The Best of | Birthdays

How to Plan a 50th Birthday Party That Everyone Will Remember

A milestone birthday is one worth celebrating. Turning 50 is an opportunity to draw a lifetime of beloved family and friends near for an epic celebration. But planning a party that’s a half-century in the making is no easy task. Not to worry, we’ve done the work for you with a how-to list that makes sure no important detail is forgotten.

We’ve got suggestions for which vendors you should hire as well as how to make your party personal (whether you’re throwing it for yourself or a loved one) and fun. Read on to learn how to plan a 50th birthday party that you and your guests will remember long after your next milestone.

1. Create a Budget

Begin your 50th-birthday planning by creating a budget. It will guide all of the decisions that you’ll make from choosing a venue to how many people you can invite. Some tips:

  • Prioritize your non-negotiable vendors and details (don’t forget vendor tips and taxes)
  • Leave room for special birthday party details, like a custom cake or balloon arch entrance

2. Make Your Guest List

One of your early decisions will be the size of your celebration. Choosing whom to include in your 50th-birthday party isn’t easy. Start here:

  • Collaborate with partners, friends, and family
  • Consider cost per person and overall budget
  • Keep potential venues and their capacities in mind

3. Hire an Event Planner

While hiring a planner is optional, we highly recommend it. We’re here to help you find a top event planner. Event planners featured on PartySlate know the business – and the people in the business. They boast deep vendor networks and will be able to recommend not only the best spaces for your party but the best décor team for your vision, photographer to capture it all, and more. Also, a planner will focus on all of the in-advance and day-of details, leaving you free to really celebrate.

When choosing your 50th-birthday party planner:

  • View portfolios to get a feel for style and approach
  • Book an introductory call with 2-3 planners to see if your personalities align

 

photo courtesy of & planner: KIS(cubed) Events See More

4. Set Your 50th-Birthday Party Date

Set your date and give your guests a heads-up so that they can save the day to celebrate with you. Consider:

  • Cross check other important events and dates
  • Consider seasonality and out-of-town guests
  • Select a few different dates to be flexible with your venue

5. Decide on the Type of Celebration

A 50th-birthday celebration can be any type of gathering, from a sit-down brunch or dinner to a dance-all-night party or activity-based get-together. Whatever you’re thinking, from a day at a ballgame or out on a boat to a dinner in the best private room in the city, a glamorous gala-type party or a destination celebration, PartySlate has inspiration and ideas for you.

Dinner Parties Foster Great Conversations Among Friends

Linda's 50th Birthday Celebration
photographer: Suzanne Karp Photography | Montage Healdsburg See More
50th Birthday Celebration Dinner in Seattle
photographer: Kerry Jeanne Photography | Twine Events See More
Tara's Glamorous 50th Birthday Bash in Nassau, Bahamas
photographer: Trene Forbes Photography | Perfect Planning Events See More

Guests Will Always Remember a Dance-All-Night Party

Gold and Glamorous 50th Birthday Party at Space54 in New York, NY
photographer & venue: SPACE54 See More
Chic "Red Hot" Surprise 50th Birthday Party at InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf in Washington DC
photographer: Eli Turner Studios | Evoke Design & Creative See More

6. Choose a Venue

Your venue should allow for the type of party you’ve chosen plus offer any extras you’re envisioning — from a view or dance floor to cocktail space or catering options. Find a venue now using these tips: 

  • Ensure the venue can accommodate your guest list size
  • Review the portfolios of the venues on your shortlist
  • Narrow down your options based on aesthetic, availability, and cost
  • Schedule in-person or virtual venue tours

A Hotel Ballroom is an Elegant Solution

Chic "Red Hot" Surprise 50th Birthday Party at InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf in Washington DC
photographer: Eli Turner Studios | Evoke Design & Creative; InterContinental Washington D.C. – The Wharf
Chic "Red Hot" Surprise 50th Birthday Party at InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf in Washington DC
See More

A Historic Space is Perfect For Honoring Your Personal History

50th Birthday Soiree
photographer & planner: MOD Event Design | Castello Di Amorosa See More

A Destination Celebration Allows for Time to be with Friends

Private 50th Birthday Celebration
photographer: Levi Stolove | Apotheosis Events | PUBLIC Hotel See More
Pop Art 50th Birthday Party at Offshore Navy Pier in Chicago, IL
photo courtesy of & planner: Creative Consulting Specialists, Inc. | Offshore Rooftop & Bar See More

A Tent Can Turn Any Space Into a Chic Party

80’s Themed 50th Birthday party
photographer: Hart Studios | M Studio Events | New York Tent See More

7. Decide on a Theme or Style

Consider favorite color combinations, hobbies and interests, places or time periods that hold meaning, and the potential dress code for guests. Have fun with it. See unique 50th-birthday party themes. Consider:

  • Select a color palette to set the tone
  • Choose a theme to inspire everything from the décor to the fare
  • Include your personality, hobbies, and interests

Some popular 50th birthday party themes include decade themes (Great Gatsby, 1980s, Disco, 1990s), creative color schemes (monochrome, neon), themes that evoke another locale (tropics, Paris, space), or activities (casino, winter olympics, Candy Land), and pop culture themes (tv shows, zodiac). We walk you through all the steps of choosing your perfect theme with our Best Party Themes Resource Guide.

Draw Inspiration from a Favorite Place, Like this Italy-Inspired Soirée

Italian-Inspired 50th Birthday at a Private Residence in San Francisco, CA
photographer: Purta Studios | Foxtail Catering & Events | Nancy Liu Chin Designs
Italian-Inspired 50th Birthday at a Private Residence in San Francisco, CA
See More

Honor the Celebrant’s Passion, Like this Nautical-Themed Party

Exceptional 50th Birthday Celebration in Dallas, Texas
photographer: Lightly Photography | Sarabeth Events See More

Evoke a Decade & Have Guests Dress the Part

Fabulous 80’s Themed 50th Birthday Celebration in Grosse Pointe, Michigan
photo courtesy of & planner: Something Fabulous
Fabulous 80’s Themed 50th Birthday Celebration in Grosse Pointe, Michigan

8. Select & Send Invites

In addition to your 50th-birthday party invitations (and save-the-date notices), your stationer can design signage, menus, napkins, and more for your celebration. Some tips:

  • Find an invitation designer once you’ve settled on your party’s date, location, and theme
  • Share your colors or theme to inspire the design
  • Send or mail your invitation with a minimum of 6-weeks notice

Chic "Red Hot" Surprise 50th Birthday Party at InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf in Washington DC
photographer: Eli Turner Studios | Evoke Design & Creative | Simon Says Design
Chic "Red Hot" Surprise 50th Birthday Party at InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf in Washington DC
See More
photographer Harlow and May | Little Coterie See More

9. Hire a Photographer

You’ll want to remember this time with friends and family. Note: find a photographer soon, as they book fast. How to make sure you capture every moment:

  • View photographer portfolios to get a feel for their artistry and style
  • Share a shot list to help your photographer stay organized and ensure that you get the shots you want

Elin's Astonishing 50th Birthday Celebration
photographer: 5th Avenue Digital Photography See More
Pink and Green 50th Birthday Celebration in Los Angeles California
photographer: Duke Images See More

10. Decide on a Caterer & Set Your Menu

If your venue doesn’t have in-house catering options, you’ll need to find a caterer. When setting your menu:

  • Consider the time of day, theming, and seasonality of ingredients 
  • Include some of the guest of honor’s favorite dishes to personalize the menu

Consider a Mix of Passed & Buffet Bites

50th Birthday Celebration
photo courtesy of & caterer: Viola’s Kitchen Catering & Event Planning See More
Italian-Inspired 50th Birthday at a Private Residence in San Francisco, CA
photographer: Purta Studios | Foxtail Catering & Events See More
50th Birthday at a Private Hamptons Estate in Bridgehampton, NY
photographer: Madison Fender | Art of Eating Catering See More

Add an Interactive Station

photographer: Angela Garbot Photography | Amazing Edibles Catering See More
Chic "Red Hot" Surprise 50th Birthday Party at InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf in Washington DC
photographer: Eli Turner Studios | Evoke Design & Creative | Oysters XO See More
Chic "Red Hot" Surprise 50th Birthday Party at InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf in Washington DC
photographer: Eli Turner Studios | Evoke Design & Creative See More

Bring Your Theme to Your Fare

photographer: Casey Nolin Photography | Emma Singh Creative See More
Glamorous 50th Birthday Party at The Geraghty in Chicago, Illinois
photographer: Sara Kauss Photography | Kehoe Designs | J&L Catering See More

11. Select Entertainment

Your 50th-birthday party entertainment options are endless. For an engaging and interactive activity, consider a cocktail workshop or mixologists who are also showmen, serving up cocktails with flair. Think about including an MC to ensure that your celebration runs smoothly. Additionally:

The Right Music Engages Guests, Whether it’s a DJ or Live Band

Chic "Red Hot" Surprise 50th Birthday Party at InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf in Washington DC
photographer: Eli Turner Studios | Evoke Design & Creative See More
Tara's Glamorous 50th Birthday Bash in Nassau, Bahamas
photographer: Trene Forbes Photography | Perfect Planning Events | Essence Band See More
A Surprise 50th Birthday at Wynstone Golf Club
photographer: Christina Pawlak Photography | Christina Currie Events Inc. | Beatmix Music See More

Consider Acts That Tie to Your Locale or Theme

50ish Jazz Fest Inspired Crawfish Boil
photographer: Xistence Photography | Clandestine Events and Experiences; Preservation Hall Jazz Band See More
50th birthday party with interactive entertainment | PartySlate
photo courtesy of & planner: MOD Event Design See More

12. Work with a Design, Décor & Floral Team

View design team portfolios on PartySlate and work with your planner to choose a design team, then:

  • Schedule a walk through at your venue to visualize your designs
  • Customize designs to your theme or style; consider: the entrance, tabletops, bar, dance floor, etc. 

Make a Grand Entrance

50th Birthday Bash at The MacArthur
photographer: Full Spectrum Photography | The MacArthur | Butterfly Floral & Event Design See More

Deck Out Your Tabletops

50th Birthday Celebration
photographer: Casey Nolin Photography | Emma Singh Creative See More
Jamaican Inspired 50th Birthday Party at the Monarch Beach Resort Spa in Los Angeles, CA
photographer: Christine Bentley Photography | Exhilarate Experiential See More
Backyard Italian Garden Birthday Celebration
photographer: Steven Miller Photography | Overeasy Events, Inc. | Fairbanks Florists See More

Include a Dramatic Ceiling Installation

photo courtesy of & planner: KIS(cubed) Events See More
80's Themed Birthday Extravaganza
photographer: Jeremy Lawson Photography | LOLA Event Productions See More
50th Birthday Bash at The MacArthur
photographer: Full Spectrum Photography | The MacArthur | Dazian See More
Surprise 50th Birthday Party at LEVEL THREE in Miami, FL
photographer: Stanlo Photography | Keaira Chantell Events | The Simon Design
Surprise 50th Birthday Party at LEVEL THREE in Miami, FL
See More

13. Ensure That Your A/V Needs are Met

If you’re working with a good planner and design team, you can go ahead and cross this off your list.

  • Confirm that you have the sound system and equipment needed to support music and speeches
  • Make sure there’s the right lighting for the aesthetic of your celebration
  • Hire an A/V and technology team to augment your venue’s in-house systems as needed

The Right Lighting Creates a Party Atmosphere

The Pink Party 50th Birthday
photo courtesy of & planner: AJ Events | PEAK Event Services | Dazian See More
50th Birthday Party at SPACE54 in New York, New York
photographer: Chris Herder Photography | SPACE54 See More
Glamorous 50th Birthday Party at The Geraghty in Chicago, Illinois
photographer: Sara Kauss Photography | KEHOE DESIGNS | BlackOak Technical Productions See More
His & Hers (60th & 50th) Birthday Bash at City Hall in Chicago
photographer: Peter Wynn Thompson Photography | Joyce Pollakoff Events | KEHOE DESIGNS See More

Set the Stage for a Fun Party

Pop Art 50th Birthday Party at Offshore Navy Pier in Chicago, IL
photo courtesy of: Creative Consulting Specialists, Inc. | Frost Chicago See More

Don’t forget an epic (and on-theme) dance floor

80’s Themed 50th Birthday party
photographer: Hart Studios | M.Studio Events | Geo Events Design See More
Chic "Red Hot" Surprise 50th Birthday Party at InterContinental Washington D.C. - The Wharf in Washington DC
photographer: Eli Turner Studios | Evoke Design & Creative See More

Make Sure Those Meaningful Speeches Can be Heard by All

Luxe Milestone Celebration at The St. Jane Hotel
photographer: Joseph Kang Photography | Christina Currie Events, Inc. See More

14. Consider an Immersive Activity

Create additional opportunities for your guests to interact, like casino tables, a photo booth, or games

Add a Unique Touch, Like an Illustrator or Cigar Roller

A Surprise 50th Birthday at Wynstone Golf Club
photographer: Christina Pawlak Photography | Christina Currie Events Inc. | Rosemary Fanti
A Surprise 50th Birthday at Wynstone Golf Club
See More
Exceptional 50th Birthday Celebration in Dallas, Texas
photographer: Lightly Photography | Sarabeth Events | Encore Productions
Exceptional 50th Birthday Celebration in Dallas, Texas
See More

Engage Guests with Fun & Games

Casino Heist 50th Birthday at Prime & Provision
photo courtesy of & rentals: Chicago Casino Suppliers See More
His & Hers (60th & 50th) Birthday Bash at City Hall in Chicago
photographer: Peter Wynn Thompson Photography | Joyce Pollakoff Events
His & Hers (60th & 50th) Birthday Bash at City Hall in Chicago
See More

Include a Photo Spot with a Styled Backdrop

Modern 50th Birthday Celebration at 48 Lounge in New York CIty
photo courtesy of & venue: 48Lounge See More
50th Birthday Party
photographer: Ada Lee Photography | Dallas Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center See More
Edgy and Sophisticated 50th Birthday Celebration at Stephen Weiss Studios in New York City
photographer: Sara Lucky | Studio 3 See More
Gold and Glamorous 50th Birthday Party at Space54 in New York, NY
photo courtesy of & venue: SPACE54 See More
50th Birthday Party at SPACE54 in New York, New York
photographer: Chris Herder Photography | SPACE54 See More

15. Make it Personal

Whether it’s napkins with fun facts, an entrance to a favorite song, a photo montage, or a cake that incorporates interests and hobbies, ensure that the party expresses the guest of honor’s personality. 

Edgy and Sophisticated 50th Birthday Celebration at Stephen Weiss Studios in New York City
photographer: Sara Lucky | Studio3 See More
His & Hers (60th & 50th) Birthday Bash at City Hall in Chicago
photographer: Peter Wynn Thompson Photography | Joyce Pollakoff Events | KEHOE DESIGNS See More
Glamorous 50th Birthday Party at The Geraghty in Chicago, Illinois
photographer: Sara Kauss Photography | Kehoe Designs See More
Contemporary Themed 50th Birthday Surprise at the A.C. Nielsen Tennis Center
photographer: Sheri Whitko Photography | Paulette Wolf Events | KISHBAUGH + PARTNERS
Contemporary Themed 50th Birthday Surprise at the A.C. Nielsen Tennis Center
See More

16. Sweeten the Party With Dessert

Make sure there’s an opportunity to blow out candles with fanfare. Theme the cake to the party and offer additional sweet moments like a macaron tower or an ice cream truck. Locate a bakery or food truck nearby.

Don’t Forget a Cake to Perch Candles On

Surprise 50th Birthday Party at LEVEL THREE in Miami, FL
photographer: Stanlo Photography | Keaira Chantell Events | Déjà vu Sweets See More
Stunning and Fresh 50th Birthday Celebration at Eau Palm Beach in Palm Beach, Florida
photographer: Chris Kruger Photography | Eau Palm Beach See More
Gold and Glamorous 50th Birthday Party at Space54 in New York, NY
photo courtesy of & venue: SPACE54 See More
50th Birthday Midsummer Night Soiree
photographer: Marc Hall Photography | JKS Events; Butterfly Bakeshop See More

Curate a Full Dessert Spread

Italian-Inspired 50th Birthday at a Private Residence in San Francisco, CA
photographer: Purta Studios | Foxtail Catering & Events See More
Spectacular Surprise 50th Birthday Party at The Flower Firm in Chicago, Illinois
photographer: Angela Garbot Photography | Amazing Edibles Catering See More
Spectacular Surprise 50th Birthday Party at The Flower Firm in Chicago, Illinois
photographer: Angela Garbot Photography | Amazing Edibles Catering See More

17. Take Care of Your Guests

  • Arrange for guest transportation and a hotel block if you have out-of-town guests
  • Be clear about your dress code
  • Offer party favors to remind your guests of their good time and how much they mean to you

Luxe Milestone Celebration at The St. Jane Hotel
photographer: Joseph Kang Photography | Christina Currie Events, Inc. See More
Edgy and Sophisticated 50th Birthday Celebration at Stephen Weiss Studios in New York City
photographer: Sara Lucky | Studio3 See More

…Then End the Night in a Memorable Way

Pop Art 50th Birthday Party at Offshore Navy Pier in Chicago, IL
photo courtesy of & planner: Creative Consulting Specialists Inc. | Offshore Rooftop & Bar See More

People Also Ask…

What is a good theme for a 50th-birthday party?

When it comes to 50th birthday party themes, the options are endless. PartySlate offers limitless party inspiration with real event albums, idea galleries, and informative articles; discover the best ideas and inspiration.

You can also click to see more fun and creative party themes for an unforgettable 50th birthday or other milestone celebration below:

Where should I have a 50th-birthday party?

An incredible milestone birthday party requires an incredible team of party vendors — as well as an amazing location. Use PartySlate’s venue directory to find the perfect spot for your celebration. Here, you’ll find everything from rooftops in your home city to destination locales worth the trip. Make sure to narrow your search by filtering by location, amenities, and more to find the best fit for your party planning needs.