8 Tips to Plan A Perfect Sweet 16

January 11, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Sweet 16 PhotographyCandid photo of Angelina dancing on stage with her friends and family at her beautiful snow white themed sweet 16 party. If you've ever attended a Sweet 16, you will quickly notice that it can look very similar to a wedding. For some girls, turning 16 is the highlight of their life up until that point (wait until they turn 21), while others consider it a regular birthday just as special as any others. Planning a sweet 16 can go from exciting to overwhelming very quickly and below I have a guide to help parents keep some money in their pocket and a little hair on their heads (no more hair pulling). Try these tips for a smooth planning process and a successful party.

1. Budget 

Tell your teen how much you’re willing to spend and involve them in divvying up where it goes. Some teens insist on having a limo while others care more about having a party that is over six hours so they can dance into the night. Like any party, the sweet 16 can be extremely costly if there aren’t boundaries. Including your teen in the party's budget discussions will help them understand why you can say yes to some requests and no to others. Plus, there's no sense in going the extra mile for features that your teen will not appreciate. 

2. Guest List 

The size of your guest list will likely be affected by your budget. In most cases, the more people your teen invites, the more the party will cost. Some families save up to host a big bash, inviting 100 or more boys and girls.

Consider your teen's wishes and consider their number of friends. If they have a smaller group of friends, then it may be beneficial in choosing a small venue and smaller food list. 


Snow white themed sweet 16 partyRed apple name place cards for table


3. Date and Location 

Choosing a date and venue can be a challenge depending on where your teen's birthday falls on the calendar. If it happens to fall around Christmas or during busy times of the year, you will need to plan accordingly. 


Be sure to book the location well ahead of time so you’re not competing with office holiday parties or graduation events. Consider sending out "save-the-date" cards or e-mail messages if you’re worried about guests being overbooked. A good rule of thumb is to give guests between 3 and 6 months to save the date. 


Depending on where you live, there should be a variety of possible venues available. If you're stuck or everything is booked, consider your backyard or ask around for ideas from family, friends, and co-workers. Some venues to consider include: 

  • Barns
  • Community centers and halls
  • Dance clubs
  • Hotel ballrooms
  • Public parks
  • Restaurants
  • Sports facilities
  • Your backyard

If you're in NY or surrounding areas, consider looking into Marage Events, Regency Party Hall, Antun's, Occasions, Astoria World Manor, and Terrace on the Park --all located in Queens, NY. 

You can also look into finding venues listed on Peerspace.com.


4. Theme 

Your teen may think their too old for a party theme, but it can be fun and more grown-up than the princess or prince parties they've enjoyed in the past. Below are some fun ideas for teen party themes:

  • City lights (a Paris or New York City theme)
  • Hollywood or rock star
  • Luau
  • Masquerade
  • Mardi Gras
  • Pretty in Pink or Sports Based
  • Zombie

The theme can also be a chance to highlight a teen’s interests. For instance, if your teen loves swimming, you can go with an underwater theme. If they love to read, base the theme on their favorite novel (Harry Potter forevaaa!) You can even go with a favorite color, song, movie, or sport to personalize the party.


Snow White Themed Decoration for Sweet 16Sweet 16 decorations for sweet 16 Quinceanera. Poison apple, witch, tiara, and shoes Snow White Themed Decoration for Sweet 16Sweet 16 decorations for sweet 16 Quinceanera. Poison apple, witch, tiara, and shoes Snow White Themed Decoration for Sweet 16Sweet 16 decorations for sweet 16 Quinceanera. Poison apple, witch, tiara, and shoes

5. Vendors 

Since some sweet 16 parties are as elaborate as weddings, consider attending a bridal fair. This is a great opportunity to speak to caterers, DJs, and other service providers.

You can save even more money by tapping into the talent that already surrounds you. A friend could help you prepare food ahead of time and offer storage space in their freezer. The birthday teen might want to download her music playlist instead of hiring a DJ. I have a list of party decorators that give great discounts based on my coupon code.

But although friends and family can be a great source in cutting costs, I would not recommend hiring a family/friend that is not a professional photographer to capture photos. Besides risking the possibility of this family or friend canceling at the last minute and risking that this family or friend will miss moments because they have a close connection to the birthday star, Sweet 16s are expensive affairs and hiring a third-party photographer will guarantee capturing all of the beautiful decor, extravagant gowns, and special moments. 

And *cough cough* I'm available!


6. Menu 

Consider choosing foods that are easy to eat standing up. Guests will likely be milling about in addition to sitting down for a formal meal.

One popular idea for sweet 16 parties is to have a grand dessert buffet or cake table, complete with themed tablescapes and a variety of sweet treats. The cake can serve as the centerpiece for the dessert table. You can make the cakes multi-tiered, but in bright colors rather than white to distinguish them from wedding cakes. Yet, a smaller cake can be just as sweet!

Cupcakes are another popular choice and are often decorated as elegantly as a wedding cake. A popular money-saving tip that many Sweet 16 moms do is rent a beautiful dummy cake for photos (you can find some on Etsy) and decor, but buy an affordable sheet cake and have the venue staff slice it up in the back. (Genius!)

7. Itinerary 

Write a rough timeline for the party so everyone knows the general plan. Consider things like:

  • What time will the party start and guests arrive?
  • Will the birthday star make a grand entrance? If so, what time?
  • Any special performances?
  • Will there be the traditional changing of the shoes or tiara placing? Father daughter dance?
  • What time will you serve dinner?
  • What time will you light the 16 candles?
  • What time do you cut the cake?
  • What time will the party end?


Party favors—also known as lolly or gift bags! This step is optional—a little thank you for your guests to collect when they leave. Whether it’s edible or not is up to you, there are many options. The Sweet Sixteen party favor could match the theme of the birthday party or the teen's personality, whichever prefer. You can get party favors and ideas from Party Rush located in Queens, NY. 

And that’s it! Keep in mind that sometimes things don’t always go as planned but you can make the best out of these unexpected changes. Hopefully by using these tips, you can be more prepared for anything unplanned and have the most unforgettable birthday party yet! You’re only sixteen once so what are you waiting for? Time to get planning!