How can I Prepare to Host a Birthday Party?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

There are many considerations when you prepare to host a birthday party. Parties can be simple afternoon affairs, offering cake, coffee and cold drinks, or they can be elaborate shindigs with rented halls, lots of guests, a full bar and a sit down meal. When you host a birthday party, the most important step is considering what would be most pleasing to the birthday honoree. This is particularly key if the party will be a surprise. It’s important to ascertain that your guest of honor will enjoy the surprise, rather than be shocked or annoyed that you have sprung guests and a party or him or her.

Birthday candles should be included at a birthday party.
Birthday candles should be included at a birthday party.

If you prepare to host a birthday party that is small in nature, you have the most control over the actual party. Sometimes, intimate gatherings of friends and family are the most pleasing and simplest ones to plan. Limiting the refreshments to only cake and drinks makes it that much easier to plan and enjoy.

The cut-off time to RSVP for a birthday party should be no later than one week prior to the event.
The cut-off time to RSVP for a birthday party should be no later than one week prior to the event.

You should find out the birthday boy or girl’s favorite cake, as you prepare for the party. Be sure to offer a variety of drink options, and if the setting is informal, using colored or decorated paper plates may be the best choice for serving cake. These informal parties are best at either 7 or 8 in the evening or after 2 in the afternoon, which suggest that you will not be serving food besides cake.

Balloons are an inexpensive decoration for a party.
Balloons are an inexpensive decoration for a party.

If you plan to serve a meal, summer birthdays are of course ideal for barbecues for either lunch or dinner. You could, conversely, serve a brunch any time of the year, or host lunches or dinners with simple casseroles or main dishes. If you are having only a few guests, it’s fairly easy to prepare a lunch or dinner by yourself. If the guest list is huge, you may want to hire catering services, or ask other guests to bring different types of dishes. You should be sure to provide plates, glassware, and silverware yourself, which can be easily rented if you don’t have enough dishes to go around.

Hosts should make sure their guests are informed if the party has a theme.
Hosts should make sure their guests are informed if the party has a theme.

For big parties, it makes more sense to send out formal invitations so you can get a head count on how much food and drink you may need to provide. If you employ a catering service, you will pay a per person charge. Plan to send out invites approximately a month to 6 weeks in advance, with an RSVP time of no later than a week prior to the date of the birthday. Also, always plan on a few people showing up who haven’t responded.

Some child-oriented and food businesses offer discounted rates for children's birthday parties.
Some child-oriented and food businesses offer discounted rates for children's birthday parties.

If you have a theme, such as a costume party, or a Hawaiian Luau, you should prepare to host a birthday party by making sure your guests are aware of the theme. It’s not fun to attend a party in a tuxedo or evening gown if everyone else is wearing Hawaiian shirts or coconut bras and grass skirts. You can provide costuming quite simply for certain themed parties, and can often purchase costume items in bulk.

Birthday parties for children usually include hats and other decorations.
Birthday parties for children usually include hats and other decorations.

As you prepare for the party, consider your budget. Larger parties will cost much more, and you may want to co-host with several people to share the expense. If you cannot afford a large party, don’t feel bad. The prospect of an evening shared with a few friends or family members is usually delightful to the honoree.

A barbecue is ideal for a summer birthday party.
A barbecue is ideal for a summer birthday party.

If you are acting on your own as the host, you may want to enlist several friends to help the party go smoothly. Designate someone to serve the cake, or to make sure guests are supplied with drinks or ice cream. Knowing you have helpers will often cut down your anxiety as you prepare to host a birthday party, and will give you a chance to enjoy the party yourself.

Birthday parties can be as simple as a small dinner party.
Birthday parties can be as simple as a small dinner party.
A birthday party may be planned as a surprise for the person celebrating.
A birthday party may be planned as a surprise for the person celebrating.
Birthday parties usually include small finger foods and snacks to guests.
Birthday parties usually include small finger foods and snacks to guests.
Party foods may include snacks like popcorn.
Party foods may include snacks like popcorn.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon293758

How can I a person to conduct games or events for birthday?

anon4312

absolutely not. you need to know - and frankly it's rude of them to have not rsvp'd.

jrogers345

I put a RSVP with date on invitations but have not heard from a lot of people and I need a head count for the caterer soon. Is it crass/rude to call these people??

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