How to Plan a Surprise Party

Is it just me, or does the B&W make it look like this photo has a sinister edge?

Everybody loves a surprise party, don’t they?

Actually, no. No, they don’t.

Some people bloody hate them, so, if you have the bright idea to arrange a surprise party for one of your nearest and dearest, make sure that it’s what they want, otherwise you could end up with egg on your face, or, if they are prone to violence (and which of us isn’t given the right provocation?), being repeatedly punched about the face by a very angry birthday girl or boy.

If you’re thinking that a surprise party is the perfect way to celebrate someone’s birthday, retirement or successful haemorrhoid removal, here are some tips on how to ensure you get it right:

Do they actually want a surprise party?

I know I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s REALLY important, so I’m going to mention it again, just for the people who skip blog intros and head straight for the subheadings.

This is probably the most important part to get right. If you organise everything else perfectly, but the guest of honour hates the idea of a surprise party, it’ll all be for nothing.

“Nothing I tells ya!”

Here are some handy ways to find out if your guest would enjoy a surprise party:

  • Have they been to a surprise party in the past and actually said the words, “Wow! I bet being surprised with a party is an awesome feeling. I do hope that I get to experience it for myself one day!”? If so, you’re good to go. If they said exactly the opposite, you may want to ditch the surprise and go for a quiet night in instead.
  • Do they have a weak heart condition? Could 60 members of their family jumping out and screaming, “SURPRISE!” at the top of their lungs pose a serious risk of death? Err on the side of caution here, or, at the very least, have a defibrillator standing by (Note: if you secretly hate the birthday guest, you can omit either of these safety measures, but remember, questions will be asked in Court).

If there are no obvious clues about whether a surprise party will be appreciated or not, ask a few close friends and family. Not only will this ensure you get some accurate information to make an informed and balanced choice, but it also allows you to pass the blame onto others should this all go tits up.

Want to know the biggest mistakes people make when planning a party? Click here to find out so you can avoid them!

Don’t use a new venue

Don’t arrange the party at a brand new venue, one that neither of you have ever been to before – because, when you arrive, that’s going to get their suspicions twitching like a super twitchy thing (I think I’ve run out of metaphors). Instead, plan your surprise party at one of your usual stomping grounds, such as the Drive-Thru McDonald’s in Crewe or having a kebab around the back of Halford’s, near the bins. That way, when you pull up, they won’t be asking you lots of questions.

Don’t be vague about where you’re going and what you’re doing either. Asking them to “be ready at 7 pm…and wear something comfortable” could only be a surprise party…or a possible kidnapping.

Either way, they’re going to be weary.

How many guests?

For a surprise party, there’s a simple maths formula you need to know:

The more guests you have, the greater the risk of the surprise being ruined.

How many guests do you want to have at the party? Better yet, how many guests do you think you can coordinate without blowing the surprise?

The smaller, the better, as far as surprises go, but too small and you run the risk of the birthday guests thinking they’re not loved when it’s just you and Gavin shouting “surprise!” when they enter the local Harvester.

Lonely Surprise Party - Donald Trump
Donald would later report that he had the biggest birthday party attendance there ever was, with every guest telling him that it was the best birthday party they had ever been to.

Click here to learn how to have a crap party (and why you definitely should!)

Tell people individually

While we’re on the subject of keeping it a surprise, there’s only one way to invite people, and that’s one at a time. That’s really important, so I’m going to type it again, this time in bold:

Invite people one by one

Don’t set up a Facebook, WhatsApp or Snapchat group to invite guests to the surprise party, as technology has a way of letting you down. All it takes is one person to change the privacy of the group to “Public” and all hell can break loose.

That’s not the kind of surprise you’re going for.

When you invite guests to a surprise party, make sure that they understand that it’s a surprise party. If your friends are anything like mine, you may need to restate this several times over, getting slower each time, using a combination of words, writing and simple, brightly coloured, visual aids.

Want to eliminate all the stress that comes with planning a party? Here’s the first thing you need to do!

Have a convincing cover story for the guest of honour

What’s your cover story? How are you going to get the birthday guest to the surprise party?

My biggest tip with regards to this, and about lying in general, is not to be too overly specific.

“I just need to stop here, at this suspiciously quiet restaurant for a second…my Aunt wants a takeout menu of theirs…” is far better, and easier to remember than, “we just need to make a stop here as my friend Alice (you remember Alice? The one married to the Bulgarian Footballer…the one with the dodgy hip and fake eye that she lost on that carousel ride at Alton Towers in 1997). Well, anyway, Alice is lactose intolerant, and she’s heard that this place does a lactose…”.

You get the idea.

Plan something that is nice, simple and believable and stick to the plan.

If this fails, drug her and throw her in the boot (Do not do this!)

Find a place to stockpile supplies

If you’re going to have the party at your house, or somewhere that the birthday guests visits, you may have to come up with a plan for how to store food and drink, otherwise, they’ll start to suspect you of being an alcoholic (if you ARE an alcoholic, feel free to use that as the cover story – you might as well play to your strengths).

Whiskey, Vodka, Rum… Anna’s 6th birthday party was gonna be AWESOME!

One option is to have different friends responsible for storing different items, so it’s not all in the same place, ripe for discovery.

Double check with guests

Once you’ve invited your guests, the next step is to double check with them closer to the time of the party, preferably about a week before.

Confirm everything with them (again one by one), making sure they know where they are going, what time to be there (an hour before the surprise is a great time to aim for) and what they need to wear and bring. Again, you may want to double check this with them to make absolutely sure everyone is on the same page.

Coordinating the Surprise

Now comes the moment of truth. All of your hard work has lead up to this moment – the big “SURPRISE!”.

What you do now will either be a joyous moment that the birthday guest will remember forever, or result in a weird moment and hurried phone calls, saying things like, “No, I definitely said the 16th at the “Fifteen” bar, not the 15th at the “Fourteen” bar…”.

Either way, you want the surprise to work, and you want it to be good.

You’ll need at least two trustworthy and reliable people for this…

…probably one of which will be you, as you’re clearly responsible, as you’re the one reading this blog. One of you needs to be with the party, keeping everything on track and making sure all the guests are behaving themselves. The other person needs to be with the birthday guest of honour, making sure that your cover story is working well.

Plan in advance a system of communication.

Don’t over complicate this.

Just a quick text, saying “10” to let the party know that you are ten minutes away is enough. That gives them enough time to go to the loo, brace themselves and warm up their voices for the big reveal without too much rush.

Surprise Party Planning – Summary

If you’re planning a surprise party, you don’t need to go overboard with the secrecy.

Hint: if you’re asking guests to sign an NDA and have given everybody secret codenames, you’ve probably gone too far.

Just keep the above ideas in mind and you should be OK.

If you’re having a party and you want your guests to be entertained, you don’t want to leave the entertainment to chance or surprise – you need to book someone who knows what they are doing. I’m pretty close to matching this description, and I’m not totally terrible. Why don’t you fill in the form below and tell me about your party and I’ll do my best to come up with some amazing ideas as to how I can get your guests laughing and having a fabulous time!