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5 Things You Should Never Do When Throwing a Surprise Party

One wrong move could upset the guest of honor.

Surprise parties can be a polarizing topic. Some people love them—and adore the sight of their friends and family in one place, seemingly without coordination. Other people, on the other hand, beg their friends to avoid them.

But if you've ever hosted a surprise party, you know they can be difficult to pull off. You've got to do all the traditional party-planning tasks—things like invites, decorating, and preparing snacks—but you need to funnel those things through the lens of the person you're hosting for. Do they like chocolate or vanilla cake? Party games or deep conversations? Chips or a cheese plate?

If you've got one coming up, consider this a things-not-to-do list. Here, experts share the common mistakes you should always avoid when planning a surprise party.

RELATED: 5 Things You Should Never Do When Hosting People in Your Living Room.

Throw a party for someone who doesn't want one.

Cropped shot of a group of friends celebrating a birthday outdoors

We all have those friends and family members who hate celebrating their birthdays or who jump out of their seats at the slightest startling sound. Experts say you shouldn't throw them a surprise party.

"They will hate the surprise, and you will not get the reaction you are hoping for," says Chantelle Hartman Malarkey, hosting aesthetic expert and interior designer. "The idea of the surprise party is for them and no one else—so if they are not a fan of these, it's best to skip it!"

A reluctant guest of honor won't have a good time and might even be angry afterward. Take them for their word and allow them to celebrate themselves how they see fit—even if it's something small.

RELATED: 5 Wedding Guest Rules You Have to Follow—And 5 to Ignore.

Invite the wrong people.


Once you're certain the person you're hosting a surprise party for actually wants one, you'll need to plan a guest list from their point of view.

"Nothing is worse than throwing a surprise party and the right people are missing, and the wrong people are there—it makes it look like you missed the memo, and it makes for an awkward reaction," says Hartman Malarkey. "The person who the surprise party is for may be searching for their people during their surprise, and you may have a bad reaction."

This could make the people who do attend feel unwanted, and the person who's being celebrated wish the party turned out differently.

"Tap into the person's brain who you are surprising and ask yourself: who are their best friends, who would they want to be there, would they want family there as well? What about coworkers? Or just friends?" suggests Hartman Malarkey.

RELATED: 6 Items You Should Always Have in Your Kitchen When Guests Come Over.

Not consider their preferences.


In addition to thinking about the people your guest of honor would want to invite, you'll also want to consider the type of party they'd enjoy.

"Avoid planning a surprise party solely based on your preferences or assumptions about what the person likes," says Cristy Stewart-Harfmann, founder of Happy Family Blog. "Take the time to understand their interests, hobbies, and preferences to create an event that truly reflects their personality and makes them feel special."

If they're super sentimental, ask guests to come prepared to share a favorite memory with the birthday person. Or, if they're a regular at trivia night, bring a game for everyone to play.

This also extends to food and drink. Make sure you have options that the person you're surprising enjoys. "Be mindful of any dietary restrictions or preferences the guest of honor or their close family members might have," says Stewart-Harfmann.

Make the surprise too elaborate.

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Your plan doesn't have to be over the top. "While elaborate surprises can be exciting, avoid making the surprise element too complex or difficult to execute," says Stewart-Harfmann. "It could lead to logistical issues, delays, or even unintended leaks, jeopardizing the overall excitement and experience of the surprise party."

However, you don't want to go too far in the other direction and leave a ton of details to chance. Keep your guests informed about what time the party starts, where it's located, and any other details they need to know.

"Clear communication will ensure everyone is on the same page and can participate in the celebration without any confusion," says Stewart-Harfmann.

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Forget to capture the big moment.

Half length of young beautiful afro black man outdoor in the city holding instant camera, shooting - photography, creative, artist concept - Image

Receiving a surprise party is a special thing—and your guest of honor will likely want to remember it for a lifetime.

"Plan ahead for capturing the surprise moment and the rest of the party through photos or videos," says Stewart-Harfmann. "It's a big occasion, and having those memories preserved will be cherished by the guest of honor and attendees alike."

This could be as simple as assigning one guest to take pictures and another guest to take a video. You could even leave disposable cameras around the party space. Your guest will be thrilled to have mementos to hold onto.

Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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