Help with planning and hosting a surprise party

21st March 2022

Whatever your reason for planning a surprise party, be it a birthday, anniversary, leaving party or other, there are certain areas to focus on as well as some logistics to bear in mind to make the event a success.
There are many different ways in which you can approach planning an event and a surprise party is certainly no exception, however below are our hints and tips for how to get started and some considerations for you in advance.


The guest of honour:

Remember that the party is all about the guest of honour. Try to keep this in mind when making any of the plans and check that they are actually suitable for a surprise party.

  • Health – Ensure that they are physically and mentally in the right place for this type of party. If they have a heart condition, anxiety or any other condition that might impact on how they deal with the surprise, it might be best to give this a miss.
  • Personality – Are they the type of person that will enjoy a surprise party? Do they have the right sense of humour for your planned party? Are they actually wanting to celebrate the event?
  • Other circumstances – If the guest of honour has something going on in their life that might make a surprise party difficult, it could make things more awkward. Do their family and friends think it’s a good idea?


Who’s in charge?

Parties can take a lot of time to plan and can also become quite costly. So, before you begin… are you happy to be in charge, or do you need to create a team to help you?
You will almost certainly need some help along the way and if you are happy to delegate (and hopefully spread the costs), then plan away, but you might need to get some volunteers in advance before you commit yourself.


Get some helpers onboard from the start:

It is likely that there will be several people who want to be involved in the planning, so you can include them from the start and delegate from the get go. You might find that it is wise to make a rough plan first then give the jobs out, otherwise there might be too many ideas bouncing around at the beginning and it can be difficult to please everyone.

You will likely need:

  1. Someone to keep the guest of honour busy on the day and ensure that they get to the correct venue on time. This will include making sure that they are ready in the correct type of clothes, make-up, hair, etc. ready for the party. This will also include making sure that they do actually attend and don’t make any other plans.
  2. People to help set up the venue and prepare all of the party items. You may wish to have professionals involved such as caterers, serving staff, DJ etc.
  3. Guests to attend the party (see below for invitees).
  4. People to help clear up afterwards. This is more important if the party is at the house of the guest of honour or if you are in a hired venue. You don’t want to be left with all of the tidying up and it’s not fair to leave it to the guest of honour!


Date and time:

Ensure that you pick an appropriate date and time for both the guest of honour and the guests that you expect to invite. Weekends are usually popular for parties, but might not fall on the date of the birthday or anniversary.
Check whether the guest of honour has any prior commitments or has made any plans of their own for this celebration. You don’t want to choose a time that you won’t be able to get them to attend.



Check your date and time with the other organisers of the party, as well as the main guests who will be attending. Parents, best friends, Grandparents and other relatives… you don’t want to upset anyone by arranging a party for a date that they can’t attend.
Meanwhile, try to make sure that all of the guests that you invite will be happy to attend and equally that the guest of honour will be happy to see them.
Most importantly, ensure that anyone who is invited is aware that the celebration is a surprise and that way you will avoid someone accidentally letting slip to the guest of honour.


It’s all in the detail:

As we said above, remember that the party is for the guest(s) of honour, so keep them in mind when making all of the plans. Here are many questions to consider when planning the main details for the party.


Will you hire an events venue or public space to host the party, or will it be in a private residence?
Where will be an easy place to get the guest of honour to without them being suspicious?
Will you have access in advance to set everything up?


What food will the guest of honour enjoy at their party?
Do you require caterers/prepared food, or will you be providing the food yourself? Will the timing of the party require a full lunch or dinner, or can you get away with just some snacks?
Do you want or have space for a sit down meal, can you accommodate a buffet, or do you need to ensure that all food can be consumed whilst guests mingle?
Have you catered for the dietary requirements of the guests?


Will you be providing all drinks for the party or are guests expected to bring a bottle?
Do you have the glassware and equipment to serve drinks? You might need to consider hiring items.
If you are providing the drinks, do you have enough of everything? Some drinks providers offer returns on unopened cases of wine or bottles of spirits.

Decorations & theming

Choose a theme and/or colour scheme that the guest of honour will enjoy.
Do you have enough time to prepare and decorate the venue? You might need the guest of honour to be away from the venue for a few hours if you are planning elaborate decorations. Again, you might want to consider getting some professionals involved here, or certainly delegating to a helper.


What music will either compliment your theme or at the very least, be
enjoyed by the guest of honour?
Do you want to have a DJ, a live band/singing, or will a playlist suffice?
Do you have the speakers required for the music?


Do you want to have any other form of entertainment or activities?
You might wish to have an entertainer to compliment the theming
of your party or some games to keep the guests occupied.


The finer details:

Although the hard work is in the above details, don’t forget the smaller details, which will all impact the success of your surprise party.

  • What time will the guests arrive and what time will the guest of honour be expected?
  • Which entrance will the guest of honour use when they enter?
  • What should everyone shout when they do arrive? “Surprise”, “Happy birthday”,
  • Where will everyone stand? (Make sure no one is too close or jumps out from behind the
    guest of honour in case their reflex actions make them throw a punch!)
  • Do you have anywhere for the guests to leave gifts/cards/messages, just in case the guest of honour doesn’t get chance to speak to everyone?
  • Do you have a photographer or somewhere for people to take photos to remember the day?


This list is by no means exhaustive and you will find that once you plan or decide on one area above, that this inspires a whole host of extra questions and considerations.
If you require any assistance from professionals in parties and events, be sure to look at our online directory to find a supplier to help you.
Party Pages also offers event planning services so please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you would like for us to take some of the planning off your hands. One of our event planners would be happy to chat through the options.
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