Surprise Birthday Party: How to Pull Off


How to throw a surprise birthday party? A surprise birthday party will always be memorable, especially if the one you’re throwing a surprise for does not have the tiniest bit of clue that he’s up for something remarkable.  Birthdays are one of those occasions we unfailingly celebrate, because for one, it is a way of saying thanks to our Almighty for the life bestowed upon us and for two, simply being a blessing to others.  For some Filipino families, birthday celebrations are often simple and non-extravagant.  With that I mean, no candles to blow, no cakes to slice and more often than not no wine to clunk for cheers.  Even so, a simple celebration is considered plenty for most Filipino families including ours, this has been our way of celebrating our birthdays whilst growing up.  Celebrations remained mostly: a simple get together with some relatives and close friends feasting over a sumptuous dinner of Filipino native dishes.  Imagine the smile on everyone’s faces the moment we threw a surprise birthday party for our dearest father.

With or without a cake or wine to share, the most important of it all was the well-wishes of each and every one of the household and the glorifying whispers of prayers for the celebrant.  A birthday without words of Prayer stays meaningless.


Yet, recently, my father celebrated his 59th birthday, it was not like his any other birthdays, because I together with my mom and sisters managed to pull off a surprise birthday party for him.  A few relatives and friends were gathered. The outcome was phenomenal and totally unforgettable.  It was priceless seeing father teary-eyed upon unknowingly opening the door, and as we all vehemently shouted SURPRISE in chorus right before his eyes.  Father was really thankful afterwards and even gave us all a heartfelt word of thanks.  I am no expert when it comes to organizing parties and events but the power of the internet gave me ideas and insights on how to throw a successful surprise birthday party.

How exactly to throw a surprise birthday party? Above was quite an introduction right? Pardon me.  I guess I was just overwhelmed myself and still could not comprehend that we were able to throw our father a birthday celebration he would not forget.  While organizing the surprise, I learned a few tips along the way and these are my tips:

  1. Do the research.

The moment I realized that I wanted to throw a memorable surprise birthday party for my father, I called my mom and sisters if they were up for it.  When they all pleaded a huge YES, I began my research which took me hours and even days sitting in front of my laptop and browsing for tips and tricks on how to throw a birthday party.  I have already thrown a couple of surprise parties in the past, one for my boyfriend (now my husband) and last year for my mom but nothing really major.  But still I wanted it to be something different, say a party complete with a set-up and balloons all over the place, something very unusual and far from our usual birthday celebrations.

  1. Gather ideas and narrow down options.

When it comes to ideas, creativity and being crafty, I am not really the perfect person to do the job.  I am thankful beyond words for the World Wide Web for providing me with quintillion of choices and party options with just a click of a button.  I just typed “adult birthday party ideas” on Google and wallah! Birthday party ideas were enormous.  I got most of the birthday party ideas from Pinterest too.  I was confused for a second after being flushed with a lot of choices but then I narrowed them down to the ones I most likely can re-create.  I worked from there.

“I got DIY bunting inspiration from Miss Lovie Creations and big fringe garlands from Oh Happy Day”.

I have to say, the fringe garlands made of crepe paper were the star of the show.  It was so easy to do, but took the most of my time since you have to cut them one by one.  They make for a perfect backdrop which mesmerizingly looked like curtains.  However, the crepe paper that I got from my local store was not as sturdy as the ones from Oh happy Day, but oh well it still managed to steal the show.

  1. Come up with a theme and a budget.

                No particular theme was set, except that we aimed for a vibrant-coloured atmosphere.  We thought helium balloons were perfect addition to the set-up.  Father was turning 59 at the time of the surprise, we wanted him to feel extremely happy and young at heart.  A budget for food, drinks, cake, and materials for the set-up was calculated then worked from there.

  1. Connive with family members or close friends.

                 It is best to connive with your closest family member or the celebrant’s closest friend and share with them what you have planned out.  This will come in handy especially on the day of the surprise.  As to my father’s birthday party surprise, I connived with one of my sisters, my cousin and my mom who traveled with my father from Bukidnon to their apartment here in Cagayan de Oro (where the surprise was held).  We made sure everything was all set up before we gave them a go signal that the house was ready for them and the celebrant.  Luckily for us, everything went according to plan. Yay!

  1. List down things to do and buy.

                Once a particular theme/scenario is in mind,  jot down everything that needs tpapa's surprise birthday partyo be done and accomplished, including things that needed to be brought from the store or ordered beforehand.  In my random notebook which I turned into a mini party planner, I jotted down things I have to do like:

  • make a birthday banner out of a craft paper
  • print out 4r and 5r sized photos in black and white for the photo collage
  • Scrub off liquor labels to be used as flower vases
  • Decide on the menu and who to invite
  • Order helium and regular balloons from the local party store
  • List on stuffs to buy such as materials for the backdrop and those needed for the table set-up
  • Pump regular balloons
  • Clean the space and make it party-ready, etc.


  1. Know who to invite.

                What would a party be without the joyous cheers of good friends and relatives?  It would be best to invite those you know are good associates of the celebrant; be it someone from work, from an organization the celebrant is a member of, or anyone you think the celebrant would be ecstatic to see during the surprise.  After all, the surprise is all about the birthday celebrant.

  1. Decide on the menu.

                It is urgent to decide on the menu with your accomplices and ask them what food and drinks are best suitable to serve during the occasion.  It is also best to discuss with them whether to hire someone to cater or delegate the task to a family member/relative.  As to my father’s surprise party, I asked my mother-in-law if she could cook a few dishes for the occasion and I’m glad she said yes without hesitation.

  1. Delegate tasks.

                It is impossible to do every single thing all by yourself, make sure you have someone who can assist you especially with cleaning and setting up the place.  Delegating tasks would be really helpful especially if your hands are tied up with other stuffs.  A lot can be accomplished when tasks are properly delegated especially when you can encourage the persons assigned to the task to be as committed as you are.  Also, do not forget to double check your to-do list if everything has been delegated and/or done accordingly.

  1. Have someone Document the surprise birthday party.

                Surprises are one of the most emotional events a person can feel.  It can make someone extremely happy just by doing a simple thought of throwing a surprise party.  It need not be extremely extravagant and over-the top expensive, it’s the thought that always count.  Having said so, documenting the event/occasion is as important as the event itself.  What lasts forever is the memories you all shared during the surprise and it would make memories last forever when properly documented and photographed.

After I broke my camera a few months ago, we settled with just an IPad and our mobile phones to document the event, hence the not-so-crisp-quality of these images, better than nothing though.  Still the memories we shared are priceless and beyond words.  If you have the extra means to hire a professional photographer to cover the event that would be perfect.

papa's surprise birthday

  1. Shout SURPRISE!

Lastly, with much excitement and enthusiasm, shout SURPRISE out loud as soon as the celebrant enters/opens the door.  Share laughs, smiles, giggles and watch closely the celebrants’ reaction/s.  It’s priceless no matter how imperfect your plan would turn out to be.  Truly, efforts always matter and rest assured whoever you’re throwing a surprise birthday party for, they will appreciate it and feel loved either way.  Let the party start and have fun.

We all shared a good laugh, cheers and tears that night, it was indeed memorable.  Our surprise birthday party was a success.  It is heart-warming to be able to make someone happy, hence, if you are throwing a surprise birthday for your loved ones, do not hesitate.  The outcome is always rewarding and worthwhile beyond words.

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