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Planning the Perfect Sweet 16 Party

From intimate, low-key gatherings to fancy ball dances, the Sweet 16 party is an important event that celebrates a teen’s transition into pre-adulthood. Depending upon the budget and the personality and interests of the honoree, this party can be anything from an elaborate extravaganza with hundreds of guests, to a small celebration that includes only the child’s closest friends and family. No matter what kind of event you decide upon, planning and taking action far enough ahead of time is necessary for a smoothly running, fun, and memorable party.

Planning Timeline
Initial Planning: 6-12 months prior to party
Depending upon how involved the party is going to be, you may need to start the initial planning 6-12 months in advance.
1. Decide on a Date: If you’re planning on renting a hall, pavilion, or other space for the party, choose a few possible dates and make a final decision once you know about the availability of the venue. Be flexible with the date. It doesn’t have to fall right on the actual birthday, and you’ll want to consider any holidays that fall near your planned party date. People may be busy with parties and gatherings of their own if you’re hosting a Sweet 16 around a major holiday.

2. Set a Budget: Before you get too deep into planning a Sweet 16, it is wise to set at least a rough budget. The cost of everything involved in throwing a party can get quickly out of hand, and before you know it, you may have committed to more than you can really afford. Allow for a little flexibility, but keeping a dollar amount in mind is a great way to help you make decisions throughout the planning process and keep a reign on the total cost.

3. Choose a Venue: When selecting a location for the party, you’ll want to take into consideration what kind of event it will be and what your child would like best. Another major consideration is the guest count. Choose a venue that’s big enough for guests to be comfortable and have fun. A large celebration may require a banquet hall or event center, but smaller, more casual parties can be hosted in the home, at a park, or in the back yard.

4. Formulate a Guest List: While this can change, it is good to have a general idea of who will be invited. If your son or daughter wants a small party with close friends, the list will be fairly easy to generate, but a larger celebration calls for some brainstorming and discussion about who to include. Budget also plays a part in the number of guests you want to invite. After all, you will be expected to feed everyone who attends.

5. Send Save-the-Date Announcements: Yes, it sounds like a wedding. This may be the biggest celebration of your child’s life next to a wedding, so, especially for a large-scale party, you’ll want to alert guests ahead of time to block off the date and avoid making other plans that day.
6. Order Sweet 16 Invitations: Let your child select the invitations with your help. You’ll want to order them well in advance so that you can send them out at least a month prior to the party.

Planning Specifics of the Party:

This is the time to pin down the specifics of the party. Depending on the nature of the party, you may need some help, so ask close friends or family to pitch in. Be sure to include your child in these decisions because the party will be most enjoyable if the celebration reflects the interests and preferences of the child being celebrated.

1. Theme: Decide on a theme or décor for the party. If the party is smaller, ask your son or daughter to come up with some activities for guests and select the color scheme. Search together for decorations that fit the teen’s style. If the party is going to be large, it may lend itself to a certain theme, for instance, if you’re having a dance or pool party, then the theme is pretty self –explanatory, and decorations should complement the atmosphere.

2. Food: Depending on your venue, you may have a catered meal or you may need to provide the food yourself. Food is probably the most expensive element of the Sweet 16, especially if you’re expecting a large number of guests. Catered food makes preparation easy, but is usually more expensive than making everything yourself; however, the latter is time intensive and can add to the stress of hosting. Either way, create a list of items you’re going to make, or order the catered food several weeks in advance. Cake or cupcakes are traditionally on the birthday menu, so now is the time to order dessert, too!

3. Entertainment: If it’s in your budget, hiring a band or DJ is a great way to entertain guests and honor your son or daughter. A DJ could play a list of favorite songs and artists or take requests from the crowd. Book your entertainment at least 2 months in advance, as availability goes quickly. If you can’t hire an entertainer, have some activities for your guests. Outdoor games, dancing, karaoke, or a photo booth would keep guests happy and having fun.

4. Party favors: After you have a guest count, order party favors. If you’ve got a theme, keep the favors consistent with it. The expense of these items can get out of control, so remember that all you need is a small token of thanks for guests to take home with them. A candy table with bags the guests can fill themselves is one option. Another possibility is a personalized favor that says “[insert name’s] Sweet 16” with the date. As with the other details, let your child choose the favor or pick between a few options you select.

Party Ideas

If you’re having trouble coming up with the perfect way to celebrate your teen’s Sweet 16, here are some party ideas that are unique and memorable:

1. Slumber Party: Allow your child to invite his or her closest friends for a sleep-over party. The group can have dinner, snacks, and cake, watch movies, give pedicures, play football or Frisbee outside, etc., all in the comfort of your home and all under your supervision. You could even serve a big, homemade breakfast in the morning.

2. Pool Party: If you have a pool or can rent one out for the day, a pool party is a great way to celebrate. Most young people enjoy swimming, and if it’s something your teen really loves, then spending time with friends in and around the pool might be the ultimate way to celebrate. Decorations for pool parties are easy to come by, and the casual atmosphere will reduce the pressure of hosting a bash.

3. Spa Day: Obviously, this could become very expensive if the group is large, so limit the number of best pals your daughter can ask. Let the girls pick spa treatments and then go out to lunch or dinner. This way, your daughter feels extra special, but you don’t have to open your home, decorate, or cook!

No matter what type of Sweet 16 party you choose to give your child, be sure that it’s something that he or she agrees to and will love. Also, as with any gathering you host where teenage kids are present, be sure that you have enough responsible adults to help supervise so that everyone stays safe and no one tries anything illegal.

If you need help with planning, decorating, or hosting a Sweet 16 celebration, Encore Event Design is here to assist you. We provide the highest quality event planning in Pittsburgh, and in addition to our Encore Studio venue, we offer a multitude of decorations and party supplies from elaborate backdrops, to linens, to balloon displays. We have everything you need to create the Sweet 16 party your child has been dreaming of. Contact Encore Event Design today, at 412-923-5355.