How to organise a surprise party


A surprise party can be held at home or out at a venue.

Types of surprises include:

  • The guests have no idea where they are going
    I think this works well for small parties.  We did this for my other half’s 50th;  we had a taxi pick my parents and my aunt up at home and it took them to the venue – they had no idea where they were going and were very pleased when the car took them to their favourite restaurant.  They were terribly excited about it and it was lovely to give them a surprise.

  • The person who the party is for knows it is taking place but has no idea where it is – that’s the surprise.
    My husband, sister and parents did this for my 50th.  I had dropped hints that I wanted  to have it at Jersey Zoo (so that the conservation charity benefited), but I wasn’t sure that’s where it was going to be.  It was at Jersey Zoo and we had the party overlooking the lemurs so everyone had a fantastic time watching them play! 

  • The person the party has no idea has no idea it is happening. 
    We did this for my mother for her 60th birthday and it was terrific.  Yes, it involved a lot of work and a great deal of nerve and suspense, but I’ll never forget her face when she realised all her friends had come for a surprise party!  The look on her face and her smile said it all.  

A surprise party at home! 

If you’re having it at home, you’ll need to work out a sure-fire way to get your loved one well clear of the house early enough to give you all time to get things ready and allow guest to arrive and hide themselves away.  You may find you need to delegate a lot of the preparations to relatives or friends who can sort things out while you spirit your loved one out of the way, or do the prep yourself and get one of them to find a reason for your loved one to get out of the house for the time you need to get things sorted.   You'll need to think about how you're going to get all the food in, the place decorated, friends and family into the house without it being obvious they are there (familiar cars in the road and driveway etc), and obviously you're going to let your loved one off the clearing up.

My mother’s party was at a restaurant and here are some tips from what I’ve learnt for surprise parties. 

Surprise Party Invitations from Amazon

You can get surprise party invitations
from Amazon

9 tips for organising a suprise party 

  1. Be sure your loved one is up for this sort of thing – some people really aren’t.  In my family for instance, there are two or three people who would love it and two or three who absolutely would hate it.  If they would hate it, you could offer to do a part surprise e.g. so that they know you’re organizing party but can have some say in it, e.g. theme, and what they might want or not want.  If they hate surprises, it may help if they have some control over what happens.
  2. Try to give your loved one enough of a pointer of appropriate dress so that they can really enjoy the evening and not spend it worrying about whether they have suitable attire on. Some people wouldn’t worry about this, but others would and would want to feel they are appropriately dressed.  You could tell them you're taking them out, just the two of you, but you haven't decided where yet, or something like that, or that you're going to surprise them with the venue. 
  3. Tell the guests it’s a surprise party and that your loved one knows absolutely nothing about it, so they know not to say anything.  “She doesn’t know anything about it, it’s a complete surprise” is vital – don’t give them any doubt that the person the party is for doesn’t know anything about it.  As we got closer to my mother’s 60th, we were in tremendous suspense in case a friend happened to meet my mum and gave the game away with a casual remark, as simple as “See you Saturday!”  You need nerves of steel when you’re planning a surprise event.
  4. If you’re going out to a venue, you’ll need to work out a way they can contact you by phone or email, which your loved one won’t have any chance of intercepting.
  5. We came up with a way for guests to tell us if they were coming which meant sure they weren’t going to leave any phone messages saying “I’m coming to the party!”
  6. Don’t leave anything lying around the house which will give the game away.  When my parents came for my 45th, my other half left their arrival flight time on his study desk…
  7. Get the date sorted early on and make sure your loved one keeps it free – put it in their diary as an activity you’re going to do together.
  8. Ask guests not to post anything about it on social media - it’s amazing how people connect when you least expect or want it!
  9. Work out a strategy for those vital moments leading right up to the surprise e.g. getting them to the venue can be very complicated and trying when you’re bursting with excitement.   It’s amazing how the easiest going person can become a complete pain on occasions like this – they can’t understand why you’re so keen to do something at a particular time, for instance, and you’re worried about giving the game away.

Don't forget to tell guests it's a SURPRISE party!
This surprise invitation is from Amazon too

View surprise party invitations from Amazon


Finally, if you’re the person the party is for and you discover the surprise, my advice would be to keep it to yourself.  

My husband arranged with my folks that they come and join us for my 45th birthday as a surprise for me.   I found out but never let on – I knew all the planning and thinking it meant a lot to them and didn’t want to disappoint them.    Even if you’re not the surprise sort, please just thank those who’ve gone to so much effort to arrange something for you and be grateful you’ve got people who care and love you and want to do something for you. 

Happy surprises!