Memorable Sweet Sixteen Party Ideas

Because every teen is different, you'll need to consider sweet sixteen party ideas that reflect your teen's personality while still fitting your budget.

Some may embrace more grownup themes while others might enjoy a silly celebration. A 16th birthday is often a teen's first co-ed party as well, although many prefer to spend a quiet time with best friends. No matter how your teen wants to celebrate, you can make it special.

Talk with your teen about the party a few months in advance to get everyone's expectations out in the open. Settle a few issues up front:

  • What is the budget for the party?
  • How many friends should be invited?
  • Co-ed or not?
  • Will the party be at home or somewhere else?
  • Will there need to be additional adults present?

Let your teen hear your ideas, and then shape the theme within the limits you set. It's their party, but you're the parent.

As you answer these questions, it is also time to lay important ground rules.

5 Basic Rules for the Sweet 16

No matter how responsible your teen is, there are rules that should be set down and followed during the big party.

  1. Specify a beginning and ending time for the party on the invitations for the 16th birthday party, and stick to it.
  2. Stay with the invitation list, and don't allow crashers.
  3. At least two adults should be present. They don't necessarily need to be in the middle of everything, as no one likes a parent who tries too hard to fit in, but they should walk through at least every 15 minutes.
  4. Let party guests know of any house rules at the beginning of the party, such as rooms that are off-limits or a rendezvous place and time for pickup.
  5. Don't allow alcohol, drugs, firearms or anything else remotely inappropriate for a 16-year-old at the party. Print on the back of the invitations that there will be no drinking or drugs allowed, and make your rules clear to all the parents, since some parents are stricter than others.

As you discuss these issues, an argument or two might arise, as your teen is feeling his or her independence. Expect some resistance to a few of your ground rules, but stand firm. Remind your sweet soon-to-be 16 that the key to a good party is friends and fun.

Once you have all the rules out of the way, you and your teen can start planning the fun. What follows is a list of party ideas organized by price range.

Budget Ideas

Bonfire Party: Perfect for boys or girls, as long as you make plenty of hot dogs and s'mores to go around. Also, traditional teen party games are so much more fun when played outside.

Chocolate Party: From invitations written on candy bar wrappers to chocolate fondue, put the "sweet" in "Sweet 16" with an all-chocolate theme. Finish the night watching a chocolate-themed movie, such as the romantic "Chocolat" or the funny "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

Mall Scavenger Hunt: Give each team a list of items at the mall, such as a free perfume sample, the name of a store with the letter "Y" or the cheapest item to buy at the toy store. After the hunt is over, treat everyone to ice cream sundaes and party favors.

Murder Mystery Party: Murder mystery party kits are inexpensive and provide a fun theme. The kit provides a script, characters and ideas for decorations. Guests are required to come dressed in character and work together to solve the crime.

Slightly More Expensive Ideas

Craft Party: A fun idea for a group of artistic teens is a craft party. Select a craft that everyone will enjoy, such as tie-dying for a Hippie -60s party, bracelet beading or candle making.

Desert Island Party: Base the party on a popular survival game show, with teams competing in relays and obstacle courses. Rather than eliminate teammates, simply award prizes to winning groups. Use a luau theme for decorations and menu ideas.

Extreme Birthday: Treat the teen and some friends to an awesome activity: bungee jumping, horseback riding, rock climbing, hot air balloons, paintball, laser tag or whatever else might be in your area. For safety's sake, always work with professionals, and don't try to lead these activities on your own.

Hollywood Night: Use the glamour days of Hollywood as inspiration for a movie-themed party. Rent an LCD projector and show the movie of your teen's choice on a plain white wall indoors or on a large white sheet on an outside wall in good weather. Just check with parents about the content of the movie first. Then, prepare plenty of popcorn.

Luxury Ideas

Amusement Park: Treat teens to a day at an amusement park or water park. Make it extra special by providing disposable cameras to everyone and collecting them at the end of the day.

Beach Party/Campout: Plan an overnight campout on the beach or up in the mountains. Make sure there are plenty of adults present, and take along some games, lots of campfire food and a few good spooky stories.

Pool Party: Rent out an indoor or outdoor pool for the ultimate pool party. Use a luau or under-the-sea theme for favors, food and decorations.

Rent a Theater or Dance Club: Treat a theater full of teens to a hot new movie or book an under-18 private dance party. Many businesses have special rates for parties and gatherings.

Spa Party: A group of girls will love this party idea. You can take them to a spa or hire a hairdresser, masseuse and manicurist to come to your home. Manicures, pedicures, makeup and hairstyling could be the all-day party that leads up to a nice restaurant dinner.

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