How to Plan a Surprise Party

surprise party

Surprise, an emotional state that invokes a sudden outpour of other emotions, is adored by many. People often resort to it, so more emotional impact is added to special events, such as birthday parties, romantic proposals, and other celebrations. Of course, much planning is necessary to pull off a surprise. You must gauge what the celebrant defines as unexpected, before you can successfully plan a surprise party.

A surprise party is composed of several factors, all of which piece up to form a single astonishing event. From the guests to the arrival of the celebrant, everything must be arranged, as if you are creating a montage. As the planner, think of yourself as the grand orchestrator of organized crime. Much conniving, plotting and picking hotspots are involved, so the celebrant will not suspect anything. In the end, your efforts will be rewarded with the celebrant being eternally grateful for the surprise party.

The Date and Time

When picking the date and time, you should apply a little reverse psychology. The celebrant might expect a surprise party if you select the exact date of his or her birthday. The celebration must be a little earlier or later, so he or she will initially mistake your surprise for a regular get-together. The ideal time for surprise parties is at night, giving the celebrant much time to savor the party after the surprise has been unveiled. Though, if the celebrant is not a night person, you can settle for a nice afternoon delight.

party calendar

Holding the celebration in the morning is okay, but not advisable. The object of a surprise party is to pin the attention of celebrant to the moment you created. If you hold it at an early part of the day, the events right after the party might reduce your surprise’s impact. Remember, the surprise party is aimed to provide nothing less than a lasting impression. It can certainly strengthen your ties with the celebrant and the guests, if pulled off successfully.

The Location

The location is quite tricky to select, given that it should be favorable to the celebrant and the guests. Think of a venue where the celebrant goes to occasionally, or somewhere totally new. The celebrant will associate your surprise to the venue for the rest of his or her life, especially if the party is filled with events worthy of priceless memories. Picking a location that the celebrant frequents is a bit risky, since he or she already has a list of good memories with that place. He or she might relegate your party as just a regular night out.

house party

Another requirement is the place’s accessibility. Some of the guests, especially the ones tasked to bring the celebrant to the venue, might have problems getting there on time. A discussion with the guests regarding the place is advisable, since all of the possible concerns can be ironed out. Don’t forget to sketch a map to the chosen venue, so no one will get lost and the turn of events is completely controlled. To make the selection easier for you, here is a list of possible places:

  • Karaoke joint (The songs sung should be related with your and the guests’ relationship to the celebrant.)
  • A spacious home
  • Night club (ideally rented for the night)
  • Music Bar (The theme of the performers’ songs is ideally geared towards the celebrant.)
  • A popular fastfood chain (surprise kiddie party)
  • The beach house
  • A snazzy restaurant (You can connive with the wait personnel and the manager to help you plan the event.)
  • Animal show (Ask the emcee to call the celebrant on stage. All of the guests will then appear on the bleacher and yell “Surprise!”

When you plan to hold the surprise party in an open area, make sure you have a place to conceal the guests. You can ask some of the people invited to bring large vans, so everyone can hide until they receive the cue to spring the surprise. You can also pull the surprise in a closed compound then just proceed to the open area after.

The Co-Orchestrators and Guests

The key players and guests play a vital role in springing the surprise. You and your co-orchestrators will do the planning and enforce the surprise’s careful execution. Some of you will have major roles, all of which aim to either execute the plan or distract the celebrant, so he or she won’t be suspicious. The minor roles, on the other hand, concern the bringing of food or contributing to the expenses. Here is the ideal lineup of surprise party orchestrators:

  • The Master Planner - The master planner conceptualizes the grand plan for the surprise. He or she makes the final approval for the location and schedule of the party. In addition, he or she is tasked to weave a scheme for everyone else to follow, including the selection of other key players. If the master planner has enough time on his or her hands, he will also make arrangements at the chosen location and will create/purchase some of the surprise party accessories. Only logical and resourceful people are reserved for this task.
  • party peopleThe Transporter - The transporter should own a car or should be accompanied by someone who owns one. His or her task is to bring the surprise celebrant to the planned location. The transporter must also have good communication skills to keep the celebrant distracted on the way to the party. The role is ideally played by a close friend, so he or she knows exactly how to keep the celebrant from getting suspicious.
  • The Creative Genius - The card and the dedication book, which are ideally made instead of purchased, are the default handiworks of the creative genius. He or she must be creative enough to make a card, dedication book and possibly the venue’s motif, providing much needed sentimentality to the surprise party. The role should be played by a writer, a free spirit or a graphic artist.
  • The Assistants - Some of the people involved with the plan might have a difficult time playing their roles. The assistants ease some of the load off of those roles. They will help the other key players in doing some of the minor tasks. They can even give suggestions regarding the entire plan, which are reported to the master planner immediately.
  • The Financier - In cases when money becomes a problem, the financier provides the necessary financial backup. He or she is often tasked to contribute in reserving and arranging the party location, plus the food and drinks. Finding a willing financier is not easy, since nobody adores spending too much. If you can’t find someone for this role, you can set a fund for the party, where everyone contributes equally.
  • Food and Drinks Personnel - If you’re going for a surprise house party, some of the guests must prepare or purchase food and drinks. Reserve the role for those who are adept at cooking and mixing drinks.
  • The Bridge - The bridge plays a vital role in organizing the guests. This supreme extrovert’s job is to contact the guests and bring them together. He or she should have a pleasing personality, since some of the celebrant’s friends, whom you don’t know, need to be invited and properly coordinated.

Small scale surprise parties don’t always involve flocks of people, so the mentioned team might not be formed. In those cases, some of the key players will have to play multiple roles. The master planner can actually play all of the roles, since he or she crafted the plan, though it won’t be easy. For a small party, a team of three is enough to spring a big surprise.

The Accessories

The party alone may lack the kick to induce tears of joy from the celebrant. A few items are made or purchased to heighten the party’s emotional aspect even further. Here are some of those items:

  • DIY Dedication Book - The dedication book is the surprise party’s little book of secrets. All of the guests should write messages for the celebrant in the book. Ideally, it should be handmade, which gives the impression that everyone worked hard to organize the surprise party. At the end of the party, the celebrant gets to keep the dedication book and read the messages during his or her private time. It will surely bring strength and perhaps tearful recollections to the celebrant whenever he or she feels depressed.
  • Video Presentation - The video presentation should document the memorable times everyone had with the celebrant. Pick a balanced mix of humor, romance, and serious stuff, so the celebrant will feel totally appreciated. If you don’t have videos of the celebrant, you can arrange captioned pictures with a voice-over and matching background music.
  • Card - For surprise birthday celebrations, you can purchase or create a card that holds a collective message coming from all of the guests. It is a good intro for the dedication book. (Tips on how to make birthday cards)

You can include other accessories depending on the interests of the celebrant. Make sure that your chosen accessories have emotional value, otherwise you’ll just be wasting time and money.

A well-organized surprise party can turn friends into best friends and acquaintances into lovers. Prepare it well and you will also be surprised with its results. For more information regarding this article, read Party Planning Ideas

2 Comments so far

  1. Kittie on February 11th, 2009

    I hope my friends are reading - I want to be surprised!

  2. Ken on February 11th, 2009

    I have been a victim of one surprise party and invited to a few, they all worked. Every time the individual was shocked and also the build up is a lot of fun. Are they here yet? SHHHHH!!!! Whooops! False alarm. For close friends and\or relatives they are a unique bringing together; I had a blast at all of them, even my own; when I walked into the room thinking I was about to do my own thing only to realize my immediate future had been hijacked by the closest people in my life! It was a very special experience. And all mine.

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