, so that each guest approaches the same face as the star of the day in a cardboard version. Laughter and surprise guaranteed!

buffet tumbler 30 years

3. Establish the guest list

First of all, it doesn’t matter who you contact: make it clear to everyone that it is a SURPRISE birthday and that the person concerned is not aware of anything, so beware of dumplings that could spoil the much desired effect!

Even if you know the person for whom you are organizing this surprise very well, I advise you to choose an ally among his relatives (your father if it is for your mother, his best friend if it is for your husband or his brother if it’s for your buddy) to help you compile the guest list.

Killing two birds with one stone: this ally can also take on the role of the accomplice who will be responsible for occupying the person whose birthday it is and bringing them to the party venue at the desired time.

For your mom, call on your father or his sister who will be able to help you gather his friends and family. For your husband, your boyfriend or your little brother ask his best friend for help! He will certainly know who to contact to be sure that the group of friends is complete. If it’s for your best friend, check with her mom or a mutual friend to list the people to invite.

When you have established your list, send out the invitations! Among the most practical ways, I advise you to go through Facebook with the creation of a private event, by setting up a discussion group via the WhatsApp application or by sending a common email.

The advantage of Facebook groups, WhatsApp or an email is the possibility of sharing all the information relating to the event in real time. Quickly ask for confirmation of the arrival or not of the guests to be able to organize yourself.

If you want to manage everything from A to Z on a single tool, Dooliz allows you to send invitations and centralize responses on a dashboard that updates automatically.

4. Define a place to organize the party

Small budget: at home

Inexpensive or even free: organization at home. The advantage of organizing it at home, at the birthday party or in your grandparents’ barn, is the economy of renting the room. Only constraint: the noise caused for the neighborhood. If you plan to invite 80 people and install a bowling alley in your garden, be sure to have the necessary space and that your neighbors are warned (and agree).

The original idea: if your best friend is also your colleague, why not organize a surprise birthday party for her at the office?

Average budget: at the bar or restaurant

For your 18-year-old little brother or your best friend, there’s nothing like privatizing a bar. The les barrés website helps you book the bar you need wherever you are. The big advantage is that you don’t need to manage the drink stock. However, you will surely not have the possibility of meals on site, and you risk not being free in terms of decoration.

Second option, to organize the surprise birthday of her mother or her husband, think of the restaurant. This will allow you to find yourself in a small committee and have nothing to manage. Several choices are available to you: – A dinner with a classic table – at the starred restaurant La Tour d’Argent, menu from €105 per person – The privatization of a space – at the restaurant Le Point Zéro, from 19€ per hour – The privatization of the restaurant – Le Zango, on estimate depending on the formula chosen

Please note that evening meals are generally more expensive than lunchtime meals. Also take into account the fact that you will not necessarily have control over the decoration, and that you will surely not be able to stay on the spot beyond a certain time.

Medium to high budget: renting a room

If you want to organize a party outside, you can bet on renting a room. They come in all sizes, catering services, decoration and cleaning included – or not.

The budget varies between 130€ and 3500€, depending on several factors such as the reception capacity, the personalized decoration, the duration of the rental, the prestige of the place or the options chosen (cleaning, caterer, show and entertainment). To guide you, several websites are dedicated to room reservations, such as abc salle or 1001salles.

You can finally choose a more atypical place to organize the evening and make it unforgettable. Available to you, among others: an 85m² loft located on the most beautiful avenue in the world (€249 per hour), a 60m² barge in Metz (€70 per hour), a former Parisian convent ( from €1,945 excluding VAT) or even a 15th century mansion located in Maine-et-Loire (€50 per hour).

Don’t wait until the last minute to book! It is often necessary to do this several months in advance in order to be sure that the place is available on the date you have chosen.

birthday group photo with ecocups

5. Provide food and drinks

Low budget: home cooking

To reduce the budget, organize a Spanish hostel! To avoid everyone bringing chips, create a shared document where everyone can indicate what they plan to cook. 

Regarding drinks, vary the pleasures. Champagne, mojitos, sodas or orange juice, there is something for everyone: therefore plan drinks with and without alcohol (not to mention that alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health, and should be consumed in moderation).

Make sure that the drink / food distribution is well balanced. Below is a small general quantification to help you estimate the average amount of food and drink you will need to fill each guest.

Regarding drinks: – One liter of non-alcoholic drink per person – For long drinks (alcohol mixed with soft drinks), count two bottles of soft drinks for one bottle of alcohol – If you are planning a real meal, half as many bottles of wine than guest (for example 25 bottles for 50 guests) – For champagne we estimate one bottle for 4 people

If, like me, math is not your strong point, here is a little tool that can help you estimate the quantity of bottles needed, and the estimated budget.

Regarding food: – For a buffet, count 6 or 7 sweets per person – For a meal with meat, plan a portion of 150 to 200g per person and 120 to 150g for fish – Concerning starches, 60g of rice , 150g of potatoes or 100g of pasta – You can reduce this portion if you plan at least 120-140g of vegetables – For the cheese we count 70g per person, and 110g for the dessert – Don’t forget the bread, with about a quarter of a baguette per person

These figures are estimates taken from the sites cmonanniversary, Chef Simon and idbuffet.

Also, if you are preparing a real meal rather than a buffet, make sure you have enough plates and cutlery for everyone to eat (it’s still better). Just in case, know that there are very affordable tableware rental services.

Finally: the cake. If you have the soul of a pastry chef, you can make a worked piece such as a number cake or a themed cake. I offer you a few examples among the themes you could have chosen: chic and shocking detail, rock’n roll, superheroes, video games.

For more classic recipes such as a yogurt cake, a chocolate cake or a strawberry charlotte, the marmiton, cuisineaz and 750g sites are your best friends.

I strongly advise you to practice before the evening and not plan to test a recipe that you have never made on D-Day. If you miss it, you risk ending up with an ugly, burnt or undercooked cake. unavailable to guests!

Medium to high budget: use a caterer

A good solution to avoid the stress of preparations and too much organization: call on a caterer. Whether you opt for a cold buffet, petit fours or a full meal, you will need to plan a budget of 5 to 55€ per person.

Don’t forget the cake! To stick to your theme, you can order an original creation. The price will depend on the number of slices you want: count between 20€ and 69.90€ for an original cake of 10-12 slices, around 80€ for a piece of 18 slices and 199€ for a piece of 49 slices.

For a more traditional chocolate or fruit cake, find out more from Auchan, Carrefour Traiteur or the Les desserts de Candy website, which offers a wide choice of all sizes for all budgets.

6. Organize unforgettable activities and entertainment

At home

– A Murder Party, to organize yourself or all-inclusive – from 19.20€ – Put on a tailor-made choreography (or learn one from a clip) and put on a little show – free – Organize a flash-mob with all birthday guests – free


– A giant live escape game – from 19€ to 35€ per person – Carry out a photo shoot with a professional, for a single person or in a group – from 79€ to 149€ – Book a SPA afternoon with massage, bath mud and treatments: TripAdvisor will be able to guide you according to the city that interests you

The extra idea: an activity organized during the preparation of the surprise on D-Day can be a pretext to occupy your guest of honor.

Last but not least: the music

If you are organizing the birthday at home, think about creating a playlist or even renting a sound system so that everyone can enjoy it (from 67€ to 317€, without the deposit). You can also hire a DJ, knowing that it has a certain cost. Generally the price is à la carte, depending on the number of guests, the duration of the service and the reputation of the speaker.

If you’ve booked a venue, bar or restaurant and music is included in the price, there’s no need to worry about that (or possibly negotiate with them what you want them to play). If you have to take care of it yourself, fall back on the DJ or the house playlist depending on your budget.

My little advice for the playlist: save it on a USB key or consider offline mode on Spotify and Deezer! Do not rely on the internet, because if the connection is bad where you party, the music may drop out and it will be very annoying.

7. Think about the decoration of the place

Small budget: the Do It Yourself

Depending on the theme you have chosen, you can create your decoration yourself. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube and images on Pinterest that can inspire and guide you. The only investment you will have to make will be the material (glue, balloons, scissors, cardboard, paint…), in other words: not expensive!

Here is something to find inspiration for accessories to make yourself according to your theme:

Disco theme – A disco ball with old CDs – A vinyl mobile – A luminous centerpiece in cassettes – A wall of crepon streamers (choose metallic, holographic colors)

James Bond theme– Cardboard Photo Booth– Table menus in the shape of a suit– “007” stencils, pistol, target, Aston Martin…

Fantasy theme – Unicorn and dragon origami – Potion bottles and flasks (filled with food coloring or syrups) – Elvish-inspired plant centerpiece – Enchanting eternal candles

Angels and demons theme – Fallen angel feather garland – Half demonic half angelic centerpiece (easy to replicate) – Large poseable angel wings – Pentacle coasters – Devil horns

Average budget: the decoration store

High budget: go through a service provider

If you have booked a room with decoration option, brief the staff in charge of setting everything up so that it adapts to your theme.

If you prefer to prospect yourself, you can go through the professionals of the sites SoDecoration, Evenement Deco, DecorAction or even Anne-Sophie Lagoët who offer à la carte services on estimate. Plan a budget of 60€ to 2500€ for the service. Please note that some service providers do not pay for the installation of the decoration, or may charge extra for it.

joint birthday 40 years fabienne and roger

8. The choice of the gift for the guest of honor

If you want to make a joint gift, the easiest way is to set up an online kitty. Several applications exist, such as Leetchi, Le Pot Commun or Coello, which allow everyone to donate the amount they want.

Once the kitty is closed, choose to donate it directly to the principal concerned, or withdraw it to buy a gift with it. Please note that transaction fees may apply.

On average, it is customary to give between €10 and €30 when one is invited to a birthday party and a kitty is organised. If you decide not to participate in the kitty and make a gift on your side, plan a budget of 20€ to 40€. These figures are obviously variable, it’s up to you to see with the participants how much each is ready to put if you already have a gift idea in mind.

9. To summarize

  • Choosing the date and time to organize the surprise birthday: the basis of everything.
  • Choose the theme of the evening: this is what will set the tone of the party, so choose well according to your guest of honor.
  • Establish the guest list: designate an ally to help you and contact the people to invite.
  • Defining a place to organize the party: at home, in a restaurant, through the privatization of a bar or the rental of a room, everything is a question of budget and the type of party planned.
  • Plan the meal, the drinks and the cake: essential! In the form of a buffet or a complete meal, the choice is yours. The cake will be the highlight of the show.
  • Organize unforgettable activities and entertainment: at home or outside, there are bound to be things to do!
  • Think about the decoration of the place: to give even more cachet to the evening, bet on a personalized decoration adapted to the theme.
  • The choice of gift for the guest of honour: to show your loved one that you love them and that you know them well.
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