If you reflect on your social calendar and consider what brings your family and friends together, you may realize that birthdays are a popular cause for celebration. After all, everybody has one, and most people enjoy some festivity on their special day. Whether you’re celebrating a milestone decade birthday with a big bash or hosting a small gathering to reflect on another year, you can customize birthday parties to suit the guest of honor’s interest.
So, before you start planning another birthday party, use this guide to ensure that you thoughtfully consider every party detail. Follow these tips and tricks to plan an unforgettable bash.
Start With the Basics
An adult’s birthday party can go in many directions, from intimate dinner parties to big-time celebrations on the town. Since your options are limited only by your creativity, you need to narrow the focus of your party planning by choosing a style with the guest in mind. First, decide whether you want to incorporate the guest of honor into the planning or whether you want to surprise them. Obviously, if you’re hosting a surprise party, you’ll be planning it with only the guest of honor’s interests in mind––not their actual input.
Narrow the focus of your birthday bash by brainstorming a list of potential party ideas. Here are a few options that adults will love:
- Dinner at a favorite restaurant
- Intimate dinner party at home with close friends
- Party bus and bar hopping
- Trip to a winery or brewery
- Birthday brunch with a mimosa bar
- Backyard bonfire or barbecue
- Happy hour with appetizers and cocktails
Once you’ve chosen a theme, finalize the basics like party date and time. If you’re hosting a surprise party, work with the birthday guy or gal’s partner or roommate to ensure you’re choosing dates that will work with their busy schedule.
The theme is selected, the date is set, and it’s time to invite guests. Design a guest list featuring the people most meaningful to the celebrant. Start with your mutual friends––perhaps you’re related or you share a social circle, and you can tap into your shared contacts to build the guest list. Then, think beyond your mutual friends and add other important people––family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues to the guest list. Once you’ve finalized your guest list, it’s time to design your invites.
When it comes to selecting the birthday party invitations, your biggest decision will be what medium you want to use to distribute them. Mailed paper invitations lend a timeless touch to the event, and you may choose them for more formal celebrations. Digital invitations are cheaper and easier to send, and they allow you to connect guests virtually before the event. Plus, you can send digital invitations a number of ways, whether you’re posting an event on social media or sending details via email or text.
Factors to consider when choosing birthday party invitations include:
- Size of the guest list – Digital invitations allow you to reach out to many guests at no cost.
- Formality of the event – Choose paper for formal events and digital for casual ones.
- Information needed – If you need to share a lot of party details, a digital option gives you more flexibility in what information you can provide.
Planning tip: Always ask guests to RSVP, and set an RSVP deadline. Knowing who to expect allows you to make reservations and plan food and transportation accordingly.
Plan Details Around Your Theme
Now, dive into the details of your birthday bash. During this stage of the planning process, your creativity can really shine. Work hard to design a celebration that reflects your guest of honor’s interests. Consider these key details when planning an unforgettable birthday party.
Food and Drink
Design a menu that reflects the party theme. Obviously, a formal dinner party requires different food than a backyard barbecue. For casual celebrations, get creative with a make-your-own bar that takes the burden off of the cook and lets your guests personalize their meal. Taco bars, make-your-own-pizza stations, and hot dog bars with plenty of creative condiments and toppings add a festive touch to any birthday bash.
Put some thought into the birthday dessert. While a sheet cake decorated with balloons is a classic treat for a birthday celebration, you can get a little creative here, too. If the guest of honor isn’t a big cake fan, think differently. An oversized cookie cake or brownie dessert can be decorated just as festively. Pick up a few different pies to create a mouthwatering pie bar. A DIY ice cream sundae bar requires a few flavors of ice cream and toppings like crushed candy bars, chocolate chips, chocolate syrup, caramel topping, whipped cream, and cherries.
While wine, beer, and popular spirits like rum, vodka, bourbon, and gin are sure to satisfy all of your guests, offering a fully stocked bar at the birthday party can get costly––quickly. Instead, consider creating a signature cocktail that’s inspired by the birthday guy or gal. Throw together a big batch of a mixed cocktail or punch featuring the celebrant’s favorite spirit. This way, you only have to stock up on a few key ingredients rather than stocking your entire bar.
Another idea for party beverages is hosting a tasting. Again, create a tasting guided by the guest of honor. For example, ask guests to bring a 6-pack of their favorite local craft beer, and let guests sample a few and vote on their favorite. A red wine lover will be delighted when guests bring their favorite bottle of vino for sharing. Using this method, interested guests can contribute to the party and take the burden off of you for providing drinks to every guest.
As the birthday party host, it’s your job to keep the party moving. Awkward lulls in conversation can be avoided when you thoughtfully manage the party flow. Think about these ideas when designing a party timeline that keeps guests talking and enjoying themselves.
Major Time Points
Design a rough schedule for the birthday party. Determine when guests should eat, and build the rest of the party around the food. Reserve time before the meal for drinks and conversation and leave some time between dinner and dessert so that guests have room for a sweet treat. If you want the party to end at a firm time, include the end time on your invitation so there’s no question.
Add some entertainment that makes the birthday party anything but ordinary. Design a party music playlist inspired by the birthday guy or gal’s favorite artists. Hire a live acoustic musician to offer some soothing background tunes at the party.
Or, opt for some games––if they’re the guest of honor’s style. Your options here are endless, from classic board games for a small crowd to college-inspired drinking games for the party crowd. Pull out your favorite tailgate games like cornhole and ladder toss for some backyard barbecue entertainment.
Decor and Favors
Your party decor showcases your theme, celebrates what the guest of honor loves, and adds a decidedly festive touch to the birthday bash. Decorations can be as simple or extravagant as you please––and your budget allows. Classic linens and fine china, paired with floral centerpieces, add an elegant touch to a formal dinner party. Opt for casual linens and bright melamine dinnerware for more casual gatherings. Festive string lights outside, candlelit tablescapes, balloons, and mason jars filled with fresh flowers are just some ways to add a thoughtful touch to the party venue.
Finally, consider picking up some easy favors to send your guests home with your thanks. Edible favors like individually wrapped cookies are always a hit. Let guests create their own favor bag by setting up a candy bar, gourmet popcorn bar, or trail mix bar. Favors certainly aren’t necessary at an adult birthday party, but they allow you to carry the theme throughout the event and are always appreciated.
When an important birthday is on your calendar, it’s time to plan a celebration that reflects the guest of honor’s favorites––from favorite people to favorite food, treats, and activities. When you use the birthday guy or gal as your inspiration, you can plan a party that isn’t just fun––it’s also meaningful and memorable. So, get creative and get personal to create a birthday bash that friends and family will be talking about for years to come.