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A Complete Guide to Planning the Perfect Surprise Party

Your go-to guide for throwing the best spontaneous and spectacular party.

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There’s nothing quite like the feeling of success after executing and planning the ultimate surprise party. The sneaky delight of being in on the big secret and watching the guest of honor’s face quickly switch from shock to pure joy is priceless! So, if you’re looking for a complete guide to planning the perfect surprise party, look no further. 

Don’t get so busy in the details of your perfect surprise birthday party that you forget to take pictures! If you’re the host, consider enlisting the help of a photographer or friend to capture it all. When it’s all done, add the photos to a photo book and give it as a gift to the guest of honor. This way, they can look back on this joyful moment for years to come! You can also gift them a monthly photo journal, so they can capture their memories and relive them whenever they want. This gift certainly tops the list of unexpected birthday surprise ideas and would also work great as a gift for all types of surprise parties

Make Sure They Like Surprises

This may seem obvious, but believe it or not, some people simply do not like surprises, So definitely do a gut-check and make sure the guest of honor is totally down with being surprised. The last thing you want to do is go through all of the party planning and secret keeping of throwing a surprise birthday party and have the guest of honor feel completely overwhelmed the entire time. 

If you’re not sure, pick their brain a little bit without being too obvious. Here are some things you can do to figure out if they’re a surprise-lover or a surprise-hater

  • Observe their reactions: Pay attention to how they react to unexpected situations. If they seem positive when faced with surprises, they probably enjoy them. If they appear stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable, they might be a surprise-hater. 
  • Listen to conversations: Sometimes people drop hints about their preferences in conversations. If they mention enjoying spontaneous activities or liking surprises, that could be an indicator of a surprise-lover.
  • Ask close friends or family: If you're close to the person, you could ask their friends or family members about their feelings towards surprises. These people might have insights into their preferences.

Once you nail down if they like surprises or not, it’s time to start planning your guest of honor’s unanticipated celebration.

Make Decisions

Figure out what kind of party you want to throw. Are you looking for surprise birthday ideas? Surprise engagement party ideas? Or, surprise party ideas for a graduation, retirement or other event?

After sorting that out it’s finally time to pick:

  • Date and time: Do a little detective work and ensure your guest of honor’s calendar is free on the chosen date. If it’s on their birthday, make sure they don’t have anything else planned.
  • Location: Location, location, location! Are you looking to throw something more casual like a backyard BBQ celebration, or a fancy evening soiree at the best place in town? Decide what works best for the budget and your surprise. The best birthday surprises are ones that are to the taste of the guest of honor, so do some deep-diving and find out what type of party they’d prefer. 
  • Theme: This is where the fun and creativity come into play. Brainstorm some fun themes that work with the type of surprise party you’re throwing. Whether you’re looking for surprise party ideas for adults or children, sites like Pinterest are always chock full of visual inspiration. Choose what type of birthday surprise decoration you’d like to use and head to the drawing board!

Sort Out the Guest List and Send Your Invitations

It’s time to put your detective hat back on and find out who to add to the guest list. Enlist in the help of their close family and friends to help you get names and addresses. Consider sending digital invitation as they’re much more discreet and there’ll be less of a chance the secret will get out. 

Don’t be afraid to invite people from out of town, you never know who might just show up and add even more surprise to the surprise party. Make sure to match your invitations to the chosen theme to add more to the fun birthday surprises!

Throw Them Off the Scent

What will be the decoy? Remember your decoy plan should be something believable and interesting enough to genuinely engage the guest of honor. It's also a good idea to involve a close friend or family member to ensure the plan goes smoothly while you prepare for the surprise party.

Here are some easy ways to distract them: 

  • Get them a dinner reservation: Arrange a fake dinner reservation at a fancy restaurant, so the guest of honor thinks they’re going out for a special meal. Bonus: If it’s a fancier party, this will ensure they’re wearing the appropriate attire.
  • Tell them there’s a family outing: Organize a family activity, like a picnic in the park or a trip to a local attraction, to divert their attention which will give you time to tie all the loose ends before the big surprise. 
  • Tell them there’s a small friend get-together: Plan a casual gathering with friends at a different location, giving the impression that it's a regular get-together with nothing to see here.

Find a special event nearby: Inform them about a special event, like an art exhibition, lecture, or workshop, that coincides with the party time.

surprise parties
Plan the Big Surprise Reveal

You can go with the classic flip of the lights to a room full of their favorite people, or have everyone hide and pop out. For all types of surprise parties, make sure your guests park their vehicles a block or two away from where the party is being held, just for good measure. 

If you’re having the event at a restaurant or catering hall, this may require a little extra effort to execute the unexpected gathering. You can convince them to go to the restaurant by arranging a fake reservation. Or, you can pretend you left something like a credit card or a jacket there the night before and you have to do a quick stop to pick it up (wink, wink). Either way, get ready to see all of your planning come to life!

Hire a Photographer

As mentioned earlier, you’re definitely going to want to remember this day and so will your guest of honor. Whether you hire a professional or enlist in the help of a friend, those photos are going to be priceless, especially the ones of the big reveal. 

After the party, you can put all of the photos in a photo book for yourself to remember that awesome party you planned. For the guest of honor, you can put all of the photos in a deluxe coffee table style book for a meaningful yet luxurious gift they’ll love forever. The best part is, you can create both types of photo books right from the camera roll on your phone, so don’t forget to add in any funny candids!

Enjoy Your Hard Work

Congrats! You’ve successfully thrown an amazing surprise party! Now that all of the whispering and secret planning is over, it’s time to enjoy the party. Your guest of honor will surely be forever grateful and feel the love seeing all of the hard work and planning that went into something just for them. So, put on your dancing shoes and get ready to paint the town red, you (and the guest of honor) deserve it!

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