Although we’ve been attending more and more virtual events, hanging out online is still new for a lot of us. It’s hard to create that in-person energy over your smartphone or computer, and at times, it can be distracting because you’re home. But it is possible to throw an extravagant virtual birthday party. There are even some pros to doing so!
Maybe you’re planning a party for your significant other or best friend. Either way, you want the event to be memorable like last year’s party—not boring like last week’s work meeting. But hosting a party online already makes it memorable because you can invite friends and family who normally couldn’t attend. Perhaps your new-parent friends can’t find a sitter, or your out-of-town BFF can’t fly out to see you. At a virtual birthday party, none of that matters! Guests can join whenever they can, and stay for however long they can.
Your guests can be more involved in the party, too. Instead of just showing up, they can decorate, mix signature cocktails, and participate in all your planned activities. We promise it’s not too good to be true! Check out these ways you can elevate your online birthday party, no matter when or where you plan it.
1. Ask Guests to Send Birthday Cards
Let’s be honest—when you’re attending a birthday party in person, buying a card usually isn’t your top priority. It might not even be something you think about at all; you’re more likely distracted by what you’ll wear and wrapping the present that you bought. This is true for all of your guests, too. But sending a birthday card to the guest of honor will brighten their day, and it gives guests a way to be there in person when they can’t actually be there.
This is especially true if the virtual birthday party isn’t on the actual day—guests can send a card to arrive on their birthday and get the guest of honor excited for the upcoming party. (Assuming it’s not a surprise, that is!) When you send the request, be sure to provide a suggested mail-by date, so guests know what their deadline is. And reassure them that any method is acceptable—they can send via email or snail mail.
2. Provide a Signature Drink or Snack
Will your virtual birthday party have a signature drink or snack? Equip your guests with the items ahead of time! Schedule contact-less pick-up for local friends and family a few days before the event. Have the beer, wine, or ingredients packaged with any necessary instructions. Then ask guests to grab their items one-by-one at your front door or porch. If you’re looking for an excuse to get out of the house, you can drop off the items to each guests. But that might take a while!
Bonus Tip: Include a thank you card with a party favor to be opened during or after the party.
Some items, like an orange slice for garnish or a salted rim, can be provided by the guests—just make sure to include that in the instructions. Depending on the items, coordinate the pick-up for the week of your virtual birthday party, but avoid day-of pick-up. You’ll have plenty of preparing and decorating to do! If some of your guests are long distance, you can mail the items or send money electronically to purchase the items on their own.
3. Buy a Cake
Who says that virtual birthday parties can’t have their own dessert! It’s birthday time, and that means cake time. (Or whichever dessert the guest of honor prefers!) Even if the guest of honor is the only one eating the cake, having some sense of normalcy and tradition will make the virtual birthday party feel less far away. Everyone can still sing “Happy Birthday,” and the guest of honor can still blow out the candles and make a wish.
Plus, most likely, the guest of honor’s BFF, significant other, or close family members will be present at the party. This, of course, depends on who they live with, but even if the majority of the crew calls from home, there may be a few individuals who can share the cake.
4. Decorate Your Background
Wherever the guest of honor will dial in from—decorate that area for their video chat! If the virtual birthday party is a surprise, pick a room that they don’t enter often or that you can convince them to stay out of. And if it’s not a surprise, ask them to help! They can decorate their whole apartment or house if they want to; that way every room will feel like a birthday party.
If your guests are up for it, ask them to decorate their video chat corner, too! You can choose a theme or color palette, so everyone feels like they’re together. Or, ask your friends and family to create a custom birthday corner, so everyone’s background is as unique as they are.
5. Dress Up
No one has to wear a tux or ball gown—although, you totally can!—but still ask guests to wear their going-out clothes, and do their hair and/or makeup as if they are, too. Even if you’re not going anywhere, acting like you are can totally change your mood. If your guests are ready to have a fun night out, the whole vibe at your virtual birthday party will be fun.
This won’t just put guests in the right head space to socialize, either. It will also show the guest of honor that this is a special occasion—even if no one is going out—because their friends and family are dressed to celebrate. (Plus, your guests are probably desperate for a reason to get fancy, so give ’em one!)
6. Plan Activities
Even at the best virtual party, no one wants to sit around and talk the whole time. Instead, plan your party around a fun activity or two—start off by chatting and catching up, then introduce the activity, and toast to the guest of honor with the signature cocktail at the end. You can even publish a schedule of events ahead of time, to show guests how much fun it will be and encourage them to attend.
Because everyone is moving to the virtual space, there are plenty of ways that you engage with your friends and family. For example, you could coordinate the party with a virtual concert of a favorite band. Or you could host a movie night with Netflix and play card games, like Apples to Apples. If you’re feeling really adventurous, host a virtual paint night with everyone! It doesn’t have to be complicated; it just has to be something everyone can do together.
7. Check Your Platform Limitations
Before choosing your virtual platform, do a little research—not every popular method will work for your party, because some platforms have restrictions. For example, Zoom limits calls to 40 minutes for free users, with meetings limited to 100 participants. You can simply hang up and re-dial back into the call for another 40 minutes—but that’s a huge hassle, especially for those who aren’t tech savvy.
Other platforms, like Facebook and Hangouts, are more tailored for long and large online gatherings. However, guests will need a Facebook account or Gmail account to join, respectively. We ultimately recommend Facebook, because you can create an event and post updates, track your guest list, and create a group video call all on one platform. It’s handy and easy to find! Of course, if your guest list includes non-Facebook-users, you’ll have to consider a different platform.
Your birthday party can be just as much fun online! All it takes is a little planning ahead, a lot of guest communication, and the right platform. And if you’re still hoping for an in-person celebration, just plan your online party as a backup! Send your invitations and let guests know where to meet, in case it has to go virtual. (And let them know when you’ll update the location, too.)
Who are you planning a virtual party for? Is it a backup for your in-person event, or your main plan?