How to Pull off a Surprise Birthday Party

Birthday parties are fun. A surprise birthday party is even more fun. Maybe it's the thrill of secretly planning with family and friends and sneaking around the guest of honor to be sure he doesn't have a clue. Pulling off a successful surprise birthday party takes a little savvy and depends on how well you manage a few things.

Invitations to the party

Give your party guests plenty of notice. Most people have busy schedules, so they need at least a few weeks' notice to adjust their calendars. Communicate via phone or email. In you arrange invites via regular mail, be sure the address is correct so the invite is not returned. Be clear in your message that the birthday party is a surprise, and ask each guest not to RSVP via email or voicemail. State in the invite that you will follow up to verify attendance.

When using email, delete the invitation from your "Sent" items and from your "Trash" folder. If you share a computer with the person having the birthday, she might accidentally come across the invite.

Transportation and parking

Ask your guests to arrive at the party location at least a half-hour early. If the guest of honor shows up early, he might see family members and friends heading in the same direction he's going -- and your attempt to surprise him could fail. Everybody should be on location and hidden by the time he arrives.

If you're having the party at home, don't let your guests park in your driveway or even on your street. Nothing gives away a party quicker than a street filled with recognizable cars. Ask your guests to park as far away as possible. Even better would be to organize a carpooling plan in which one or two guests are in charge of transporting invitees.

How to keep the secret

To avoid the possibility that the birthday person plans something else for the big day, arrange a fake appointment or date. Just be careful whom you take into your confidence. Some people cannot keep a secret. The worst secret-keepers are children. No matter how much you want to share the coming party with them or enlist their help, young kids can't be trusted to keep this type of secret.

Trust an adult to help you shop for the event if the surprise party is for a family member in your home. How will you explain coming home with decorations, paper plates, plastic cups and party food? No matter how well you hide them, the items can be found. A better idea is to ask your helper to store the items somewhere else.

The mini party ruse

Another way to surprise the birthday person is by organizing a mini party. Say that you want to celebrate her birthday early and on a small scale, such as by meeting friends for dinner. If you're convincing enough, the birthday person will fall for it hook, line and sinker. When you throw a mini party a few days before B-day, the honoree won't expect a more lavish surprise birthday party later.

A low-key surprise birthday party

Not everyone fancies a birthday party where the guests yell "SURPRISE!" If you want to avoid the shock factor, organize a dinner or drinks or have a dessert party at home with a few guests. Alternatively, you can make a reservation in a restaurant and join the rest of the invited guests there.

How you pull off a surprise birthday party depends on how well you can plan, organize, lie credibly and keep a secret. If you're getting nervous, talk to your best friend. Chances are, she's organized a party or two herself and won't mind being your partner in crime.

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