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How to Throw a Surprise Party

April 30, 2013

How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

My favorite time of year is April. Not only do the trees finally begin to blossom and the sun starts peeking out from behind the damp rain, but I also get to plan little surprises (or big ones) for Josh for his birthday. As much as I wish I could do this every day for every one I love, planning for Josh is the priority. And this year, I decided to go with a true to form surprise party at our apartment.

In the beginning stages of planning, I began to realize that Pinterest did not offer the best options for a “manly” surprise party. Yes, there were pictures of beer and football cupcakes, but is any of that truly possible. What if you live with the person you are throwing the party for? Better yet, what if he is not the biggest surprise person (but he understands you are)? It is not easy to plan something that isn’t deemed “girly” or “pinterest-y” by men, so, we had to get creative and secretive. Here are my steps to planning an epic surprise party…

1. Find Beautiful Co-Conspirators. Since Jess and I originally hashed out the idea on a long morning walk through the East Village, we knew we were going to need a pinch (a lot) of creativity involved as well. Jayne has the touch we needed and the had willingness to help. They became my point ladies for the duration of the month. Most importantly — they knew Josh. They know what he likes and doesn’t like and they were not afraid to ask questions and talk out details. They were there to help and they made it obvious, which was a Godsend. (Not only did I have those two point-ladies, but everyone one chipped in to help at some point, so thanks to all of you!!)

How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

2. Create a Simple Guestlist. I have tempted to throw surprises for Josh in the past where I had to end up telling him if only to ensure I was inviting everyone I needed to invite. I have an issue with “hurting people’s feelings.” This year, we kept it simple. I stopped thinking about who I wanted there, because let’s face it, we live in 750 square feet and cannot afford to have more than 20 people stomping around, and began to look at who has impacted and retained/created relationships with Josh this past year. Crisis avoided. (If you did not get invited, don’t be hurt, please?)

3. Paperless Post. As much as I would love to sit down and write heart-felt invitations to every one near and dear to us, that will have to wait for a “more-important-reception” to be named at a later date. For this gathering, Paperless Post is the ultimate way to go. Many of the invitations are free and they have so many different designs to choose from. Plus they keep track of RSVPs and have the ability to send reminder emails.  

4. Decor. Perhaps having a set “theme” for a dude’s surprise party is not the best idea. I suppose you could do sports and have little baseball cakepops and mitts everywhere, but that seemed a little childish (given that our nephew Jace had a similar party for his 1 year). So, we decisively went for a color. Josh is a blue man, if you have ever met one. An obvious choice. I created a banner that the boys hung across our apartment using twine and cardstock, a backdrop for mini photo shoots were hung using twine and varying blue and gold streamers, and we bought new mason jars with twisted blue stripes to sip out of. For fun, we bought packs of star sunglasses and mustache finger tattoos!

How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

5. Food and Dessert. As decor goes, food and dessert is necessary at every birthday party. Since we didn’t start until later in the evening, we huddled around dessert and stayed there. This is where I am not ashamed to say: ask for help! There was no possible way I could have made or gathered all of these wonderful treats on my own, let alone store them without Josh knowing! It actually began to stress me out simply thinking about it. So when someone volunteered to help, the answer was always yes. We had a lovely cheese plate filled with Norwegian and Wisconsin cheddar, Jess made wonderful chocolate covered pretzels, Bri made delicious cheesecake brownies (recipe to come), I made chocolate chip cookies and Jayne made the most beautiful cake in the world from Smitten Kitchen. We had tall, gold candles to top it all off!

How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

6. Drinks. Another pivotal topic for a manly party. We wanted to have a mixed drink that everyone could have a mason jar of as they walked in the door, or as Josh walked in the door. But this mixed drink had to be something Josh would love that wasn’t to heavy or too light. Shandy was by far the best bet, and the easiest to whip up for Marty right before the party. He filled the mason jars with lemonade and Stella for the perfect mixture to suck down. We also had a plethora of wine that I had managed to gather and most people brought a bottle of alcohol — vodka, whiskey and gin to mix with orange juice, soda and ginger ale. (Don’t forget the diet drinks like I almost did!) And beer is a given. Kelsey and I made a special trip to Good Beer to pick up some growlers of local goodness. Anything I had in my possession was hiding under our sink, behind the trash but most things were dispersed among the ladies.

How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

7. Music. This may have been my biggest failure. I created a “hip” playlist on Spotify on my Mac which directly connects to our Apple TV. I thought this was brilliant but two instant problems arose: the Apple TV could not read my Mac (for the first time ever) because there were too many other Apple devices in the room and our TV speakers were not loud enough! (Who would have thought? When I turn them up 50% in the mornings to dance, I feel like I am going to blast out my ears but get 20 people in a room and it sounds like elevator music.) Something to keep in mind for a future event: ask someone to bring speakers. (I should note, this was mentioned before the party and I thought I had it covered.)

8. Keeping it a Surprise. The key to success is to have a naive boyfriend who works a lot and travels the week of the party. But since most people do not have this perfect concoction, it’s to disperse the stress and think on your feet. Someone texted you to say “Can’t wait for Friday!” or “Good luck tonight!” and he reads it, just say “I have no idea what she’s talking about, that’s weird…” or “She means dinner, I was so stressed about where to go to dinner!!” Somehow, these both work. You need a restaurant that is in tune with your needs and can drag out a dinner, and you need constant text updates to the point person to say exactly where you are so the party can be quiet. You also need to have an amazing group of friends who love the birthday boy very much and want to scare the shit out of him…

How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

Overall, everything went beautifully. Josh was surprised and everyone had a great time. Thank you all, again, for your help to make this boy feel special! How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer  How to Throw a Surprise Party | The Shellhammer

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2013 3:26 pm

    I love that birthday boy too! Glad a good time was had by all : )

  2. Miken Leah permalink
    May 3, 2013 6:28 pm

    why wasnt I invited? I didn’t make the top 20?

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