My gorgeous, long-time friend Mikaela Lagdameo-Martinez threw a successful surprise party for her husband Chucho’s 40th at the Commissary Whitespace last April 8. Successful, meaning we surprised him and that it all went too well for friends and family.
Surprise bashes are difficult to pull off. So I asked the wife-turned-party planner Mika for tips we can all use when catching the celebrant off guard with an intimate shindig hosted by their loved ones.
First of, secure the date and location.
Birthdays are time-bound and parties lose their relevance when they happen either before or after it. So before anything else, make sure you know the celebrant’s birth date by heart, enough to plan the necessary steps leading to the event. And oh, for medium to large-sized gatherings, make sure you have a location ready and book it months ahead.
Make a guest list.
Parties are never that fun without the people you’re close to. Draft a guest list and ask for each one’s availability very early on. When you’ve got friends as busy as mine, it is best to inform them months before as well so they can free up their schedules. Most importantly, let them know it’s a surprise party.
Always remind them that IT IS A SURPRISE.
This needs to be emphasized. Sometimes, a surprise bash flops because someone slips. To avoid this, make sure to remind your guests in every message that you are planning this as a surprise. If you’re throwing the shindig for family—in this case, the husband—get the rest of the family to play along so that nothing seems too fishy. If you can avoid people from the night before, please do. You may bump into friends and they might just tell the secret out of excitement. Don’t ever make them forget it’s a surprise!
Make sure you have a good caterer.
Good food makes a good party. And if you want to make a bunch of guests happy, get a trusted caterer to provide the night’s flowing food and drinks. If you’re hosting a gathering for a smaller group, ordering the food in advance is also a good idea.
Don’t forget the booze.
Get everyone buzzed for the merriment ahead. Make sure you’re well-stocked so the party can keep on going. For a group of 50, you’ll need about 25 bottles of wine, 10 bottles of scotch, and five bottles of vodka. That’s more than enough for a party that doesn’t aim to get everyone dead drunk.
Decide on the music.
Music, like food and the booze, help in setting the mood. Get a band or a DJ to play at the event, or pick (or arrange) a Spotify playlist perfect for entertaining in a smaller setting. It really depends on what you’re going for. Mika hired the Art N Soul band that sang OPM, Chucho’s favorite. It also doesn’t hurt to prepare a number—Mika sang “Umagang Kay Ganda” while the rest of the guests sang along with the band.
A program flow always works.
Spontaniety can be fun, but you have to be conscious of the hours. Your guests might have to come and go, so make sure they can anticipate a specific flow of events that will keep them during the most important parts of the party.
And lastly, don’t forget the cake!
No matter how modern parties get, old traditions are here to stay. Get a good cake and sing “Happy Birthday”!