Throwing a Surprise party might be a bit tricky as you need to be subtle every step of the way and a slip up can easily happen. My friend’s beau was turning the golden number of 25, and she needed my help. Working in Events and having it running through my veins, I happily obliged. We had a couple of meetings where we planned and thought about every components to a successful surprise birthday party, and we came up with about 5 key ingredients. What are they ?
1. Get people involved.
It may seem logical but a lot of people have the tendencies to do it all themselves. Wrong. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if it is a good friend of his/hers. You can ask your friend Berenice to help you with the decoration, to pick up the food and cake if your ordered it from a caterer; or even if it is to take the birthday beau/belle out for a few hours while you put the surprise in place. My friend asked me to help her for the food and decorations (I like to do both), and asked another friend to greet the people as they arrived, while the two of them went for diner.
Be careful to have all your guests arriving before you come back to the house for the big reveal as running into Paul in the way up would be awkward. Write the time to be BY at your party on the invite (that may be a Facebook event, or a text message, or proper paper invitations). Allow yourself 15 minutes extra (just in case, you never know who is running late). When you are near, send a text to your friend in the inside and tell them to hide, turn off the lights and be ready to jump and scream “Surpriiiiise”.
2. Appies are the way to go
No good party is a party without food. Always offer some nibbles to your guests. I love cooking so I loved planning an appetizer menu for the party. The menu consisted in some simple one bite appies and some cupcakes.
You can either involve your friend Paula that loves to cook (like me) and create a menu with her in advance. Buy the ingredients that she will need, ask her for a shopping list she can send you (after all it is your party, it is only normal you do the chores of grocery shopping), and give them to her enough in advance that she has time to organize herself and cook, don’t wait last minute.
Or if you want a little more bling and bang, you can hire a caterer, either to drop some platter to yours (while you are away, or your friend can go pick them up), or even more bling, have them cater your entire event. Have a maitre D’ passing hors d’oeuvres, or be at the prosciutto station, and such.
We kept the menu pretty simple in our case, it consisted in Mini Onion and Brie Quiche, Blue Cheese stuffed Dates wrapped in Bacon, and Piggies in a Blanket. On the sweet side, Red Velvet cupcake with a White Chocolate Buttercream icing. And of course the birthday cake : a Strawberry cheesecake made by the host, following her beau’s mom’s recipe (as it was tradition and his favourite cake). Needless to say that all this food was gone by the end of the night.
3. Decoration, Decoration, Decoration
It puts the Feast in Festive. A party without decoration is like a cat without whiskers, not easy to identify (joke – ahah – in case you didn’t get it). A key element that can be very cost effective.
You could hire a decorator; or you could just ask your friend Paula, and if she is too busy with the cooking ask your friend Jen. Jen loves to decorate – if your event model is to take your beau/belle out – otherwise if Paul is taking your beau for karting : Do it yourself!!
You have a few questions to ask yourself on where and what kind of decoration you fancy. Do you want balloons (they can be classy) ? Do you limit the decoration to just the table? The walls? Hats and other accessorizes for the guests ?
We decorated with a Gold and Black balloon arch with a big 25 in the middle that stood behind the food table. The food table had a festive banner around it, some fancy dinnerware, platters, cake stands, napkins and straws. Some more balloons around the room and another few banners on the wall. We used party crashers for the balloons and other little things, and michaels for straws and banners. You can and you will find anything you are looking for.
4. Don’t forget the music
Prepare a playlist in advance and have music ready as soon as you jumped and screamed “Surpriiiise”. It will go a long way. It will set the mood and the tone of the party, and also you might need to wake up the people that waited in the dark for 15 mins.
I am not really “music savvy” so I usually ask my boyfriend to deal with that. You can ask your friend Jack too. Or if you are scared that your friend Jack is jacked up on techno (beautiful play on word there, why aren’t you laughing?), and you know what your beau/belle likes, then create a perfect playlist using Youtube, Spotify, 8tracks etc…
You’ll feel proud and will be able to brag to your love one about how talented you are, that you could work for Sony and that the music was never as good before.
5. Champagne for the Birthday beau/belle
There is two most important moment when you throw a surprise Birthday Party : the surprise (in the beginning) and the birthday (cake, candles, gift, song and all the tralala). Personnally I like champagne (or Prosecco, or Pink bubbly, or Cava- whatever rocks your boat) with my cake.
Also, it will make it more memorable to have your beau/belle pop the champagne in front of an army of eyes glued to him/her. How far is the cork going? Is there a whole in the ceiling? Did I hit aunt Bertha (I don’t really like her anyway, she always gives me socks for christmas)? Is the champagne overflowing on the floor? Fun, and festive.
If you expect your guests to bring their own drinks, it is always appreciated to all share a glass, at the crucial moment where the (wo)man of the hour officially just got older. Cheering all together is what makes the moment memorable. It is also a nice attention to your guest, a thank you of sorts.
Now that you are ready and want to throw yourself in the planning of a birthday party, find someone that is having a birthday soon, gather around, plan and most of all have fun.
Victoria BC, first published December 5, 2016.