How to throw a surprise party (and not get caught)

Surprise parties are one of those great little joys in life. While I’ve never had one thrown for me, I’ve thrown a couple myself. They’re not the easiest things to do, to be certain, but they are definitely some of the most fun.

What makes a surprise party so good? If you’re the host or planner, it’s from the giddiness that forms from knowing what will happen. If you’re the guest of honour (or the victim, depending on your point of view), you get the joy of knowing that people have planned something just for you. It’s a special feeling … or rather, I would hope that it is (not actually knowing myself).

I’m going to speak to the planners, which I assume is why you’ve come to this page. (If you think someone is planning a surprise party for you and are trying to find out if it’s true, I can offer no hints here. If they’re following these suggestions, you won’t know until it’s too late.) You’ve got a hard task ahead of you, but it is a rewarding one if it’s done right.

At all times, you need to remember who is in control: you. Everything that happens is because of you. If you lose control, don’t expect things to go off without a hitch. You can delegate, but you need to know that those you’ve delegated to are trustworthy and reliable. Otherwise, your intended surprise might end up a dud.

There are some basic rules you should follow to ensure that your party goes well and without hitches. Above all, you don’t want to get caught in making the preparations, and spill the beans to the indenting surprisee.

  1. Secrecy are the first and second words
  2. Separate and isolate communications
  3. Better to over-involve than under-involve
  4. Inform clearly and explicitly
  5. Know what’s going on at all times
  6. Be mindful of what you say
  7. Cover your tracks
  8. Make sure you have a backup plan

Secrecy are the first and second words

The first rule of the Surprise Party is: you do not talk about the Surprise Party. The second rule of the Surprise Party is: you do not talk about the Surprise Party.

You never know who’s around and don’t think for a second that the six degrees of separation is a myth. So idle chatter about a surprise party is not a wise idea. Similarly, you should always make sure that any communications you send are to specific people, be it by phone, email, or IM. Never send things by post (unless you’re certain there is no way information could leak), by fax (it’s out in the open), or leave voicemails on residential lines (especially if the intended victim lives there).

Swear everyone to secrecy. This means they cannot discuss it with anyone else except you. And ideally, unless they’re involved with the planning or execution, they shouldn’t need to. The less anyone talks, the less chance of the wrong people finding out. As the WWII saying goes: Loose lips sink ships.

Separate and isolate communications

As alluded to above, you need to make sure your communications lines are clear and isolated. This cuts down on crosstalk chatter and sidebars, which are guaranteed to cause problems.

When you talk to people, talk to them individually. This is best because you get immediate feedback, and there’s no question about whether or not they understand what is being asked of them. If you have to do discussions with a group, make sure each person acknowledges what you have said and/or asked. The last thing you need is ambiguity.

Make sure your communications are direct — never make public statements. If you have to send out invitations, make sure that they’re received in a private manner (e.g. the office, through email, talking on the phone). Never leave messages where others can see or hear them, especially if it’s the person you’re surprising.

Finally, don’t communicate unless you have to. Updates are fine, but don’t randomly send out information until you’re ready to do so. This lessens the change of leaks.

Better to over-involve than under-involve

On the flip-side of secrecy is an inadvertent foul-up due to conflicting plans. The best laid plans can go to pot in mere seconds by the actions of someone who is not privy to the surprise party. So when you’re planning, make sure that everyone within the sphere of influence knows what is going on. They don’t have to be invited, just need to know that they can’t foul things up.

Naturally, you can’t cover for everything. There are always things that you simply can’t plan for. (For that, see “Make sure you have a backup plan”.) Consider it as an 80/20 rule. You can cover 80% of all possible actions with relative ease. The remaining 20% are a lot riskier and difficult, and might not interfere with your plans, anyway.

You need a list of culprits. Some will be invited, some not. The list of invitees is up to you, but they still need to be informed:

  • friends
  • significant others
  • co-workers
  • teammates
  • housemates
  • roommates
  • spouse
  • parents
  • siblings
  • aunts and uncles
  • cousins
  • nieces and nephews
  • uncle’s cousin’s roommate’s older brother’s girlfriend’s dog

Okay, that last one was a bit much, but you get the point.

Really consider who you’ve got on your list. Each of these people will have contact on a regular basis, and could introduce plans that could thoroughly foul up anything you’ve got going.

Family is particularly important, especially if the party does not directly involve family. Family is the single most powerful thing for some people, and is the reason why your intended guest might decline your casual invitation to spend time with their parents. So if you’re throwing a party, make sure the family knows what’s going on.

Plan big. Get as many people as you can. Sure, you can throw a small surprise party, but why bother when you can have a big one? Besides, you can get a much louder yell out of more people.

Inform clearly and explicitly

Once you’ve got your key list of people, make sure you give details. Tell them everything they need to know: time, place, reason, attire (if any specifics are desired), and who the other people are.

Make sure that you get accurate contact information for each person, and ensure that it’s secure (e.g. that no-one else might inadvertently overhear something they shouldn’t). You might have to employ one or more of your intended invitees to help out if you don’t know enough people up-front.

Don’t be vague at any time. Once you have the details, make sure they’re broadcast to everyone else. Make sure everyone else knows the details, so there’s no question. People need to make sure that they arrive at the surprise location before the unsuspecting target(s) arrive. There’s nothing worse than a surprise with only a few people.

Know what’s going on at all times

Know your details, and know them cold. Make sure you can answer any question about the party or the plans if asked, without having to refer to notes (unless it’s something esoteric). It’s a bit of work, but it’s easier when you’re running around trying to organize things.

Be mindful of what you say

In short, you have to learn to lie.

This is particularly important if you’re the one doing the planning, and the person you’re surprising is close to you (spouse, significant other, friend, family). If you want to conduct a surprise, you need to make sure you don’t tell them anything accidentally.

You also have to make sure they don’t suspect anything. This is the hard part. Humans are inquisitive by nature. If you have a look of “something’s up”, the other party will immediately suspect something. You have to be able to look someone square in the face and say: “No, honey, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Be able to avoid the topic. If they want to plan something for the same time that you’re planning the party, allow them to do so. This will keep them occupied and they will not expect anything than their plans. Defuse the plans as necessary by canceling reservations (while informing of the real plans), or deferring purchases as long as possible. If necessary, go to a backup plan and use some of the invitees to construct a “just in case” scenario to distract.

Cover your tracks

Never leave your plans lying around, even if you live alone. Chances are, someone will see what you’re doing, and if it’s the wrong people, it’s game over. Hide them in drawers (under locks, if needed) or in password-protected files. Delete messages once you see/hear them. Jot down only the most crucial notes.

Create distractions. This is the same technique magicians use to make a ball disappear before your eyes. Make fake plans that will keep someone on their toes. You can even create real plans designed to take the person away from what’s going on, only to bring them back to the surprise to unfold.

Make sure you have a backup plan

No plan is ever perfect. So long as you deal with humanity, you must expect something to go wrong. Be it discovery of the plans, suspicion of a surprise, a sudden illness, disappearance of the subject (hey, it’s been known to happen), or transportation failures, make sure you’ve got something in your back pocket to save the day.

Some things you can plan for. If the gig is up, and you’ve got a few hours before the surprise is planned to go off, admit to a surprise. Just not *the* surprise. Grab a couple of friends and set them up at a different location. Do a small surprise there. Have them all need to leave for different reasons (when in reality, they’re all going the same place you will be going), and then head to the actual surprise.

Some things you can’t. If the gig is up less than an hour away, you might pretty much be screwed. At that point, you might have to resort to the worst thing you can do: ask that they act surprised when they enter the room, if nothing else than for the benefit of everyone else.

A few suggestions

The Home Surprise Party.
This is an easy one, if planned well. Ensure that a trusted person has the keys to the house or apartment. Make sure everyone arrives at least an hour ahead of schedule for decorations, etc. Make sure all cars are parked away from the home. Set a window of 10 minutes before you arrive with the subject so that no-one comes in. If you can, call ahead with a pre-defined ring (twice, and then twice again) to set a “five minute warning). Lights should be off (or in whatever expected state they should be in), and all evidence (especially shoes) should be hidden.

The Office Surprise Party.
A little more difficult, but often the most fun. Call the person away from their desk (get a manager to call them into a closed office or another floor or building) for 30 minutes. Decorate their desk, string lights and streamers, set out snacks and cake (if possible). Get the manager to walk them back to their desks such that it would be difficult for them to see what is about to happen until it’s too late. This works best in environments with actual offices or tall-walled cubicles.

The Central Location Surprise Party.
Sometimes, due to size, you’ll need to hold a surprise party at a restaurant or hotel ballroom. These are harder, since you might draw immediate attention. The trick is then to give the person a reason to have to go there. In the case of a restaurant, you can go under even the most simple reason: lunch or dinner. Make sure you have reservations for all the guests, and make sure the restaurant knows that it’s a surprise party. Ballrooms are much harder, since they have special purposes. You can play it by going to a hotel’s restaurant, and go into a different room. If it’s a community hall, say you were asked to pick something up.

Abort! Abort! Abort!

Okay, let’s face facts. This could go wrong. You might not actually succeed. There are a million things that can go wrong, and you might get to the point where you have to pull the plug and abandon the attempt.

First off, don’t panic. Secondly, don’t feel bad. And thirdly — and most importantly — don’t tell the Surprisee. EVER.

There’s a couple of reasons for this. You (or someone else) might try to surprise them again. There’s no sense in tipping off your potential victim by telling them “oh, well, we tried, but it didn’t work” — they might thing you might try again. And if you do, the surprise might not be as effective.

But most notably — I think, anyway — telling someone runs risk of actually hurting their feelings. Not for the failed effort, but because it might be something they really, really wanted. Finding out that you came close to having a wonderful surprise, but it won’t happen is … well, it’s really hard to learn, and it can be very depressing. This is not something you want your surprisee to go through.

So, yes, you may have to just suck it up. You tried, it didn’t work, and aside from those who you’d already talked to (and you should make sure they know why it’s aborted), no-one else needs Β to know. In the end, it’s better for all.

297 Replies to “How to throw a surprise party (and not get caught)”

  1. i found this website very helpful!!! i am throwing m very 1t surprise party for a very special friend who is turning 18 and i need all the help i can get!!!

  2. This site was very helpful to me and gave me a much better perspective on what all needs to be done in order for the whole thing to be pulled off without a hitch. Thanks for the info! I’m sure it will help me in throwing the surprise party for my wifes 40th birthday.

  3. What if you are trying to get a couple to a banquet hall for their 40th anniversary, so you want them to be dressed properly?

  4. Ooooh… good question! That’s a tricky one, when dress code is an issue.

    Well, how about this? Perhaps suggest inviting them out for dinner at a nice, unnamed restaurant (the “surprise”) with just a few people (e.g. family and/or very close friends), and then take them to the banquet hall?

  5. This was definitely a good site for a little guidance. I am having a surprise birthday party for my sister. So far I have done all that is suggested. I hope it goes off well.

  6. Hi there! Great website! I have a question for you. My sister and I are throwing a surprise party for our parents. They are moving back to where we spent most of our lives and are surprising them with all their old friends at my sisters house…the question is how to get them both to come over without backing out at the last minute- or to make sure they both come. It will be the weekend after thanksgiving. We are frazzled trying to think of a no fail way to ensure that they both come over…and I suppose ensuring that they ‘appropriatly’ dressed is an issue! Thank you!

  7. Appropriate dress is a tough one. Short of saying that you’re having a formal dinner (which might be a tip-off on its own), you might just want to go casual. (Or alternatively sneak a couple of their nicer outfits to your sister’s place, in case they feel under-dressed.)

    As for getting them there, that’s easy. Tell them that you and your sister are making Thanksgiving dinner, and their presence as heads of the family is duly requested. As your parents, there is a certain amount of responsibility as “heads of family”, and they’ll likely come. If mobility is a bit of an issue (or concern, especially if they might not come), do them one up and either pick them up … or have a limo go and get them!

  8. Hi, my mom turns 40 this December and I am throwing a surprise party for her… I need help! Your sight was great help, but I have never been to a 40th birthday party and there are going to be tons of guests. Where do I start with themes, decorations, and activities? Sorry I am new at this.

  9. I’ve been to one 40th party … but I was about 10 at the time, so don’t remember it well. πŸ˜‰

    Themes are a tough one, but I would suggest avoiding the ol’ “Over The Hill” schtick. Been done to death (pun intended). Instead, maybe go for something different. Think of what happened in 1967 — pivotal year for some places in the world. A late 60’s theme, maybe? Or if you happen to be Canuck, you could do a rehash of Expo ’67… The theme you come up with will also help with decorations, conveniently enough.

    Activities are harder. There’s always the normal thing: music, dance, chat, etc. But you could go with some “fun” ones: pin the clothes on the birthday girl, for example. (Huge photograph with silly clothes that people can dress her up in.) You could do trivia games (about your mom, and maybe about the year she was born).

  10. My friend’s favorite local band is playing and we want to surprise her with just a few friends at the show. However, she’s a person who always seems to be running late and we need to be there at a certain time. What’s a good excuse to give her that will make her be on time and dress right?

  11. Easy — pick her up, and tell her your going clubbing. Give her all the details that sounds like she’s going out. Best part is, she’ll expect a night out. Just that her favourite band might not be involved… πŸ˜‰

  12. Hey there,

    All these tips are really really good. I want to throw a surprise party for my friend. But in addition to that, I’d like to make a book with birthday wishes from her friends and family from outside of the country. I’m not sure if it’s possible and it’s probably hard to keep it quiet. Any ideas?


  13. Do you have those email addresses? If so, no problem: loop them in (and express the desire for EXTREME secrecy) to get materials for the book. If you have to, resort to phone to get yourself up and running, then go to email (easier to handle different timezones that way). Make sure you handle people individually, though — never do mass broadcasts (far easier to accidentally loop in your intended victim). Promise to send them video of the surprise, as enticement to keep it quiet.

  14. Hmm. I don’t have the email addresses yet. The problem is that I do not know who her friends are. I’ve enlisted her brother who’s sworn to secrecy to help me get the family members but then again, there’s no telling what might happen if one of them who are actually close with her blurts it out right? Not sure how I’m going to extract information about her friends from her so that she won’t be suspicious. A video of the surprise would be neat.

  15. Ah, this sounds familiar — I had this problem, too. If you have even just one friend who knows the others, that’s enough. You use them as your coordinator. They become empowered and can act as a surrogate you. It’s not perfect — you have to implicitly trust that person — and they pass along all the instructions, including absolute secrecy, to all the others. Again, individual contacts instead of mass emailing.

    I did this for a surprise party I threw for my friends, as I didn’t have all their friends emails. Instead, I went through two people (one for Stuart, one for Therese) who knew everyone else. It worked very well.

  16. My friend will be moving soon to China for about 5 years and i am gonna throw her a surprise birthday party. The only thing is that she is moving in about 2 weeks. Do you have any sugestions to help me cuz im not that great at party planning in short amounts of time.

    Also what are some fun activities that both girls and guys enjoy? Since its summer should i just have it a Dance and Pool surprise party??

  17. Short notice, but still possible. I’d definitely go with the Dance and Pool surprise party — sounds like it wouldn’t need a lot of organisation. The less organisation, the better. Get a couple of BBQs, some hot dogs, and beer — you’re set. The hardest part is getting the people, getting them to arrive on time, and keeping them quiet.

  18. Hi…Im listening but theres one problem…My moms b-day is october 14 of this year…and I want to throw her a surprise party but… mom says she is not going to work on her b-day so I think she will have her party the saturday before her b-day… and I dont think she or any one else will feel like having another party…..what will I do.

  19. Could you possibly pull it off the night before? If you can figure out who she is inviting, and re-invite them to the night before, you could probably get most people to join in. What about that?

  20. thanks for the info threw anawesome party for my moms 60th we had 100 people turn up and she knew nothing about what was happening.
    She had a great time and so did everyone else down side is now I got to clean everything up πŸ™

  21. Glad to hear it turned out well! Sadly, it’s hard to throw a surprise clean-up party. Everyone seems to know about when the mess needs to be cleaned up.

  22. ok im planning a surprise party for my mom but the thing is i havent really thought about it and i have under a week to do it i need your help on how to throw a surprise party on short notice im so desprite
    HELP ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Hi Breyonna,

    Sorry for the delay — was away for the weekend. You could still do a surprise party, but the single hardest thing to arrange with your schedule is the people. Getting the stuff for the party (food, etc.) is a snap by comparison.

    Do you have a list of people? If so, you can start by phoning each of them. Tell them that it’s a surprise party, to be at a specific location by a certain hour (and make it at least 30 minutes before your mom arrives), and to not tell anyone else. If you have to leave a message on voicemail, have them call you on your cell phone (or something similarly private so there’s no chance of your mom finding out).

    It’s rushed, but if you keep it simple (I’d suggest a restaurant, by the way, if you can get one to handle enough people — then you don’t even have to worry about food), you can still make it work.

  24. Thanks for all the great advice on this site. My brothers and I are throwing a surprise 25th wedding anniversary for my parents in 3 weeks. I have already sent out the invitations and started planning food, decorations, etc. However, we still have one issue to address: How to get them out of the house. We got them to save the date (under the guise of a nice dinner with my brothers and me and my grandma and grandpa). Now I need to come up with a way to get them out of the house from 4-6pm so that we can decorate and the guests can arrive. I’d even be okay with saying, ΓƒΒ’Γ’β€šΒ¬Γ…β€œWe’re going to cook you guys a nice dinner, so we planned XX for you while we are cooking. Dinner will be served at 6.” But we need to fill in that XX and come up with an activity to keep them busy and out of the house. Any ideas?? I have plenty family and friends willing to help but I think their presence might make them suspicious. We live in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.. but too far from the city do something there and come back. Please help.

  25. Ooof. That’s a tough one, Kara. You need a darn good excuse to get them out.

    So here are some thoughts:

    Invite them out for an afternoon cocktail at a nice restaurant. Is there one nearby that overlooks water or something?
    Afternoon tea. It’s right in that time period, and tea can easily use up two hours. But you need to find a good place to go. A good afternoon tea is worth a drive if you get all the goodies that go along with the tea.
    Plant a tree. No, I’m not kidding. See if there’s a forest nearby that allows commemorative tree-planting. It can be very symbolic to plant a tree like that.
    Offer to take them to a really nice place you heard about for a little afternoon treat. But choose something that either doesn’t exist (e.g. you were given bad information) or is actually closed on the actual day. “Ooops.”
    Send them on a “scavenger hunt” that keeps them going from place to place, meeting with people, having drinks (or whatever) that gives them clues along the way until they get back.

    I hope you find something that works! It sounds like it will be a good party!

  26. for my birthday my friend threw me an amazing surprise party..probably following all these hints! i had a great time, and want to return the favor. the problem is i only have a few months till his birthday, so he’ll probably be suspecting a surprise party because he just threw me one. is there any way i can avoid suspicion?

  27. Alex, my friend, this is easy:


    In other words, allow him to find out about a surprise party that is actually fake. Even organise a few people to lead him down the road so that he thinks one is being thrown.

    Then plan a real one for the day before. Or the day after. Just not on the day of — that’s just too obvious. πŸ˜‰

  28. Hi Taylor! If you feel up to it later, can you tell us if it worked out for you? You don’t have to tell us names, but I’d love to know if the surprise went as you planned!

  29. WOW, thanks. This was so much help. I’ve been stressin up a storm because I’m throwing one for ma sister. Shes starting to stay away from me because of my “sudden intrest” in her life. I’m having her best friends be my evil cohorts and spies. My mom moved up the date so now I have 1 week to do everything so this site is helping SO much.

  30. I am throwing a surprise party for a great friend at a restaurant. I am trying to find a great way to get her there!! Any ideas?

  31. i read your tips and they are really good especially that im throwing my first surprise party. only one problem. my other friend wants to help bcz she wants to do something for the birthday girl to but i know she will be bossy and wants things to go her way and that she will invite only the ppl she likes. in the end i will crack up under the pressure. i don’t want to fight with her over this cz i will be blamed to being bossy…so what can i do to let her help but keep this surprise the way my friend likes it(the birthday girl)

  32. Hi Ashley! My humble apologies on the delay — apparently my blog neglected to tell me there was a comment!! πŸ™

    Hmm… tough problem. It’s hard working with a bossy person. So rather than fight them, let them run with the hard stuff, but make sure you know what’s going on as much as possible, so you can include other people, too. So if this person makes a reservation for 10, you can adjust for the other people you want to invite. And make sure that the other person knows, too. If you describe it as “helping” rather than “making sure it’s done right”, they’ll still feel like they’re in control.

    Oh, and you’ll probably have to let them take the spotlight for planning everything. Don’t worry — if the birthday girl is smart (they usually are), they’ll know who to thank. πŸ™‚

  33. I think these tips are soooooooooooooooooo good!!!:)Im throwing a party for my friend at her house and I don’t know how to give out the invotations without her seeing and I can’t get everyone’s addresses!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:( (Please help me in the next 5 days)!!!!:):D!!!!!!!!!!

  34. Hey Elly,

    I had this problem once before, myself. Presumably some of the people you’re inviting know some of the others, correct? Have them become couriers, and make sure they pass along the information to the people you can’t contact directly. That way, people feel a little more involved, and will likely try to hide the secret even more!

  35. Hi Geoff,

    Love this site. I am having a surprise birthday party for my mom this weekend, and my original plan to get her there has tanked. It’s at a local venue which is not a restaurant or club, and am wracking my brains on another way to get her there. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    (All the other prep is done………just need the surprisee!!!)

  36. Hi Liz!

    Yeah, those get kind of predictable, eh? How about a friend’s house? (Her friend, one she might be likely to visit without a particular reason.) A museum or art gallery? (Short notice is sometimes hard to do, but late-day/after hours events might be possible.) Depending the weather, a nearby park you can go to on a “walk”? Or you can go REALLY esoteric and suggest everyone meet you at the local 7-11 just for laughs, and THEN go to some place like a restaurant for a group meal. Think outside the box — go with something that would be fun!

  37. Dear Geoff,
    As I was reading through the comments starting back in 2007 I was so happy to find out you’re still giving advice!
    A week from tomorrow I’m throwing a surprise 18th birthday party for my best friend. It’s a house party and we’re going with a theme of the tv show The Office, so everyone is wearing business clothes and the whole thing is planned accordingly. If you happen to watch the show, do you have any ideas on what else I can do? How in the world do I decorate to make it look like an office?
    And I need to make sure its completely a surprise, but is there any way to do that besides swearing everyone to secrecy? Pretty much if you have any advice in general for the party, it would be greatly appreciated. (Like it is best for the guests to hide or just shout when she walks in the door? etc…)
    Thanks so much!

  38. Hey Mickey,

    That’s the joy of being a Know-It-All — you can’t help but give out advice. πŸ˜‰

    Anyhoo, I don’t actually watch The Office (though I have caught the odd episode) as I don’t really watch a lot of TV.

    That said, you know the show better than I do, so ask people to dress up not only in business clothes, but ask them to take on the personalities of people on the show. Bring in props. Have someone (or two or more, if you can find people to do it!) film the party and then splice together your own version of The Office.

  39. Hiya – my mum is gonna turn 40 in march and i want to throw a surprise party for her- im only 13 so its kinda difficult. So far my plans are – ill get my dad to take out my mum to a restaraunt for lunch and then see a movie, meanwhile i will get my 2 neighbours to help set up the decoractions ect which will be hidden at their house. Have you got any advice though to help me out

  40. Hi Vicky!

    That’s a very noble (and ambitious) thing for you to do! You must love your mom a lot!

    You seem to have the basics already figured out — I assume your dad is in on the surprise? Are you inviting any of your mom’s friends? You might need your dad’s help to contact them all. Your dad can help you a lot, and would probably be very excited to surprise your mom!

    What about getting her favourite flavour of cake? You could even make the party with a theme so it’s like her favourite television programme.

    Just remember: Everyone who knows has to be sworn to secrecy!!

  41. I threw a going-away surprise party for my friend recently using your tips! She had no idea that it was going on, and we had some great final moments with her before she left. Thank you SO MUCH!!!

  42. i am throwing a surprise party for a thirteen year old. its the first time iv done it how do you distract the surprise-ee for half an hour to get her out of the house? HELP!

  43. Oi! U lot! I need help-My mum is havin a supraise b-day party and I wanna theme it. Only On her birthday day -We going to Knokke (Belguim) and I NEED THE PARTY ON MONDAY-HELLLLLLLPPPPPPPPPPP MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  44. Hey Desperate,

    Admittedly, I’m not sure where to start with your request. IT’s a tough one. Do you just need some decorating ideas? Or how to surprise your mom?

    I’d just go with what feels “right”. You might not get it perfect, but even a good attempt is seen as a wonderful thing.

  45. Hi! Great tips! Do have any suggestions for unique forms of live entertainment? I am throwing my sister a surprise 25th bday party at our house (we live together, so this will be tricky) I was thinking of going with a luau theme. I do not have a limitless or huge budget, but do have some money to spare on entertainment….Also, what do you think is the best form of invite? E-vite or hard copy invitations?

  46. Hi, great site this, really handy!

    I am planning a surprise party for my partners 30th in about 6 weeks, however I can’t get the venue I wanted now so I’m going to have to do it in our house – we have lots of space so thats not too much of a problem.

    I am planning on getting friends and family over from various places across the UK, but most will just come down for the night itself.

    I can get her out of the house easy enough, I can say we’re going for drinks and then get some friends to come over and do up the house for me – but how do I get her back in the house again without it seeming obvious?

    I don’t really want to start the party till about 7:30 or 8pm, so I can’t use the pretence of going home for dinner etc!

    Any help would be appreciated :0)

  47. Hi Melinda,

    Personally, I find electronic invites (emails, IMs, what-have-you) are better, only because you can’t leave them out by mistake.

    As for entertainment, what about finding local bands who are looking for a few extra bucks and able to play different kinds of music?

  48. Hi Biddy!

    How do you feel about being truly devious? Consider someone calling you saying the police are at your place and that you need to come back immediately?

    You can even have people dress in things like trenchcoats (looking like detectives) so when you rush in, there’s a better surprise…

  49. Hi Geoff,

    Thats a great idea, and as my neighbours will no doubt be at the party they’d be perfect to do this for me!

    Thanks for the advice! πŸ™‚

  50. I was wondering how I could take my bff to a fancy dinner surprise party and make sure she’s wearing fancy clothes? This might be a problem because she thinks she’s going somewhere casual so she probably won’t dress up. Help, please! Also check out my website,
    and email stories to me at [email protected] because the well-written stories will be published on my website. Thanks for such a cool site, Geoff! πŸ˜‰

  51. Hi Petal,

    Tough call. That’s always going to be a problem, when you want fancy dress and you can’t think of a good reason to convince them otherwise without being suspicious.

    The only thing I can think of is if you do the old bait-and-switch: tell them you’re taking them to something requiring fancier dress (e.g. the opera) which isn’t on the night you’re going (or you “lose” the tickets), and then go to your party.

  52. I came up with the idea for a surprise party for my best friend and i have 2 other friends involved. Problem is, we’re 13. Well I’m 13 but the others are still 12…:)…anyways, i have old luau decorations but we are kind of short on money…we think we might have place and someone I asked said it was probably aroun $10 an hour. Then, there’s food, drinks, etc. How do we get money??

    We plan this to be in July, the same month as her birthday…do we hurry and get the invites out before school ends [June 5th!!! eek!] or invite thru texting [we have about 1/2 of the numbers of people we plan on inviting], myspace [most have a myspace though some still don’t], emailing/IM-ing [we have some of the people…]. Then there are the ones we have no contact with over summer….what do we do?

    Plzz Helpp!!!

    1. Hi Emily!

      Consider a potluck. When you’ve got your people invited, assign each of them a type of mean to bring: salad, entrΓƒΖ’Β©e, dessert, appetizer, etc. That way costs are kept low, and everyone feels like they’re contributing to the party.

      As for inviting people, try using some people to contact other people. It’s a little riskier — you have to trust those other people not to spill the beans. But if you can have the word passed along to contact you, then you can help get things organised.

  53. Hello!

    I can’t believe you are still replying to the comments here! Great site!

    I am having a surprise party for my husband’s 30th birthday. I am going to have it at my mom’s house and it will be intimate with only about 15 of his friends and their children. I don’t think he will be expecting it.. His birthday is on Monday the 15th, and we aren’t having the party until Saturday the 20th. we are also going out to the city this weekend to celebrate, and to throw him off.

    I am doing the typical “Over the Hill”, because it is easy, and I need easy! πŸ™‚ My problem is.. How can I spend the day away from him without him getting suspicious, and then expect him to show up at my mother’s house?

    I do have an accomplice… and I am thinking that I will tell him I am taking a class at church that day (he doesn’t attend with me), or going to a mandatory training for work, or maybe just seeing if my accomplice will keep him busy for the day.. We usually spend Saturday’s together, so this will be very out of character…

    I’m also a bit nervous.. because for whatever reason.. He is really freaking out about turning 30. He’s been pretty down in the dumps.. and I hope this party will cheer him up and see that age is only a number! I had invitations made that said “Over the Hill, join us as we mourn the loss of XXXX’s youth, and celebrate making it up the hill! I want to poke a little fun at him for being so dramatic.. but I don’t want to upset him”Β¦

    Any suggestions?

  54. Tough call, there, Love — playing the “over the hill card” can be risky to someone already depressed about it. (For the record, I crossed that milestone nearly 7 years ago. I suggest the following thought: You are only as old as you act!)

    Frankly, your best ideas are the ones you’ve already thought of — stick to things you already do. Deviating from that (e.g. coming up with something you wouldn’t normally do) will only raise suspicion. As for him — see if you can get one of his friends to drag him out for something they would normally do. That’ll keep him distracted, too.

  55. Hey… I’m throwing a surprise picnic party this weekend. I found an awesome location… except I have a dilemma. What happens if this location is OUTSIDE, and the weather forecast predicts SHOWERS? Any alternatives for a backup?

  56. Hi J!

    Sorry I didn’t get back to you soon enough (my email ain’t what it used to be). I hope your party went off well?

    Showers are hard to contend with. If you can afford it, I recommend renting a (large) party tent. Or see if you can find a community park that has permanent shelters. Often that’s the best route.

  57. Hi Geoff! I got lots of great ideas from your site!

    My friend’s birthday is in August, she’s turning 14, and my other friend and I are planning a party for her. The problem is, our guests are a very diverse set of people with conflicting interests. The last time we had a party half the people sat around bored, and the other half just ate. How do we plan it so we have games and events that will entertain everyone? I’m sorry to say it but a lot of her friends are selfish peopl and will easily complain that they are bored.

    We have had surprise parties before for various people and they are getting a little repetetive. What should we do do keep things different and special for her day? At the parties before now usually either we invited her to someone’s house where everything was set up and then surprised her, and for my own one they planned it at my house (it was really good) but she may be expecting/suspecting something. What would you recommend?

    What day do we throw the party? Her birthday’s late August, but we don’t want to do it on the day of because it will be obvious.

    How do we contact her brother? We are going to try to go to her house when she is away and do an ambush, and we need his house. She has Caller ID and always picks up her home phone when I call. He does not own a cell phone. We are considering having a guest with an unfamiliar phone number call her, disguise their voice and ask to speak with her brother. What if she (the victim) asks who called? We will have to keep in contact regularly, though, and they share a computer so email is risky.

    Sorry for writing so much, but we are very anxious to do this right!

    Thanks so much.

  58. Man, you guys always manage to keep my on my toes.

    Well, Christine, you’ve got yourself a doozy of a problem. Let’s go back to mantra #1 about surprise parties:

    You gotta be devious. πŸ˜‰

    I suggest something different than a house, if you can swing it. Just because — as you put it — it’s a little more obvious (and sometimes harder to do). Perhaps at a totally different location? And something that’s perhaps a little out of the ordinary for your typical habits. Like, perhaps, a bowling alley!

    You can approach the management at these places (bowling or otherwise) and set up a reservation. They’ll often accommodate parties quite easily, and more often than not — no-one sees it coming. Also, because the venue is different, it’ll keep the fun level up. There’s no pressure to try make everyone have fun. Also, places like these often have their own catering (e.g. snack stand) so you don’t have to worry about bringing things in. Keep it light and simple.

    Also, that way, you don’t have to hunt down people who don’t own cell phones or run the change of the wrong person seeing a bad email.

  59. I am the other friend of Christine’s.
    The only thing about this party, is that im worried of the expenses. Everytime that I throw a party for my friends, me and Christine are always the ones paying the price. Our other friends, quite frankly, dont care. They will be there for the party, and that’s it. I am..disgusted by this. Im not going to pay for everyone. How can we make sure that myself and christine aren’t the ones paying. The plan right now is for me to take our friend out to a movie, then take her bowling or to someone else’s house. or her house.

    I am so worried that nobody will care.

    Thanks sooo much

  60. Hi Geoff! Thanks for the reply, the bowling idea was great and we’re building on that (as you can see from Jenna’s comment).

    I just had a quick question: is it better to have more people to increase the effect of the surprise or restrict it to only people that she is close friends with? In other words, quantity or quality? We don’t know if we should invite people that we’re not sure if she likes/is close friends with. We’ve got some “maybe” people that are sort of friends with our little circle of friends, but they are more like friends of friends to our victim. If we only invite a few people, though, won’t it give off the impression that the other people (that we would normally invite to a social gathering) didn’t want to come?

    Thanks, this has been giving me a big headache for the past few days.

  61. Hi Jenna!

    Ehhh… you got to the toughest part of a party: Who foots the bill?

    I totally understand the issue of cost. The parties I’ve arranged were done two ways:

    1) Potluck (easy when you’re at a home)
    2) I paid

    If you do a pre-event at a home, you can swing the potluck easily enough. (But do yourself a favour: ASSIGN the dishes people are to bring, or you’ll get a dozen cakes, a bunch of salads, and nothing substantial to fill the gap.) The dishes don’t need to be big enough to feed everyone — in fact, the more people you have, the smaller the dishes can end up being.

    I find that the latter (paying for it yourself) gives you the most control, but unless you’re able to handle a couple hundred dollars, I don’t recommend it. Given your likely means, this isn’t like your your best move.

    The last resort is to ask others to help pay. Mostly because asking others to give you money really puts everyone in an awkward imposition — they have about as much money as you do, and some will even see it as an insult. (It sucks, yes, when people refuse to see the value your providing and boil it down to mere numbers. Sadly, things that take people a while to grow out of.)

  62. Hey Christine,

    Excellent way of stating the problem: Quality over Quantity.

    Consider this: a good surprise party is an intimate sort of thing. (Scaring the bejezus outta someone is an event that most people wouldn’t want to share with even friends-of-friends.) In cases where you’re truly hiding and all shouting “SURPRISE!”, then definitely go for quality. (Not to mention that hiding a lot of people is really freaking hard.)

    If you’re going for a more public event, go for numbers. Mostly because in lieu of the actual surprise, you want to show someone that there are a lot of people who care about them (the “friend-of-a-friend” factor tends to be overlooked in these cases).

  63. hi i know its only july but my dads birthday is in december 28th and i want to throw a surprise party for him but dont know how im 14 and i was looking for help any tips?

    1. Hey Liz!

      There’s nothing like planning ahead! Given your father’s birth date, you could do something a little more fun and throw him a surprise party on New Year’s Eve. He might not be expecting it, and it would be fun for everyone else, too. You could take him to a friend’s (one of his, I would presume), and most of the guests “don’t show up” (they’re really hiding somewhere else in the house). When he goes into the room — SURPRISE! and the real party gets underway.

      Just a thought…

  64. i want to throw my mom an awesome 50th birthday party, but i’m only 14. my mom’s birthday is november 1, so i may have some trouble planning people to come. i want to have a theme, but not the old “over the hill” theme. i have no idea how to plan a surprise party because i’ve never done this. could you offer some advise because i’ve never done this. also i want to hold this at my house, so how many people should i invite? this is all really new to me so please HELP!!!!! if you could tell some themes, how many to invite, where to host, and basic surprise party things that would be great!!!!!

  65. Thank you for these highly helpful tips I’m throwing a surprise birthday party for my sister but she spends most of the time at the house and i need her to go some place else so that we can decorate what should i tell her ?

    1. Hey Janet,

      Two thoughts there: 1) Have the party somewhere else (one of her friends’ homes?) or 2) see if you can get one of her friends to take her out for a couple of hours, and then get some help to decorate quickly. The trick will be making sure everyone arrives while your sister is gone, of course.

  66. Hi , im having a suprise party for my big sister sarah, it is going to be in our garden (but it is in a hidden area in the garden so she wont see!)
    and my neighbour is going to call her for our house to tell her that she wants her to help her with some work and she is going to lead my sister to the garden to our suprise party , but how do we get her to dress nicely?????

    1. Hi Julia,

      You’ve done a great job setting everything else up, but getting someone to dress a certain way means you need to also set up a scenario that would require them to do so. For example, if your neighbour were also to suggest going to, say, high tea or something. (Or even, a garden party! Your sister wouldn’t necessarily know that the party is also a surprise party for her!)

  67. Hi Nell,

    Sorry, I somehow missed your comment! My apologies!

    As for your question, I’d suggest you read through the post, and then through the comments. You’re not the first person to have questions like yours, and hopefully some of the other comments here might help!

    If you still have questions afterwards, just follow up with another comment and I promise to try answer it much more quickly.

  68. hey! great site–lots of good tips. im speaking with a sense of urgency at the moment, so i would love if you could answer my comment πŸ™‚ my friend is turning 14 on friday (its currently tuesday night) and her brother and one of our friends is planning a surprise party for her. I’ve been given a single job: get her out of the house from 5 until around 6. i have no idea how to get her away. but i need a solid reason for her to leave–she likes to just chill @ her place most of the time, so it needs to be worthwhile for her. thanks in advance for help! πŸ™‚

  69. Hey Jessica,

    This is going to be exceedingly stereotypical, but what about taking her shopping? It doesn’t even need to be for her — you can ask her to come along as a shopping companion! (That way, no financial burden on her.)

  70. Heey there!

    My husband has recently lost 97 pounds, and will soon reach 100. I want to throw him a surprise party to celebrate and show him how many people are rooting for him.

    So far, I’m thinking the venue will be either the local bowling alley or our home.

    I’d like to go with the “100” theme, and am tossing around ideas about that. Any suggestions would be great!

    My real question, though, is about the food… the typical party food feels a bit wrong when we’re celebrating such weight loss, and my husband isn’t eating anything with sugar. I want him to be able to enjoy all of the offerings. Any ideas?


    1. Hi Heathar!

      You’re a very considerate person! 100 lbs is definitely something to celebrate.

      Yes, the food would definitely be a problem. I suggest browsing sites like The Food Network, or lookup the Moosewood series of cookbooks (most of them are very low-fat, and often vegetarian) for suggestions.

  71. i am throwing a surprise for my twin sis i am 13 and it is for her 14th i am very excited but scared i will screa it up tanks this really helped me!!!

    1. Hi Micayla,

      Here’s something to consider: If you’re intended victim is surprised and has a good time, then the only person who would know anything not going to plan would be you. If you can live with it, then it’s a success.

  72. Hi Geoff,

    I’m throwing a surprise party for my sister tonight and everything’s set. She thinks the party is going to be hosted at her friend’s house, so while she’s there decorating, the party guests and I will be at my house, ready to surprise her.

    The problem is, I don’t know how to get her to come back to my house. I was thinking of saying the freezer broke and she needs to come pick up her ice cream cake…but I can easily see her sending someone else to do it so she can keep decorating. What can I do?

  73. Nevermind. We went with a modified version of the cake plan, and it worked. Yay! My sister was so surprised that she screamed, ran out the door, and start bawling. A bit of an extreme reaction! She said she was already having a very emotional day, but they were happy tears and everyone had a wonderful time! Thanks for your tips!

  74. Hey Beth! Sorry I couldn’t get back to you sooner (I was on vacation), but I’m delighted to hear that plans worked out! Congrats!

  75. HI, im having a surprise party for my boyfriends 19th birthday.. im having it at a hall on the 13th of november and im having a dj.. and im worried there wont be alot of people… its a private party and i invited like 70 people because i knew alot of them would bring other people, but only 10 people confirmed yes and 20 confirmed maybe..about 10 people confirmed no and the other never confirmed anything yet.. im scared they wont get there invites on facebook and i dont know how too contact them! not even sure i can afford the dj what else could i use for music in a hall with a whole bunch of people?? Need help fast!!

  76. Hey Kanesha,

    There’s sadly little way to make people commit to things, so the hardest part of any surprise party is the guests. Hopefully, if they’re friends and know it’s supposed to be a surprise, it’ll be enough.

    As for music, never dismiss the power of a mix tape … or a custom song list on your handy iPod. πŸ˜‰ Put together not just good party music, but specifically music your boyfriend likes (especially the dirty little secret songs). All you need then are a pair of speakers loud enough to be heard, and you can usually rent those pretty cheaply if you (or your friends) don’t have something.

  77. hi my sister is going to hawi very soon and i want to throw a suprise party for wen she gets back it will be at my house and inviting people is no problem but i need help on ideas on how to plan it like what i could buy for it were gunna turn it into a dance party please help it not that far away

    1. Hi Katrina,

      Sadly, I’m not much of a party planner for people I don’t know, so I don’t know what all I can offer for you. About the only thing I can suggest is read through all the comments here (there are LOTS), and see if anything sparks your imagination. In the end, it’s your knowledge of your sister (her likes and dislikes) that will make the party a true success.

      Good luck!

  78. hi its my friends 13 birthday soon and i’m trying to throw a surprise party, i’m kinda shy around parents so i tried asking her what she wanted to do and she said oh my moms planing it so i said o k who do u ant invited trying to get little hints and shes like my moms planing it so i don’t know what to do now

    1. Hi Bianca,

      One key thing is to never force something. It’s true for love, mis-matched screw heads, and parties. You don’t want to force something and have it come off badly. Especially if someone else is already planning something. One thing you could work towards in the future is to get more used to talking with parents. πŸ˜‰

  79. So I hope someone can answer this before tomorrow because me and one of my best friends are planning a surprise 18th birthday for one of our good friends. The problem is is his mom needs him out of the house by 2 and at the location by 4:30. we already know how were getting him there, hiding cars, ect.

    But the problem is he thinks 4 of us are going out to coffee and were driving him since its his birthday and we dont want him to have to drive. But lately he has been pretty get up and go when we all hang out like wanting to go home and since its his birthday he wants to hang out with other people too. (he will be though but he doesnt know πŸ™‚

    so we need an idea that keeps him excited and occupied for over 2 hours. We don’t really have money to spend and we live near a big city where we could do something.

    but what? cause remember he’s a teenage boy and doesnt want to sit at lunch for 3 hours on his birthday lol

    Help please!

  80. Okay, so I’ve been asked to help a friend divert her boyfriend from his surprise party. Ordinarily, it would be no problem, BUT he is throwing a Christmas party at his house that night and I think he may be a little resistant to leaving his house when people may be showing up…. I was thinking my fiancee and I could just ask them to get drinks before the party, but not sure about this idea. Any help would be much appreciated!!!

    1. Oy. Competing parties, one of which is being hosted by the intended surprisee? Sorry, Amanda, but your friend be hooped. You can’t do that kind of thing without seriously pissing off the guy throwing his own party. Can you convince your friend to change the date of the party?

  81. Hi there –

    I am throwing a surprise 25th birthday party for my boyfriend this weekened. Everything is planned but the party is taking place at his house and I need help getting him out of HIS house. I live about an hour away from him, and I cannot be the one to distract him as I am picking up some of his friends from the airport. Guests will be arriving at 8pm, and I need a few hours to set up for the party. Any suggestions? I thought of having his roomate take him to see Avatar, but I just checked the movie times and it is playing either too early or too late.

    Thanks! Your help is much appreciated!!!

  82. Hey Marie,

    Try arranging to have a couple of (nearby) friends take him out for drinks. They shouldn’t be able to stay out all night, as they have “other plans”, so have to drop him off at home (obviously, at a designated time).

  83. I’ve got 3 months until my husbands 40th birthday. So far I have inlisted his mom (which is one of his surprises). How do I keep him out of the neighborhood hangout the day of? That’s where the party is going to be.

  84. Hey Mandy,

    One word: Friends. This is where you call in his friends to be the distraction. Have them take him out for a “guy” afternoon, or whatever is needed to get him out of the picture. A round of golf, for example, is an ideal thing (mostly because of the time involved) to keep him at bay. Then they can bring him to the hangout afterwards for post-event libation.

  85. Hi Geoff,
    My problem is with coming up with an idea so that my mother in law doesn’t expect we’re planning a suprise party…
    Their family always has parties for their milestone birthdays, and so she will get pretty sus if we don’t talk to her about planning a party for her 60th in october. I don’t really like the idea of the ‘diversion party’ planned for the week after.. but I can’t think of any other idea πŸ™
    Any help would be really appreciated

    1. Hmm. You’ve got a tough one, there, Ashlee. I totally understand the desire to not have anything take away from the real surprise.

      Try going silent — make no motions of a party whatsoever. If she asks about events around her birthday, say you’ve been thinking about going to a resort out of town, or visiting an old friend some distance away. More or less “forget” that her birthday is then. It’ll put her off her guard, at least.

      About the only other thing I can think of — for better or for worse — is a “fake” party. Namely, let your mother-in-law find out (by “accidental” note, for example) about a fake party (that won’t ever actually happen, of course), and then surprise her with the real one. It’s a dicey option and can cause the whole thing to fail.

      Beyond that, I’d stick with ye olde standby: get someone to take your mother-in-law out for an afternoon, then take her to the party location.

  86. Geoff, you’re awesome for answering so many peoples’ questions! Thank you. I would appreciate your advice on my “party” idea:

    My husband turns 30 next Thursday, and I finally decided that I need to get some of his friends together to celebrate. (I procrastinated due to indecision and nerves – I don’t like planning parties.) He and I will be off from work that day to spend the day together. For his “party”, I’m asking his friends to gather at one of his favorite bars for drinks and appetizers in the evening, and I want to surprise him with this. The issues making me nervous are:

    1. it will only be maybe 5-10 people who don’t all know each other and I think I will need to arrive with my husband since we will be coming from our shared activity that day, so how do I have these people arranged there without me there to “corral” everyone if they don’t know each other?

    2. since it is such a small # of people, do I really try to surprise him up to the last minute, or should I just wait until right before I take him to the bar and tell him then that his friends are meeting us for some drinks?

    3. is it okay if I order appetizers for everyone and bring a cake but expect people to pay for their own drinks?

    4. I want this to be laid-back and casual so I wasn’t planning on decorations or activities, just friends gathered for drinks and conversation, because I think that’s what my husband would want, esp. since it’s a public bar. Is that still a special “surprise party” or should I forgo the “surprise” aspect altogether?

    Thank you so much in advance for your insights!

    1. Hi Llanta,

      Some quick thoughts:

      1) Tell them all to arrive 30 minutes before they need to. You can explain this away as “your husband delayed you”, if need be.
      2) I say go for the last minute! There’s nothing like surprising each other, too!
      3) Hmm. Tough call. Technically, you’re throwing the party, so it could be argued either way. But it’s pretty easy to say “BYOB” (in this case “buy”) and let people know you’re trying to keep costs in line. (Also prevents people from getting really drunk, since they have to pay for it.)
      4) A surprise is always a surprise, and there is no need to go hog-wild on anything. So long as he doesn’t expect it (and is therefore surprised), and has a good time, then the party’s a success.

  87. Geoff,

    You’ve done such a great job with this. I don’t know that I need any more ideas as a great plan developed in my head reading through the questions & answers in your blog. However, being the sneaky expert you are & willing to give advice, I thought I should run my plan by you in case there are any holes.

    So far I have followed all the instructions too a T (even though I didn’t have prior knowledge of this blog) except on the time to arrive. I only gave them 15 minutes ahead, which will be easily remedied by having me show up later with the intended victim – my husband. It’s even being held a week after his birthday thus further deepening the surprise.

    It’s his 49th b-day so I planned a “I’m not turning 50” Surprise Party. Here comes the complication. His parents live south of us & have to stay overnight with us & will need a ride to the location. We’re having it at a local candle-pin bowling alley. This presents another problem – we’ve never been candle-pin bowling. He’s promised to take me for years (I’m from Texas and have never seen candle-pin bowling) but never has so to show up at a bowling alley in the middle of a Sunday with his parents is just ludicrous! He’s going to think I’ve lost my mind or my directions.

    Not knowing if his parents would be comfortable having a neighbor drive them to the bowling alley (his family won’t be able to pick them up) & needing the excuse to have him dress “party casual” I don’t think I can take him out on my own and leave the parents at the house to be picked up.

    So my mind began to twist and turn and here’s what I came up with:
    I have a neighbor (who will be at the party) who’s daughter is having a birthday and I’ve discussed helping with it. I was going to make cookies and brownies for the party (my husband’s) and say it was for hers (this covers up the cooking part too). Then the day of I am going to come up with some silly reason that she needed help by me driving the desserts to her at the bowling alley where her daughter’s party is because she didn’t have time to pick them up. In the meantime I’m going to have my husband and his parent’s dressing for going to a casual dining place for a brunch. On the way there we’ll stop at the bowling alley to drop of the treats. I’ll go in with them.

    Now here is where I am a little stumped. I could leave one plate of treats in the car and “forget” them and have her come out and try to get him to come in with her (I doubt this will happen as he avoids little kids at all cost) or I could have her come out to the car and tell him I need help (either “I hurt myself” help or I’m going to bring something back to the house for her and need help lifting, etc.) In the meantime (because I’ll probably be driving his parents car to the “brunch”) after he gets inside they can shut off the car and come in. I’ll also already be inside setup with my video camera to catch his surprised look!!

    By the way, he hates surprises. The only thing that will save my butt is that we’ll be bowling and have a bunch of friends and family with us!!! πŸ˜€ I just figured next year on his 50th he won’t want a party at all!

    Any final ideas, suggestions or clean-up that I didn’t think of? The party is 10 days from now.

    Thanks in advance!

  88. Hey Wendy!

    First off, that’s the longest comment I’ve ever seen on this blog — you’ve put a lot of thought into this!! I like your deviousness! πŸ˜‰

    You might be over-thinking your in-laws. Why not do something a little nice for them, too, and maybe hire a limo? That way, they can ride in comfort, you’ll know exactly when it’s supposed to pick them up, and can specify when to drop them off. Shouldn’t cost too much.

    Y’know, unless you provide something for them to drink in the limo, anyway…

    Would that help sort things out a bit?

  89. Oh, and anyone who says “I hate surprises” is thinking about unpleasant ones. Surprise parties are usually a lot of fun, so I wouldn’t worry about it.

  90. Geoff, thanks so much!!! I decided to keep the party a surprise for my husband, and it totally worked! He loved it! And we all had a great time. Thank you for the advice!

  91. thanks so much me and my boyfriends grandparents are throwing a surprise party for my boyfriends moms 50th birthday and she seems to find out about everything!. im sure this will help thanks πŸ™‚

  92. thanks so much! i never would have thought to hide the shoes! that might have given it away. i’m throwing a suprise party for one of my best friends tomorrow and i need to know how to get her here without her knowing.
    but this was super helpful!

  93. hi! i want to throw a surprise 21st birthday party for my boyfriend but his birthday is in the summer and all his friends live all over the place. so i’m not quite sure where all these guests would stay if they came… what do i do?

    1. Hi Hannah!

      (Sorry for the slow reply!)

      That’s always a tricky one. If you can, maybe plan something that requires you to go a cabin, or a hotel, or something that allows others to congregate at a central location. (Just make sure they know when you’re getting there, so they can stay hidden.) Then you can plan a get-together at a restaurant for the surprise!

  94. this is great, but what excuses can a friend give the birthday boy to keep him out the house while im setting up?? plzzzz help…its a couple days away lol

    its gona be at 10pm too. so i need something for him to do before that time..

    email me : juli [email protected]

    1. Hi Juli,

      I’m posting this here so others might be able to put it to use, too.

      There’s a lot of good excuses you could use, but probably a better option is to give him something to do: errands, something to buy (bonus points if you get him to go buy something you need for the party), or if you’re really ambitious, send him out for something he simply can’t find (eggnog, for example, is almost impossible to get in the summer).

  95. I’m trying my hand at throwing my first ever surprise party! It’s for my boyfriend’s 21st birthday – the same day as our anniversary πŸ˜‰ Since it’s on a Monday, he’s waiting until Friday to go out to the bars, so his actual birthday is open for surprise!

    My question is about guests. It’ll be a small party – less than 10 people. I haven’t decided between two plans. If I reserve a big table at a restaurant, I’ll invite the girlfriends of his friends. But if I decide to have the party at his house, I’m not sure. One of the girlfriends is really stuck-up and annoying, and I know he doesn’t like her. But I either have to invite all three of the girlfriends or none at all, IF the party’s at the house.

    What’s your suggestion?

  96. Hi M!

    Well, the question comes down to: quality or quantity. Certainly having more people is always awesome, but there will be inevitable annoyances that come from having so many people there — including the stuck-up ones. If you’re willing to tolerate a single bad egg for the sake of more people (it can be helpful to isolate her at one end), then go for the bang. Not to mention that’s it’s easier to accommodate more people at a restaurant or bar.

    If you’re in more intimate settings, like someone’s house, probably less is better. People want small parties to be fun.

    And never feel like you can’t ask someone to leave if they’re ruining the fun, especially if you’re hearing complaints from others.

  97. Thanks for all the helpful advice, but I’m still in a bit of a debacle. I’m throwing my dad a 50th birthday party along with the help of some friends and family but it’s at my parents house and I have no idea how we get him out of the house for everyone to show up and for us to set up. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank You!!

  98. Hey Andrew,

    The best advice I can offer is one of two things:

    1) Get your mom (whom I presume is involved) to drag him somewhere. Wives are good at that. πŸ˜‰

    2) Get his friends to drag him somewhere (e.g. golf course, bar). Friends are good at that, too.

    The trick here is to make it plausible. Namely, if his friends don’t drag him out regularly, make sure it’s marked as a “special event” for his birthday. That way he’ll think that this is the special part of the day. Everyone else should seem “disappointed” (to an extend, you don’t wanna overdo it) that he’s not spending the day with you. In the case of your mom, have it seem like a nice lunch or something — and pick a *nice* place so it seems worth it.

    Yeah, there’s cost involved, but the end result will be better if he’s thrown off his mark.

  99. Hi! thanks for the great tips… but i still need a little help. my best friends birthday is coming up. a couple of our other friends have recently had surprise partys and i’m afraid that she is almost expecting one to be thrown for her.. i’ve been telling her that i won’t throw her one to sort of make her think its not going to happen, but i’m still afraid that she’ll expect it. i want to surprise her guts out πŸ™‚ i was thinking of doing it at a restaurant but i’m still not sure which would be more or a house? please help!

    1. Hey Allyson,

      With surprise parties-a-plenty, I doubt you’ll be able to squash your friend’s expectations. You might even want to do something as wacky as wait two weeks to even a month, and throw a “Belated Surprise-And-Yes-We-Planned-It-This-Way Party”. To *really* throw her off, have a very small party for her with a few friends that she knows ALLLL about on her birthday (or the day before/after). That way she’ll think it’s done with, and won’t be expecting the big/real one later.

  100. Hey

    I am planning a surprise party for my nan however I don’t want to invite my dad (her son) as he WILL cause problems how can I handle this so that nobody is offended, the party will be a long way from where he lives so i thought maybe that could be used to help persuade him not to come, Thank you πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Loren,

      You are definitely not going to have an easy time of this. Whenever family is involved, there is no easy answer. When you look at close relationships (e.g. parent/child), you’re just asking for a fight.

      So I’ve got two suggestions.

      1) Tell your Dad up-front that you’re planning a surprise party (don’t give details) and that you don’t want a single stitch of difficulty from him. Use your best “I’m the adult, here” tone of voice, and level the seriousness with him on it. If he doesn’t get it, you’ll know what your success will be (e.g. wise to abandon ship).

      2) Throw a “we’d love to have a surprise party, but no-one can keep a secret” party. In other words, it’s not a surprise, but we’re going to act like it is. Kinda hard for someone to screw that up, right?

  101. I found out, and I hate the idea. I am a quiet person, whom does not like surprises at all. I am going to be leaving through the back door, I will find this much less stressful. My so called companions can have a party all to themselves.

  102. hi,
    this website was very helpful, i am throwing my 1st surprise party
    for my boyfriend.
    it will be his 19th bday party/going away party.
    he is leaving for the navy sometime before jan. but his bday is in oct. so im doiing both then πŸ™‚
    thanks for all the help!!

    1. Hi Danmarie,

      I suggest seeing if you can get her friends involved, have them take her out of the house for you. That way it won’t seem too contrived. It’s usually one of the safest, least-obvious approaches.

  103. So i am in need of some desperate help….any suggestions on a surprise party for 5 people!? i am only 14 and throwing this party for my older sister and her friends with birthdays near that time…..PLEASE HELP!? they are all turning different ages…17,18,20,21,26. and any theme ideas.! i am desperate.

    1. Hi Kara,

      Holy cats, you’re really taking on a big burden, here. First off, GET HELP. As admirable as throwing a party like that can be, you’ll drive yourself bonkers with the details. Instead, be more like an army General — get yourself a few (no more than 3) trusted Lieutenants who will help you deal with all the things you want to do. For example, have one deal with guests, have another deal with decorations, another figure out food, and so forth. Lieutenants, incidentally, can be parents, aunts, teachers, or even your sister’s other friends — people you know can help and will help coordinate your sisters and your friends. One of YOUR tasks should be how to get all 5 people together at the same place at the same time. That’s something you might need a Lieutenant to actually execute (i.e. take your sister and friends out for a movie, and make sure that they all get to a specific place afterwards for the surprise).

      Don’t take it all on yourself. But make sure you’re the one in control of the Big Plan.

  104. Hey geof Im throwing a surprise party for my soon to be wife for her 18th birthday party and i need help so she wont notice what im planning cause im getting my cna then an apartment for us. and don’t want to mess this up and thinking if i should have her mom help me out and i am gettin her a puppy but dont know where to hide the puppy at and im thinking bout having her friends take her out all day so me and all the ppl can get the food and decorations done while she’s gone and surprise her and show her that im good to her and want to surprise her when she turns on the light and she see’s i got her parents at our place for her bday party n her friends too. Need major help there is going to be alot of people at our apartment and where should I hide at with the puppy so she doesnt find me or the puppy til everyone says surprise . your Advice would help tons.

    1. Hey Jeremy,

      First thing: seriously, dude — punctuation. It’s really hard to read a lot of words crammed into a really, really long sentence. πŸ˜‰

      Okay, brass tacks: You got the big point right — you need help. Planning a big surprise party is really difficult on your own. Especially if you’re trying to pull of something like a puppy, which is naturally a yappy, happy little thing. It doesn’t want to be contained, and you’ll never keep the secret if that puppy at your domicile. Involving her mom to help (or a friend) will help immensely. Draft one of her good friends to get her out of the house — that’ll save you some grief. Let the friend make up the reason — she will be able to guide your wife a lot better than you can. Make sure you keep in contact with the friend by text message so you know where they are and when they’re coming back (and let them know when it’s safe to do so). Then you’re free to do all the food, decorations, etc. You can pull the surprise when she returns home with her friends.

      One thing I will suggest, however: Are you sure she wants a puppy? Only reason I ask — giving someone a pet can be a very personal thing. If she’s wanting a dog, you’re probably safe (I’ll assume that if she’s said that she wants a dog, that she’s also expressed what breed she’d love to have), but if you’re approaching it from a perspective of having a pet in the house and that it would make a great present … well, you should probably broach the topic with her first. I suggest a question like “I’ve been thinking … should we get a dog or a cat?” and see what she says. That way, you’ll get her opinion.

  105. thanks geof n she said she wants a black lab. she does go through my stuff so i gotta do that and we share a phone so i gotta get a way so she doesn’t read bout the party. I don’t want anything to ruin the surprise party do you got any ideas or tips.

    1. Hey Jeremy,

      Excellent, glad to hear the puppy is a go! That’ll definitely make one hell of a great surprise!

      As for the rest. Well, real-time communication is out. (Unless, that is, you’re willing to attempt to get HER a phone for her birthday — and give it to her BEFORE she goes out — then you’ve got a way to handle it. But that’s not cheap, so unless you’re financially capable, I wouldn’t go there.) Instead, you’ll have to go with careful timing.

      Pick a time you want the party to start — namely, the time you want her to come BACK. (I suggest evening, if only because an afternoon out is likely easier to handle.) Then backtrack everything from that time, right up until the time she leaves. Make sure that people (‘cuz you’re going to need probably 2-3 to help) are getting food and whatnot, then arriving no earlier than 30 minutes after your wife leaves (just in case she has to come back for something. Then set up and decorate. That should give you PLENTY of time. (She’ll be gone for probably 3-4 hours, I imagine?)

      Make sure guests are told the surprise will occur 45 minutes BEFORE her scheduled return. (Of course, don’t tell them that she’s arriving later — you need punctuality, here.) This should avoid any issues with “casually late” people. Also make sure that people don’t park near the house — give at least 3 blocks distance. Similarly, make sure their shoes, jackets, etc. are hidden in the bedroom so she doesn’t immediately wonder why the hell there are a million shoes at the front door.

      As for the friend(s) sucking her out of the house — get them in on the game. All of them. They need to know that there is a surprise party at a SPECIFIC time, and that your wife needs to be back for it. They’ll be super keen, I’m sure. Just make sure they know to try not be too giddy, or your wife might suspect something.

      The rest, my friend, is up to you. Food, music, decorations, etc. — you know your wife, and you (should) know what she likes. Don’t go extravagant (or else you’ll have to live up to it year after year), but make sure it’s memorable.

      Oh, and if you can, avoid booze. Seriously. Sounds like fun, yeah, but it also tends to ruin the memory of the event. πŸ˜‰

  106. ok thanks and can we keep talking about this. im so stressed cause im in texas right now n we live in iowa, but im helping my family with finance right now. she’s back home so im stressed that i can’t see her. Plus I want her to remember it, but where should i be with the puppy that’s a tough one. And im surprising her with her sister being there too and her parents. How do you think her reaction will be when she asks around who threw the surprise party and she finds out it was me??

    1. Man, Jeremy, when you plan big, you don’t hold back!

      Distance planning is a bit harder, no question. But ultimately, this still comes back to communication — namely, you gotta talk with the people you need to help do the work. Given that you’re quite a long ways from home, you’re going to need to rely on others to carry out some of the coordination. This is where her mom will come in very handy, as she’ll likely have a much greater chance for direct contact with your wife’s friends, right? Assuming you’re in good with your wife’s mom, get her involved on pretty much every aspect, especially when it comes to getting your wife’s friends to act as the Distraction. Does she know you’re going back for this? Or is that a surprise, too? It’s a good thing you’re both young, or you might give her a heart attack from all the surprises… (Kidding!)

      Next thing: RELAX. I say this for two reasons: 1) you’re definitely stressed (and understandably; I’ve worked remote from my family, too, and it sucks), and 2) chances are this won’t go exactly to plan — there’ll need to be some changes, or things won’t go entirely right. And that’s okay — the great thing about surprise parties are that if you allow some leeway (i.e. giving yourself buffers in timing to make sure people arrive on time), the person being surprised won’t notice if things aren’t exactly right — only you will. And if you’re okay with a few things not going exactly right, you’ll all have a great time.

      Which brings up the next point: Take pictures, shoot video. Trust me, she’ll remember. How can she not? As for the puppy … well, you can go a couple of ways: have the puppy sitting in the doorway with a red bow tied around his neck (tricky, as the puppy will want to move, I’m sure), and then (if you can) call him to you and your wife will follow (hopefully) — it’s a tricky/non-guaranteed option, but could be fun. Otherwise, I’d suggest leaving the puppy until AFTER the main surprise, as you don’t want to cause the puppy any harm during the Shock and Awe portion of the party. (Not only that, but if the puppy gets too surprised, it might pee on something/someone.)

      As for her reaction … well, in my experience, people who realise the time and effort put into a surprise party are often appreciative. The catch, however, is that it’s actually hard for people to understand. That’s the nature of the surprise party — it’s a secret. So unless you tell her what you’ve done (and don’t, by the way, it’s actually kinda tacky to do that), she might never know. And frankly, given your situation, that’s okay — the event (people + puppy) should be more than enough.

  107. well im coming home to her in 2 weeks. my family just needed help im always there for my family. plus me n her are expecting a baby soon. So I’m trying to get my degree in Certified Nursing Aide before i get the apartment to throw the party for her. I can’t wait to see her again. I won’t see her for approx 6-8 weeks with coming home in 2 weeks then college for 3 weeks , but then working for a week or 2 to get our apartment to throw the surprise party . I do have a lot of stress right now and i am really nervous to be living with her. I guess I just want that night of the party to be perfect.

  108. Yeah, you’ve got a lot of stress, alright.

    Don’t focus on perfection — if you get it totally right, consider it a bonus. I understand the nervousness, too. It’s normal. I suggest thinking of it as excitement more than nervousness, though — helps frame your pending reunion a little more positively. You’ll do fine, Jeremy. Just remember that you’re going to need help, don’t try to do it all solo.

  109. Thanks. your very wise geoff I did say one thing to her, but it was a lie. I said that it was just going to be me and her spending the whole day together when i throw it so her mind stays on that and not thinking about if im throwing her a party so now she wont expect a big surprise party. It will be the best at the party when she finds out that i threw the party for her. I can’t wait.

  110. Don’t think of it as a “lie”. Your intention is not to cheat, but merely to misdirect temporarily. It is an (ethically) important distinction, if that helps at all.

  111. Good website with some good tips – thank you.
    I’m planning a “This Is Your Life” surprise Birthday party and need to get a lot of people to a central location. I’m hoping the “victim” will just think they’re off to dinner with the family. It will be surprise enough when they realise that all the friends and family are there let alone once they are called on stage for the “show”. I will of course be sure to have the surprise guests back stage, however do you have any further tips for me on this rather unique party?
    Thank you

    1. Hey KH!

      Those are hard parties to organise — if for no other reason than having someone’s “life” up for show. You need to balance humour, poignancy, embarrassment (you gotta have at least one bit), and so forth. The only real thing I could suggest — if you haven’t done this already — is see how many people from the past you can find and get to come as “special guests”, revealed at the appropriate moment. People from college, even high school, old teachers, and so on. It’s not easy, and you might not always be successful, but it’ll make for one hell of a party!

  112. hey geoff I have a massive problem im planning a surprise party for my parents anniversary only i have no idea on how to get them outside of the house, the party is at home and i need them to leave early enough so i can clean an get everything ready and i need them back on time. My parents aint much for time keepers /i have asked everyone to be at the house for one and anythin i think to do makes me think there gonna come back too early or too late… I have thought to send them out shopping with my sister but my dad would make em come back early,, its too early to send em pub and its like a bbq party so taking em for lunch would make em too full…any idea’s would be great help.

    1. Hey Lola,

      Arrange for some family friends — ones that would normally go out with your parents — to take them out (and make sure that they DRIVE your parents; don’t let your parents drive themselves or your schedule will go bye-bye). It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but it will more than likely involve lunch. Sorry, but you’re probably not left with a lot of options without making it sound suspicious. Check with the friends and see if maybe they can think of something that’s not so food-related.

      Arrange with one of the friends to call them about 30 minutes before you need your parents back at your place. Two reasons: 1) let them know that it’s clear to come back, and 2) give that person a reason to step away for “an important call”. The net result is that the friend tell your parents that they need to go home, and they’ll drop your parents off along the way.

      The rest, with luck, will continue according to plan…

  113. My friends were planning me a suprize B-day 4 me and my friend.
    Supposaly my mom and my friends arranged some idea of how i would come and they would suprize me. At school one of the girls that were planning the party came up 2 me and asked me what were my plans for the night and i told her that i was going 2 babysit, she assumed that it was going 2 be at the time that the party would be at and this is what she said me: “but u can’t babysit because we r planning u and tori a suprize B-day”!
    i didn’t no what 2 say and i can’t beleive she would tell me i have never had a suprize B-day before and i was shocked that she told me! i dont no if i should go 2 the party because now i no but now its only going be a party for tori! what should i do????

    1. Hey Sara,

      Well that’s quite a bummer. It’s a shame that some people just can’t keep their traps shut. (Clearly, they broke the first two rules…)

      Now you know, and it’s possible that other people know that you know (such as the organizer), so plans might change — you may yet be surprised. But the simple reality of knowing that there’s a surprise at all will likely take away from the full effect.

      So a bigger question is how much of a truly awesome person are you going to be? Yeah, you kind of got screwed out of this one, but Tori (assumedly) hasn’t. You get to show everyone else how good you are at keeping a secret, and still go along with the fun. Let Tori be surprised, and let the organizer(s) feel like they were at least partially successful.

      And, besides, it’s still a party being thrown in your honour, right? Just because the surprise aspect is gone doesn’t mean that the party is any less significant. Count yourself lucky — some people never get parties thrown for them. *cough* πŸ˜‰

  114. Thank You so much for your advise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    i decided that i’m going 2 be an AWESOME friend and enjoy the party! I am leaving in about an hour and then i will tell u how it went 2morrow! Thanks again for your advice!
    we need more ppl in the world like u!
    i love your website!

  115. The party was sooooooooooo much fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    and u were right i was really surprised even though i new about it!
    we had a gr-8 time and went bowling 2 day!
    thanks for ur addvise it really helped me!

  116. Hello Geoff,

    i was drawn to ur blog by a `web wave` like most if not all of your readers, who wish to draw a surprise bday party.
    My targetted `victim` is my gf who turns 25!
    Although her bday is one week from now i believe i can still arrange the guests as i will have many accomplices.
    My problem is the place! Home is not big enough and restaurants are not her kind of thing. For 6 years now we celebrate her bday out clubbing with friends so i have to find something equivalent but not as loud!
    If you have any ideas would greatly appreciate them.
    p.s your blog is really cool

    1. Hi SilCY!

      Thank you very much for the very kind compliment! Normally all I hear is how lame I am. πŸ˜‰

      Alternative locations, eh? Definitely a tough nut to crack, as you have the complication of needing something that can handle enough people for a party, without being so loud or crowded as to totally wreck the fun.

      Ever thought of a bowling alley? Kitchy, sure, but that’s also part of the appeal. Plus, it’s a team event and unless you’ve got a pro bowler in your midst, it’s easy not to get too worked up over a string of gutterballs.

      Similarly, if you have the ability, maybe try curling! Why? Because it’s really hard to do and it’s pretty much a guarantee that everyone will equally suck at it, and you can laugh at each other as everyone keeps slipping and sliding all over the place.

      The key thing is to think of venues that non-typical, but geared around team-style activities. That way you can have everyone out, but not worry about noise (a totally valid concern) or having to sit at a long, thin table where instead of a group event, you’ve really got four or five smaller groups all at the same table and not really interacting with one another.

      Other suggestions: Lawn bowling (trust me on this), a picnic (bonus: get everyone to bring something different, potluck-style, and points for originality), an evening bonfire (if someone has a guitar, all the better), or if you’re a little sado-masochistic — paintballing!

    2. Hmm. Serves me right for not doing a bit of checking first…

      Maybe curling’s not an option, given where you are. πŸ˜‰ I’m sure you can find a football pitch or two around, and have a surprise birthday game…?

  117. Hi Geoff!
    I am throwing a surprise 50th birthday party for my mother. We are hopefully going to do it in my father’s condominium’s party room (my parents are divorced, but are still close friends). There will be approximately 65-75 guests. How do I get my mom there? what should I tell her? I have been planning this for a couple of weeks and this is my #1 problem!
    Also, what activities/games should there be (or not be)?

    1. Hi Sarah!

      I am so sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier!

      Hmm. Getting your mom to go to your dad’s place might be a bit tricky without tipping her off, but if they’re still close friends, it shouldn’t be too hard for him to “invite” her over for dinner, right? He could meet her downstairs, and in the act of bringing her to his apartment, he could mention: “Oh, you should see the new TV they installed in our party room! It’s 3D! You gotta see this…” (Or something like that.)

      As for activities and games, that’s harder still. Not sure what to suggest for 50-somethings, but you could go all out and go for silly: Twister, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, piΓ±atas, etc. Something that’ll make everyone feel less like 50 and more like 15…

  118. Hi, i’m trying to throw a suprise party for my parents 20th wedding anniversery and I need help. How do I get all the guests into the garage without them knowing? I thought i could get my aunty and uncle to take them out for dinner and then ‘go back for coffee’ but im not sure yet.

    1. Hi Becka!

      Well, unless you have a secret tunnel that leads into the garage (and if you do, that is WAY cool!), you’re definitely going to have to get your parents out of the house. Otherwise, you’re begging to get seen. Your suggestion of using the aunt and uncle is perfect, and make sure they’re in on the game, especially the part about making sure that your parents are back at the right time!

      Good luck!

  119. hi, m planing a surprize party for my bff(m elevn) n her bday is on d 29 of sept plz help as i have no idea how to get her into my house widout her knowing about the surprize(im preplaning as m nt a very organized person n dnt want to leave it for the last min) thnx pls lemme kno aditional details

    1. Hi Anne,

      If she’s your BFF, what about just inviting her over for something? Movie with a “couple” of friends? (Emphasis on only 2-3 at most — that way it sounds plausible, and she won’t know about everyone else. Also, involve those people so they know the cover story.) It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate — the more complicated the scenario, the less likely it’ll work. And good for you for planning well in advance!

  120. Hi Geoff! I’ve read all your advice here since 2007! It’s too nice of you to help those who are in need of your advice when it comes to surprises. Anyway, my boyfriend (for 5 years) will be celebrating his birthday this Saturday and he was planning to dine in a restaurant -just the two of us. But in my case I want to throw him a surprise party with his close friends whom I haven’t met yet. The only plan I have as of now is to call up his friends and invite them for a dinner at a good restaurant (it’s not a good place for intimate moments coz the restaurant is always full of people for they have don’t only offer very good foods but it’s also affordable).

    My problem is, it’s only a dinner. I can’t think of anything that would add spice to it. Can you give me some ideas or other details on what to do while we’re on the restaurant? I would really appreciate your response on this. πŸ™‚

    1. Hey Catsha,

      You’re gutsy! Taking out friends you haven’t met yet? This could go many ways, since you have no idea what to expect.

      That said, I suggest something like paintball, or laser tag, or anything that’ll get close friends to act like total children. Besides, it’ll be a good way to burn off dinner. πŸ˜‰

  121. Thanks for your response Geoff! Anyway I already have a back-up plan in mind πŸ™‚ I will bring him to restaurant in a park [which also offers jungle adventures]. It’s a dinner for two and I’ll coordinate with the staff that when he comes instead of the usual greeting “Good Evening”, greet him “Happy Birthday”. One of the waiters will give him a birthday card [from me] while we’re enjoying our dinner. After eating he will be blindfolded and the staff will take him to the Jungle where his friends are waiting for him. There he will see a tarpaulin with his face printed on it and a few balloons. There we will start the adventure (ei. zipline, walking in a hanging bridge, wall/rock climbing, etc.). In the middle of our adventure all the staffs in the park will serenade him and offer him a little piece of cake. I think that would be it. What can you say about this? I am very much open to your opinion πŸ™‚

    Anyhow, thanks for the advice. I’ll consider the paintball on my birthday ^_^

  122. Every year my husband and I have a Halloween party inviting all our friends and family. Well, my husband turned 40 2 weeks ago and our Halloween party is secretly his surprise birthday party. My husband knows about the party, just not that it’s a surprise for his birthday. Any ideas on how we can incorporate the surprise factor? People will dress up and arrive as usual & I’m hoping maybe to have a surprise guest or maybe even a singing telegram reveal the surprise. Any ideas you have are appreciated!! Thanks!

    1. Hi Keli!

      Well, you’re already on a good track for ideas! Because he knows about the party, the real surprise will be the announcement. So make sure it’s not something he’d expect. The singing telegram is good because it’s not overdone — most people wouldn’t expect it. Special guests are good, too, especially people he may not have seen in a long time, or people who live far away. Also consider a band that comes over to play a couple of songs? (If it’s sort of music, imagine a Ramines tribute band singing “Happy Birthday”..

  123. Really need some help! My grandmother’s surprise birthday party is this Saturday. Everything has already been planned (this is a pretty big party), but there is one problem. The party is at the fire station hall. How do I get her there?

    1. Sorry for the delay!!

      At the firehall? Thats a new one for me… Why not ask some of the firefighters to go rescue her and bring her over? Should give her a bit of a thrill!

  124. Hey!
    This website is awesome! Especially all the comments πŸ˜€ u sound like quite an expert!

    Me and one of my best friends want to throw a surprise party for one of our friends cuz her bday is the week after school ends…. We’re all at school camp on the last day of school and thought it would be totally awesome if we could throw her a party on the first night of camp-(sneak into our cabin and decorate it up, bring cake and lollies etc. with us)-with the other girls that hang out in our group…. Problem is that there are 6 of us (including our victim, us and the others) but the cabins sleep 10. We really, really wanted it to just be a cool hangout time for us but a cabin of 10 means we have to ‘invite’ others too…. We still want to do it and we know that we could get a teachers permission easily, but what if there’s a bit of conflict between the other people and our group?- cuz some of us girls are a bit protective over each other πŸ˜›

    Thx tons!

  125. Hello Geoff,
    This website is great and has been very helpful.
    I am planning a throwing a surprise party but its going to be a big one. My mom turns 50 in May and than its my parents 25th wedding anniversary in June. I was hoping on doing both parties the same day but different times. I am prob going to do the anniversary part early afternoon have mostly family there with light snacks…. than go for dinner with a small amount and than back to venue for the birthday party. My problem is getting my parents to the venue both times and leaving the resturaunt on time. I also want to have my dad involved for her birthday party because i know he wants to plan something for her as well.

    Also Im not to sure on how to hide all the decoration for the second party so that its an easy set up.

    And how long in advance is the best to send out invitations for something like this?

    Also any other advice would be great and appreciated….

    Thank YOU!

    1. Hey Alicia!

      Oy vey, you’re ambitious! One surprise party is hard enough, but you want to do two ON THE SAME DAY?

      Here’s the way I’d try to approach it: set up both parties in two different places. That way you needn’t worry about trying to hide decorations at different places. So, say, one at a community hall, and another at a restaurant that has a private room. Then enlist the help of two people who’d be going to both parties, and as them to leave the anniversary party early to decorate the private room at the restaurant. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, by any means! Heck, they might even just be able to go an hour early to the restaurant, depending on how you’ve done it.

      Next, get your dad in the loop for the birthday surprise party, and get him involved. (You’ll find the help is also appreciated.) When he sees the surprise at the anniversary, pull him aside and let him know that the birthday surprise is still on, and that the anniversary surprise is additional. (Otherwise, he might inadvertently spill the beans.) Have your dad be the one to suggest to your mom that they go out for a nice, quiet dinner alone. Even have him “make reservations” so it sounds totally planned and plausible. (At this point, get the restaurant involved, too, so that they know the reservation is really a surprise, and to take them to the private room, where everyone should be gathered.)


      That still sounds like a tonne of work. You’re definitely going to need the time until June to get it all planned out. πŸ˜‰ Good luck!

  126. Hey!
    This website is awesome! Especially all the comments u sound like quite an expert!

    Me and one of my best friends want to throw a surprise party for one of our friends cuz her bday is the week after school ends…. WeÒ€ℒre all at school camp on the last day of school and thought it would be totally awesome if we could throw her a party on the first night of camp-(sneak into our cabin and decorate it up, bring cake and lollies etc. with us)-with the other girls that hang out in our group…. Problem is that there are 6 of us (including our victim, us and the others) but the cabins sleep 10. We really, really wanted it to just be a cool hangout time for us but a cabin of 10 means we have to Γ’β‚¬ΛœinviteÒ€ℒ others too…. We still want to do it and we know that we could get a teachers permission easily, but what if thereÒ€ℒs a bit of conflict between the other people and our group?- cuz some of us girls are a bit protective over each other

    Thx tons!

    1. Hi Jessica!

      Sorry for the delay. You’re in a tough spot. You want to throw a party for a subset of your cabin, and (using these words specifically) actively exclude others. I understand the reasons why, don’t get me wrong, but you’re begging for animosity. You throw that party on the first night, and you’re going to have some angry cabinmates for the rest of your stay. I know it’s not really quite what you want, but I’d consider inviting them. If they don’t want to come, then you could easily arrange for them to be in another place. But at least offer the olive branch first and see where it goes.

  127. this website was very usefull im eleven and i seting a suprise party for mum but mum or dad dont know ive got loads of people going its gunna be a blast (she has finished a ducan diet)

  128. Hello

    I need a fair bit of help organizing a surprise party for an old high school teacher. I am in university and I don’t really know any of her friends, other than her husband (who I don;t know well, but I figure I will need his help) and other staff members. What should I do?

    1. Tough call, Fetsssss, you’ve got yourself a doozy of a challenge, there.

      I’d suggest that you start with the other faculty members. Assuming they’re not “close” friends, they are at least people your teacher worked with (and likely has a decent relationship with). With luck, one or more of them will know of other friends, too, and that should help dig into the chain a bit more. You may, however, hit a point where you can’t find the rest of the friends because the circles are completely unconnected. That’s when you’ll need to rely on the husband (and hope he has connectivity with those circles). Work the network as much as you can to find everyone. Just make sure you swear everyone to secrecy!

    1. Don’t visit her any more/less than you do now. Any significant change in behaviour will trigger a “what’s going on” thought. She might not think it’s a party, but she could start thinking something’s wrong (with you) and start asking questions.

      The key thing here is: avoid any situation that would cause questions to be asked. πŸ˜‰

  129. Hi! Your tips are very helpful! I’m planning a surprise party with a couple other friends for my best friend’s 17th birthday. The main problem is the location. We want to invite about 30 people, but aren’t sure where to hold the party. We’re afraid our houses are too small and it is too cold to hold the party outdoors. Any good ideas on where we can have it? Preferably something cheap. Thank you πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Bree!

      Sorry for the extreme delay in replying. It’s been a rough month…

      Well, you could try something like a community hall? The rates are usually low (much lower than hotels). Otherwise, try to find a restaurant with a (large) private room. Then you get privacy free with your meal!

  130. My mom just turned 50 a couple days ago and I was away at college on the day. I had planned on having a surprise party this Saturday with about 40-50 people. However, she decided to have a bunch of family out for dinner on her actual birthday, and now some of my family can’t come to this one anymore. Now it is about 18-20 people…is that too small of a group? I only have a day to cancel it or to keep on going and order food and such. The only positive is that she totally won’t be expecting this since she just had people come to her birthday dinner (which I couldn’t tell her to cancel without being obvious/rude).

    1. Hi Lauren,

      I’m sorry if this is too late to help you! I wasn’t watching my comments closely enough.

      There is no such thing as “too small a group”. A group of 2 is still a group, and it’s still great to surprise someone with even a small party!

  131. Im trying to plan a pretty large outdoor surprise party for my mother inlaw. Im still early in my planning but have a large issue that could reck the whole thing! Her other Daughter inlaw is known for spilling the beans! Im not sure how to keep her out of the loop and not make anyone mad and dont want to put all my time any money in it just for it to get messed up! Part of me wants to through in the towel before i begin but feel she deserves a great party for being the only 1 in the family that has ever had a party for others that didnt involve a church hall and cheese and crackers! HELP!!!!!!

    1. Hi Tina!

      That’s a tough one. Normally the rule is “involve family” so they don’t schedule something inadvertently. I guess there’s a question, though — how “reliable” is the other daughter-in-law? Notably, could you get her REALLY involved in the execution of this party? If you let her take some ownership, she might keep more quiet.

      Otherwise, might be best to not involve her at all, and keep her utterly in the dark, and let her husband know the details instead. Then it’s less likely she’ll blurt anything out she’s not supposed to.

  132. I am throwing a surprise party for my daughters teacher tomorrow everyone in her class knows about it and is bringing supplies we need and I wanna know how we can get the supplies in w/o her noticing and what time. We were thinking recess right after lunch

  133. Hi mddlestr,

    Interesting challenge. Thankfully, you might be able to pull a “fast one” (so to speak) by using other teachers and/or even the principal. Get one of them (principals work best, obviously) to get the teacher out of the room for 10 minutes (even 5 should do, right?) as a distraction.

  134. Hi! I want to plan a surprise party for my boyfriend, but i’m really not sure what the venue should be. He’s turning 21, and his mom is in on the entire thing and helping with finances. There are two options:

    1) a night terrace party with 15-20 people. it would be lots of good music, good food, good friends, good booze and hopefully,good fun! Since he’s a star wars fan, I was thinking of a themed cake…that or an ac milan cake (since he’s an insane futbol fan). maybe since it’s at night, even the lights could be in the shape of light sabers. we’ll have all his favorite foods, even if they don’t all go together! since this will be the cheaper option, maybe we can use the money we save and spend it on an awesome present for him. this will appeal to the nerdy, exclusive part of him…i just hope it won’t turn out lame and kiddish! and plus there wont be any dancing (since the group will be smaller and mostly guys)!!! his sister believes he might feel embarrassed by the entire star wars theme. but i think he’s pretty much a star wars nerd and everyone (including him) knows it, so what’s to feel embarrassed about? plus, it’s not like i’m whipping out costumes or anything. it’s just maybe a darth vader cake and some cool, funky lighting on the terrace.

    2.) a dj party with 30-40 people. good music, good food….and possible every person in class whom he has a conversation with. there will be dancing, which he loves. but the exclusivity of his friends circle (which he prides himself on) will be lost. and basically, everyone in our college has dj parties… and he’s not one to do what everyone else does. he had a party (with just his friends) at a club last year, but not with the class/his family.this kind of a party will appeal to the loud, fun part of him…but it’s pretty much what everyone does! i just feel like, if his mom is willing to pay for such a huge party….and then because of me, he wont be getting one….i’ll feel guilty if he really wanted something like this but instead got a terrace party!!!

    there’s just 2 weeks left till his birthday!!!! which do i choose??!!

  135. Hi Tiffany,

    Well, as a nerd/geek myself, that’s a tough call. Now, I’ve got nearly 20 years on your BF, so my perspective’s changed a bit, but lemme talk to my 21 year-old self a moment…

    Go with Option 1. Your BF may be “embarrassed” with the Star Wars theme, but he’ll love it. And with a small circle of friends — trusted friends, at that — he’ll appreciate any ribbing from them more than he will from an extended group.

    As far as SW vs. FC Milan as a cake … that’s a tough one, and I honestly can’t comment on that. You know him infinitely better than I do, so you’ll have to use your judgement, there.

  136. Thanks so much for your prompt advice!!! My gut tells me the terrace party will be best too. πŸ™‚ I’ll let you know how it goes! Thanks!

  137. So I’ve been planning a surprise Graduation party for my boyfriend for three weeks now and the party is just a week and a half away. I haven’t heard back from many of his friends that I don’t really know personally but I know he’d like them there. Our mutual friends have half said they were going and half have other plans. The guest list is only like 10 people so far out of the twenty who have gotten back to me, and like 30 still unheard from. Also, I need to get him to my friend’s house for the party, but he always drives everywhere, and I don’t want him to bring his car because I’ve already set up a designated driver to get us home.
    So my questions are:
    How do I get him there without his truck and what do I do about his friends that haven’t responded?
    So my questions

    1. Hey Tina,

      Yeah, getting people to get back to you can be hard. Use the network you’ve already built (notably those who said they are coming) and use them to get directly in contact with the others. (Choose 1-2 people to REALLY get involved, don’t use them all — it’ll turn into a nightmare too quickly.) Try to use people who are common amongst the group, and ones you feel will be good at getting responses.

      As for your boyfriend’s truck, it might be too hard to get him out of it, so make plans for him to arrive in it, to be safe. (You can still deal with a designated driver, and come back for the truck later; or get someone else to drive the truck, and pay for their cab ride home.) You can also attempt to have someone pick up your boyfriend, but if he’s a steadfast driver, it might be a tough sell. If that’s the case, you might need to even consider subterfuge, like leaking all the air out of one of his tires… (WARNING: he might take that personally, too. So consider carefully.)

  138. Hi I’m in Grade 8 and I live in Singapore. I’m throwing a surprise farewell pool party for my best friend. (In singapore we live in apartments) Do you have any suggestions on how to take her to the clubhouse pool without any suspicion?

    1. Hi Dominique,

      Well, that depends largely on your habits. Do you go swimming with her regularly? If so, a simple “hey, let’s go swimming!” might suffice. If you don’t, you might have to start prepping for it early in the day. Drop a hint, say “y’know, today’s a really nice day, I might want to go hang out at the pool later on” (assuming, of course, you’re not dealing with season rains, anyway); that way, your suggestion doesn’t appear as an “out of the blue” sort of thing.

      If worse-comes-to-worse, get her parents involved. Especially when parents are still a BIG influence in one’s life, parents are the single best weapon, er, tool to help pull off a decent surprise. Your friend might say “nah, not today” to you, but she’ll probably give into her parents fairly easily. (Let her parents come up with a reason, incidentally. As you may already know, adults can be pretty darn sneaky.)

  139. I am in the process of trying to decide if I should have a surprise birthday party for my fiancee or not. We are getting married a week after his birthday so I really don’t think he would expect it at all. His birthday has always been a big deal to him though. Lol.

    I’m having a hard time deciding between our back yard or a local bar. Any suggestions? I’m not looking to do anything extravagant with our wedding being so close, but just enough for him to know that I didn’t forget about him.

    1. Hi Kelly!

      (Sorry for the delay!) With your wedding so close, maybe avoiding extravagant is a good idea. Cost aside, you don’t want to try to match the level of a wedding with a birthday party. You know how complicated a wedding is (I assume), so you know how hard it’ll be to even come close. I say keep it simple.

      As for deciding between a back yard and a bar … which do you think he’d prefer? It might be hard getting space in a bar (on one hand), but you may have issues with weather if it’s in the back yard. Pros and cons for both, obviously. Maybe you can get a hold of a manager at a favourite location and reserve space?

  140. I want to throw a small surprise party for my friend because she had a birthday 2 months ago and hasn’t yet had a party. She knows i want to have more than her over this weekend and i don’t know if i should tell her that other people are coming over or not.

    1. Hi Lilly,

      Well… it’s either a surprise party, or it’s not, right? If she knows others are coming, it might be not quite the surprise. Since she already knows that you want others to come already, maybe a surprise party isn’t quite the right thing this time around? Just a thought…

  141. Help! I’m planning a surprise party but may not be able to get the guest of hounor to come over for the party! What should I Do????

    1. Hi Anoyums,

      I suggest you skip back through some of the comments. You’re not the first to run into this problem. There’s a number of suggestions up there, and hopefully one or two gives you some hints as to what you can do.

  142. I wish I had read your post yesterday and taken the advice to keep all communication individual and very private. If I had maybe I would not be in the predicament I have put myself in. I planned a surprise party for my husband and posted an event on facebook since I don’t have everyone’s emails that I wanted to invite and thought it would be easier. BIG mistake- he saw it because I didn’t log out and we share a home computer! I’m stupid to not have covered my tracks better. What can I say? I’m an easily distracted mom of 4 and forgot and then he got on the computer later that night while I was at the grocery store. I’m thinking of telling him its off but still doing it, but it would be extra tricky to actually surprise him. I would probably need to at least change the location, if not the date to pull it off. Any thoughts on what to do now? I’m not sure how to salvage this one, but its his 40th so I can’t just blow it off.

  143. Oh boy. Okay, so the cat’s out of the bag. The question is: HOW MANY CATS ARE THERE?!

    Time to get devious! How many people do you and your husband have in common? Get as MANY of them as possible to post similar events on their Facebooks, and have them sound like they’ve got the official one. Make them all different, too: different times and dates, and different locations, activities, etc. MAKE SURE that your hubby will see them, too. Create noise to distract him from reality.

    Next, get together with a couple of people and brainstorm your Plan B. (You might as well make something different — even just a bit — since it’ll keep him off his guard.)

    Do it at a DIFFERENT time than you were planning, right in the middle of a couple of the other fake ones. That way he won’t necessarily be expecting it. He’ll know something is coming, but he won’t know what it is. The anticipation alone might do him in. πŸ˜‰

    Then go outlandish. No point in being subtle anymore. Hit him over the head with it. Get him a stripper. A male one. (Especially if there’s LOTS of his friends there.) If you’re gonna go down, might as well do it in a ball of flames.

    If nothing else, you’ll be able to laugh about it for a while to come…

  144. I am throwing a surprise birthday party at a restaurant. One of our friends is going decided to take the birthday girl to see a movie before so the rest of us can arrive before and set things up, but now the birthday girl is saying that she wants to see one more than one movie, but that work due to time.
    what can you say so it won’t be so obvious?!

  145. Two thoughts:

    1) Play up the second movie so that it sounds TERRIBLE (make sure everyone gets in on it), and she’ll decide not to. It’s a bit of a long-shot, mind you.

    2) Tell her that there’s a plan to do something else afterwards, maybe something like going to a club, or meeting up for coffee — something that’ll get her out of the theatre. Presumably it should side-step into the existing story/plan that’ll get her to the restaurant.

  146. great site and I’m so glad your still answering questions… ok so my long time boyfriend is turning 30 in March yes I know it’s real early to be planning but I figure if all the planning is done so early the less he’ll suspect. Anyway I plan on having it at my home and although I haven’t worked everything out I want to be here to decorate and make sure everything is done food etc. How am I going to get him out of the house for a couple of hours without me and without thinking anything is strange? He’s not real close to his friends because he works so much. Should I just send him with one of his siblings?

  147. Hi Erica,

    Man, talk about getting ahead of the game! Well, you certainly have plenty of time to work on a strategy. You have more than enough time to set up almost any scenario, including getting friends or family to seed the idea of going out, so he’s not caught unawares when someone arrives to get him out of the house.


    Word of warning: This is where things can also go awry. You can’t plan TOO far into the future, either. Setting concrete plans too far ahead means you could have trouble when he does something that goes against what you want to do. Assuming it’ll happen, even if you think it won’t — plan for the worst, hope for the best.

    Stay flexible enough that you can manage the changes when the crop up (because they will), and be able to change the beat without causing disruption in your plans. Think through a few different scenarios (including worst-case) and you’ll be better off.

  148. with the help of my family i am planning a party for my dad and was wondering if you had any suggestions for themes or places it could take place at.

  149. Hi Liz,

    Eh, I could, but that’s not easy to do. The problem with surprise parties is that they’re most successful when tailored to the Surprisee — namely, the guests and the location are personal. The best thing to do is think about the things that your dad likes best, and use those as a basis. Locations might be a bit tricky as well, but if you’re lucky, the theme will give you some direct ideas!

    Sorry to pull a cop-out, but I’d rather not make suggestions that wouldn’t be as good as the ones you could provide.

  150. i like this actualy im planing a surprise house party for my boyfrend..we stay together and usualy he hangs out on weekends with his frends,im thinking wch plan can i make to make him come at home very fast with his frends too..maybe if i can tel him something terrible has hapend in the house he needs to be there as soon as he can with his frends?

  151. i am 9 and my moms birthday is in 1 mounth my dads not in here so i am all on my own with my little bro that mom is turning 30 and i have no one to help so i am the computer all day looking for something for my mom.

  152. I am thinking about throwing my boyfriend a surprise party for his 17th birthday and this page really gave me perspective on all that is required.

  153. Thank you so much! my friend is going through a hard time and we are throwing a big party to show her that we all care but we didn’t know how to keep it a surprise. Thanks!

  154. this is really great! i want to throw my boyfriend a surprise party next year, in October. the thing is_ he has a twin brother. i dont want him to feel left out so what should i do? and the other thing is that october is a school month and we live in different states.

    1. Hi Lucy!

      Now that’s an interesting one — I’d not heard that before. I got an idea — get the twin involved, have him become an integral part of the planning and execution. Let him take ownership, and help with the really big surprise.

      Then surprise him, ‘cuz he won’t see it coming. πŸ˜‰ Get a special cake for him, too, and maybe invite some mutual friends so he doesn’t feel like he’s just a guest?

      Now if you REALLY want to get ambitious (WARNING: This is risky!!), consider this: Work with one brother to surprise the other. Give your boyfriend just enough details to help plan a surprise for his brother (explain it as “doing something nice”), and have his brother work on the one for your boyfriend. Invite lots of people. It’ll be a helluva show if you can pull it off…

  155. Good help. I want to throw a surprise party for my sister. She thinks I’m the one having the party this year (my birthday is the day after hers). I’m being especially careful to cover my tracks. I will be deleting my browser history after this because she might get on my computer.

  156. I was wondering how much notice you should give people for a surprise party? Im havng one for my boyfriend and just not sure how much notice I should give his friends so no one tells him about it. If he finds out he wont come

  157. I’m 13, and I’m planning on throwing a surprise birthday party for my new boyf who is turning 14 in December. We don’t go to the same school, we live an hour away from each other and we only see each other 5 hours a week. Sounds complicated but hopefully it should be OK. So far, only one of his closest friends knows. We a doing a performance of A Christmas Carol (we’re a drama group) and the show’s on his birthday, so we know where and when, and we think we’ve got the how. The problem will be letting 30 others know about it without arousing suspicion. And food and decor will be a pretty major problem cos we don’t really know how to get it. Help will be much appreciated!!!

  158. Hey, your blog had been really helpful. My little brother and I are planning a surprise party for our mum. Our dad works away and he won’t be here to help us. I am only 15 and my brother is 11. So we are a bit stuck on how to get mum out of the house and leave me home so I can set up the party. The other problem is food. I won’t have time to make heaps of snacks (it’s going to be an afternoon tea garden party) so is it rough to ask the guests to bring a plate of food to share?

  159. Hi,

    I am planning on having a surprise party for my dad. He works all the time, my mom doesnt, so i want to show him how much we love and appricate him. i am planning pn having it exactly one month after his birthday. He loves the timberwolves(basketball) and coke and I wanted to do a double surprise with family inside and friends outside with both places decorated. I need cheap decorations. I am twelve and don’t have a lot of money. I also need ways to get all the contacts information from him.

    1. Hi Aj,

      You are quite the son. Kudos to you on your plans!

      Let’s cover the decorations, since that’s the easier one. First off, logos are a cinch to get from Google (well, let Google do the searching, anyway), especially for sports teams. Print out a dozen (heck, make it two dozen!), for very little. Cut them out, plaster them wherever you can! Zip down to ye local dollar store, score as much streamers in team colours (and Coca-Cola colours). Use liberally. Consider balloons in kind (blow up with your own lungs, tie to things with string). I’d bet you could do all of that for pretty cheap. Go in that order, too, by the way — balloons last.

      Also, don’t worry too much about your dad being picky about decorations. With a surprise party with both friends and family, he’ll be bowled over so much that decorations will become icing on the cake.

      Now, as for contacts, get your mom involved. Your mom is 1,000 times more devious than you give her credit for, and she can extract ANYTHING from your dad without him knowing what it’s for. (Trust me on this.) Even if all you get are 2-3 contacts, use them to get a hold of the others. Use the network, Aj!

      Good luck!

  160. What if it your mom and u need to get Jeremy and the rest of the family to the place I rented. But your mom is divorce and,your supose to be at your dads.

  161. Hi Adrianna,

    So if I get your question right, you need to get your parents are divorced, you’re living at your father’s, and you need to get friends and family to a location, followed by your mom.

    Bright side: friends and family are easy — I assume you can get in touch with at least some of them (use the network — let them contact each other, just make sure they preserve secrecy).

    As for your mom, get a close friend (or a family member) to take her out to the location. Make it sound like a lunch or a drink — anything plausible that your mom wouldn’t think is suspicious.

    As for your dad, I’m assuming that a) he’s not invited, and b) you’re not supposed to leave the house. Any chance you can tell him so you can go? If not, you may have to resort to a white lie (going shopping with a friend, have to go to the library for an assignment — you may have to get creative). Not that I in any way condone lying to a parent, but … well, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do…

  162. I am just over here what not . If I stay tolong mom may get suspishus. How do I get her tto dress appprepiate. When.she thinks.all she doing is going to lunch with her boyfriend.

  163. I live with mom I am just over here to order the cake and what not . If I stay to long mom may get suspicuis. How do I get her to dress appprepiate. When she thinks all she doing is going to lunch with her boyfriend.

  164. Ah, I see your problem now.

    I guess that depends on your definition of “appropriate”. It’s hard to get people to dress a certain way, unless you’re masking the surprise with a similar event, or pretend to be taking them somewhere particularly nice.

    If her boyfriend is in on the plan (and if he isn’t, can you? It would help immensely in pulling all of this off), get him to pretend to take her somewhere that would require the appropriate outfit. From there, he can help with the surprise by taking her to the actual event.

  165. Hi. This page was really helpful for me. My friend and I are planning surprise party for one of our closest friends, but I really want to do it outside. How can i pull it off?

  166. I am trying to plan a surprise party for my husband and have it begin with us going to a movie together(but me really just dropping him off there with all of his guy friends). The problem is…that this movie comes out a week before his birthday and I KNOW he will want to see it pretty quick. What is the best way to have his friends decline any offer to see the movie without spoiling the surprise?
    Thank you for your help!!

  167. My husband is planning a 50th Birthday party for me at our house. He will be turning 60 the month after my birthday. Rather than have 2 milestone parties within such a short time-frame, I thought it would be great to ‘flip’ the party on him and turn it into a surprise party for him……any suggestions??

  168. Hi, I am surprising my husband with a 40th bday party at our house. I have arranged him to go out to the cinema with our son in the mid afternoon so I can decorate, get ready etc… How do I get him to dress smart? He would normally wear a hoodie cos its more comfortable but I want him to come in all ready to paaarty! Lol…
    I am also telling him im cooking him a meal so i will be decorating for it and making a real special effort but i dont want him to go off for half an hr to spruce himself up… Lol … Cheers

    1. Well, Sophie, you might be in for a bit of a challenge. Getting a guy who normally wears hoodies to dress up will be pretty hard without tipping him off. For your birthday, sure, but why dress up for his own?

      I suggest two things:

      1) Get everyone else to dress up really nicely. And then have a pre-picked outfit off to the side should he feel the need to upgrade his attire (thus short-cutting his sprucing time).

      2) Get everyone else to dress-down and wear hoodies, just like him. Extra points if they’re all wearing the same one he is.

      Above all, have fun with it. 40 isn’t a fun year. And kudos to you for making it special!

  169. The idea is very helpful.!
    But see I am planning for a surpise party for my mum @ home.!!
    And the only problem is…. How DO I GET HER OUTSIDE THE HOUSE.??

  170. Hi, I’m 12 years old and I really want to throw a surprise party for my Mom’s 45th birthday. All of the information was great, but I am doing this party on very short notice. Luckily I’m only inviting a little family. I was just wondering how should I decorate, and how should I keep her out of the house?

  171. This blog is totally helpful… I am planning my mom’s 50th birthday but now am stuck on how to get her out of the house to get her hair and nails done to then take her over to the banquet hall, I have done many parties but am really stuck on this one :-/ I am planning on giving her a nice dress suite the day of her birthday with a birthday cake so hoping she wont suspect anything is happening that coming weekend.

    1. Hi Jackie,

      Why not make the hair and nails an event with one or two of her best friends? A day at the spa, as it were. Then it becomes more of a social event. And you can loop her friends in to getting her to the hall afterwards without spurring too many questions…

  172. do you have to hide your shoes? my friends moms birthday is today and the plan may not work i`m nine and she is eight but we are not stupid we have the plan and we are checking every website we don’t understand lots of stuff the mom is turning 39 its a problem you know what to do sir?

    1. Hi Mayghen,

      Short version: the best thing to do is make your mom think absolutely nothing is different. So if there are a lot of people, there will be a lot of shoes. That’s a tip to your mom that something is going on — that leads to less of a surprise.

      So hide the shoes. πŸ˜‰

  173. Hi, So I’m planning on throwing my boyfriend a surprise party for his birthday. The thing is, its October 26th and today we were talking about costumes- We’re gonna be the John Smith Pocahontas couple! So maybe I could make the party a Halloween party… How do I get him to my house? I’ll talk to his parents so that they could come over- Problem is.. Should I go and pick him up from his house- put a blind fold on him and walk him to my front door? Or should I have him drive to my house for a Halloween party and see all of his friends’ cars? I’m at a loss…

  174. Hi Laura,

    You’ve got it a bit easier than you think. I’m sure you can come up with a hundred reasons for your boyfriend to come your home. The hard part is making sure he doesn’t know something’s up until he’s in the room, being surprised. To that end:

    – park cars away from the house, especially ones that he knows well
    – make sure the entrance looks as normal as possible — hide all the shoes
    – avoid “party” decorations, that’s a dead giveaway (but since it’s Halloween, you can excuse Halloween decorations as preparation)

    If he doesn’t come in on his own, you’ll have the luxury of leading him. Otherwise, make sure you call him from the room you want him to go to.

  175. Hey Geoff,
    But how do I get him there wearing the costume??? Should I keep his costume at my house? or would it be best to blindfold him and drive him there? OH! should I tell him that my little brother is having a Halloween party?? but that wouldnt explain the cars
    ahhck. Thank you so much for your replies and expertise in surprise parties πŸ™‚

    1. Eeek! Sorry, Laura, I forgot that point!

      You could go both ways. The problem with the blindfold is that he’ll know something is up. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea — that might be exactly what you want. If you want total surprise, I’d suggest telling him that you’re both going to a “really great party” (make up some details, or get a mutual friend to provide fake details should your boyfriend ask), and have him come over to pick you up.

  176. Hey Geoff,
    Thankyou this was great help πŸ™‚ soon I’m throwing a party for my best friend and were going to get this dance room that a church hired out but well only have 30 mins to set up and I have to be with her that whole time? Any tips?

  177. This information is very helpful…
    I am planning a surprise party for my boyfriend this year november but i have not organised anything because i have never organised a surprise party before.he is turning 25.So i need your help on how to organise it,the theme,the decos and the food.

  178. Hi, I am throwing my husband a SURPRISE 50th Star Wars themed birthday, in December. He has no idea. I have sworn our whole town to secrecy! I have teed up with a friend that my husband knows loves star wars, so he thinks its her birthday!!! I have made an invitation that is exactly like the ones I sent out that is actually inviting us to her party!!!! I have lied sooooo much but yes giddy from excitement!!!!

    We have friends making props, starships and murals, I am making the Death Star out of a 5foot beach ball which he thinks I am making for our friend,, he comes out and helps us with ideas on what to put on it,,, hahhahah funny. i just hope we can hold the secret for 5 more weeks!!!! πŸ™‚

  179. Geoff,
    I’m planning to throw a surprise birthday for both my parents (each one’s birthday is a day apart) and I have quite a few problems. I have some friends to assist me and am planning to invite no more than 20 people in all and house the party at a restaurant. I think I’ll take the phone numbers for the guests from my mom’s phone and text/call (Which would be better???) since she monitors my email (Don’t worry; I’ll delete ASAP. IKR… πŸ™ ) and I think I’ll come up with some wacky story as to explain why we need to go in that day and make reservations because it’ll be very busy and COUPONS (Who doesn’t like them) and then cancel it secretly and make a big reservation for everyone. I plan on working out every variable and if all else fails I’ll briefly fill my dad in since he can drive and he would want to know at least because my mom keeps us all running and she’s always complained about how she REALLY REALLY wanted a surprise party growing up and it would be more enjoyable for her than him. Anyways, how can I explain the situation to the adults without getting ratted out (I’m below 16 however they all think I’m really smart and mature for trust and will hopefully get away with it) and keeping it a success. I thrown dozens of parties in the past but never a surprise party. I really want it to run smoothly and just need your overall advice.
    Worried A. Lotte πŸ™‚
    P.S. See what I did there πŸ˜‰

    1. Hi Worried!

      Sorry for the delay, there.

      The restaurant will likely help you. You can work with them directly (if you can go to the restaurant yourself and speak with someone, over the phone is handy for quick stuff, but being devious requires a person!).

      Because these are adults, you need to involve neighbours and friends as much as you possibly can. And, this is really important, make sure you use some of them as your accomplices. Trust me, they’ll want in on the gig. They can help you coordinate people, and they can help maintain the illusion of something else happening, thus keeping your parents in the dark.

      Just remember, a surprise party is really not that much different than a regular party — you’re just extending it a bit by not telling two people what’s going on. πŸ˜‰

      Good luck!

  180. Wow. Awesome that you’re still commenting after so long! πŸ˜€

    I, too, have a slight problem. I’m planning a surprise anniversary party for my parents in December (about 2-3 weeks away). It’ll be their 30th! After everything they’ve done for us (my brothers and I), I wanted to do something nice for them. I enlisted the help of my brother and his girlfriend, who have been very helpful with planning everything.

    We have almost everything figured out. My problem is getting my parents out of the house without them getting suspicious. They’re pretty much homebodies.

    Money is a bit tight, so we have to do it at home. We also live in a very small town, with limited entertainment options for them to do. We can only invite one other family as we live hours away from everyone else. (Now this party sounds kind of lame. lol. But that’s how they would want it, honestly.)

    We were originally going to get my brother to take them out to lunch, while his girlfriend and I set up and get the other guests to the house, but there’s a good chance they’ll say no.

    I’ve also considered enlisting the help of my aunt. Like having her ask my parents to run her to the store or something for some Christmas stuff (since it’ll be close enough). But then we run into the problem of why would they stop at home, instead of just dropping her back off at her own house afterwards. Also… they could say no, not that day, and tell her they’ll take her out the next day or something. lol.

    I’m sure we’ll eventually figure it out, but some advice for stubborn parents would be a great help!

    1. Stubborn Parents. Tale as old as time. πŸ˜‰

      Well. That’s a doozy. How to throw a surprise party when the surprisees won’t go away.

      What time of year are you thinking of having this? Is there any chance for an outdoor party? It sounds like you live on a large plot of land — is there a chance you can set up something away from the house that they won’t necessarily see right away, where you could lead them to later?

      Otherwise, this is definitely a job for an aunt. And trust me, you’ll want to ask her opinion. Kids know their parents pretty well, but siblings know each other even better. If anyone can get your parents out of the house for even 30 minutes, it’s her. Loop her in as soon as possible and see what ideas she can come up with.

      Good luck! And on behalf of stubborn parents, thank you. πŸ™‚

  181. Thanks for the reply!

    Unfortunately, it’ll be in December. The 14th to be exact. So we can’t really do it outside.

    I talked to my aunt and she said we’ll have to figure out an excuse for why she would come to our house.

    I’m really tempted to have one of my brothers talk to them in their room for 15 minutes, and sneakily get everyone into the house and set up as fast as I can before they come out. lol.

    I don’t know how well that would work, though, but the amount my brother talks, it might just be possible! lol.

    Anyway, thank you for the fast reply and suggestions! I’ll have to recomment later and let you know how it goes! πŸ˜€

  182. This is a great website! I’m planning to have my mother a surprise party she will be turning 56! I was thinking about having it at her favorite restaurant; or at a center( which I might have a trouble with getting her to come out) My mother is very laid back and try to act like she don’t like company lol but I know its just a front. I really want to do something for her because she always goes out her way to make sure others are taking care of. My problem would be how to get people to come out/ be On time before she gets there.

  183. Hi
    im throwing a surprise birthday party for my brother who is turning 10.
    me and my family are trying to think of how we can surprise him if the party is in the house.
    the problem is the because my relatives live in different areas, its hard to get them in on time…

  184. Hi again! Sorry it took me a bit to let you know how it went, been sick!

    Anyway, it went without a hitch! We held the party at my aunts house instead. So, we were able to pull everything off easily enough! My parents ran my cousin to the store so they had a reason to go to my aunts house, we set everything up, they came in and were shocked!

    Thanks so much for the reply!

  185. Well hello there Mister Know It All … and frankly, it appears that you are the guru of surprise. Here’s my wish: I’m planning a surprise 60th birthday for my husband and my obstacle is the same as many… how to get ’em out! This won’t be a typical jump out and yell surprise kinda party; simply another guest arriving. There is, however, a little surprise to begin though. I’ve arranged for his daughters (and their husbands) who live intrastate to come for the day. Their plane arrives at 3:30 and with only a ten or so minute drive, they’ll arrive just before four. I’ve rented a van and have asked one of my work colleagues to pretend he is the driver of a ‘special delivery’ and that it needs to be checked… where of course, will be the kids. πŸ™‚ But in the meantime, I need to cook! I’ve rented an enormous gas oven. I’ve asked people to begin arriving at seven (seven thirty for dinner).

    So, to review the times:
    By 12:00 Pick up oven and piggy. Get piggy in oven!
    Kids arrive at 4 – surprise Dad.
    4-7 jukebox arrives, decorations, food, etc., etc., etc…

    Might be easy enough to have Dad drive kids around and show them the sites, without me – but I also need him out of the house before hand so I can get things organised. But maybe I’m not seeing other possibilities?

  186. Geez, Lee, you don’t take things easy, do ya? πŸ˜‰

    Use the kids! Let them squirrel away your husband, for something suitably silly, of course (have them take him out for ice cream, or something he used to take them out for). Let them be your proxy, and they can be suitably obstinate that your husband can’t say “no”. πŸ˜‰

  187. Hello,
    I am throwing my a suprise party for my friend but I can’t figure out an excuse to get her to my house at 21.30. I already thought of that she could maybe go to dinner with her boyfriend and that he will allure her to my house, but with what excuse? She is turning 17, and the boyfriend has never been to my house before.. Any tips are welcome πŸ˜€

  188. Hi there! I LOVE this blog entry and have read through a bunch of the comments, as well. My dad and I are wanting to throw my mom a surprise 60th party, but I’m having a little trouble coming up with how to get her there without her becoming suspicious. We actually did one for her 50th, and I had one of my dad’s co-workers invite them to “another event,” so she was none the wiser. Any other ideas you have would be great!!

  189. Hi Geoff,
    Like many I’d like to get your advice on my party. My brother-in-law and I are planning a surprise 30th for his and my s.o.
    It takes place at the tennisclub, guests, food and drinks are all arranged. Now the tricky part: my sister-in-law actually thinks she’s having people over for birthday drinks at her house that same evening! How do we get her out of the house for an activity with the four of us without them getting suspicious or without her blatantly refusing because she needs to prep for her own party? For my s.o. that won’t be a problem, I can lure him as simple as with a game of tennis.
    In your guide I read that they need a reason to be at the party location, but I can’t think of anything that will get her out of the house and leave her preparations for her own (fake, non existing but what does she know) party. Pretty sure she won’t be in for a game of tennis just hours before her own party πŸ™‚
    I’d love to hear from you since the party is next Thursday!
    Thanks in advance!

  190. I want to throw a surprise party for my husband’s birthday in August. My problem is that he really WANTS to have a party, so I’m having trouble figuring out a suitable decoy. I kind of set the groundwork by telling him I’m done planning parties this year since we had a big bash for our daughter a couple months ago, and I suggested we have a big dinner at a restuarant with a bunch of friends and family for his. He wasn’t terribly thrilled about that plan, and I can’t think of anything besides planning an actual decoy party (maybe “scheduled” for the day after) to make him happy and still be able to surprise him. Do you have any brilliant suggestions? If you are even still around answering questions anymore πŸ™‚

  191. Hi! I’m trying to throw a surprise birthday party for one of my best friends next week. Its not a huge party just about 6 of us. But the problem is the birthday girl doesn’t know if she can come! We want to keep it a surprise but we obviously need her there! Shes only 13 so maybe I could call her parents and let them know so she can be there. But the party is in a week! HELP

  192. Hey. My Boyfriend’s birthday is in a month, and I want to make sure I have everything down before-hand. I want to throw him a nice surprise party but I’m absolutely horrible at being conspicuous when I’m asking him something. For instance: His favorite type of cake. I want this to be special! Another problem I’ve come across is the location. I could have it at his house and tell his parents, but I don’t know about that. I also could have him over at MY house but there’s honestly not enough room for more than 4 guests at a time. We’re not old enough for bars or restaurant reservations.

    I also want his party to be decent sized, but he’s not friends with a lot of people. I could invite MY friends but he doesn’t hang out with them a lot and it would be awkward to be in a party with people you barely talk to.

    I was thinking a surprise party that surprises him, and let’s him have a good time. Maybe after recovering from shock and eating a few snacks, we could all play some videogames. Would that be ideal?

    Thanks. πŸ™‚

  193. Hi! your site is very helpful… Anyway I am planning to visit my closest friends (guys) in my home country this coming December. Can you please help me on how to surprise them? I am currently working abroad and I just arrived here last August. So, my friends, totally don’t have any idea of me coming home this December to think that I just left few months ago. One of my friends owned a bar, I would like all of them to be there when I arrive. What will I do? Can you help me to plan this surprise? I already talked to my sister and wife of one of my friends that I will be visiting them. They will be my accomplice. Thanks much!!

  194. Hey! That’s an amazing post. So very helpful. Meanwhile, I wanted your help and tips regarding planning a surprise 18th birthday party. It is for my guy best friend. We have known each other since we were kids but have grown real close since the past year or so. We mean a lot to each other and I really want to make it special. Our friends have promised to be of help and I have also discussed this with his family. His sister and I are very close so she can be my partner-in-crime. The guest list is going to be big but we will still try to restrict it within 25-30 people. I have no idea how to go about it. He is really into music, and also loves photography. He is an outgoing person who believes in living life king size but also values the small joys of life.

    I hope you are still answering queries πŸ™‚

  195. Hi, I’m throwing a surprise party for my mum at my grandparents retirement village on a Sunday and that’s the only day my dad has off work and we normally spend Sunday together. The only thing is my grandparents retirement village is really far away and I don’t know how to get her there.
    Any ideas?

  196. this will be perfect for my parents anniversary!!!!!
    Brittany you could say you are going to visit your grand parents….

  197. hi! i want to give a surprise party to my best friend… i m thinking which is the best place for iit my house or my friend’s house?? plz tell i m confused

  198. My friend is having a “surprise” birthday party for me, but another person accidentally blew it by emailing something I should not have received. I was afraid the friend who blew it would say something to the friend who is giving the party, so I told her it was OK, but please not to say anything. I think she will be fine with that. Now, do I just pretend that I don’t know about it and act surprised? That is what I want to do, because I know my friend would be disappointed if I am not.

  199. I’ve planned my husbands 30th surprise party, I planned it the weekend following his bday due to his bday being Memorial Day weekend. I’ve asked him multiple times what he wanted to do for his bday to try and throw him off, he hasn’t been too concerned with giving me any info until now, he’s wanting to get his friends together for dinner and drinks when little does he know, they will be joining the following week for the surprise. How can I throw him off because most of those friends won’t be able to come two weekends in a row. I don’t want this surprise ruined.

  200. im organising a suprise birthday party for my husband and the theme is soccer and dress code is any soccer jersey bt not sure how to make my husband wear his jersey since in the morning he is going to work and knocks off in the afternoon
    Your page has been of great help and everything said i have done hope it will go well.

  201. Hi Geoff
    I’m planning a surprise party for my mom. I just happen to only be in seventh grade and I am scared about making the food I need with the little money I have. Do you have any ideas on what I should do?

  202. I’m planning to surprise my partner. He’s a photographer so I made up a story and told him we’d have a shoot next week. When he gets in the car, I will ask him to check and open the trunk of thr car and then voila! The surprise. I’m doing this alone. Do you think the idea is good?

  203. Hi, your site is very helpful, but I am planning a 40th birthday for my mum and she lives with me, i’m having a surprise birthday at the house but i need an excuse to get her out of the house for the entire day because the party is at 6.30 at night and we need a few hours to plan.

  204. I want to throw a sweet n simple party forr my sis …. she iss coming back give me some ideas..plzz soon kl tk plz

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