Birthday parties are always exciting, especially for your closest friends and family. What better way to show your appreciation for them than by planning the entire event! Sometimes, planning your own party can be quite stressful—take the reins from your BFF so they can enjoy their special day without the hassle.
1. Consider what type of party your friend prefers
Loud, extravagant birthday parties aren’t enjoyable for everyone. Some people truly don’t enjoy large social gatherings, surprises, or their birthday in general. Respect your friend’s wishes and try to abide by what would truly make them happy. After all, this is for them—not you. If your friend would prefer a small hangout with a few good friends, you can try to plan that instead. If they would prefer a huge, pull-out-all-the-stops glamorous event, try to see if that is doable as well. Determine what would be the best party for this person, and follow their guidelines while being reasonable with your own budget.
2. Decide on the location and date
Location, location, location! Is there a certain restaurant that always makes your best friend happy? Perhaps you can plan a surprise dinner there. Or would the party be better suited in their home? Here, you can get creative and display how well you know your friend. Perhaps they’re the outgoing type and a game of laser tag with their friends is all they have dreamed about. Again, make sure you keep your friend’s wishes in mind! The date is also important because you need to make sure your best friend can actually attend this super amazing party you’re throwing. If you’re keeping it a surprise, try to be discreet about asking their whereabouts on the date you were thinking.
Lilly, a freshman at Lehigh University has experience with this. “When I threw a surprise party for my best friend back in high school I tried to get her mom involved so she could ask her where she was going on the certain date. It was much more natural coming from a parental figure than from a friend asking with no intention of actually making plans (at least that’s how she’d perceive it).”
3. Plan the invite list
This is such a fun part! You get to decide who will be celebrating along with you and your best friend. The people you invite should depend on the kind of party. Is this an all-night banger in NYC? Is this a family-friendly brunch in your backyard? If you’re going to hit the town, it might be a good idea to invite friends or sorority sisters: people who would enjoy the nightlife. If it’s a more casual and light-hearted event, inviting close family and extended friends seems more appropriate. Invite people that would, without a doubt, add to the positive vibes to the party—not people who would stress your best friend out. If it isn’t a surprise, you can plan alongside your friend to get exactly the list he or she would want!
4. Order food
A party without food is not a party at all. Is your best friend a super foodie? Do they like sushi, tacos, pasta or all of the above? Perhaps there’s a Thai place they’re always talking about that could cater the event! Or maybe your friend is a little bit more casual and traditional, and a backyard BBQ is more their style. Get some hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill! Make sure you ask if anyone has dietary restrictions or allergies because this could be a major downer on the party if they’re unable to eat most things.
Also, what’s a birthday party without cake? Don’t forget to order a cake with your friend’s favorite flavor. You can customize what the icing says as well. If you want to be a little sarcastic, you can choose a sassy message like “you’re older” or an inside joke that you and your friend share. If you want to keep it classic, make sure the cake decorators spell your friend’s name right after “happy birthday!”
5. Decorate according to your friend’s taste
Hit up Party City and other party supply stores to get festive! You want your friend to feel special, so throw in a birthday sash for good measure. If streamers aren’t really your friend’s vibe, make sure you get some inspiration on Pinterest to find the look that feels right—something your friend would actually pick out themselves.
6. Plan the playlist
What’s a party without music? Check out Spotify for specific playlists that suit the theme and mood of the party. It may be a “Late Night Chill” playlist or a “Get Turnt” playlist—it’s up to you! If you want to play your friend’s absolute favorite songs, you can create your own personal playlist for the occasion to make him or her feel extra special. You could even play one of your best friend’s playlist that they created themselves.
Laura, a sophomore from TCNJ, says she threw her best friend a surprise 21st birthday bash. “I created a playlist of all of our favorite jams ever since we met. The playlist ended up being over 50 songs because we’ve just known each other so long but every time the song would change we’d get excited again. It was a nice addition to the party.”
7. Get a gift
Since you spent a lot of time, energy and money on this birthday party, you can take it easy on getting a super extravagant gift. Get something thoughtful that your friend will appreciate for years to come. To cut down on cost, you can even make a little handmade trinket for them to keep or go in on a gift with friends. Again, this all depends on what your BFF is like. Don’t be afraid to get creative and find some inspiration from Pinterest again.
Kayla, a sophomore from Lehigh University says, “My best friend actually surprised me with a scrapbook of all our old pictures growing up. I still get teary-eyed whenever I stumble upon it. It’s one thing to post a collage on Instagram but it’s another to sit down and physically recreate and piece together fond memories. I’ll cherish it forever.”
8. Get everyone in on the surprise
If the party you’re throwing is a surprise, make sure everyone is aware so no one spoils it! You can let them know by detailing it on the invitations or in a private Facebook post or group chat that your friend can’t see. Just make sure it remains a secret! Also, don’t forget to get someone to help you bring your friend to the location at the right time. This is super important! You can ask their parents or another friend to make sure they arrive at your desired time.