Celebrations of your teen’s coming of age have evolved from formal court presentation balls to modern Sweet Sixteen parties that range from formal dinner dances and debutante balls to casual sleepovers. Marking the change from little child to young adult with the perfect party requires some advanced planning, which can also take some of the hard work and worry out of the equation.
Ask Them What They Want
While you obviously want to be a great host, it’s important to remember that a Sweet 16 party is about the birthday girl or guy, not about moms and dads. Ask your teen what they would like, really listen to their response and concede to their realistic wishes. Before you plan a huge surprise party, consider your teen’s personality and preferences — maybe a smaller group of close friends would be more in keeping with their style.
Make a Plan and Stick to It
Start planning the perfect Sweet 16 bash at least two or three months ahead to avoid stress-induced, impulsive purchases or decisions that you regret later. Set a budget before you start planning to keep things from becoming overly extravagant. Once you have that figured out, picking a theme can make party preparation simpler. Your teen might enjoy a spa theme, a dance party or even a celebration built around a favorite book or movie. Make a checklist of tasks and supplies at the beginning, and it will be much easier to stay focused — and on budget.
When you select a date, check the school calendar for holidays, sporting events and other activities that might pull guests away from the party. As soon as you’ve set the date, consider sending “save the date” cards or magnets while you’re firming up plans for a venue and other details, which you can include on the invitations closer to the party.
Find the Perfect Venue
Infinite possibilities exist for the perfect Sweet 16 party spot. Along with traditional locales like your home, a restaurant or hotel banquet room, think about your teen’s passions and activities. Your athlete might enjoy a party at a local stadium, while a museum or gallery might be ideal for your artistic genius or budding archaeologist. Local parks or community centers, church or temple halls, or even boats or trains offer options as well. For a retro theme, even a bowling alley and some 50s music can rock a Sweet 16.
We Found the Place — Now What?
Your party theme may help you and your teen plan activities. Food is an important component to any teen party, so make sure you have plenty of her favorite culinary delights available. Competitions like a dance marathon, a round of karaoke or other games can add some fun, but check with your teen so that they fit the current fashion. Let your teen create a music playlist or hire a DJ who accepts guests’ requests, and clear the room or backyard for dancing. For a ladies-only party, set out stations for manicures, pedicures or facials, with an aesthetician or image consultant to help with makeup and clothing combinations.
Supervise a Smooth Operation
Parental supervision is critical to keeping the partygoers safe, but teens are ready for a little “parent-free zone.” Jump in at cake and gift times, but retreat to a nearby room if possible, just popping in periodically to make sure things are going well. Use disposable plates, cups and utensils, and set out garbage cans and extra trash bags. Finally, include an ending time no later than midnight on the invitations, and enforce it or offer guests the option of sleeping over if you want to extend the bash even later.