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Surprise Parties for Today’s Busy Professionals and Students

Is it reasonable to host a surprise birthday, engagement or anniversary party in the 21st century? One can read about surprise parties on the web that have gone well and those that have not. In today’s working world I’ve read about friends contacting an honoree’s manager and arranging for the honoree to get time off from work. Sometimes this works out. On the other hand, I can only imagine an honoree’s reaction upon finding out that:

- A valuable sales call or other professional opportunity was assigned to a different employee because a friend requested time off for the honoree to celebrate

- A special event in which the honoree may have earned high tips was reassigned to another employee because a friend requested that they have time off.

While I like to recognize employees in many ways, as a manager I would have needed to have said no to these types of requests coming from other than the honoree themselves. An honoree’s friend merely asking me to change an employee’s time off would put me into an unpleasant situation, one I would rather not be in.

I’ve read on the internet about people who have been very sad all day because they thought their friends forgot about them, only to have friends show up at 6 or 7 pm. Is this really a good way to celebrate a birthday or should the honoree have the opportunity to look forward to something great?

Do the above instances indicate an end to surprise parties which so many people enjoy? The answer is categorically, “No”. What it does indicate is that if a surprise party necessitates a change to an honoree’s schedule it might be wise to at least in some cases change the nature of a surprise party to fit 21st century demands. Perhaps, that means today’s surprise party can’t be 100% surprise. Perhaps, with today’s schedules, calendars, personal preferences and commitments in many cases it is respectful of a busy honoree to arrange their surprise party with the honoree, agreeing:

- Upon the time and place to meet for their surprise party
- How conservative or adventuresome to make the celebration
- Who must be on the guest list (as well as who should not be)
- What activities should be and which must not be included
- Upon the use of photo and video
- Upon the duration of the party.

Even if the honoree participates in planning all of the above, it is still possible to have a party loaded with surprises which is a ton of fun!!! The honoree may enjoy looking forward to the party, as the hosts and guests face a challenge of surprising the honoree in new and creative ways… not an old fashion hiding behind the door and shouting “surprise” when the honoree arrives.

While safety must, at all times, be the primary objective in planning any event, with the most adventuresome honorees the surprises may begin when the blindfold goes on. Once an attractive looking blindfold is applied the fun may begin. The blindfolded honoree may be helped to dress in an outfit appropriate for the occasion by their friends so the honoree is appropriately dressed, but still surprised. While the honoree is preparing for the surprise part of their event, including dressing, possibly a massage (or in the case of a female honoree a manicure and/or hair styling) a party may be set up and guests might arrive. The food and activities begin. Photos and video may be taken as the honoree emerges and throughout the event.

With less adventuresome honorees a blindfold may not be appropriate, or the guest of honor may prefer to come dressed for the occasion. Thus, more information would be shared with the less adventuresome guest. Similarly, a more private honoree may prefer fewer or no photos or videos. Perhaps, the optimal surprise for some honorees would be the style of decorations on their cake.

The key idea behind the surprise party is it must be fun for the honoree and all of the guests. This means varying what is and is not included and what is and what is not a “surprise” at a surprise party based upon the honorees preference. Whoever is arranging the event needs to fine tune, to avoid being dull and too predictable, but respect the limits of the honoree and guests so all will have fun at a memorable occasion, as well as while looking forward to the event, and thinking back about it years later.

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About the Author

Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro, Ronald G. Shapiro, Ph. D. / Education by Entertainment
17 Brookway Road
Providence, RI 02906

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