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’s how to plan a birthday party worthy of 30.
Settle on a space
Decide where you want to host your 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.
Pick an inspired birthday party theme
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 30th birthday party theme inspiration in any of the following:
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.
Planning a surprise 30th birthday party
When the soiree is a surprise, the host has to be super strategic. 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 next steps!
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.
Throwing a 30th birthday 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.
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.
Since you won’t be hauling in your own decor, 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.
Hosting a 30th birthday for your husband
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: Give him the opportunity to get away for some quiet time on the water. Tag along for a couple’s camping trip complete with lakeside picnics and star-gazing.
Casino night: Odds are good that he’ll enjoy a Vegas-inspired night of playing cards with your crew. We’re talking games, prizes, and cheesy decor.
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.
… or for your wife
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. A few 30th birthday ideas for your wife 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.
Choose your 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 invitations should go out about a month ahead.
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: Old AF, Dirty 30, Forever 29, Flirty Thirty, Thirsty Thirty, or 30 Years Young.
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. For more birthday inspiration: Cheree Berry has tips for hosting a milestone birthday party, Derek Blasgerg 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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