How to Plan a Surprise Party in the Midst of COVID-19

Tips for an amazing surprise party, even if your loved one is stuck at home.

Diane Hall


Do you know someone celebrating a milestone birthday or anniversary while in quarantine due to COVID-19? Well, throwing a surprise party could lift their spirits and make their day super special, even if they’re stuck at home. From a virtual party to a drive-by parade, we’ve got some tips and ideas that’ll make the day memorable for all the right reasons. You can choose a couple of ideas from this list or go all out and do them all.

Here’s how to plan a surprise party in the midst of COVID-19.

Pick a Platform or Place

First off, you’ll need to decide if this is a virtual surprise party or a social distancing visit. If it’s a virtual party, choose a video chat app like Zoom or Google Hangouts based on the most suitable features—we’ve got a rundown of the best video chat apps to help you out. Alternatively, you could organize a surprise visit to their home— if it’s possible and safe to do so—and a drive-by car parade.

Make a Guest List

You’re going to need some partners in crime to pull this off. Recruit friends and family members to help build a guest list. You can keep it intimate and make it a small family party, or if it’s a virtual event you can invite dozens of people from all facets of their life to really surprise them.

Choose a Party Theme

A theme isn’t absolutely necessary, but choosing one could help tie the event together. It could be as simple as a color scheme, their favorite sports team or a tropical theme. Use it to inspire the party decorations, dress code, food and drink, and even Zoom background images. Imagine how surprised they’ll be to see a coordinated look coming from all participants—especially if it’s a virtual party. Bonus: Minted has free Zoom backgrounds for all occasions that you can download.

Send Out Invites

If your guest list is on the longer side, you could set up a digital invitation on Evite or Minted so that you have a place to invite guests, communicate all the details (date, time, location, theme, Zoom link, etc.), and manage RSVPs. They have tons of themed templates to choose from, so this could really help get everyone on board with the look you’re going for. For a smaller group, a simple email or chat thread will suffice.

Create a Virtual Guest Book

If you use Evite, you can ask guests to post messages and photos ahead of time—essentially creating a virtual guest book that you can share with your VIP later. Or, you can put together a virtual guest book/photo album by using a photosharing app like The Guest. Invite everyone to upload videos or photos offering their congratulations and personal messages ahead of time so it’s ready by party time.

Plan a Big Surprise

If you’re visiting their home for a surprise birthday party, give them a heads up that you’ll be stopping by at a specific time to drop something off and would love to say “hello and happy birthday” from a safe distance. Call ahead to make sure they’re able to come out. Then surprise them by decorating their yard, bringing along a few other people, and delivering a birthday cake and gifts. If you’ve planned a car parade, ask friends to decorate their vehicles and holler well wishes. Ideally, they can turn around and drive by again giving the guest(s) of honor time to soak it all in.

If it’s a virtual birthday party, plan out an itinerary and share it with guests ahead of time. Ask attendees to join the video chat platform 10 minutes before the start of the meeting. If you’re the Zoom host you can control letting people in, so when the guest of honor arrives, you can prepare everyone for yelling “surprise” in unison right after you admit them into the video conference. Follow this up by singing happy birthday (or happy anniversary) and ask your guests to have a drink ready for a toast.

Line Up Some Entertainment

Want to make it an even bigger surprise? Line up some virtual entertainment such as a singing telegram, caricaturist, Elvis impersonator, or tarot card reading—The Bash has over 3000 virtual services to book so you can really get creative with this part. Ask them to join the Zoom Party or make it a one-to-one virtual gift experience. Pro tip: check out these technical checks for a virtual party.

Document It

Tale photos, make videos, and record your Zoom party to add to your virtual guest book/photo album. You can share on social media too and spread the love even more.

Send Cake, Party Gear and Gifts

What’s a party without a cake. Even if you’re hosting a virtual surprise party and can’t deliver these items in person, try to have a cake, party gear and a gift delivered to their home to enjoy on their special day. These tokens, along with the virtual guest book, will make them feel really special and loved, even if they have to stay at home because of the pandemic.

Find virtual services and entertainers in the United States and Canada on The Bash for your surprise party.