Shhh! Tips for Throwing the Ultimate Surprise Party
Picture the scene. One of your favorite people in the world walks into a room, and then a hidden group of partygoers suddenly jump up with a big shout of surprise! Festive decorations are all around! There's color, cake, and yummy food! And your guest of honor had no idea! It's one wowser moment to remember. To pull off a fantastic surprise party, you've got to put your party planning hat on — in a big way. So we asked advice from one of our favorite party experts, Melanie Blodgett of Hip! Hip! Party Goods and Bright Box, the ever-so-cool line of modern light boxes. Follow Melanie's go-to simple solutions to plan a surprise party that goes off without a hitch — and with a bang of style. It's easier than you think.
- What do you think is the easiest way to plan a surprise party?
Melanie: Choose a theme and keep the food simple. Don’t overcomplicate it. Use traditional party decorations but in large quantities or all in the same color to make an impact. Think a room full of balloons on the floor or a ceiling of paper streamers all in yellow. I always think it’s best to have one wow factor than one hundred tiny details that people will forget or not fully appreciate. I like choosing one color and having that be the theme. And I love a summer party theme focused on ice cream.
- The cheerful shouting of “surprise” is often connected to a spray of confetti. But depending on your party location, confetti may not be possible or practical. What are some other ways to make that moment of surprise feel impactful?
Melanie: Confetti shooters are always fun, but if you don’t want the mess, balloon wands would be awesome. Throwing balloons up in the air would also be fun.
- For non-birthday surprise parties (like for a farewell or retirement party), what’s a decorating idea that feels festive?
- Any tips for the planning and logistics side of a surprise party?
Melanie: Try to stay focused on who the party is for and what they would want. Would they prefer a smaller group of close friends or for everybody on their contact list to be invited? Paper invitations are always nice, but digital is definitely easier. I love the designs from Paperless Post. You’ll probably need a co-conspirator to help get your guest of honor to the party. Avoid making the lie too complicated or involving too many people in the plot to get the guest there. (Or you risk blowing the surprise!) Keeping the secret is hard when it’s from a person you usually tell everything to.
- What’s the key ingredient to a great surprise party?
Melanie: Catering to your guest of honor. If they don’t have a good time, then it will be disappointing. And good food.
- Do you have any timesaving ideas you use when planning party decorations?
Melanie: I like oversized balloons, and they’re easy. I’ve used gold letter balloons to spell out happy birthday and they’re so big, that’s all the decoration that is needed.
- Do you think there are people who wouldn’t like a surprise party thrown for them?
Melanie: Absolutely. I thought everyone loved their birthday, until I met my husband. Really think about the person you want to throw the party for and determine if it’s the best route. If they get embarrassed easily or don’t really care for birthdays, best to go a different direction.
- Timing is everything with a surprise party. When should you invite guests to be at the location so that you’re sure everyone arrives before the guest of honor?
Melanie: People are always about 10 minutes late to gatherings, so to be safe, ask them to come 20 minutes ahead of time. Throwing it on a day other than the actual event makes it a little less suspicious. Ask the guest what they have planned for the day of and decide what would work best.
If you've got party on the brain, here's even more party inspiration! Check out these tips for throwing a fun doughnut party, how to be prepared all year for any party, and find out easy ways to make a cake feel fancy.