How to throw a surprise party, according to Mikaela Martinez
Never, of course, forget to sing ‘Happy Birthday’–and the cake!
Weeks ago, my gorgeous longtime friend Mikaela Lagdameo-Martinez threw a successful surprise party for her husband Chucho’s 40th birthday at the Commissary Whitespace. Successful, meaning we surprised him, and it all went well for friends and family.
Surprise bashes are difficult to pull off. So I asked the wife-turned-party planner Mika for useful tips when catching the celebrant off-guard with an intimate shindig hosted by their loved ones.
First, secure the date and location. Birthdays are time-bound and parties lose their relevance when they happen either before or after the big date. 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.
For medium to large-sized gatherings, make sure you have a location ready and booked 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, so they can free up their schedules. Most important, let them know it’s a surprise party.
Always remind them that IT’S 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 what you are planning is a surprise party. If you’re throwing the bash for family—in this case, your husband—get the rest of the clan 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 spill the secret out of excitement. Don’t ever make them forget: it’s a surprise!
Get a good caterer. Good food makes for 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 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 booze, helps set the mood. Get a band or a DJ to play at the event, or pick (or arrange) a Spotify playlist that will suit a smaller setting. It really depends on what you’re going for. Mika hired the Art N Soul band, which sang OPM hits, Chucho’s favorites. 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. Spontaneity 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 make they stay at the most important moments of the party.
And, lastly, don’t forget the cake! No matter how modern parties get, traditions are here to stay. Choose a good cake and sing “Happy Birthday!”
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