Creating a perfect surprise party is a fun way to celebrate a special person in your life. This is the ideal solution for those who always do things for others and worry about troubling someone else— we all have that friend.
Party planning can be pretty complex, but adding in the surprise element makes it even more so. Here’s how to arrange a perfect surprise party in eight easy steps.
Choose a Venue
The first step in planning a surprise party is choosing the venue. Many planners make the mistake of selecting the date first. Instead, determine a few possible dates and plan around the location so you don’t miss out on the perfect spot.
When choosing a location, there are a few things to keep in mind. Beyond availability, you’ll also need to consider convenience. Is it more convenient to host a house party or book a restaurant? How will you navigate hiding the vehicles and getting the person there?
You’ll also need to consider the size of the party. It’s easier to choose a venue for a small, intimate gathering rather than a massive bash with all of the guests of honor’s friends and family.
Create an Invite List
Once you’ve confirmed the location, start creating an invite list and spreading the word. Social media can help with this task. It can be helpful to pull other people into the planning process to ensure no important guests are missed.
Even if you know the person really well, it’s not uncommon for a spouse to overlook a work friend or the guest of honor to have several friend groups.
Start by creating a simple save the date for invitees. Be clear that it’s a perfect surprise party from the get-go. Then, add details about logistics as you get them together.
Create a Distraction
One of the most challenging aspects of arranging a surprise party is creating a distraction for the main guest and getting them to the location. If you’re planning the party at a restaurant, it’s as easy as saying you or the person’s spouse is taking them out for a special dinner.
If the main guest tends to back out of social events at the last minute, consider pulling their boss into the plan and making it a “mandatory work function.”
Things get more complicated if you’re hosting at someone’s house. You’ll need a reason to get them there. If you’re hosting the party at their house, you’ll need a solid plan to get them out and away from the house a few hours in advance. The distraction part of the process is a team effort.
Many people choose to tell the person that they’re having a small get-together but don’t share the details to avoid these complexities. It ultimately depends on your overarching plans and the guest of honor’s personality and tendencies.
Outline the Event
Once you’ve narrowed down the venue, guest list, and distraction, start planning the rest of the event. Consider whether you want a theme or a perfect surprise party. Determine the timeline of events, from when people should show up to the various features happening at the party.
For example, you might decide you want a photo booth so you can create some fun photo memories afterward.
This is the time to decide if you’re hiring decorators, cleaners, videographers, photographers, etc. If you’re having a low-budget party and must take a DIY approach to some of these elements, consider asking other guests for help. Create a schedule and add names to specific tasks to ensure things get done.
Plan the Food
The food is perhaps the most important feature of any party. The first decision is whether or not the party will be catered. If you’re hosting at a restaurant, determine whether there’s a set meal or people ordering individually. If people are expected to pay for their own meals, make it clear in the invitations.
If you’re taking a DIY approach, consider asking others to contribute. A potluck-style party is a great way to offer a wide variety of food choices and ensure that everyone has something to eat that they like.
Outlining specific needs could be beneficial when hosting a potluck-style party, but be flexible. Ask everyone to share what they’re bringing to avoid repeats and gaps.
Create a Playlist
Music is another essential component of a perfect surprise party. Fortunately, the days of putting burnt CDs on shuffles are a thing of the past. You can create an epic playlist using Apple Music or Spotify.
Ask your guests to submit requests or create a collaborative playlist that everyone can add to. Consider how you’ll set up the music for the evening, and ensure you have backup power sources available. If you’re planning on using your phone as the music source, know that you’ll have limited access to communications throughout the evening.
Outline the Logistics
Once the larger details are outlined, start honing in on the day of the party. Clarify the timelines and determine when you’ll pick up the cake, get the decorating done, set out the food, etc.
Clarify when the main guest will be gone and when they’ll show up, so you can tell everyone else when they need to be there. You’ll need to make a plan for where everyone should hide their cars and shoes (if applicable) when they come in.
Set a no-show range of time during which guests are not allowed to arrive— for example, 20 minutes before and after the main guest is scheduled. Let those people know that if they’re late, to wait a little longer.
Arrange for Clean-up and Transportation
Depending on your venue, you may be responsible for clean-up after the party. Determine when that will occur, who will be involved and whether you’re planning to hire someone. If you’re hosting at the guest of honor’s home, it’s a nice gesture to schedule a professional clean-up for the next day.
If people will be enjoying alcoholic beverages at the party, ensure there are ample transportation methods for everyone to get home. Consider calling a taxi company in advance.
You can create a perfect surprise party with these easy steps. Don’t be afraid to delegate and ask for help throughout the process.