All birthdays should be celebrated, but as we get older, we tend to stop marking each year that goes by in the same way. That’s why milestone birthday parties are so important. They’re an opportunity not only to honor the life you have lived so far and all the people you’ve loved and experiences you’ve had along the way, but also often to mark the beginning of a new phase of life. That’s a huge responsibility for a party planner, whether you’re the guest of honor or a friend or family member who has taken the reins. Worry not! I’ve planned milestone birthday parties from 1 to 100, and you could say I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Here are my top tips for planning a milestone birthday party, no matter which year you’re celebrating!
Send out proper invitations. An invitation does so much more than just inform guests about the date, time, and venue of a party. It’s also a way of giving them a glimpse into the kind of atmosphere they can expect. For example, is it formal or casual? Is there a theme or color scheme? Will guests need to dress up (or down!). A great invitation will not only set the tone but create a sense of excitement and anticipation for the recipient from the moment it drops through their mailbox.
Work with a professional planner. While a simple gathering or dinner party might be something you can plan on your own, a more elaborate soiree can really take over your life and cause stress during the planning phases. A professional planner will help you set (and stick to) a budget, make creative design decisions (including suggesting ideas you may never have thought of), connect you with trusted vendors, and ensure that everything runs smoothly on the day of the event. That allows you to sit back and enjoy the party along with everyone else. (Especially important if you’re the guest of honor!)
Make it personal. The same advice I’d give someone planning a wedding applies to milestone birthdays too. Personal touches are the magical ingredient that will make your event stand out. Take some time to think about the birthday boy or girl. What do they love? Is there something they are passionate about? What is their life story? Are there any traits or interests that their family and friends would immediately associate with them? Try to add a personal flavor to every decision, from the theme or color scheme to the food and entertainment. Add fun touches, such as napkins printed with favorite quotes or phrases or mini versions of their favorite takeaways. Of course, photos are another great way to personalize a milestone birthday celebration. Use them as part of the décor or prepare a special slideshow to go along with the speeches or be projected along one wall.
Pick a theme. While it’s true that some people hate themed parties, they do make planning a lot easier! A theme allows you to create a cohesive ‘story’ for the event. Think of it as a thread that winds through everything from the stationery to the décor. And, of course, themed parties can be a blast! Who doesn’t love dressing up as a 1920s flapper or a ’70s disco kid? As with everything else, look to the honoree’s personality and preferences to find your theme or to the decade in which they were born (or were young!).
Make it an experience. The more of an experience you create, the more memorable the party will be for your guests. For example, have interactive food or drink stations, live entertainment, games or activities, or a photo booth. Something as simple as a s’mores station or a hot cocoa bar at the end of the night can make a big impression! If you’d like to make it a great experience for your guests but are limited by budget, consider opting for a small, select guest list. That way, you can afford to pamper them and customize their experience more.
Don’t forget the food! Everything else about an event can be amazing, but if your guests leave hungry or unsatisfied, that’s what they’ll remember the most. Whether you cater the event yourself or hire a professional, and whether you opt for canapes and snacks or a full sit-down meal, make sure you serve the best food you can afford. Simple dishes made well will impress far more than fancy ones executed badly.
Hire a photographer. One area that’s often forgotten (outside of weddings) is having a photographer. Not only do you want to capture all that gorgeous décor you spent so much time working on, but it’s a rare opportunity to have someone’s favorite people in one room. Document the moment! Those photos will be precious memories in years to come.
Are you planning a milestone birthday party this year? Hope these tips help to make it amazing!
Image by John and Joseph Photography Inc.