Etiquette for Planning a 50th Birthday Party

by Kate Bradley
You can relax at the party knowing you did everything right.

You can relax at the party knowing you did everything right.

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When you want to have a big 50th birthday bash, it can be tempting to throw etiquette out the window and focus on fun. However, a successful party is one that focuses on the needs, comfort and preferences of both the guests and guest of honor. Before you hire the entertainment and order the cake, check that you are adhering to correct 50th birthday party-planning etiquette.


If the birthday boy is sensitive about his age, don't poke fun at it on the invitation. Do not mention gifts on the invitation; doing so assumes guests are obligated to bring one. The exception is if the guest of honor adamantly does not want gifts. In that case, write "No gifts, please" on the invitation. if the party is a surprise, make that very clear; however, don't throw a surprise party unless you are completely certain the guest of honor would enjoy it. If children are not allowed, write "Adults only." The wording should be concise and to the point, with detailed information regarding the RSVP deadline and date, time and place of the party. Don't make your guests contact you for information you forgot to include. Send the invitations at least one month in advance.


Consult the guest of honor before mailing the invitations to rule out any unwanted attendees. Ask guests to contact you well before the party with any concerns about the dress code, menu or other guests. You don't have to invite everyone the guest of honor knows. Instead, invite a good cross-section of every part of her life -- from work, childhood, volunteering and the neighborhood. Ask the guest of honor to choose three guests to make toasts and notify those guests in plenty of time for them to prepare a few words.


Don't assume that every guest can have sugar or drinks alcohol. Provide tasty, festive options for everyone regardless of dietary needs. If some of the guests are elderly and have difficulty chewing or using utensils, provide plenty of tiny finger foods that are easy to eat. Middle-aged guests may be watching calories, so provide sliced fruit, cheese cubes and low-fat crackers. For dessert, a big 50th birthday cake is a must but also have fat-free frozen yogurt or sherbet on hand.


Pick a neutral theme that is unlikely to offend anyone or cast the guest of honor in an unfavorable light. You want your guests to be comfortable and enjoy themselves. The 50th birthday party theme should not reference alcohol, sex, drugs or anything illegal. Remember, some of the guests may work with or for the guest of honor. A raunchy or inappropriate theme could compromise professional relationships. Plan your activities accordingly as well. Avoid professional dancers or any kind of drinking game. Stick with a theme and activities that most people will find amusing. When in doubt, ruling it out is best.

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