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Pick a theme

It’s not required, but attaching a theme to a party can bump things up a notch and make it even more memorable. The theme, says Hudes, is like the “story” or “feeling of your event.” It sets the tone for the entire party and should be shared with all the vendors so everyone understands what guests should feel the instant they arrive at your milestone birthday event. For his 75th, Klein opted for a disco-themed party. “In the ’70s, I used to disco a lot,” he says. His 70th was an “eat dessert first” party.

Mitchell decided on an elegant, intimate dinner party for her 50th. “I have thrown bigger parties before, like my 40th birthday, which included lots of guests, a live band, dancing, sweets table, hor d’oeuvres, carving stations, pasta stations, red carpet step and repeat and the whole nine yards,” she says. “Turning 50 feels classy, and that is the vibe I wanted.”

Make a guest list

Once you’ve got your budget, venue and theme, it’s time to decide who to invite. Your budget can help determine how many guests you can afford to host. For milestone birthdays, Mitchell suggests making sure you invite guests who represent each important phase of your life, and include a mix of family and friends.

You can send out printed invitations, as Klein did for his Mad Hatter party, or go digital, which was Mitchell’s preference. “I went with a digital invitation that was sent by text to all guests, as it was the most efficient way to collect and track RSVPs,” she says.

Add a special touch

To make her birthday party extra special, Mitchell ordered a custom cake from a local baker and festive decorations online. “I found custom gold glitter ‘50’ signs to go in the floral arrangements at each table,” she says. “I also ordered a custom ‘Happy 50th Birthday Sharvette’ cake topper.”

Mitchell wanted to document the event but didn’t want to be the person holding the camera, so she hired a photographer. “If you are watching your budget, the photographer only needs to be there an hour or so versus the whole event,” she notes. Mitchell also bought a special gown to wear, asked guests to dress in semi-formal attire and had her makeup done for the big day.

In place of gifts, Klein requested that guests bring “a poem, a joke, a song or a story to share.” This, he says, added creative, no-cost entertainment to the afternoon.

Planning for someone else

If you’re organizing a party for a friend or relative, make sure you’re guided by their taste and preferences. “Think about their favorite things,” says Goldberg. Hudes tells clients planning for other people to work in a special element about the guest of honor. “There doesn’t have to be a true theme, but something that will make the honoree feel valued and appreciated,” she explains. “For example, if the honoree loves golf, you don’t have to make the party a golf theme, but it would be cute to add cookies with a golf club design on them and give those out as favors.”

You can also incorporate photos from the birthday boy or girl’s life into the invitation or decorations. “It’s amazing what you can discover about the person and how excited they will be, as they get to visit memory lane with all the guests,” says Goldberg.

Most importantly, enjoy the process. “Do not stress,” says Goldberg. “After all, you are planning a party, and everyone you are inviting is happy to be a part of your celebration. The real goal here is for you and your guests to have a good time!”

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