Photoshoot anything. Thoughts, stories and tips from Team Perfocal.

Birthdays come and go once a year, and a lot of people end up losing their affection for birthdays as they grow older. People tend to think of them as being just another day like any other, maybe just with some extra cake thrown in.

Planning a surprise party for someone who means a lot to you, whether it's your family's or best friend's birthday, can help bring the excitement back into having taken another trip around the sun. That means making sure nobody spoils the surprise early and doing everything in your power to make it a truly special occasion. When people come together for the common good of making someone feel appreciated, that’s when memories are made.

assorted-color Birthday letter balloon

So, here’s surprise party ideas for you to keep in mind when putting your event together:

The Basics

Cover everything like what kind of party theme you’d like to have. A themed party can often surprise the party planner on how creative the guests can be. Even no theme is a theme in and of itself, a relatively low-key event held in your house still needs to be properly thought out. Choosing a theme based on the person’s favourite hobbies is always a good choice nonetheless.

Ensure that all of the preparations for food is made and that decorations have been thoroughly fleshed out and purchased.

After that, you need to get everyone invited and informed. Spend special care in emphasising that its a surprise party and that they should do everything in their power to keep things a secret. To best accomplish this, make a guest list and tell a small amount of vital people well in advance, but only tell the majority of the guests a few days before the party so they can clear their schedule. Select people on the guest list that are important to the person you’re throwing the party for. Old friends, trusted family members, anyone who you’re sure they’ll smile upon seeing.

The Specifics

Next, figure out where you want to have the party and set a date. You’ll have to figure out where you’re going to throw the party. If you’re throwing it at the person’s home, you’re going to have to figure out a way to get them out of the house in a way they won’t suspect something is up while still giving yourself enough time to get everything set up and for people to come in and get ready. If you’re inviting a lot of people, consider renting out a hall or other large space and then figure out a good way to lure the guest of honour there afterwards.

The Day Of The Party

On the day of the party you need to take time and set up everything. Have food and drink ready and set up and put up all of the relevant decorations. If you’re throwing the party at your house, get the guests to park somewhere unassuming, if the birthday boy / girl immediately sees tons of cars parked outside their apartment / house, they’ll get suspicious and it might ruin the surprise.

surprise party photograph
A touching surprise birthday party covered by Perfocal party photographers, client: Tamara

Plan how you’re going to lure the person to/away from the location while you get everything set up and for people to come in. At that point, plan out what’s going to happen when the person walks in the door. Everyone simply yelling “surprise!” as your mark turns on the light is a timeless classic, but there’s always room for more creativity.

Extra Considerations

After all of the work you’ve put into this, it’s going to be a time to remember. Why not hire a party photographer and have everything documented? The look of surprise as the person realises a surprise party being thrown for them is a timeless classic that they’ll be able to look at whenever they want to remember the time everybody important in their life came together to give them a special day. The party photos will make some great stories on your and your guest of honour's social media too.


A surprise party is a relatively simple ordeal, but it can go wrong easy. The hardest part is making sure you keep it a surprise, which means only giving people the bare minimum amount of notice they need to avoid anyone with loose lips giving things away. The next biggest place where most surprise parties just turn into birthday parties is how you decide to occupy the person the party is for. If you’re bringing them somewhere else the cover story needs to be legitimate and benign. Picking up a table or something you’ve purchased secondhand is a good cover story if you’re going to a community hall and then saying you’re going to need help carrying it in. Having the person have a spa day or special activity to get them out of the house is recommended if you’re going to do it inside the house.

With that covered and the rest of this checklist followed, everyone is sure to have a good time!

Read more: A surprise birthday party planned by Athena for her dad's 60th