So… you want to organize and host a surprise party?! Before you jump into coming up with the coolest surprise party ideas and the who’s-and-what’s, do you think you are the right person for this task? You will need to be able to keep a straight face, you might find yourself lying to the Surprisee (white lies of course…), you will need to be very secretive with phone conversations, text messages, party decorations, e-mails, etc. If you don’t think you fit, try assigning someone more suitable for organizing and throwing this surprise party.
You always want to think about the Surprisee when planning them a surprise party. When trying to come up with surprise party ideas, think about their hobbies, the music they like, the food they like, the things they are sentimental about; anything that may lead you to a specific theme they would connect to.
Step 1: PLAN
First, ask yourself these questions:
Do I Have the Right Candidate?
Certain people — let’s call them “fastidious” — don’t like surprises. “I am one of them!” Dallas event planner Steve Kemble says. “I want to know everything about an event before I go.” Also rule out anyone who gets really excited about milestones and birthdays. Trying to surprise these types is almost mean, he says: They’ll just think you’ve forgotten to plan anything.
Do I Have Enough Time?
Ideally, that’s six weeks for a party of 25 or more. One month out, consider reserving a room at a restaurant or bar — a good idea if it’s a place your guest of honor frequents, or that will best accommodate everyone. The biggest time sink, though, will be figuring out whom to invite (including any surprise guests!), then tracking down their contact info.
Am I Up to the Task?
Evaluate yourself as a potential host: Can you keep your cool? (Hint: Don’t stop talking to your best friend two weeks before her birthday.) Are you prepared to improvise if things go off-script? If not, stick with a non-surprise party.
Setp 2: PREPARE
Preserving a surprise involves careful planning and serious covert ops. Herewith, your marching orders.
Enlist a co-conspirator. A trusted friend is a big help — and crucial if you live with the guest of honor. In that case, direct calls and e-mails to your compatriot, so you don’t get caught with evidence, like an RSVP on the home voicemail. Use the friend’s address on mailed invitations in case of undeliverables, and do the planning at your accomplice’s house, or a restaurant or coffee shop. ‘
Time it right. Your honoree is expecting it the day of the occasion. And after? You’ll wind up with a peeved birthday boy who thinks you forgot or didn’t make a big enough deal out of his day. (So, regardless, plan something on the real day, too.)
Get the word out. Phone calls, mailed invitations or a Facebook event notice work best. You don’t want people forwarding the info to random friends — a problem with e-mail or Evite. (On Facebook, events designated “secret” can only be seen by selected guests.)We suggest keeping the initial correspondence brief (date, place and time) and providing additional details only to those who RSVP “yes.”
Put a day-of plan in place. You and your co-conspirator will have to split up: While one escorts the guest of honor, the other will play party host. (If it’s at someone’s home, no parking in the driveway!) The chaperone must let the party folks know when they’re 10 minutes away and when they’ve arrived. Try calling the host’s cell and letting it ring twice.
Consider the big reveal. There’s nothing worse than someone “hiding” in plain sight or prematurely screaming “surprise!” A Practice run with guests is a great idea. And no need for a crouching-behind-the-sofa moment. A dark, empty room can be suspicious — a party already in progress, with the honoree slowly realizing all of his loved ones are there is sometimes a better way to go.
Planning with the Surprisee:
Another way to surprise is to plan a REGULAR birthday party WITH the Surprisee for a specific date. They can write up the invitations and all, and even send them. BUT, this is where you or a close relative comes in. You then privately and secretly call all the guests who got invitations, and tell them a different date and time earlier than the one planned. This way, the Surprisee has no clue anyone is planning a surprise party for them, since they are planning a party themselves (usually if you are planning a party yourself, you wouldn’t suspect someone else is planning a party for you too).
Make up a Story… Plan an Experience:
You can make up a story. It should be something realistic. For example, you can call the Surprisee and tell them you’re car broke down and you need help. Basically anything that sounds realistic to the specific person, in their specific country (what may be realistic in America, may not be realistic in India…).
You can also plan an experience; here’s an example of a Surprise party at a mall: If you are driving in the car with the Surprisee, plan that a friend stand at a street corner at a specific time. When driving, you make yourself ‘surprised’ to see that friend waiting on the sidewalk and you stop by them. After small talk, they ask if you can give them a lift to the mall. You take the friend to the mall and drive off. A few minutes later, you notice they left their backpack in the car (you need to act surprised as if they really forgot their backpack…). So you go back to the mall and look for the friend to give them back their backpack until you get close to the party area and surprise the Surprisee. By the way, this could change from being the mall to being a hotel, an amusement park, a movie, a restaurant, a person’s house, a park, a swimming pool, the beach, in the mountains, etc.
The ‘Kidnapping’ Surprise Birthday Party Ideas:
Another great idea is a ‘kidnapping’ surprise. A way to do this is to spontaneously come to the Surprisee’s house (it needs to be a day you know they will be at home, and that they don’t have any important plans). You knock on the door and once they see you, blindfold them and put them in a car. Once they are blindfolded, you can take them to the designated party area or a wonderful surprise like a music concert they may like, their favorite restaurant, etc. If you take him/her to an indoor designated party area, make sure the room is pitch dark when you take off the blindfold (that way when the lights are turned on, they will get a huge surprise).
For kids, the parent can send the kid off to a neighbor to bring a cup of sugar (milk, flour, eggs, etc.). When they are on their way, a few friends can “kidnap” her. This can become a ‘kidnapping’ theme where you make up and play related games like “Cops and Robbers”, “Break Loose”, etc. (you don’t want to frighten the child, so make sure it is done in a fun and exciting way).
There can be a different twist to the kidnapping surprise. Instead of surprising the Surprisee; he or she can kidnap and surprise the birthday guests. In the case with kids, it’s easier, because you can talk to their parents and make sure that at a certain time and day, each kid will be at home. The parents of the kid guests can pack a backpack with things for them beforehand. Then, you can rent a van (or borrow from a friend), and drive the birthday kid all around to kidnap and surprise each friend. You can do this really early in the morning, possibly 6 or 7 o’clock and surprise each kid by waking them up in the morning (video tape or photograph each of their reactions). Every friend that is added on will surprise the next kidnapped kid. Later in the day all the kids can watch their surprised reactions (loads of laughs!)
This Surprise Party is made up of lots of clues the Surprisee finds – they go on a treasure hunt (in which case the ‘treasure’ is all of the surprising party guests). This can start out with a clue written on paper and left by the Surprisee’s bed, or in a book they’re reading, or taped on the bathroom mirror, basically any place you know which will be seen easily. The clues can be made specific and relevant to the Surprisee. For example by using inside jokes, bringing up old memories, etc. Each clue leads to a different place, this could be in the house, around the neighborhood, they might need to drive to a few places; and in every place will be another clue leading to the next. You can lead the Surprisee to sentimental places, parks, houses, stores, restaurants, anything that is relevant to the Surprisee’s life and likes. You can also have a friend or relative of the Surprisee waiting by each clue. Through this treasure hunt, bring up lots of memories and lead the Surprisee to the party area for the big Surprise!
‘Double, Triple, Quintuple (etc.)’ Surprise Birthday Party Ideas:
Another great way to surprise someone other than the surprise party itself is having a double surprise. If the person has relatives or good friends in another state or country, one of them (or better yet, all of them!), can come to the surprise party. They can also be good buddies from kindergarten, high school, different clubs they attended, etc. At the party, keep these double surprises all in a different room. A few minutes after the first surprise (the party itself), once things calm down a bit and the Surprisee has realized the surprise, have the relatives or friends come out of the room for a double surprise.
This double surprise could also become tripled, quadrupled, quintupled… (Okay… you get the point!). Here’s an example of how this could happen: Let’s say you have a teen daughter you want to surprise, and you decide on a surprise slumber party, but not at your house, rather at a resort or a room in a hotel. (Let’s dream a bit and think in terms of high budget)… and you rent a limo to surprise your teenager with a few good friends. The limo takes the girls to the hotel or resort where they get to swim in the pool, check out the gym, have a nice dinner, etc. Till now, there were two surprises, the limo and the hotel. After the girls settle down and go to their hotel room… a KNOCK at their door. ‘Who is it’? This is where the surprise starts to triple and quadruple. It could be a grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, close relative, good friend, a celebrity, a delivery person, etc. Every half an hour someone new can knock on the door and surprise everyone. Each person can bring new stories about the birthday girl.
This was just an example to get your creative juices flowing, you don’t need a limo or a hotel room, you can also do this in your house and have people knock on your door and surprise.
‘Totally-Twisted-Upside-Down’ Surprise Birthday Party Ideas:
And again, you can change this up, and create what we call the totally-twisted-upside-down surprise. This is a cool trick. Make as though you are holding a surprise party for someone else (someone the real Surprisee knows). Tell and invite the real Surprisee to the fake surprise party. It’s important to let all the people involved and all the people invited to the party know that you have tricked the Surprisee so that everyone can act as though the surprise party is for someone else. You can tell the Surprisee that the fake surprise party is at a certain time and have everyone gather up an hour before, at the same place the fake surprise party is planned at. Another idea is to have the Surprisee come at the same time as everyone else, and everyone fakes as if they are waiting for the fake Surprisee. Tell everyone to hide in different places, and try to convince the real Surprisee to hide in a different room (a place where they won’t see everyone else). While the real Surprisee is hiding, everyone can all pop into the room they are hiding for a surprise!
‘Renting a Limo or Bus’ Surprise Birthday Party Ideas:
If you have a larger budget, you can always surprise with a long limo. If it’s a bunch of kids or adults, they can all meet up at the same place where the limo can pick everyone up at once (instead of the limo stopping to pick each person up from their house, which will take more time and is probably more in cost).
Take the limo to a restaurant. Create a CD with the music or songs the Surprisee most likes and play it in the limo. Decorate the limo with lots of colorful balloons (or choose a color or a combination of colors the Surprisee most likes).
Instead of a limo, you can think about renting a party bus or guided tour that caters for large groups. It could be a fun idea to make an appointment with the Surprisee to meet somewhere on a street corner. Arrive ten minutes later than the time appointed in a bus full of friends and family of the Surprisee.
‘Younger Kids’ Surprise Birthday Party Ideas:
Here’s a cool idea for younger kids. Take a long piece of material and connect it to a doorway (so that the material obstructs the view to seeing inside that specific room). All the party guests hide in that specific room. The birthday child is taken to where the covered doorway is and each surprise guest takes a turn and stands behind the material covering the doorway. Then you say out loud something that describes and gives clues to who the person hiding behind the covered doorway, for example “I am older than you and am in your swimming class. Guess Who I Am!”. The birthday child needs to guess who the person is and then that person pops out behind the covered doorway. This goes on and on until each surprise guest has been guessed.
It’s important that everyone stays completely quite when the guessing is taking place. Also make sure that when someone moves the material to walk into the main area – that no one is behind him/her (so that the birthday child won’t see other people in the room). The room can have no lights turned on, that way it’s pretty dark inside, and when someone moves the material to walk into the main area – none is seen behind him/her.
If this is a surprise party for kids who are a bit older, why not make it a surprise slumber party. Invite a few good friends to sleep over. Each can get a pillowcase and decorate with fabric markers and puffy paints.
‘This is Your Life’ Surprise Birthday Party Ideas:
Similar to the last one, this surprise is more geared to older people who have many memories, friends, relatives, etc. For this party, you don’t surprise the older person with all of the people at once. It could start with a small surprise where children and grandchildren surprise their grandmother/grandfather with a small party (the older Surprisee not knowing that in a different room, lots of people are waiting to surprise them). After the small family surprise, sit the older Surprisee down (even putting a special party hat and scarf for special attention). Then with a karaoke machine or microphone and amplifier have someone be the announcer “And now… This is your Life” (you can have special music playing in the background). On the doorway of the room where all the people are waiting, put a large blanket as a curtain, so that no one can see who’s behind it. Then after the announcer has spoken, he or she gives the microphone behind the curtain and lets the person talk about a special memory they’ve shared with the older Surprisee (remember, music in the background always makes the moment more emotional and exciting). This way, one by one people start coming out and surprising.