If you’re planning a surprise party, you may be envisioning a crowd of giggling friends waiting for the big reveal—and you wouldn’t be wrong. It really is possible to surprise your guest of honor with a celebration. Birthdays, major graduations or promotions, and engagements all make excellent reasons to throw a surprise party; they give family and friends a reason to travel or block the time off on their calendar in advance.
But there are a few key differences from planning a “regular” party (or, at least, a party where the guest of honor is in on it). To achieve the element of surprise, you have to be extra careful in your planning, and with your guests. These five tips will help you catch your guest of honor off guard, without them ever suspecting a thing.
Don’t Party Plan At Home
Unless you have a private office or don’t live with the guest of honor, try not to plan the surprise party while you’re home. This increases the chances of spoiling the surprise—the guest of honor might catch a glimpse of your notes, or overhear a conversation about cake. Instead, plan the event from a local coffee shop, a friend’s house, or even parked in your car.
For Example: Rushing into the other room to take a call, or leaving yourself reminders to call the caterer might ruin the surprise. So keep the party planning to a minimum when you’re around the guest of honor!
Ask For Help
You might be able to coordinate a surprise party with ease, but executing day-of tasks alone is tricky. You can’t pick up the cake, decorate the venue, get the guest of honor there on time, and greet guests. There’s only one of you! So ask a few friends for help and assign them each one task. That way, no one is overwhelmed—not even you.
For Example: Bring 2-3 friends to the venue to help decorate. Explain your vision, and get everything started with them. But leave early if you need to get ready and pick up the guest of honor; your friends will be able to finish with enough time to get themselves ready.
Network the Guest List
You might not have contact information for all of the guest of honor’s friends, and we don’t encourage snooping through phones to get it. Instead, send emails, texts, or Facebook invites to the friends you do know, and ask them to spread the word.
For Example: Facebook lets you invite mutual friends to events—you simply send the invite via the platform, and you don’t have to reach out to them directly. Plus, they can see that mutual friends are also invited. Just don’t forget to make the event private so the guest of honor doesn’t stumble upon it!
Establish a Cover Story
Your guest of honor might catch wind of their surprise party ahead of time, so it’s best to have a cover story in mind. Don’t volunteer the story unless they start asking questions, but if you already have your answers, you won’t stumble around like you’re fibbing. If your guest of honor is super observant, consider inviting them to their own event—under the guise of someone else’s party, of course!
For Example: Does a mutual friend have a birthday at the same time? Or did a family member just get promoted? Tell the guest of honor that the party is for someone else—and specify who and why. If you have a thorough answer, they are less likely to ask more questions.
Host It Somewhere Familiar
Hosting the surprise party somewhere familiar benefits both you and your guest of honor. First, you know the ins and outs of parking, bathroom location, and you may even have a relationship with the employees. All this helps the event run smoothly. And second, it will be easier getting the guest of honor to the party—it won’t seem strange to visit the usual spot.
For Example: It won’t seem odd to bring your guest of honor to their favorite bar on a Friday night; it will seem normal! Or maybe they have dinner at the same restaurant every Wednesday. Have friends and family meet you there for a true surprise.
Bonus Tip: Have guests arrive 30 minutes early, so the guest of honor doesn’t see one of them on their way in. Plus, it makes for a warm reception.
With a little extra attention to the details, you can plan a truly surprising evening. Of course, always make sure your guest of honor will be able to handle a surprise—and make sure they feel well-dressed. It may put a damper on the evening if they dressed for a casual night out, and everyone else is in business casual. (You can always pack a spare set of clothes for them, just in case!)
Has anyone ever thrown you a surprise party? Did you know it was coming, or did they really catch you off guard?