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How to Throw a Virtual Birthday Party in 9 Steps

If someone you know has a birthday coming up, you may feel like they’re going to miss out on having a big celebration with friends and family. And if you’re planning on hosting a party for that person, you may be wondering how to do so safely during a global pandemic. Thankfully, with new technology and event planning tools that evolve by the day, it’s easier than ever. Want to learn how to throw a virtual birthday party that won’t ever be forgotten? Keep reading!

In this post, we explore a handful of ways to make this annual celebration special. Whether you’re planning a virtual party for your best friend, your sister, or the head of your company, the following tips and tricks will have you well on your way to success.

Discover how to throw a virtual birthday party with these 9 tips:

1. Do some pre-planning planning.

One of the great things about throwing a virtual birthday party is that it’s pretty easy to put together and doesn’t require the level of planning and preparation of an in-person event. The main things you need for a seamless virtual birthday party are:

  • The right platform. You can host a virtual birthday party on Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, Houseparty, or any other platform you’re comfortable with. Zoom has become the default because everyone can easily access it, but it’s perfectly acceptable to use a different platform. Just make sure to send a link and instructions for anyone who may be new to that technology.
  • A guest list. In some ways, the guest list for a virtual birthday party is more flexible and open than any in-person event ever could be. You can invite friends and family from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection and are willing to be awake at party time. Most platforms can comfortably handle anywhere from 1 to 50 guests. Keep in mind that the number of people you invite will influence the types of activities you do. For in-depth games or good conversation, try to keep it under 15.
  • Invitations. No need to get fancy here. You can send a simple group email or use a free online invitation creator to get a bit more involved. Make sure to tell everyone when and how to dial in and how to prepare. If there’s a theme, supplies they’ll need, or if they should dress up, this is the place to tell them.

2. Pick a theme.

The party may be online, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring. Choose a theme to carry throughout the decorations, food, and even Zoom backgrounds to give the birthday bash an extra something special. Maybe the guest of honor is a big fan of tropical beach vacations. Maybe they want a cozy virtual gathering in the Swiss Alps. Just about any theme, and any location, is possible.

When planning the virtual birthday bash, give guests a heads up about the theme ahead of time, as well as ideas on how they can join in from their own homes. Setting up Zoom backgrounds, wearing costumes, and decorating the spaces behind them are all great ways to get in on the fun. 

3. Decorate.

When you think about it, decorating for a virtual party is pretty similar to decorating for an in-person event, but on a smaller scale. Guests can only see a bit of the room behind each other (if they don’t opt for virtual backgrounds). Balloon arches, photos, paper streamers, candles, flowers, or other fun party decorations will look great and make guests feel ready to celebrate.

Depending who you’re throwing the virtual birthday part for, consider having your background include cards from party guests, a sign with their name, or something with special significance for the honored guest. They will love the thought and preparation you put into making the scene look festive.

4. Plan the menu.

If you plan on making food delivery part of the fun, let guests know in the invitations to order food in line with the theme. This is also a great opportunity to provide the guest of honor with a free meal as a surprise. Do you happen to know that they absolutely love the fajitas from the Mexican restaurant down the street from their house? Place an order to be delivered to them right before the party gets started.

Other ways to make food a part of the celebration are cookie exchanges (plan it beforehand then eat the cookies during the party), recipe exchanges, a cooking class taught by one of the guests (or a professional), or even a fun cooking challenge. 

5. Play some games.

It’s great to have a Zoom conversation with everyone and catch up, but you may want a bit more structure to keep participants engaged and continue the momentum of the party. A game can be a great break in between other activities, a fun icebreaker for guests that don’t know each other well, or a way to cap off the party at the end.

There are some great options for games that can be played virtually. Some, like 20 Questions, Two Truths and a Lie, or Would You Rather don’t require any materials or advanced preparation. Others, like trivia, an escape room, or Bingo may need a bit more prep, but are still pretty easy to pull off.

If the virtual birthday party games require any supplies, make sure to send them via email or physical mail well in advance of the party and let guests know what they’ll need to do to prepare, such as printing a bingo card.

6. Do a group activity.

If games aren’t really your style, there are still lots of ways to encourage guests to connect and have a good time. Consider some of these activities that can be done virtually:

  • Wine and cheese tasting
  • Watching a movie as a group
  • Sharing favorite YouTube videos
  • Virtual tours or travel to a destination
  • Making a craft
  • Host a virtual jam session
  • Cooking class
  • Cocktail mixology
  • Host a raffle for prizes
  • At-home scavenger hunt
  • At-home competitions like cup stacking, water bottle flips, selfie drawing, etc.
  • Virtual karaoke

Keep things light and make the activities easy for guests to participate in so that everyone feels included. This isn’t the time for a no-holds-barred yodeling competition or serious political debate (unless the guests are into that). As long as the host provides some direction and structure, most people are happy to dive into whatever activity is suggested.

And of course, consider the guest of honor when picking activities. Don’t plan something that you don’t think they’ll enjoy, because at the end of the day, this is a celebration for them, not the rest of the guests.

7. Keep the conversation flowing.

While Zoom is a great way to connect, it can lack some of the spontaneity and flexibility of an in-person party. If one person dominates the conversation or there are awkward silences, it can be hard to get everyone back on track. But with a little advanced preparation, you’ll be ready to combat gaps in the conversation and help everyone connect.

Think before the party about a few easy conversational prompts for the group. These don’t need to be formal conversation starters it can be as simple as asking everyone what they thought of a certain movie or what they have planned for the weekend. You can also jot down a few abstract questions that get people thinking, like where they will travel after quarantine, what word from 2020 should be banned, and which activities would look funniest with social distancing.

By thinking of a few of these prompts ahead of time, you’ll be in a great position to host the party and ensure that everyone has a good time.

8. Send a present.

Consider getting together with the other guests to chip in on a birthday present or two for the guest of honor. Of course, the type of gift(s) and the amount of money spent depend on the relationship that you and the rest of the guests have with that person. For example, if you’re hosting a virtual birthday party for your boss, you and your co-workers probably shouldn’t buy them diamond earrings or the newest Xbox. On the other hand, if you’re a parent hosting a virtual birthday party for one of your children, that may be more appropriate.

Regardless of who the party is for, send the present(s) ahead of time for the guest of honor to open during the party, or even arrange to have the present(s) dropped off outside their door during the festivities. Simple, but great, options include a cake, a bottle of wine, a gift basket with their favorite items, or a new book to read.

9. Send party favors.

At this point, you’ve already planned a great virtual birthday party filled with fun games, interesting conversations, and delicious food. To cap it off and end on a fun note, why not send include party favors?

Guests will love receiving a digital or physical reminder of the fun that they had at the party. This could be a collage of all of the selfie portraits from the party, a printable version of the recipe from the virtual cooking class, a box of chocolates sent to each person’s house, or some other small gesture to say, “thanks for coming.” Zoom fatigue is very real, and you want to show your appreciation for the guests taking the time to tune in.

However, don’t feel like this is necessary. Budget, gifts, and party favors vary significantly based on your relationship with the guest of honor and their relationship with you and everyone else who attends their virtual birthday party. Use your best judgment we know that’ll work!

Now you know how to throw a virtual birthday party using these simple tips!

Ready to throw in the element of surprise? Read on to learn how to plan a surprise party.