5 tips for planning a successful surprise party

There's nothing quite like seeing the look on the guest of honor's face when you pull off a bona fide surprise party. Before you dive into scheming up a surprise celebration though, there's one important consideration: Does the guest of honor like surprises, or would they dislike being at the center of one? If the answer is, "Yes!" then get ready to shout "Surprise!" because we've got tips to troubleshoot common surprise party challenges.

1. Choosing a date

While the actual date of the birthday, anniversary, etc. you're celebrating might seem most ideal, we recommend choosing another date. Hosting your shindig prior to the big birthday or anniversary ensures that the guest of honor won't be expecting the party. You can also do it after the actual day, but putting on a convincing show that you forgot the special day might be difficult. A weekend or two before is usually your best bet.

2. Creating a “cover story”

The number one factor in a successful surprise party is…keeping it a surprise! Create a fool-proof cover story so that everyone can play their parts like pros. It needs to be something plausible and that doesn’t require too much explanation as to not arouse suspicion.

3. Keeping the story straight

Make sure you are crystal clear with your guests about: A) that the party is a surprise and B) exactly what the cover story is. You’ll most likely need to enlist the help of friends and family to help distract the guest of honor on the big day, so it’s important that everyone knows the plan. Remember to ask guests to park a few blocks away from the party venue if they have a car the person would recognize. Be very specific about when guests should arrive and when the guest of honor will show up (we recommend 15 to 30 minutes before the surprise). Good communication is key to keeping the surprise under the wraps!

4. Creating a guest list

Depending on who you’re planning the party for, you may or may not have everyone's contact info, and may have to do a little detective work. Reach out to friends who might have the contact info you're missing and be sure to tell them it's for a surprise party so they don't let anything slip.

5. Collecting RSVPs

Creating a digital invitation (click here to see our Surprise Party invite gallery) with an RSVP option is a terrific way to keep the guests informed of party updates and reminders—and you won’t leave a paper trail. If you don’t have email addresses for all of your potential guests, contact them the way you found them, whether through social media or other contacts.

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