Skip to Content

How To Plan A Birthday Party For Adults: The Ultimate Party Planning Guide

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure

A birthday party is a special occasion that should be celebrated in style. If you are planning a birthday party for adults, you may be wondering where to start. Don’t worry – we have you covered!

Find everything you need to know about how to plan a birthday party for adults. We will cover everything from choosing the right venue to decorating your party space.

So whether you are throwing a milestone birthday bash or just want to celebrate with friends, read on for tips and ideas that will help make your party a success!

group of friends celebrating birthday party

How To Plan A Birthday Party For Adults: Your Ultimate Party Planning Guide

Planning a birthday party for adults can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! With a little planning and forethought, you can throw a fabulous party that your guests will remember for years to come.

This guide will walk you through each of the key steps to planning your celebration event, relevant for birthday parties at home or extravagant venue celebrations with all the bells and whistles!

How To Plan A Birthday Party Checklist

When it comes to throwing a birthday party, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

A fun way to plan a birthday party for adults is to tailor the event to the guest of honour’s interests and preferences.

With that said, there are some key elements that should be included in every birthday party.

This checklist for birthday party planning will take you through the first things you need to plan at each stage of preparation from idea to throwing your birthday bash!

Decide On A Party Theme

One of the first steps in any birthday party planning is to decide on a party theme.

Your choice of birthday party theme will set the tone for the entire event. It will also be a helpful guide when it comes to making decisions about things like invitations, decorations, and activities for the big day.

Not sure where to start? Check out our list of birthday party themes for adults!

The best way to choose a specific theme is to consider the type of party you want to have.

Will it be a big extravagant celebration or are you looking for something more casual for celebrating at home in your backyard?

Themes can be as simple as ‘backyard BBQ’ focused around the type of food and surroundings to something more elaborate, such as a costume party theme or a catered dinner party.

If you’ve got a kids’ birthday party coming up, make sure you check out these kid’s party themes too, with 200 fun ideas kids will love!

Creating Your Guest List

Before you can choose a birthday party venue, you will need to determine the size of your guest list.

Once you know how many people will be attending, you can start to narrow down your choices.

Create a list of guests you wish to invite and also decide during this time whether your event will be just for adult guests or if your party will also invite children to attend with their parents.

Having children at your birthday celebration can quickly increase the number of guests and also the cost of your celebration when catering for more people.

Venue Planning & Birthday Party Places

The next step in planning your birthday party is to choose a venue.

Your choice of venue will be dictated by the size and scale of your event. For example, if you are planning a large celebration, you will need to find a venue that can accommodate your guest list.

On the other hand, if you are planning a small gathering, you may be able to get away with hosting the party at your house.

Some popular birthday party venues for adults include:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars or clubs
  • Hotel function rooms
  • Outdoor garden venues
  • Wineries and breweries
  • Dinner cruises
  • Entertainment venues such as racecourses, theatres, or a local escape room

Your preference for the type of event you are planning to hold will also come into play when choosing the venue.

For example, if you are wanting somewhere you can self-cater to plan a birthday party on a budget, you will need to choose a venue that allows this option.

This is also the case with alcohol, whether you will be providing drinks for your guests or if you will be hosting your birthday party at a venue that has a bar where guests can purchase their own drinks.

Alternatively, a BYO venue or a party at home will reduce your expenses when guests are able to bring their own drinks.

If you want a catered event that is taken care of by the venue, many restaurants and function rooms will have their own party packages suited to large groups.

Make sure you consider a wet weather plan if you are planning to host a party outdoors.

If you are hosting at home, you will need to have a backup plan with waterproof shelter outside, a patio area or enough room to convert your living room or other indoor space into a party space.

Birthday Party Menu Planning

birthday party menu planner

As considered above, when choosing a venue, there are a lot of different options for party food, with catered functions vs self-catered.

If you are planning to hold your celebration in a function room, you will be able to work with your venue to plan your menu, making this a relatively easy process.

If you are organising your own caterers, the best starting point is to collect some quotes on different services available in your local area, making sure to check reviews.

Most catering services will have several options, from finger food and platters to seated menus.

They also typically provide everything you need for serving food and bring their own cooking appliances, taking this part of the planning almost completely out of your hands.

If you are hosting a birthday party at home or in a function space that allows self-catering, your next stage of birthday party planning is to decide on the food and drinks you will be serving your guests.

Your menu choices will be dictated by the time of day and type of event you are holding. For example, if you are planning an afternoon tea party, your menu will be quite different from a sit-down dinner party.

If you want to cut down costs and spend less time cooking, consider hosting a potluck party where every guest brings a plate to share.

bring a plate party food ideas

Another option is to get pre-made platters to serve. Many places will make these to order for parties and events.

Desserts are another consideration. You may choose to have a variety of desserts or just serve up the birthday cake later in the event.

For easy dessert options, dessert platters, make-ahead slices and slab cakes can be easy when catering for a large party.

Drinks

As for drinks, if you are providing all the beverages for your birthday party, make sure you have enough to cater to all your guests and a variety of drinks to serve.

This includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic if you are choosing to serve both. Tea and coffee are also a good idea, at least for when dessert is served.

If you are wanting to serve cocktails at your birthday party, pick 2-3 signature cocktails for your event to keep it simple.

For an added touch of fun, rename them something related to the guest of honour.

Birthday Cake 

3 tier birthday cake with sprinkles

No birthday party is complete without a birthday cake!

Your local supermarket will have a range of basic cakes if you aren’t too fussed about this, or you could order one from a speciality cake shop or bakery.

If you are feeling ambitious, you could even make your own birthday cake.

While not everyone will have a slice of birthday cake, ensure your cake is large enough to serve the number of guests you are expecting.

Check out this guide for cake serving sizes if you are unsure.

Invitation Etiquette

Sending out invitations is one of the most important steps since there is no party without guests!

Your invitations will give your guests all the information they need about the birthday party, from where and when it is being held to what they should wear.

For an adults-only birthday party, you will also need to specify this on your invitation in case anyone is unsure if their kids are also included in the invite.

Make sure to include the following on your party invitations:

  • Date
  • Start and end time
  • Address including venue name if not at home
  • RSVP date and your contact information
  • Any extra details they need to know or items they need to bring i.e. BYO drinks, swimwear
  • Optional: You may like to request if any guests have food allergies so you can cater to these needs.

As a rule of thumb, it is best to send out invitations about a month before the event. This will give your guests enough time to clear their diaries and make any necessary arrangements.

If you have a lot of guests travelling interstate or internationally, give them a heads up well in advance for large celebrations to give them extra time to plan.

This can be a simple verbal save the date or sending an official ‘save the date’ notice.

Here are some ideas for birthday party invitations:

  • Create your own invitations – Use a free editing program such as Canva to create printable invitations on your home computer. They have thousands of free templates and graphics or you can upload photos for a more personal look. You can then print your invitation at home or at your local printing store.
  • Custom printable invitation from Etsy – For more personal or unique party invitations, there are many creative designers on Etsy who can create a printable invitation for you to print. They send you the digital file and you can print them at home or at your local printing service. Although, you will also be able to find creators who will print and mail paper invitations to your address as well. If you choose this option, make sure you order early!
  • Electronic Invitations – Sending electronic invites has become increasingly popular and budget-friendly in recent years, with people choosing to text, email or create Facebook events to invite guests. This works if you have the contact details of all your guests and is best for more casual celebrations.
  • Fillable invitations – For a budget option, ready-made invitations are quick and easy, with sections you fill out with your party details.
how to plan a birthday party checklist

Birthday Party Entertainment & Activities

Entertainment and activities are not always necessary for an adult birthday party but can be a great way to add some extra fun. It can also be a nice icebreaker for guests who might not know each other too well.

Depending on where you are hosting your birthday party, entertainment may be incorporated into your venue already. Bonus points if you don’t have to plan it!

Otherwise, it can be fun to add a little splash of youth with some of these favourite kids’ games or try these balloon games as part of your party fun.

Here are some ideas for entertainment and activities at an adult birthday party:

You will find a lot more entertainment ideas with these 225 party theme ideas since many of them revolve around entertainment and activities for adult birthday parties.

At a minimum, music is a must for most parties! The exception might be for a high tea or lunch party, yet having a Bluetooth speaker and a party playlist will otherwise be an easy option to keep the tunes going.

These Christmas party games and Halloween party games can also give you some ideas for fun games you can alter to suit your party theme.

Birthday Decoration At Home Ideas

When it comes to decorating for a birthday party, you can go as simple or as elaborate as you like. It all depends on your budget, time and energy levels!

If you are hosting a small gathering at home, some quick and easy decoration ideas include:

  • Balloons
  • Banners
  • Streamers
  • Fairy lights
  • Balloon archways
  • Table centrepieces
  • Fresh flowers

Venue Decoration Ideas

feminine balloon arch decorations

Many venues have decoration options available for hire or as part of their party packages that you can request.

They also tend to have some restrictions around the type of DIY decorations you can set up, so make sure you talk to them before your event to avoid any issues.

If you are hiring a function room, hall or marquee for your party, here are some decoration ideas to consider:

If you are still stuck for ideas, there are heaps of birthday party decoration kits available for purchase that come with all the necessary decorations. This can be a quick and easy option if you don’t have the time or energy to DIY your own decorations.

How To Plan A Surprise Party

planing a birthday party for adults notepad phone and wine glasses

A surprise party can be a great way to add an element of excitement to someone’s birthday.

When it comes to knowing how to plan a surprise birthday party, you need to put together all of the above party planning elements, without letting the guest of honour know.

This can be tricky if they are someone you live with!

Make sure you don’t use a shared email account for quotes and bookings and take care to receive party-related phone calls at a time when they aren’t likely around.

It also helps to have one or two trusted helpers who don’t live in the same house that can help you pull everything together. Especially if they have space to store decorations and party supplies for you.

If you are planning on surprising the guest of honour, make sure you take the following into consideration:

  • Choose close friends and family members who can keep a secret as helpers
  • Give everyone clear instructions on what they need to do when inviting
  • You may want to invite guests in person so you can explain how the surprise will work
  • Consider inviting a little later than you normally would, since this gives a little less time for people to accidentally spoil the surprise.

Create A Birthday Party Schedule

To help things run smoothly on the day, it can be helpful to create a schedule or run sheet for the event. This is especially important if you are hosting a larger party with multiple activities happening throughout the day or night.

Your birthday party schedule should include:

  • An approximate timeline of when each activity will take place
  • Who is responsible for each task/activity
  • Contact details for any suppliers or vendors that are involved in the birthday celebration

Creating a birthday party schedule for adults tends to be a less structured timeline than what you would do for a kids’ birthday party, since the event tends to run for a longer period, giving you more flexibility to fit everything in.

This gives you more time to make sure everyone is having a good time, with good food and their favourite people, so the birthday guy or birthday girl can enjoy the perfect party!

Here is a sample birthday party timeline to help you get started:

  • Welcome guests
  • Serve appetisers
  • Planned activity / special entertainment
  • Serve main meal
  • Optional: speeches
  • Birthday cake cutting
  • Serve cake/desserts
  • Opening presents (if you choose to do this while guests are there)
  • Farewell guests

The Ultimate Printable Party Planner

the ultimate birthday party planner

Planning a birthday party for adults can be daunting, but with the right tools, it can be a breeze. Our printable party planner includes everything you need to get started, from guest lists and budget trackers to activity ideas and entertainment suggestions.

This printable party planner is a great idea if you are worried about forgetting something and like to have everything detailed in one place!

This ultimate party planner includes:

  • Budget trackers
  • Guestlist trackers
  • Party planning checklists
  • Activity ideas
  • Fun theme ideas for adults and kids
  • Menu planner
  • Entertainment ideas
  • Quote pages
  • Party schedules
  • Food ideas
  • Floor planner
  • And so much more!!!

Planning a birthday party for adults can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! Whether you’re hosting a traditional family-style event with cake and ice cream or planning an upscale soirée in a function room, this guide will help make sure that the special day is perfect. Party hats on… let’s get planning!

When is the next big event you are planning? Tell us below!

how to plan a birthday party for adults