How to plan a 30th birthday party
Solidly situated between 21 and 40, your 30th birthday is a major milestone. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the person you’ve become with the friends you’ve found along the way—a time to reflect fondly on your 20s while eagerly embracing the decade ahead. And what better way to welcome the big 3-0 than with a party? Whether you usher it in quietly with an intimate dinner or host a big bash for everyone you know, here are ideas for 30th birthdays.
Settle on a space
Decide where you want to host your 30th birthday. Keep it casual with a backyard cookout, or go glam by booking the cocktail lounge of a hotel or restaurant. The venue should reflect your style and the vibe you envision for your 30th birthday celebration.
Choose a 30th birthday party theme
“Dirty, Thirty, and Loving It” by Derek Blasberg for Paperless Post.
You only turn 30 once, so make it extra special with a theme. Not only do themes inform the decor, but they also guide guests in their attire while allowing them to get a little playful. Skip anything too stuffy. Look for inspired 30th birthday party themes in any of the following:
The Dirty Thirty:
Usher in the new decade by getting a little sloppy—literally. Invite your adventurous crew to a day of mudslides, river tubing, or cornhole. Or go the metaphorical route with a lineup of carefully crafted dirty martinis to share amongst friends and family
A time period:
Victorian Goth: Tell partygoers to put on their petticoats, lace up their corsets, and prepare for one magnificently macabre evening. Naturally, the color palette will be black—to match your 30-year-old soul and that vampy lip you’re sure to be rocking.
The ’90s: An ’80s party? As if! Instead, look to the era that encapsulated your own earliest years. Take cues from the Clueless cast’s fashion, and play plenty of Pearl Jam and Spice Girls. But the best throwback at the party will be the guest of honor.
Art or a favorite movie:
Saturday Night Fever: To celebrate “Stayin’ Alive” yet another year (we had to!), do it up with a disco-themed dance party—complete with ’70s garb, platform shoes, and a disco ball, of course. Everyone will enjoy taking a break from their hustles to actually do the hustle.
Dutch Masters: Some would say 30 is a golden age. Nod to another prosperous period with an artistic theme inspired by the Dutch Golden Age. Ask revelers to step into the frame of a favorite artist, recreating a scene from a Steen, Rembrandt, or Vermeer painting. Serve hors d’oeuvres on painter’s palettes and incorporate fabulous floral arrangements a la Rachel Ruysch.
Boca: One year older, one year closer to retirement. Complete your journey around the sun with a wink when you style your celebration as a Boca Raton retirement community. Think gray hair, piled-high jewelry, and plenty of props. Bring in beach balls, faux palm trees, and perhaps even shuffleboard.
Havana Nights: Travel back in time to Cuba, circa 1940s and ’50s. Serve mojitos and daiquiris, and opt for tables teeming with tropical fruits rather than florals. For fashion, reach for ruffles, tropical prints, a bold lip for the ladies, and straw fedoras for the guys.
Choose your 30th party invitations
Between work and weddings, your friends have likely never been busier. And it’s not exactly like you weren’t expecting your birthday, making a last-minute event unnecessary. Consider sending a save the date early while you work out the details, especially if there are out-of-towners on your list. Three months in advance is a good rule of thumb, while 30th birthday invitations should go out about a month ahead. If you are having a themed 30th party, be sure the invitations states any costume suggestions.
Surprise 30th birthday party ideas
When the soiree is a surprise, the host has to be super strategic. For example, if you share a computer with the birthday girl or boy, you might want to clear your search history after this so they don’t see surprise 30th bday party ideas on the list. Before you start your secret mission, get a sense of whether the guest of honor would enjoy the attention. If the answer is no, plan something smaller with him or her in the know. If it’s a yes, onward to these surprise 30th birthday ideas!
Invite ’em right: Make sure the invitation is clearly labeled SURPRISE, and include the time everyone (except the birthday boy or girl!) should arrive.
Swear everyone to secrecy: Make like the Go-Go’s and keep those lips sealed. You don’t want the soon-to-be 30-year-old overhearing friends discussing what to wear to a party and wondering who the guest of honor is.
Pick a partner in crime: While you’re finalizing details and wrangling attendees, you’ll need someone else summoning the guest of honor. Clue in a co-conspirator or two who can help develop and execute a plan for getting him or her to the venue.
Think through the reveal: Now is not the time to be fashionably late. Emphasize showing up on time (they’ll know who they are), and prevent people from parking out front or milling about in plain view of the entrance.
30th birthday ideas for your best friend
You know your BFF better than anyone, so follow your gut when planning a party for him or her. Just remember that the term “herding cats” was probably coined about getting 30-somethings to a restaurant at the same time. If you are organizing a big group, make things easier on yourself by skipping dinner and heading straight for the bar.
Meet at a wine bar: Reserve a table weeks in advance so no one’s fighting for breathing room, and see if the kitchen will prepare something special—perhaps a twist on an existing menu item, such as heart-shaped pizzas. Drop off the cake earlier in the day, and order an assortment of apps and spritzes once you get there.
Or, to avoid hauling in your own party supplies, select a space that naturally lends itself to a particular style or theme:
Country western bar: Boot scootin’ boogie on down to a local saloon or rodeo bar for a get-together with oodles of down-home charm. Y’all can fuel up on peanuts and wings before toasting to 30 with whiskey and beer.
Spanish wine bar: For the laid-back birthday boy or girl, Spanish wine bars offer a more elevated take on rustic. Taste your way through various vinos, and pair with paella or salty tinned fish.
Tiki bar: If you can’t vacay together in the South Pacific, settle for a slice of paradise. There’s something so fun about sipping exotic drinks in delightfully kitschy tumblers.
30th birthday party ideas for him
Chances are, the man in your life doesn’t want to make a fuss about turning 30. That’s where you come in. But his birthday doesn’t have to be a big blowout to be memorable. Tap into his interests for 30th birthday ideas your husband will enjoy.
Fishing weekend: Round up your quarantine “pod” for a weekend of fresh air and fun around the campfire. Make it a couple’s camping trip and let loose by the lake, complete with lakeside fishing, picnics and star-gazing. Or give him the opportunity to get away alone for some quiet time on the water with a solo fishing weekend.
Casino night: Odds are good that he’ll enjoy a Vegas-inspired birthday party; with a night of playing cards with your crew. We’re talking games, prizes, and cheesy favors.
Oktoberfest night: Build your own biergarten right in the backyard. Get kegs of his favorite beers, make soft pretzels and frankfurters, and look the part in lederhosen and dirndl ensembles.
BYO Chair: Queue up a birthday playlist and bring your own chair, and party in the parking lot with plenty of brewskis.
30th birthday party ideas for her
Forget what you’ve heard about food. The real way to your wife’s heart is through a thoughtful party planned especially for her. Unless the celebration is a surprise, communicate to get a sense of what she wants, and then handle all the details yourself. Here are a few 30th birthday party ideas for her, for you to think through:
Pajama party: Throw it back to childhood with a grown-up slumber party—for a crowd. Keep the dress code comfy but playful––think Reese Witherspoon’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s look from Big Little Lies, not flannel sets. Popcorn is a must, no matter what’s on the agenda.
Garden party: Weather-permitting, plan a flower-filled tea party or picnic lunch outside. Encourage garden party attire, greet guests with refreshing cocktails, and organize some lawn games to keep everyone entertained.
Karaoke night: If your wife’s the type to perform in front of a crowd (or laugh and sing along with those who do), find a divey karaoke spot where she can belt her heart out. Fuel her friends with liquid courage so they’ll accompany her on stage, but remember to supply some sustenance as well. If you don’t serenade her, make sure to join her in at least one duet.
30th birthday invitation wording
When wording 30th birthday invitations, include the date and time, location and directions, whether or not it’s a surprise, and the host’s name—plus how and when to RSVP. Set the tone for a fun night by incorporating playful phrases: Big 3-O, Old AF, Dirty 30, Forever 29, Flirty Thirty, Thirsty Thirty, or 30 Years Young.
What’s a good gift for a 30th birthday?
If you’re hosting a 30th birthday party, most of the time that’s enough of a gift in itself. Especially if you’re picking up the bar tab. But if you want to give them something on top of the party you’re planning, look to these 30th birthday gift ideas:
A luxe passport holder: Complete the gift with a list of top places to travel in your 30s.
A fancy perfume they wouldn’t buy for themselves: New birthday, new scent.
Fresh flowers – Brighten up their dinner table or WFH set-up with fresh blooms from UrbanStems.
A nice matcha set: Help them mix up their morning routine with sustainably grown, single-origin matcha in a Matchaful gift set.
A bottle of Champagne: There’s no better reason to pop some bubbly!
Something invented the year they were born: If it’s gift-worthy of course!
A birthday ecard: Send a happy birthday from afar with new birthday greeting cards.
Ready, set, plan! Start by getting your invites out. For casual get-togethers, add animated text effects, stickers, and gifs via Paperless Post Flyer. If the party is more formal, stick with classic cards. If you’re hosting guests online try a virtual event invitation. For more birthday inspiration: Cheree Berry has tips for hosting a milestone birthday party, Derek Blasberg shares his high-low birthday philosophy, and we make a case for going for the gold on your birthday, no matter how old you’re turning.
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