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How can I Prepare to Throw a Surprise Party?

By Deborah Ng
Updated May 17, 2024
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Throwing a surprise party is great fun for all involved. Party goers and hosts alike get a kick out of planning the surprise without the guest of honor finding out. If he or she doesn’t live close by, planning the surprise party should be quite simple. If however, the guest of honor lives in the same town and you share all of the same friends, the planning gets a bit tricky.

It should go without saying that each guest should be told ahead of time that you will be throwing a surprise party. Some of your more talkative friends and relatives might have to be encouraged more than once to be discreet. If you live in a town where everyone knows everyone, discretion is especially important. Local merchants may need to be let in on the surprise, especially if you plan to purchase surprise party supplies from their shops.

In addition to advising discretion, you’ll need to figure out how to get all of the guests, as well as the guest of honor, to your home without blowing the surprise. There are certain things to consider. For instance, what happens if your guest of honor makes plans for the night of the surprise party? Many hosts don’t invite a surprise party guest of honor ahead of time for fear of spoiling the surprise, then find themselves with a dilemma because she has already made plans.

It’s best to do one of two things. Invite the guest of honor to a smaller event ahead of time; for instance he can think he’s just having dinner for two or four. Another solution is to enlist the aid of an accomplice who will make sure the guest of honor shows up at the designated time and place. If the guest of honor lives at the same place as the party’s location, the accomplice will need to take her away for the day, or at the very least, a few hours.

Invitations should be sent out about six weeks to a month in advance. Let your guests know if the guest of honor thinks something else will be going on that day so the surprise isn’t ruined. Have them RSVP to a business email or special voicemail box set up for the occasion. Make sure they know not to leave voicemail messages regarding the surprise party. Even if the guest of honor doesn’t live with you, he could still be around while you’re checking your messages.

When shopping for the party, you’ll need to hide the supplies when you get home, especially if the guest of honor lives with you or likes to stop by unannounced. Party guests should be asked to come to the surprise party at least an hour before the guest of honor’s expected arrival time. The last thing you want is for twenty cars to be parked in the driveway, which can ruin the surprise. Ask the guests to park around the block or see if a neighbor will let your guests park on her property for the occasion.

Many hosts or hostesses like to turn off the lights so the guest of honor arrives to a dark house. This can raise more suspicion however, if your house lights aren’t usually dark at that time. You can handle the surprise element of your surprise party either by letting the guest of honor be surprised as soon as he enters your home, or by ushering your guests into another room and leading him in there after a few minutes. Logistically speaking, not too many homes can accommodate twenty guests hiding behind the furniture ready to yell “surprise!” It’s best to have them stand in a dark room or away from doorways and windows.

Once the surprise element of the party is over, the real fun will begin. Your guest of honor will no doubt be touched by the gesture, and all of the other guests will have a chance to socialize. If pulled off properly, a surprise party can be a fun and exciting social event – one that’s enjoyed by all guests.

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Discussion Comments

By pleonasm — On Dec 13, 2013

@KoiwiGal - There are ways around that. You don't have to throw the biggest party in the world with every friend the person has ever known. You can do something small with their close friends and family. Most close friends will be able to name the others because they are usually in the same circle.

You can even figure out your surprise party invitations by hinting at a party and asking outright who the person would invite if they had one, then dropping the subject.

By KoiwiGal — On Dec 12, 2013

@browncoat - I actually think that there's too much emphasis on the surprise and not enough on the party itself. I'd rather just have everything go smoothly and get some surprises on the day rather than the whole thing needing to be a surprise.

There's a reason there are so many TV episodes and movies based around the birthday surprise party and how it can hurt a lot of feelings.

Not to mention you need to have someone who knows the person you're surprising so well that they can not only guess the right theme and and a suitable time, they also have to be able to invite the entire guest-list.

Honestly, I don't know anyone that well.

By browncoat — On Dec 11, 2013

Just be careful who you tell about a surprise party. It's just as easy to tell them that you want them to come over for some other kind of gathering.

I know my sister is terrible at keeping secrets, for example, so I'd never let her in on the fact that there was a surprise birthday party until it was almost ready to go in case she accidentally let it slip and ruined the surprise.

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