A fabulous 40: 10 fantastic 40th birthday party ideas

The big 4-0 is a time to celebrate. We’re talking “My Big Fat 40th Mega Bash” big. So when it comes to planning the birthday party—whether it’s for you or a beloved friend or family member—make it the best by considering the four T’s: theme, tradition, time, and tone. 

In other words, you’ll want to curate a birthday bash that’s complete with a memorable theme, thoughtful traditions, and elegant invitations—all while paying special attention to the time of year to make any adjustments based on weather or seasonality. 

After that, it’s a piece of (birthday) cake.

 

What is a good 40th birthday theme?

Whether you’re excited or anxious to be turning 39 for the second time, you deserve to throw a party that’s all about you and your passions. That means you should pick a theme that you’ve always wanted to do—now’s the time to go all out. Perhaps you love camping or you’re a budding oenophile or you just want to put on an outfit that makes you feel fabulous as you hit up your favorite cocktail bar. No matter which theme you choose (and trust us, we have ideas), your 40th birthday celebration deserves a little extra pizzazz. Looking for memorable 40th birthday party ideas? Read on!

 

“Plant Party” Flyer by Paperless Post

Plant Party” Flyer by Paperless Post

 

Make it a weekend getaway

What could be more relaxing than a weekend with your closest friends and family? Rent a cabin or pitch tents in a beautiful locale—a flower-filled meadow, a red-rock desert, or a lake nestled in the mountains.

Welcome guests with an under-the-stars reception, complete with delicious appetizers and perhaps even a signature cocktail. Then, end the night with a decadent dinner party and a night of dancing with your favorite songs from the past four decades. 

When it comes to accommodations, each guest may have their own preferences. As such, provide your guests with a selection of sleeping options—on-site glamping tents for lovers of camping and nearby hotels or holiday rentals for the less seasoned outdoor enthusiasts. 

After a night of sleeping under the stars, say farewells to guests the next day with a village fête send-off—an elaborate festival complete with food, games, and entertainment. It’ll certainly be a weekend to reminisce on for birthdays to come.

 

Left: “How to Build a Fire” Invitation by Paperless Post, featuring four illustrations of camping activities | Right: A small group of friends gathered around a campfire at night with a glowing tent nearby.

How to Build a Fire” by Paperless Post

 

Join forces and plan a family bash

Plan a traditional family weekend all of your invitees can enjoy, no matter their age. Set out for the countryside with all the aunts, uncles, and cousins you can gather to celebrate the next decade of life. In the afternoon, set up activities suitable for cross-generational fun, whether it’s a badminton tournament or a treasure hunt that pits youngsters against their elders in a friendly competition for a prestigious prize—the winner gets to choose dessert. 

Pick a meadow with plenty of space to picnic or pitch tents. Or, find a park pavilion with enough space to host family and friends. Once the youngsters are asleep, kick things up a notch for an evening of fun—drinks, games, and reminiscing about the last four decades.

 

Left: Pile of Billboard cassette tapes | Right: “Totally Rad” invitation by Paperless Post featuring 90s-style graphic background in bright, neon colors.

Totally Rad” by Paperless Post

 

Plan a surprise ʼ90s bash

Are you on party planning duty for a loved one turning the big 4-0? Call all your best partiers and dancers for an epic surprise birthday bash that will transport your celebrant back to the days of acid-wash denim, butterfly clips, and boy bands.

Remind your guests of any party must-haves before attending, whether it’s a costume or a vaccination card. Then, get the celebration started with a DJ to play all the top hits from the ʼ90s (a Spotify playlist will work just as well) for a peppy soundtrack to dance the night away. 

Provide your guests with a selection of ʼ90s-era fruity cocktails like Cosmopolitans, Apppletinis, and Strawberry Daiquiris. We also strongly suggest ordering pizza for a much-needed refuel session. 

Make safety, laughter, dancing, and the birthday star’s smile your top priority of the night. A ʼ90s party is the perfect gateway to a new feel-good decade. Plus, we have the perfect invite. You can throw an ʼ80s bash, too!

 

“Coming Up Rosé” Flyer and “Schitt’s Creek” cookies by Siddle Bear Cookies

Coming Up Rosé” Flyer and “Schitt’s Creek” cookies by Siddle Bear Cookies

 

Oh, Schitt. He’s 40! 

Let your friends know it would give you no greater joy than to spend the evening with them to celebrate your 40th birthday! Pitch a “Schitt’s Creek” dress code—grandiose wigs and hats for the Moiras, graphic sweaters and high-top Converse for the Davids, and chic dresses and ditzy hand flips for the Alexises. You can even compete in an “Ew, David” impression contest! 

If your guests have no idea what you’re talking about when you reference the Rosebud Motel, encourage them to binge the series before the birthday bash to catch them up on the hit riches-to-rags sitcom.

 

 

“Fabulous Forever” Flyer featuring woman on a grand staircase swishing a ballgown with the words “40 & Fabulous” overlaid.

Fabulous Forever” Flyer

 

Rent out a hotel 

Go big with a hotel extravaganza! Many hotels allow guests to book a block of rooms (typically nine or more) at a discounted price for birthday celebrations. The hotel will most likely offer a slew of amenities and activities, from rounds of golf to spa days. Depending on the location, the hotel may even offer wine tasting events.

Before setting your guests loose, be sure to clarify which events are included in the hotel stay, and which aren’t. Non-hosted events, like the ones listed above, can usually be paid directly through the hotel during the event. Hosted events, such as pool-side cabanas, casual dinners, and farewell brunches, are also a great way to bond with your guests and celebrate the new decade!

 

Left: Photo of a cocktail on a wood table | Right: “Bottle Shock - Gold” invitation by Kelly Wearstler for Paperless Post featuring gold circles that look like drink stains on a table.

Bottle Shock – Gold” by Kelly Wearstler for Paperless Post

 

Host a big dinner in the big city

If you’re lucky enough to live a train ride away from the Big Apple, invite guests to a classy night on the town with a “New York Glam” themed birthday dinner. Ask guests to tune into their inner Carrie Bradshaw or Samantha Jones with a dress code that screams New York chic, then take to the streets for a night of decadent treats, a broadway show, and a nightcap before bedtime. 

Even those who are Midwest or West-coast bound can participate in the fun with a big-city-themed soirée, complete with Manhattan cocktails, a streaming of broadway-hit “Hamilton,” and an Italian dinner for the ages (and ageless). 

 

Left: “Chalet Shindig” invitation by Paperless Post featuring an illustration of skiers on a mountain on a gold background. | Right: Photo of a ski lift at a resort.

Chalet Shindig” by Paperless Post

 

Throw a chalet birthday

If you love skiing, head to the slopes for a weekend packed with powder, moguls, more than a couple of cold ones at your après party.

There’s plenty of activities on and off the mountain to celebrate in grand winter fashion—from mountain top dining to spa treatments at the lodge. You can even hold a snowman-making competition to see which one of your guests can best portray the birthday boy or girl in a flurry. 

Wondering how to beckon your closest family and friends to the slopes? We’ve got an invitation for that. 

 

Left: Photo of a man with his back to the viewer at a bowling alley. | Right: “Lucky Strike - Pink” invitation by Hello!Lucky for Paperless Post featuring an illustration of a bowling pall and pins on a purple background.

Lucky Strike – Pink” by Hello!Lucky for Paperless Post

 

Hold a game night (or day)

Celebrate your 40s with a game night alongside a few of your closest friends and family. 

Whether you’re figuring out whodunnit with Clue or partaking in fast-dealing property grabs with Monopoly, a game night is an amusing way to celebrate your big day intimately. If you’re looking for a more active celebration, consider competing in a laser tag competition, a paint gun war, or a bowling tournament. Or you can take to the sand for a fierce game of beach volleyball.

No matter your game of choice, make sure it’s one your entire guest list can get involved with and enjoy.  

 

Left: “Market Table” invitation by Paperless Post featuring an illustration of vegetables like carrots, beets, and squash on a green background. | Right: Photo of a hand holding a ladle next to a stove in a kitchen.

Market Table” by Paperless Post

 

Recruit friends and family to help give back 

Your 40th birthday can also be a way to give back and make a difference within your community. Bring along friends and family to your favorite neighborhood charity or nonprofit to offer a few dozen helping hands to those in need. Most likely, there will be a food bank, an animal shelter, or a homeless shelter nearby that needs extra assistance. If you’re not keen on participating in the day-to-day activities of the charity, consider donating food or clothes instead!

At the end of the day, what matters most is not the success you’ve accumulated over the years, but the people you’ve uplifted along the way.

 

Left: Photo of a woman enjoying a nice evening on her balcony. | Right: “It’s Getting Lit - 40” invitation by Cheree Berry Paper & Design for Paperless Post featuring a photo of a matchbook and candles on a red background.

It’s Getting Lit – 40” by Cheree Berry Paper & Design for Paperless Post

 

Belated birthday? Celebrate with a 40.5 birthday party

If your 40th birthday coincided with the lockdowns of 2020 and you were unable to celebrate with family and friends, consider throwing a 40.5 birthday party now, belatedly.

If you’re feeling whimsical, go with an “Alice in Wonderland” theme complete with a Mad Hatter’s tea party and a 40/5 mad hatter hat for the birthday boy or girl. You can also go with a more casual theme, such as a backyard get-together or a movie night with close friends. 

To make sure your guests don’t miss the shindig, plan on sending party save the date cards to their homes.

 

40th birthday invitation wording

In addition to choosing 40th birthday celebration ideas, invitations are perhaps the most important aspect of party planning. They let your guests know when and where your party will take place, as well as any additional details such as party theme, dress code, or gift guides. As such, you’ll want to make sure your invitations stand out in design and wording. Luckily, we’re here to help.

 

“Milestone Moment” invitation by Paperless Post featuring a graphic “40” with a photo cutout and a sample photo of a woman within the 0.

Milestone Moment” by Paperless Post

 

Milestone Moment Mark the momentous occasion with an invitation that’s just as special. Dazzle with the invitation and keep the wording simple:

 

Bessie Glass is Turning 40

Join us in toasting

Her grand achievement

Saturday, July 10th at 1PM

9 Story Avenue

 

The Number Oh (Forty) Make the invitation stand out just as much as the 40-year-old to be with a card that makes an entrance, accompanied by a posse of straightforward details: 

 

Benjamin’s 40th Birthday

Saturday, June 2, 3 PM

The Pool Deck at the Taft Hotel

3400 Wilshire Boulevard

Los Angeles

 

“Lucky Number” invitation by kate spade new york for Paperless Post, featuring type treatments of differently sized numbers with “40” highlighted in gold.

Lucky Number” by kate spade new york for Paperless Post

 

Lucky Number – Complement an elegant soiree with a chic invitation:

 

Join Tracy Lord for

Confetti & Cocktails

In honor of her 40th birthday

Friday, December 27th at 8pm

The Hepburn Hotel – Philadelphia

RSVP

 

“It's All Uphill from Here (Forty)” invitation by Paperless Post, featuring type treatments of the word “Forty” playfully laid out.

It’s All Uphill from Here (Forty)” by Paperless Post

 

It’s All Uphill From Here – Throw it back to elementary school with this scholastic design that’ll remind guests just how far your birthday-basher has come:

 

Please Join Us

In Toasting 

Maude Chardin

On the Occasion of

Her 40th Birthday

December 20th at 7PM

71 Ashby Street

San Francisco

Hosted by Harold | RSVP

 

“Neon Capitals (Forty)” invitation by Paperless Post, featuring type treatments of the words “Forty & Fabulous” on a blue background.
Neon Capitals (Forty)” by Paperless Post

 

Neon 40th – Go bold with an eye-catching design and unique wording that’s sure to allude to the upcoming night-to-remember:

 

Join Us in Making

Mark Thackeray’s 40th One For the Books

Saturday, June 14 at 7:30 PM

115 Cable Street | London

 

“Like We’re in Our 20s” invitation by Derek Blasberg for Paperless Post, featuring playful text reading “If 40’s are the new 30’s can we party like we’re in our 20’s?”.

Like We’re in Our 20s” by Derek Blasberg for Paperless Post

 

Like We’re In Our 20s – Stay young with a chalkboard inspired design that invites guests to a youthful and lively bash:

 

If 40’s are the new 30’s

Can we party like we’re in our 20’s?

Saturday, March 8th, Eight O’Clock

Employees only and other fine drinking

establishments in the West Village

Please reply

 

Make it a birthday to remember with Paperless Post

Turning 40 is a huge milestone, and while it’s an exciting new chapter in one’s life, turning the big 4-0 may also come with its slew of emotions, both good and bad. No matter where your head is at, it never hurts to get a head start on brainstorming 40th birthday ideas and plans, especially when it comes to the invitations. There, Paperless Post has you covered. We offer a selection of online custom cards and birthday invitations to help make your birthday extraordinary. Want your invitations to double as keepsakes? We also have a collection of printable invitations.

Using our in-site customization tools, you can change the card’s text, style, envelope, and background color to make an invitation that’s truly you. 

We also provide RSVP tracking tools to help organize your guest list and responses. With such a big milestone to come, it’s only fitting that you have the experts in party-planning behind you—Paperless Post. 

 

 

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