How to Throw Your Own Birthday Party

Four Parts:

Throwing a birthday party for yourself can be the best way to get your friends and family together to celebrate with you, and you can plan all of the details to make sure you get exactly what you want. Invite people who make you feel great, set up some fun decorations, and enjoy a day that’s all about you!

Quick Summary

If you want to throw your own birthday party, invite people who you think will create a fun atmosphere. Send your invitations 3-6 weeks early if you can, then touch base with your guests about a week ahead of time to get a final head count. As you’re planning your party, choose your venue and your theme, then pick your food and drinks and plan your party playlist.For tips on enjoying your own birthday party, keep reading!

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Figuring out the Details

  1. Create your guest list first.By estimating your number of guests before you make any other plans, you’ll be able to make decisions about the other elements of the party, including the venue, food, and drinks. Start planning your guest list as soon as you decide to throw yourself a birthday party.
    • If you expect 5 guests, for instance, you’ll have very different plans than a party with 50 guests.
  2. Choose a venue that’s in your budget and the right size for your guests.Birthday parties are extremely flexible — you can meet up with a few friends in the park or you can host a formal event at a local restaurant. Think about the amount of money you have available to spend, how many guests you expect to attend, and the overall feel you’re going for.
    • If you want to have a casual, intimate celebration with a few close friends, host your party at your house. That way, you can set up at your own pace.
    • If you’ll be serving a meal to a large group, consider holding your party at your favorite restaurant. Just be sure to let guests know if you expect them to pick up their own checks.
    • Rent a tent or a pavilion if you want to have a large outdoor barbecue for your party, but be sure you have a backup in case it rains.
  3. Decide whether you want a theme for your party.Picking a theme can help set the tone for the whole party, from the music to the decor and even what your guests wear. Of course, you don’t have to have a theme, but if something seems fun to you, go for it!
    • If you want to have a Roaring 20s theme, ask the girls to wear feathered headbands and flapper dresses, then decorate everything in black and gold and Art Deco. Serve champagne and play jazzy music when your guests arrive.
    • Throw a 70s disco party by hanging a disco ball, decorating in neons, and playing fun dance music all night. Ask guests to wear platform shoes, bell-bottoms, and plenty of glitter, and have fun fruity cocktails available.
    • Have your friends wear their jeans and cowboy boots to your Country-and-Western-themed party. Play line-dancing music and make sure there’s plenty of beer on hand!
  4. Plan a menu you can prepare or pick up before the party starts.Unless you really love cooking all day, try to plan foods that can be prepared ahead of time, or order catering 1-2 weeks in advance if it’s in your budget. You can also host a potluck-style party, in which you ask guests to bring a dish of theirs that you really love.
    • If you’re not going to serve a meal, opt for a variety of finger foods. Plan for 3-5 servings of appetizers per guest, although you might want to have extra on hand in case of last minute arrivals.
    • If you are having a seated meal, small appetizers like chips and dip or pretzels will whet your guests’ appetites without filling them up too much. In this case, 2-3 servings of appetizers per guest should be sufficient.
    • Provide a variety of beverages, including water and soda, even if you’re serving cocktails. Some of your guests may not drink, and they’ll appreciate having plenty of options. Plan for guests to drink 1 beverage per hour, plus 1 additional drink apiece. If the weather is warm, you may want to have extra drinks on hand, since people will likely drink more.
  5. Order a birthday cake that's large enough to serve all of your guests.The size will depend on the shape of your birthday cake. If you decide on a single-tier 9 inches (23 cm) round cake, for instance, it will serve 24 people. Consult your baker to determine what size cake you will need based on your guest list.
    • If you have multiple tiers, you can factor that into your serving size as well.
    • If you don't want a birthday cake, you can have any dessert you like, including cookies, cupcakes, pies, or no dessert at all. After all, it's your birthday!
  6. Host your party earlier in the day if you don’t want to serve a meal.If you’re thinking of just having light appetizers, it’s best to plan your birthday party for about 2 p.m. This will give everyone time to go home and have dinner afterwards if they’re hungry.
  7. Ask your friends and family for help if you need it.It’s your birthday, so you shouldn’t be stressed out! Don’t try to do everything on your own. If your mom makes a dip you love or your best friend is awesome at making crafty decorations, ask them if they’ll help you. Chances are, they’ll probably be happy to add their touch to your birthday!

Inviting Guests

  1. Invite more people than you expect to attend the party.Even with plenty of notice, some of your friends and family will have scheduling conflicts, may not feel well the day of your party, or may even forget. Conventional wisdom says that about two-thirds of your invited guests will attend your party.
    • Of course, you should have extra supplies on hand in case everyone shows up!
  2. Choose guests who will make for a fun atmosphere.Invite people who will bring a positive energy to your party. Try to think of friends who are always positive, who tell the best stories, or who are always happy to meet new people.
    • If you're having a large party, try to invite a mixture of people from different backgrounds, career fields, and even age groups. This will help ensure that your guests enjoy mingling with a variety of different people instead of just the same friends they see all the time.
    • If you're having a small, intimate gathering, inviting friends who are already close is perfectly fine.
  3. Send out invites 3-6 weeks before the party.In an ideal situation, you’ll be able give your guests plenty of notice so they’ll have time to clear their schedules. If it’s later than that when you start planning, just get the invitation sent as quickly as possible.
    • Everyone loves getting something in the mail, so if you have enough time, mail paper invites!
    • If you’re on a time crunch, online invites are convenient and can reach your guests immediately.
  4. Include the date, time, and location of the party on your invitations.Read through your invitation a couple of times to make sure it covers all of the important information, including how guests can contact you to respond to the invitation.
    • If your party has a theme or a dress code, include that on the invitation as well.
  5. Ask your guests to donate to a charity in lieu of gifts.Some people think it’s tacky to ask for gifts for yourself. Sidestep this issue by stating on the invitation that you would prefer donations to your favorite charity instead of birthday gifts.
  6. Follow up with guests who haven’t RSVP’d the week before the party.Remind them about the invitation and ask them if they think they’ll be able to attend. This should help you get an estimate on the final head count.
    • An added bonus to reaching out to your friends is that it will let them know that you genuinely care whether or not they’re at the party.
    • Try saying something like, “Hey Jane, I haven’t heard from you! I’m really hoping you’ll be at my party next Friday night, and Sasha and Joe said they’re looking forward to seeing you again, too. Do you think you’ll be able to make it?”

Setting up the Party

  1. Make sure there’s enough seating for everyone.If you’re going to be serving a meal, there should be at least 1 chair per person, and maybe a few extra just in case someone brings a last-minute guest. If the party is more casual, you should still have enough seating for about 85% of your guests to sit at any one time.
  2. Prepare a playlist that will set the mood for your party.You don’t want to spend the whole party picking the next song that’s going to play. If you don’t have a stereo system, ask one of your friends to bring over a bluetooth speaker so you can play music loud enough for everyone to hear. Try playing laid-back tunes as your guests arrive, then transition into upbeat dance music as the night goes on.
    • If you’re having a big party, you might want to hire a DJ to keep the music going.
  3. Decorate for the party the day before, if possible.Setting up and decorating for a party almost always takes longer than you plan. If it’s possible to set up the day before the party, you’ll save yourself some stress on the day of the party.
    • If it’s not possible to decorate a day ahead, try to find a couple of friends who you can trust to take charge of the party decor. Ask them to arrive at the venue an hour or so before the party to hang decorations, set out party favors, and arrange chairs.

Enjoying Yourself

  1. Greet your guests as they arrive.If the party is at someone's house, answer the door yourself whenever you can. Greet your guests warmly, and try to introduce them to at least one person. If they already know everyone inside, announce their arrival. This will help your guests feel welcome and comfortable as soon as they arrive.
    • If the party is held at a restaurant or another venue, try to get there early so you can greet guests as they arrive.
  2. Keep guests entertained with fun activities.You don’t have to have every minute of the party planned out, but it’s a good idea to have a few activities planned to give everyone something to do.
    • If you’re having a small get-together, plan a craft project that you and your friends can do together.
    • If everyone at the party is an adult, play a drinking game like beer pong. Just make sure everyone who is drinking has a ride home!
    • Put out games like cornhole or lawn darts for an outdoor party.
  3. Try to spend time with each of your guests personally.Don’t spend too much time in any one place. Move from group to group, mingling with your guests. If you see anyone who seems bored, introduce them to someone you think they’ll like.
    • For instance, if 2 people in the room both ride horses, point that out and they’ll instantly have something to talk about.
    • If you have a certain friend who always makes other people feel comfortable, take the time to let them know it’s really important they attend. You can even ask them to help you work the room, making sure no one is standing alone.
  4. Ask a couple of guests to stay to help you clean up after the party.It’s your birthday, so you shouldn’t be stuck with the clean-up all by yourself. When the party starts to wind down, ask some of your closest friends if they would mind helping you pick up behind the other guests.
    • Have extra trash bags on hand so you can quickly dispose of paper plates, napkins, and plastic cups.
    • It's a good idea to have extra resealable plastic bags and plastic containers with lids to easily store any leftovers.


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