For some girls, turning 16 is anticipated almost as much as a wedding day. For others, it's just as special as any other birthday.
Whether you’re planning a big bash or a smaller affair, follow these steps for a successful sweet 16 party.
1. Determine Your Budget
Tell your teen how much you’re willing to spend and involve her in divvying up where it goes. Like any party, Sweet 16s can bruise the bank account if there aren’t boundaries. Including your daughter in the budget discussions will help her understand why you can say yes to some requests and have to say no to others.
2. Compile the Guest List
This will likely be affected by your budget. In most cases, the more people your daughter invites, the more the party will cost. Some families save up to host a big bash, inviting 100 or more boys and girls.
Consider your daughter’s desires, though. She might be happiest getting together with a close group of friends for a concert or a day at the spa.
3. Set a Date and Location
Choosing a date and venue can be a challenge depending on where her birthday lands on the calendar. If it happens to fall around Christmas or during other busy times of year, be sure to book the location well ahead of time so you’re not competing with office holiday parties or graduation events. Consider sending out “save-the-date” cards or e-mail messages if you’re worried about guests being overbooked.
Some venues to consider: hotel ballrooms, public parks, barns, grange halls, dance clubs, restaurants, sports facilities and your own backyard.
4. Choose a Theme
This isn’t necessary, but it can be fun.
Popular themes are princess, Hollywood, rock star, Mardi Gras, Pretty in Pink, sugar and spice, luau and fairytales.
The theme also can be a chance to highlight a teen’s personal interests, such as equestrian sports or ballet.
5. Book the Vendors
Since some Sweet 16s are as elaborate as weddings, consider attending a bridal fair to compare prices among caterers, disc jockeys and other service providers.
You can save even more money by tapping into the talent that already surrounds you. A friend could help you prepare food ahead of time and offer storage space in her freezer. The birthday girl herself might want to download her own music playlist instead of hiring a deejay.
6. Inform Your Guests
Send out invitations three to five weeks in advance. For Sweet 16s, there’s a tradition of hand-delivering the invites. The birthday girl could do it herself or enlist the help of friends, such as a cheer squad that does a chant outside each guest’s house.
7. Write the Menu
Choose foods that are easy to eat standing up, since the guests likely will be milling about rather than sitting down for a formal meal.
8. Set the Itinerary
Write a rough timeline for the party. When will the music begin? When will food be served? What time do you cut the cake? And, perhaps most importantly, what time will the party end?
9. Talk About Expectations
You probably still see your daughter as a little girl, but Sweet 16s traditionally are “coming-of-age” parties, perhaps making her feel pretty grown up to be hitting this milestone.
Unfortunately, some teenagers interpret that as a license to experiment with alcohol or other controlled substances.
Make it clear to your daughter that illegal activity won’t be tolerated at—and will put an end to—her party.