The Truth About Surprise Parties

Are surprise parties really worth all the stress? The intense planning, manipulation, strategy, tactics, and effort all lead up to a moment that may or may not actually be a surprise.  Since the probability of a surprise being ruined feels high, wouldn’t it be easier to use that energy for literally anything else? Yes.  Unfortunately, I am not in the business of doing things the easy way and recently planned one for my older sister that was Sims themed.

There is certainly a long list of pros and cons for surprise parties.  They should make the person being surprised feel special and loved because a lot of effort went into the party.  When debating whether or not to throw someone a surprise party, I would consider three main factors.

  1. How easy is it for them to give up control and go with the flow?
  2. What is their love language?
  3. What is their level of gratitude?

Let’s talk through why I picked these as the main points of consideration.  

1 – How easy is it for them to give up control and go with the flow?

A person who loves being in control usually does not enjoy surprises, even if it is a wonderful surprise.  They may appreciate your effort, but simultaneously be thinking about what they would have done differently.  

In some cases, these are the people who need surprise parties the most.  Since they are unaware that any planning is going on, there is no time to be stressed or get involved.  They receive the benefit of a party without the drama, headache, or pressure.

Do not rule out a person because they love control.  Taking control away could be a relief in the end.  It all depends on how they interact with considerations 2 & 3.

Rate the person you have in mind from 1 -3.  

1 = yes it is hard for them to let go of control

2 = they love control, but work hard to relinquish at times

3 = no, they have no interest in control

2 – What is their love language?

I am a firm believer that you should know the love language of the most important people in your life.  Love languages are valuable pieces of knowledge for friends and family as much as they are for your significant other.  Also, I was reading an article about how children also act differently depending on their love language.  

Once you take a moment to understand them from this perspective, it may make your relationship stronger and allow you to be more aware of their needs.

Certain love languages will appreciate a surprise party more than others.  If you are unfamiliar with the love languages they are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch.  Off the bat, you can see that a surprise party would fall into some of these categories, but definitely not in others.  

If you do not know their love language and do not want to ask, just guess.  This test is not graded and you can choose to do whatever you want even if my results tell you otherwise.  Also, most people have a little piece of each love language, but there are 1 or 2 that are their main language.

Pick the number that associates with your person’s principal love language.  

1 = Physical Touch

2 = Words of Affirmation

3 = Receiving Gifts

4 = Quality Time

5 = Acts of Service

3 – What is their level of gratitude?

Some people have gratitude towards anything that requires effort and some people suck.  A controlling person whose love language is words of affirmation that also has gratitude for others could still be a great candidate to throw a surprise party for.  On the other hand, a laid-back person whose love language is acts of service that is not grateful for anything would probably be a terrible person to throw a surprise party for.

Not to turn this event into a business transaction, but it is time to think about the return on your investment.  In this case, the investment is time and effort.  If a surprise party could bring your person immense amounts of joy, gratitude, and feelings of love, go for it!  

Rate your person on how much gratitude they would feel for your efforts.

1 = they will likely not have significant amounts of gratitude 

2 = they may feel some gratitude, but only mention it once in an off-hand way

3 = they will feel so much gratitude that you will feel overwhelmed with joy that you were able to give them such a special moment

Final Scores

It is time to do some math.  Ugh, I know, but just pull out your phone calculator and you will survive.  Take the rating you picked for each three of the considerations to find out your final score.

If your final score was between 3-5:

Eh.  I wouldn’t.  This score is the riskiest one because there are so many factors working against you.  If you have your mind set on a party, why don’t you offer to throw them a party, but not make it a surprise.  This way you can still relieve them of the pressure, however, they can be involved if they want to.  

Another solution would be to co-chair the party and throw it together.  There are so many great types of parties that require effort and are not surprise parties.

If your final score was between 6-8:

Enter at your own risk.  It is possible that you scored your person differently than they scored themselves and the surprise party could be a smashing success.  On the other hand, if they received this score because their gratitude level was low, I would pretend you scored between 3-5 and read the above passage.

As any option in the middle, this scoring section has medium risk.  It could work out so well or it could be a disaster.  Only time will tell.  Would you rather put effort in and it be a disaster or would you rather do something else and miss out on a great opportunity? Follow your gut.  

If your final score was between 9-11:

DO IT DO IT DO IT.  You have won! Your person is a prime candidate for a surprise party.  There is a great opportunity for a low risk, high reward memory.  Take the chance.  

Now, the hard part is coming up with the manipulation tactics to make sure it remains a surprise.  If I were you, I would figure out the manipulation first, and then pick the party time/date surrounding that.  It becomes a challenging puzzle to fit a random lie into the calendar just to make the surprise party happen.

If you have won and now need to start planning a party, I have made a short list of things I would repeat, wish I did, and would try to avoid.

What I Would Repeat for Future Surprise Parties

  1. Making the party themed
  2. Having partners to throw the party with (to share the workload)
  3. Designating people, who are not the hosts, to take videos & pictures of their surprised reaction
  4. Designating people, who are not the hosts, to take videos & pictures of everyone taking a picture/video of the surprised person
  5. Designing picture moments and backgrounds (and taking a lot of pictures of decorations)
  6. Making sure all decisions are made/all crafts are finished by the weekend before
  7. Printing food signs to explain what everything was
  8. Including outdoor games that did not require hosts involvement to set up
  9. Creating interaction opportunities with all guests (we had name tags to decorate and a headband for everyone to be part of the theme)
  10. Making a pitcher of liquid IV/ Gatorade (we had our party outdoors in a heat wave)

What I Wish I Did

  1. Thinking through the surprise manipulation plan first
  2. Thinking through what you want the surprised person to see first
  3. Counting spaces to decorate and measure those sizes
  4. Writing definitions/explanations for some parts of the theme to people who may not understand
  5. Taking a picture of the surprised person with VIP guests (grandparents, etc)
  6. Displaying all food at one time (even though we put out meal signs, people were full before all the food arrived)
  7. Putting the most expensive food out first
  8. Assigning a person/people to make sure the water pitcher was filled at all times
  9. Giving hosts more time to get dressed & ready for the party before people showed up
  10. Delegating more tasks to people willing to help

What To Avoid for Future Surprise Parties

  1. Ordering too much food or alcohol (make a list of all food you need and stick to it, we had way too much)
  2. Allowing too much work happening the week of/day of
  3. Planning with too many “cooks in the kitchen”
  4. Putting too much on your plate
  5. Having specific expectations on how the day will go
  6. Surprising a person without them having a reason to look presentable as their manipulation (try to have them wear attire that is appropriate for their party)
  7. Proposing & having a surprise engagement party without manicured nails (if she is into that type of beauty regiment)
  8. Letting the guests leave without taking leftovers (if you order too much food)
  9. Forgetting to ask the birthday/ surprise person about their plans as a decoy (because you know its a surprise)
  10. Picking a date before asking some key guests if they can attend

Identify someone in your life that would benefit greatly from a surprise party.  The most common type of surprise party is for a birthday, but it could also be for an anniversary, milestone, or just a “we love you” party.

Elaina Pearl
Elaina Pearl
I started Elaina Pearls as an outlet to share my voice. The topics I write about cover fashion, lifestyle, & travel. On every post, you will find a challenge to spark self-growth. I believe that each day there is a lesson to be learned and something to be grateful for.