Ah, “sweet sixteen”… the birthday celebration that every girl looks forward to with giddy anticipation. But why is 16 “sweet?” And why is the 16th birthday celebration a big deal for girls but not so much for boys? Our guide to sweet 16 ideas should give you all the answers you’re looking for.
There is no clear indication as to how the term “sweet sixteen” came into use in popular culture. However, it is quite likely that it has it roots in other cultures’ coming-of-age parties. Some of these include the Jewish Bat Mitzvah, the Debutante Celebration of Victorian England (and today in some parts of the USA) and the Mexican Quinceañera. Each of these cultural celebrations marks a specific birthday in a girl’s life that represents some important milestone. This can be becoming a member of adult society or becoming morally responsible for one’s actions in accordance with her religion.
It is quite likely that the concept of the “Sweet Sixteen” birthday party developed out of these cultural celebrations of womanhood. However, the world may never know why the celebration is considered “sweet.” Nevertheless, the age of 16 has a great deal of significance in the lives of both boys and girls, although boys don’t get quite the same kind of celebration on their 16th birthdays as girls do.
The age of 16 marks some important milestones in a teenager’s life, such as the ability to get a driver’s license in many states. In some states it is also the age where a teenager can legally hold a job. Many 16 year olds are eligible to attend high school prom. Serious dating kicks in at about this age. It is also the age when teens are beginning to think about and plan their future career, what college to attend, and what courses and activities to participate in in order to give them the best possible shot at the future they desire. In short, 16 marks a time of significant change and the advent of a greater degree of responsibility for themselves and to society.
Naturally, such a significant life transition deserves a unique, special, one-of-a-kind celebration!
This ultimate guide to 100 Sweet Sixteen Birthday Ideas and Party Themes is designed to help you throw a party your 16 year old will never forget, starting with the Top Ten Sweet 16 Ideas.
TOP 1O SWEET SIXTEEN BIRTHDAY IDEAS
1) SPA PARTY
“Spa parties” are super trendy right now. They’re the teenaged-girl version of the princess party, and there are so many ways that you can go about throwing one, it doesn’t matter if you’re a skilled and creative party planner or if you throw a party the way you throw a piano (with a loud crash and maybe even some broken bones).
THE DO-IT-YOURSELF-SPA PARTY
A spa party can mean a lot of different things, so you might want to brainstorm this with your birthday girl. Your spa party might revolve around manicures, pedicures, facials, hairstyling, or a combination of these. Mani/pedi parties are the most popular spa-type parties today, partly because they can be enjoyed by just about every kind of girl, regardless of her age, and partly because they are relatively easy and inexpensive to put on when planning from scratch. All you need to do is purchase whatever materials are relevant to the kind of spa party you’re throwing.
SUPPLIES NEEDED FOR THE DO-IT-YOURSELF-SPA PARTY
1) A variety of nail polishes: Choose whatever brand you like. You can use professional-quality polishes (these will be the most expensive), the everyday nail polishes you can purchase at your local drug or grocery store (these range in price but are typically cheaper than professional brands) or stretch your party budget further and use dollar-store nail polish.
Try to choose a variety of colors with at least one in a red hue, one in a pink hue and one in a purple hue (these are the most popular). Also pick out a few fun, non-traditional colors, funky colors (i.e. black, electric blue, neon green, orange) for girls who prefer an edgier look. Although it is not entirely necessary, you may also want to purchase a clear base coat and clear top coat. This will make each guests’ mani or pedi last longer and give it a much more professional look.
Don’t forget to get nail polish remover (some guests may arrive with nails already painted) and cosmetic pads for removing old polish. Q-tips are useful to have on hand for dipping into polish remover and correcting fine mistakes, like polish that bleeds over onto cuticles or underneath the nails.
2) Manicure tools: This should include, at the very least, emery boards, toe separators (if doing pedicures), cuticle remover, orange sticks (for cuticle removal), cotton balls and, as already noted, cosmetic pads and Q-tips. To ensure safe hygiene, purchase separate tools for each guest and encourage guests not to share their tools as this can spread germs and fungus. Disposable emery boards, orange sticks and toe separators can be purchased cheaply at dollar stores and some drug and department stores.
3) Embellishments: Why stop at just polish? It will be even more fun to provide your guests with a variety of nail embellishments, like nail stickers, nail jewels, polish pens (for drawing designs onto the polished nail and available in a variety of colors) or nail stencils. (Note: Some embellishments, particularly nail jewels, may also require the purchase of nail glue.)
4) Optional: Make it a full hand spa and purchase products to use on the hands before and after the manicure. Have guests wash their hands before their manicures using some type of scented, pampering hand soap followed by a rich, creamy hand lotion (all of which can be purchased cheaply at department, drug and dollar stores). After their newly-painted nails dry, guests can wash and moisturize their hands again. Be sure to have a stack of freshly-laundered hand towels available for guests to use.
Does the do-it-yourself spa party sound like more work than you want to do? Don’t fret: you have a couple of other options available to you that are less work and still fun for teen girls.
THE PROFESSIONAL IN-HOME SPA PARTY
Instead of purchasing all the supplies yourself, hire a company to come in and host the spa for your sweet sixteen girl. Most urban areas have at least one company that specializes in in-home spa parties for children/teens, including chains, franchises and independent spa party businesses. If your town doesn’t have one, check with your local spa service providers. They may be able to host in-home spa parties.
Bringing the spa into your home will cost more than the do-it-yourself version. However, the sweet sixteen home spa party also has a number of advantages. One is that these companies have a lot more equipment and products available than what you will likely be able to come up with, like fluffy white spa robes for each guest. Also, many of these companies offer a selection of different party packages, including several themes to choose from and different price points. They may even provide take-home gifts for each guest. Best of all, the only work you have to do is set up the room for the big day.
THE IN-SPA SWEET SIXTEEN SPA PARTY
If your budget permits, and if you like the idea of keeping all of the festivities off-site, most spas offer group discounts and/or in-spa party options. All you have to do is send out the invitations! There’s no house cleaning involved and no need to purchase products or equipment. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! Your 16-year old and her guests will be pampered and treated like royalty. What better way to celebrate this coming of age for a girl?
2) CANDY BUFFET SWEET 16 IDEAS
The candy buffet is one the sweetest sweet 16 ideas we have on the list!
Who doesn’t like an all-you-can-eat affair? What if, instead of the traditional buffet foods, you got to eat as much candy as you wanted instead? Throwing a candy buffet party is a very sweet way to celebrate the sweet 16 birthday. Not only that, it’s relatively easy to organize, even for those who consider themselves party or organization-challenged. Plus, although you could spend a lot of money if you choose so, you can also have a very elegant candy buffet without breaking your bank account.
There are no real “rules” when it comes to hosting a Sweet Sixteen Candy Buffet. The 16th birthday idea is simply to purchase a variety of different kinds of candies and treats (making sure you choose the birthday girl’s favorites, of course) for your buffet. You can choose as many different kinds as you like, but we suggest striving for a minimum of six to eight different kinds of sweets in your buffet so that it really feels like a “buffet” for your guests.
IT’S ABOUT PRESENTATION
The candy buffet is not just about the candy… it’s also about the presentation. You could just throw all of your different treats into bowls, of course. But thoughtful presentation will make the event even more special. Again, don’t worry about your party-planning or hosting skill-level.
This part is easier than it sounds. All you need to do is visit your local dollar, craft (such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby) discount variety or department store and pick out as many serving containers as the number of types of candy you plan to serve. The trick is to pick out containers that are a little bit more interesting than plain old bowls. They don’t even necessarily have to come from the kitchenware department… plant vases and flower pots in various shapes and sizes make for beautiful candy displaying and serving, particularly transparent ones, because they allow the colorful candies to be viewed from the outside. You can also add visual interest to your buffet table by using food containers that weren’t necessarily designed to hold candy. For instance, martini glasses look beautiful when filled with jellybeans or M&Ms. Even glass candle holders make visually-attractive sweets-holders.
A few more ideas when it comes to visual display of your treats:
- Choose candies that are different shapes, but all the same color.
- Put a different color candy in each container. For example, if you have six containers, put pink gumballs in one, purple jelly beans in another, green hard candies in another, red licorice in another, and so on.
- Have a few containers filled with a single color of candies and one or two containers with multiple colored candies in one jar (such as M&Ms).
- Choose a flavor theme. For example, if your theme is caramel, fill one container with caramel hard candies (such as Werther’s), one with soft caramels (such as Kraft caramel squares), one with caramel lollipops, one with caramel fudge, and so on. (And yes, salted caramel counts as caramel. Yum!)
- Choose two or three colors (i.e. two main colors and one accent color) for your party and purchase candies that fit into that color scheme.
- The candy buffet is so incredibly easy to put together, and yet so visually stunning that it will no doubt be your sweet sixteen year old’s most memorable party. Best of all, a candy buffet makes a great stand-alone party, or you can serve a candy buffet at another type of party (like after a mani/pedi spa).
Variation- Chocolate Buffet
Same idea as the candy buffet, but with all chocolate. You can also include chocolate desserts (cake, cupcakes, chocolate ice cream, chocolate crepes, etc.) if you like. Don’t forget the chocolate fountain!
3) MUSIC/ROCK AND ROLL PARTY
Every teenager’s life revolves around music, whether it’s listening to their favorite artist on their iPod or actually playing an instrument in a band. Your sweet 16-year old undoubtedly gravitates toward a particular music style or would simply die to see their favorite band live.
You probably won’t be able to get Shawn Mendes to show up to serenade her, but a music-themed party will still be pretty memorable. You can customize this type of celebration specifically for your 16 year old girl according to the style of music that she likes, her fave rock band or her singer-crush.
Music theme parties are fairly popular, so music-themed decor will be easy to find. There will likely be a lot to choose from at your local party supplies store as well as online. However, you don’t have to rely solely on store-bought decorations. Paper, scissors and a printer is all you need to make your own. There are lots of templates and pictures available on the Web (think musical note and musical instrument cutouts and posters).
Not only that, but with a little creative hunting in thrift stores, dollar and variety stores and discount retailers, you can find all kinds of fun music-related props to use as decorations. Old records make fabulous decorations, and you can purchase them cheaply at secondhand music shops (where you might also be able to find old music posters and other prop ideas). Actual musical instruments, if you can get your hands on them or already have them at home, also make great props for a music-theme party. Don’t forget to choose a color scheme. (Hint: black and white with one or two accent colors are great for rock and roll parties.)
4) RETRO PARTY
It’s always fun to transport yourself back in time, even if it’s only a decade or two, and even if it’s just for a couple of hours. Retro parties (that is, parties that have a particular era in time as a theme) are ultra-trendy and always a blast, both to attend and to throw. Pick an era (say the 1980’s) and do a little research on that era. Then focus your decorations, food, games and activities around that particular era. (See our section on “Retro Party Variations.)
5) DANCE PARTY
You can approach this party theme in a variety of different ways, depending on your budget and the kinds of materials you have available at home. If you have a home gaming system (Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox) you can use one of the many different virtual dance games (Just Dance, Dance Dance Revolution, etc.) that are compatible with your system. Have a dance-off, with prizes for the winner. Or, have guests vote on different contest categories, such as “Best Dancer,” “Most Awkward Dance Moves,” etc., with prizes for each category winner.
HIRE A DJ
If your budget permits and you have the space (or can rent the space), have an actual dance party with either digital music or a DJ. Have a dance-off competition as part of the evening’s festivities (you can incorporate some of the previous ideas if you like). Include some popular fad/retro dance favorites, like the Chicken Dance, the Bunny Hop, the Loco Motion, the Macarena, the Limbo, a Conga Line, etc.
6) HOLLYWOOD GLAM PARTY
Roll out the red carpet and welcome your sweet sixteen and her friends to a memorable Hollywood theme party. “Hollywood” is a pretty broad idea, so there’s lots you can do with it. Glitz and glamour are a MUST, so invite guests to dress formal or as their favorite Hollywood celebrity. Decor ideas include cutout stars, clapperboards, top hats, movie reels, martini or champagne glasses (fill them with fancy mocktails or small candies or make them into clever centerpieces), strings of white lights, anything sparkly or glitzy, and a “Hollywood” sign (available at party supplies stores or make your own).
GO WITH A COLOR SCHEME
Pick a color scheme and use it in everything from the invitations to the decor at the event; black, red, pink, gold and silver and combinations of these are popular colors for a Hollywood theme party. Food can range from simple star-shaped cookies to elegantly-decorated layer cakes decorated with your theme colors. (Here are a few dessert ideas to inspire you.)
7) MOVIE NIGHT PARTY
There’s a lot you can do around this theme, and it has broad appeal because, hey… who doesn’t love a great movie? You can incorporate many of the ideas from the “Hollywood Party” (previous) for a movie party. Of course, the highlight of the Movie Night Party will be the showing of your sweet sixteen’s favorite movie. If you don’t have a big screen TV, rent or borrow a video projector and project the movie onto a blank light-colored wall or a large white sheet hung from the wall.
If the weather is warm enough, you can show your movie outdoors or in the garage. There are even companies in some urban areas that will rent you all the equipment you need for a fabulous Movie Night Party, including a big screen (some even have inflatable screens designed specifically for the outdoors) and may also offer the option of coming in and running the movie portion of the night for you so you have less work to worry about.
You can also have a lot of fun with decorations and accessories for your Movie Night Party (again, see “Hollywood Party” for more ideas), like creating party invitations that look like movie tickets for each guest. Popcorn is a must at your event. Purchase traditional red and white striped paper popcorn bags from your local dollar, discount or party supplies store or online for your guests to use. You might even be able to find a theater-style popcorn maker for rent to use at your event.
8) BEACH PARTY
This timeless favorite can actually be held at the beach if the season is right and you live near a beach. However, you can still have a beach party even if it’s January by bringing the “beach” indoors. Because beach-theme parties are popular, it should be easy to find beach-theme decorations and props, like blow-up palm trees, beach balls, beach umbrellas, beach-motif cutouts and hanging decorations.
Choose “beachy” theme colors such as blue or pastels (pink, green, yellow). Invite each guest to wear beach clothes and flip-flops. If you have a large enough space and don’t mind a bit of a mess, you can even bring in some beach sand and a kiddie-pool filled with water. (If you don’t like the idea of water indoors, fill your kiddie pool with blue balloons or styrofoam/plastic pellets instead.) Serve your guests “beach” foods (hot dogs, hamburgers, etc.) and colorful mocktails or slushy drinks (complete with paper umbrella).
9) GLOW-IN-THE-DARK PARTY
Just about anything goes with this kind of event, as long as you do it in the dark and supply your guests with lots of glow items and/or things that light up or flash. Look for things like glow/light up sticks, bracelets, necklaces and rings. These should be available relatively cheaply at dollar, discount and party stores or online.
You might be able to find other glow items as well, including things like glasses, headbands, wands, tattoos. Body paint and earrings. Purchase glow/light up toys as prizes or party favors (yo-yos, putty/slime, balls, sticky animals, mini flashlights, etc.). There are even light up games, like glow bowling sets, that would make perfect party activities. You might even want to rent a black light, which will make anything that is light in color to glow. Games and activities should take advantage of the glow factor and create a spectacle of light (dance-off in the dark, races, scavenger hunts). Don’t forget to turn off the lights!
10) THE HOTEL SLEEPOVER
This super-popular idea is always a huge hit with teenaged girls. Pick a nice hotel (you don’t have to travel if you don’t want to; just pick one in your town), preferably with options for activities, like a pool and hot tub. Eat out at the hotel’s restaurant, or order in and watch a movie. If your budget permits, treat guests to an in-hotel spa facial, manicure or massage. The great thing about the hotel sleepover is that you don’t have to worry about decorating your house or cleaning up afterward!
91 MORE SWEET 16 IDEAS
SWEET 16 IDEAS RETRO PARTY VARIATIONS
11) THE 1920’s
When planning an era party, the 1920’s could be one of the best sweet 16 themes. When thinking of sweet 16 themes, the 1920’s are not usually the first decade that comes to mind. However, there is so much about the 1920’s that screams “girls rule” that, once you suggest it to your teen girl, she might totally get on board with the idea. After all, the 1920’s was the flapper generation, when young women were beginning to say “to heck with tradition and expectations!” They started cutting their hair short, driving cars and laying the groundwork for the women’s rights movement and equality in the workplace. Girls of the 1920’s wore cloche hats and had the audacity not to lace up their boots while out in public. A 1920’s theme party is a fun way to celebrate becoming a young woman, and a good way to impart some history at the same time. (Find some more cool 1920’s party tips at chrystinanoel.com.)
12) THE 1950’s
When you reflect on this era, you undoubtedly think of poodle skirts, saddle shoes, Chuck Taylors, roller skates, drive-in movie theaters and Mom and Pop diners with juke boxes in the corner where you could hear your favorite song for a nickel because there was no iTunes. The 1950’s are one of the most entertaining and fun eras to build a party around which makes this theme one of the most exciting sweet 16 party ideas. There’s just so much you can do with it: go with a pink and black theme and invite your guests to wear poodle skirts, or make it a 50’s music theme and incorporate some of the ideas we already described in our “Music Theme Party” section.
13) THE 1960’s
The years between 1960 and 1969 gave us Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Rolling Stone Magazine, civil rights, Twiggy, Woodstock and, of course, hippies, to name just a few. Girls were wearing pleated skirts, bell bottom pants, and, to the chagrin of the older generations, blue jeans. The Volkswagen Bus was hip and everything was “groovy.” For a 1960’s sweet sixteen party you could build on the idea of “flower power” and decorate with brightly colored cutouts of daisies or cover your walls with peace symbols and tie-dyed crimped crepe-paper circles. Don’t forget to find a lava lamp and lavish your guests with love beads.
14) THE 1970’s
It was the era of disco, and fondue parties were all the rage. If you built a home in the 70’s, it probably had a sunken living room with at least one bean bag chair. Kids were crazy for Abba, and a buck and a half could get you a movie theater where you would be able to see what would later become classics: The Godfather, Star Wars Episode IV, King Kong and Jaws. Plaid was rad, and more and more girls were wearing pants. Some tried to get away with wearing hot pants, but most couldn’t make it past their front doors without their parents yelling “if you think you’re going out looking like THAT…” Of all the sweet 16 party ideas, the 1970’s theme is RAD!
15) THE 1980’s
Tease your hair, put on your leg warmers and neon spandex, and get ready to party like it’s the 1980’s! Those were the years when every teenage girl wanted to be Madonna. Video arcades were everywhere, and gaming was just beginning to find its way into the home on systems like the Commodore and the Atari. When kids weren’t playing video games, they were trying to solve the Rubik’s cube. Teenagers played their music first on ginormous boom boxes and then, later, on Walkmans. There is just so much about the 1980’s that you can make into a great party! (Check out some of the “totally awesome” 1980’s party ideas from Laura Riggs at queen-of-theme-party-games).
16) THE 1990’s
This was the decade when the video game market share was falling for the makes of the Atari and Nintendo was rising to take its place. Cell phones were just beginning to take hold in pop culture, back when all the cell phone could do was make a phone call (weird, right?) and they were the size of bricks. Every girl wanted to be Cher from Clueless and wanted to date Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Leonardo DiCaprio and all of the Hanson boys. The 90’s were characterized by here-today-gone-tomorrow trends like the Macarena, Pogs and butterfly hair clips. All of these ideas and more can be worked into a hella wicked sweet sixteen party theme. (Check out more 90’s party ideas that are da bomb at thegreat90s.com!)
SWEET 16 IDEAS USING CULTURAL/COUNTRY/CONTINENTAL THEMES
Parties centered around the theme of a particular country, continent or culture are hugely popular with teenaged girls. There’s just something so alluring about the idea of visiting (or at least pretending to visit) another culture for a few hours. And since these types of parties are so trendy right now, it’s not hard to find decorations, souvenirs and other items to enhance the atmosphere of the event.
17) PARIS SWEET 16 IDEAS
Ooh lala, allons à Paris, oui? At some point in her life, every girl dreams of going to Paris. A lucky few actually get to visit the City of Lights. Others must live vicariously, and one way to do it is with a Sweet Sixteen Paris-themed party. Fortunately, you can find just about anything Paris-themed these days, from paper straws to goody bags/boxes to Eiffel Tower 3D cardboard table centerpieces. Your local craft or party goods store will probably have a selection of Paris-themed decorations and goods. The Internet is also a great source of these types of items. However, if you can’t find them or want to be frugal, you can make your own Paris-themed decorations using pictures and templates from the Web along with everyday party items (think pink and black crepe paper streamers and paper plates).
Naturally you’ll want to serve authentic French party cuisine. Things like petits fours, macarons, Crème Brûlée, crepes (with fruit, chocolate or whatever else the birthday girl likes), palmiers, french pastries and, of course, some genuine French chocolate. French mocktails will also be a hit with your party guests.
18) MEXICAN FIESTA SWEET 16 IDEAS
There’s a lot you can do around a Mexican theme, including great food ideas. You’re never too old for a Piñata, but you could fill it with trinkets that teen girls covet, like lipstick, stickers, nail files, packs of gum, funky socks, jewelry, nail gems, etc. (Just make sure whatever you use won’t break if it gets whacked!) Decorations should be brightly colored and can include things like streamers, paper flowers/pom poms, and props like Mexican flags, blankets and sombreros.
The food might very well be the very best part of the Mexican-themed party. You can serve tacos, burritos, nacho chips with salsa, guacamole, sour cream and cheese dip, churros, Mexican corn on the cob (“elotés”), tamalés, mock margaritas and drinks served inside hollowed-out pineapples, mangos or ladled from a watermelon punch bowl.
Sushi is all the rage these days, so why not incorporate her favorite rolls into an entire Japan-themed party? Start with decorations to set the atmosphere: rice paper lanterns and hanging spheres are simple and inexpensive and yet look dazzling. If you’re able to find them, props like shojis (rice paper folding screens), hand fans, bamboo plants and bonsai trees make elegant accents. Your party food menu can include your sixteen year old’s favorite kinds of sushi and finger foods such as onigiri (shaped rice balls), gyoza, fried wonton, yakitori, fried shrimp, steamed buns and colorful mochi. If your birthday girl likes to be crafty, supply your guests with a variety of vivid multicolored origami paper and instructions for creating favorites like the crane, boat, tulip, cube, and even tissue holders. Sweet 16 themes don’t get any more exotic than this!
Decorate in a blue, red and white theme. Use Union Jack decorations, imagery of icons like Big Ben, the London Bridge, Buckingham Palace and anything Royal Family. If you can find them, serve British treats like Smarties, Jelly Babies, Licorice Allsorts, Wine Gums and Chocolate Buttons.
21) AFRICAN SAFARI
Decorate using animal prints and savannah motifs, wooden carvings, African drums (“djembes”), safari hats and tribal art.
22) HAWAIIAN LUAU
Say aloha to this 16th birthday party idea. Throw a sweet 16 luau, complete with floral leis, hula skirts and fresh pineapple. If your party is in the summer, throw some kebabs on the the barbecue. If you’re really brave, go whole-hog and have a pig roast. (For more luau party ideas check at Brian and Kari King’s sweet16themes.com.)
23) LAS VEGAS
This kind of party is all about over-the-top showmanship, glitz and non-stop fun. You have lots of decorating options within this theme, with a casino motif being a favorite. Activities can include Vegas-style gambling games (using pennies or candies or chips to trade in for prizes).
SWEET 16 IDEAS: MUSIC/ROCK AND ROLL PARTY VARIATIONS
24) CLASSIC ROCK AND ROLL PARTY
For this twist on the Rock and Roll Party, chose an era to focus on and plan your decorating, colors and food around it. Some prop ideas include an old record player, tape player or boom box, a jukebox (hard to find, but SOOOO cool if you can get your hands on one!), old tapes or records and posters of bands from your chosen era (again, check on the Web). You can use some of the ideas from our” Rock and Roll Party” section, too.
25) THE BEATLES
Because they are still one of the biggest bands of all time, Beatles memorabilia is easy to come by. You can even find it in dollar and discount variety stores, things like posters, postcards, canvas prints and even figurines. You can accent your Beatles memorabilia with British decor if you like (see “British” in our “Country/Continental/Cultural Theme Party” section), which is easy to find or to make yourself.
26) HER FAVORITE BAND/ARTIST
Is she totally into Ed Sheeran? Does she aspire to be the next Katy Perry or Ariana Grande? Maybe she prefers rock bands over pop stars, like Green Day or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Whatever she has on her iPod playlist, you can build a party around it.
This is a fun theme when it comes to decorating. A black and white color scheme is a MUST for the piano-theme party, and then throw in one or two accent colors. One decoration that is easy to make is giant piano keys, which you can create with cardboard, cardstock or a ream of wide paper. Don’t forget the piano cake or black and white cupcakes!
If the guitar is more her thing, make that the focus of her music theme party. Guitar-motif decorations are widely available in party stores and online.
Like the Rock and Roll Party, but with a jazz flavor instead. Think pianos, saxophones, trumpets, trombones and bass.
SWEET 16 IDEAS USING HOLLYWOOD GLAM PARTY VARIATIONS
30) VINTAGE/RETRO HOLLYWOOD
Pick a particular era (see “The Retro Party” and “Hollywood Glam” section) and center your decorations, activities and food around that particular time period. Make sure you include references to movies and stars from that era.
31) OSCAR NIGHT SWEET 16 IDEAS
Celebrate the Oscars no matter what time of year it is. Decorate in gold and black and have your sweet sixteen and her friends nominate each other other for funny awards (“Best Driving Fail,” “Worst Performance on a Math Test,” “Best Excuse for Being Late for School” and the like). Or, guests can nominate their own favorite movies from the previous year, or their favorite teen movie (or teen movie flop) of all time. Make sure you have some kind of award to hand out to each winner.
32) HOLLYWOOD FILM PARTY
This is a fabulous idea for the budding actress, director, film producer or screen writer’s 16th birthday. Invite guests over for a movie-making party. Have your birthday girl plan the script, or divide guests into teams to make their own short films and then end the party with a movie premiere.
33) HOLLYWOOD SQUARES SWEET 16 IDEAS
For this twist on the Hollywood theme, have nine guests represent various stars who will play contestants on your own Hollywood Squares game. The remaining guests will act as the audience. You’ll have to come up with a series of questions in advance of the “game.” Your “stars” answer the questions with the truth or a lie, and the audience judges whether their answer is true or not. Your questions can be on just about any topic, but why not make them about the birthday girl? Guests will have a blast, and they might even learn something they never knew before about the birthday girl. Tic-tac-toe decorations will complement the theme and enhance the event’s atmosphere.
MORE MOVIE NIGHT SWEET 16 IDEAS
Movie-specific themes- You can turn literally any movie into a fab party theme, but here are a few movies that are party-theme favorites, including some contemporary as well as classic films:
34) CHICK FLICK NIGHT
This variation celebrates all things girlie, like romance, glam, and, of course, a chick flick. Girlie decor that celebrates romance is a must.
The movie, released in 1978 and starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John about the teenage romance of a bad boy and a good girl), became an instant hit and then a timeless classic. A Grease party can combine references that come directly from the movie combined with general 1950s decor and props (see our section on “The 1950’s”).
36) JAMES BOND SWEET 16 IDEAS
You can go with classic or contemporary Bond. Either way, this theme will be a blast. Decor and props can reference spy gear and cool cars. Have your girls dress up as Bond girls and make it a semi-formal affair.
37) FAST AND THE FURIOUS
This wildly successful movie series a teen pop culture fave. Center your decor around fast cars and racing.
38) PRETTY IN PINK
This classic teen flick from the 80s combines movie and 1980’s themes, so there’s a lot you can do around it. Naturally, you’ll want to ask your guests to wear pink to this party. Decorations can be 80’s-inspired (see section on “The 1980’s” for more ideas).
39) HUNGER GAMES
Create your own epic, no-killing version of the Hunger Games to play at this theme party. Just be sure to play in an area that is relatively controlled (like a park or your own property) and won’t interfere with the public.
40) HARRY POTTER
Turn your venue into Hogwart’s Academy. Then invite guests to dress up as their favorite Harry Potter character.
41) STAR WARS
No matter which episode is her favorite, you can build a party around it. There’s so much fun to be had with this theme. Think Death Star cookies and decorating your party venue as the Mos Eisley Cantina.
If the macabre is more her thing, this famous Stephen King novel, miniseries and movie (and soon to become an updated remake) will be a huge hit. Both King fans and fans of the creepy in general will have a scary-good time.
43) ALICE IN WONDERLAND
Either the cartoon original or the newer Tim Burton version are both packed with party inspiration. Naturally, the highlight of the event will be your tea party!
SWEET 16 IDEAS: DANCE PARTY VARIATIONS
You can combine multiple themes to create a Sweet Sixteen Rave. Implement ideas from our “Dance Party” and “Glow in the Dark” party sections. Make sure you prepare a generous playlist of techno music for guests to dance to.
Take your inspiration for the Disco party from our sections on “Dance Party” and “The 1970’s.” Make sure you hunt down a mirrored disco ball (available at party supplies and rentals stores) or at least a homemade replica.
46) SOCK HOP
Here’s another idea that can incorporate multiple themes. Combine ideas from our “Dance Party” and “The 1950’s” section for decor and food. Make up a playlist of 1950’s music hits. Most importantly, make sure guests remove their shoes!
47) SADIE HAWKINS
The fictional spinster Sadie Hawkins married the loser of a race to avoid becoming her husband. Modern Sadie Hawkins dances center around the idea that girls invite the boys, and fun ensues. Decor can reflect the 1930’s, 40’s or even 50’s.
BEACH PARTY SWEET 16 IDEAS
A Malibu beach party combines the fun outlined in our “Beach Party” section with the glam that defines Malibu. There is a certain level of sophistication that comes with a Malibu beach party, so plan your decor and food accordingly (think mocktails sipped from half-shell coconuts and things that sparkle).
49) CALIFORNIA DREAMING SWEET 16 IDEAS
While the Malibu beach party celebrates the upscale Malibu lifestyle, the California Dreaming beach party is more about celebrating the surf culture that is associated with California’s beaches. Center your decor, food and activities around surfing, beach volleyball and the like.
50) THE CARIBBEAN
There’s just something exotic about the Caribbean that inspires a unique party. Serve pineapple, melons, kebabs, jerk chicken and mock piña coladas. Decorate your venue as if you’re in a casual Jamaican beachside pub.
TV SHOW THEMED SWEET 16 IDEAS
51) THE WALKING DEAD
The runaway AMC hit show has created a new generation of Zombie Apocalypse survival preppers. Decorate your venue like your favorite scene from the series (the Prison, Terminus, Alexandria, etc,) with ample references to zombies. And remember, if Darryl dies, we riot.
52) STRANGER THINGS
This surprise-hit series Netflix original takes the paranormal to a new level. There are so many scenes from Stranger Things to draw decor inspiration from: the “upside down,” the Christmas lights, the alphabet on the wall. You can have a whole lot of fun with this party theme.
53) THE AMAZING RACE SWEET 16 IDEAS
This party requires a great deal of thought and planning, particularly when it comes to the game, but it will be well worth the effort. Choose locations from around your town (that are within reasonable and safe walking distance) and create clues for your guests to follow.
54) FEAR FACTOR
Even though the show no longer airs, it is still inspiring a generation of party-planners who seek to challenge guests to face their fears and conquer them. Design challenges that involve eating gross foods or sticking body parts in weird concoctions (i.e. sticking their feet in a bowl of peeled grapes to try to find marbles hidden inside).
For this theme, you’ll need to design challenges that test stamina, reasoning and willpower rather than fears. Challenges can include obstacle courses, finding hidden puzzle pieces and completing the entire puzzle or building the most livable shelter out of random materials.
56) SURVIVOR GIRL
For the all-girls Sweet Sixteen party, you can design Survivor-style challenges around girl-themes. Some ideas include creating a wearable outfit out of random materials (followed by a fashion show, of course), a race to see who can put makeup on the most dolls in a given time frame, etc.
57) THE BIG BANG THEORY
This hit TV series offers a lot of opportunities for creative party-planning. Decor can reflect a favorite scene from the series or the show in general (think Big Bang Theory posters) and “sciencey” things. Of course, your activities MUST include a rousing tournament of ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS, LIZARD, SPOCK!
58) BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER
First a movie, then a hit TV series which is still in syndication today, a Buffy party touches on a girl’s dark side in a light-hearted way. Activities can include a Buffy trivia challenge, shooting at a vampire scarecrow with Nerf darts and more. Make sure you serve “bloody” punch or mocktails.
59) FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS FOOTBALL
A book-to-movie-to-TV series, Friday Night Lights celebrated, among other things, Small Town, USA’s love for Friday night high school football. Your party should reflect the high school football tradition as well as references to the show.
60) MINUTE TO WIN IT SWEET 16 IDEAS
The idea of this super-popular and oft-hilarious game show is to complete a seemingly simple (yet deceptively difficult) task in under 60 seconds. The games are simple to set up and equipment required is often minimal. Here’s one example that you can use for your party: stack 36 plastic cups into a perfect pyramid and then back into a single stack in under a minute. On the show, the winner is the person who perfectly completes ten challenges, and the prize is one million dollars. You don’t have to give away a million bucks, but you can definitely come up with some fun and wacky prizes for your winners.
61) PROJECT RUNWAY
If your sweet sixteen is a budding clothing designer, this TV series makes the perfect party for her. Gather a variety of materials for your guests to work with and have them compete for best design. And by “materials,” we mean things like toilet paper, garbage bags, plastic wrap, Kraft paper, notebook paper, aluminum foil, pipe cleaners and basically anything else that would make a non-traditional material to design with. Give out prizes for “Best Design,” “Most Original,” “Biggest Wardrobe Fail,” etc.
If cooking is more her thing, host your own “Chopped” party. Provide your players, the chefs, three unrelated food items and then challenge players to use them (along with other ingredients) to try to create the best dish.
If your teen is into fantasy games, movies or TV shows, a fantasy party will be one she won’t forget. Center your party around whatever fantasy genre, show or game is her favorite.
64) GAME OF THRONES SWEET 16 IDEAS
You may be able to find licensed Game of Thrones party decorations online or at your local party supplies store. Even if you don’t, use your imagination and go with medieval-style decor and props. You might want to serve dragon’s egg cookies and mock “pigeon” pie and play Game of Thrones trivia.
65) LEGEND OF ZELDA SWEET 16 IDEAS
For this theme, be sure to use lots of imagery from the game (like the Triforce, Magic Medallions, Wingscrest, Twilight Emblem, the Symbol of Time, etc.). You can print most of these things off of the Web. You can also find Legend of Zelda party decorations online and in some party supplies stores. Green (like the color of grass) and brown accented by primary colors are ideal for decor.
66) POKEMON SWEET 16 IDEAS
Gotta catch them all! You can center this type of party around a scavenger hunt for cutouts of Pokemon characters or for actual Pokemon game cards. The winner is the person or team that collects the most Pokemon. Think red, black and yellow with primary color accents for a decorating color scheme.
67) LORD OF THE RINGS SWEET 16 IDEAS
The Lord of the Rings novel series became a series of smash-hit movies, giving a brand new generation an appreciation for these works by J.R.R. Tolkien. Your party might include a scavenger hunt-like quest for the One Ring, or a charge to teams to deliver a ring to a particular person at a pre-designated location. You’ll definitely want to serve mock beer (root beer or ginger ale).
68) THE HOBBIT
Very much like a Lord of the Rings theme party, but with Hobbits. JUST Hobbits.
69) FINAL FANTASY SWEET 16 IDEAS
This hugely-successful game with several sequels is a mix of fantasy and sci-fi, with role playing involved. You can create your own, real-life version of the game as your main party activity.
70) WORLD OF WARCRAFT
Yet another successful and popular fantasy role-playing game that can be adapted for a group party game.
71) DR. WHO SWEET 16 IDEAS
This British television series about the adventures of Time Lord Dr. Who has garnered a cult following around the world. Because of its popularity, you should be able to find Dr. Who decorations (including TARDIS replicas) at party supplies stores or online. You can even find downloadable Dr. Who party kits to make things even easier and less costly.
72) ADVENTURE TIME
This quirky cartoon where every character but Finn is non-human is another TV series with a cult following among teens. You can decorate your venue like the post-apocalyptic “Land of Ooo.” As an activity, you can create an adventure for guests to complete, play Adventure Time trivia or place a card on each guest’s back with the name of an Adventure Time character. Each guest must then ask yes or no questions of other guests to try to figure out which character she is.
MORE CANDY THEME SWEET 16 IDEAS
73) CANDY CRUSH SWEET 16 IDEAS
This made-for-your-smartphone game is simple and totally addictive. Players love the game’s bright colors and depictions of candy. Candy Crush just screams “party theme!” You can incorporate many of the ideas in our “Candy Buffet” section for a Candy Crush party and simply add lots of references to the game.
74) CANDYLAND SWEET 16 IDEAS
This is yet another twist on the candy themed party, with a little throwback to her childhood days. Your decor and activities should center around the Candyland. You can even create a life-size Candyland game for guests to play.
MISCELLANEOUS SWEET 16 IDEAS
75) MINI GOLF SWEET 16 IDEAS
This is a very simple event to plan if you have a mini-golf course in the area where you live. Make it interesting by offering prizes for guests for “High Score,” “Most Awkward Putter,” “Hole-In-One Queen,” etc.
76) LASER TAG SWEET 16 IDEAS
Maybe Mini Golf isn’t quite her speed. Laser tag is fast-paced, exciting and challenging. Plus, it takes place in the dark, and there are lasers. What’s not to love?
77) PAINTBALL GAMES
If her style is even more hard-core, consider having a Paintball party. Most major urban areas have at least one paintball facility where your She-Warriors can fight epic battles, either working together as a team or competing against one another.
78) ESCAPE ROOM SWEET 16 IDEAS
These virtual adventures are popping up in urban centers everywhere and make for a cool party. Your group gets locked into a staged room (each one has a particular theme). The group must work together, using the the materials available inside the room, to escape within a set time frame. It’s a blast to play. And don’t worry…. If you get a little claustrophobic there is always an emergency exit.
79) CAMPOUT SWEET 16 IDEAS
Any girl who loves the outdoors or camping would have a blast at an overnight or weekend campout. Most of the fun is sleeping in tents and staying up late, but you can pack it full of fun outdoor activities and games, too. Roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a campfire and making s’mores is a definite MUST for the Campout Party.
80) ZOMBIE PARTY
Less specific than “The Walking Dead” party idea, this theme celebrates zombies in general. Guests can dress as zombies, and activities should be zombie-themed, such as “identify the body part.” For this you need a large doll or a mannequin that can be taken apart. Place parts in a box or bag and have blindfolded guests pull out a part and identify what body part it is.
81) PINK ZOMBIE PARTY
Just like a Zombie Party, but guests should be pink zombies. Naturally your decorations should be mostly pink, too.
82) COMIC BOOK PARTY
Invite guests to come as their favorite comic book character. Your decor can be centered around one particular comic book character or series (your sweet sixteen’s favorite) or around comics in general (think primary colors and comic books, comic book covers and comic book posters).
83) UFO/ALIEN PARTY
This party will go over smashingly with anyone who loves conspiracy theories, outer space, or who believes in life on other planets (although they may not admit it). As you probably guessed, your activities and decorations should center around aliens and UFOS.
84) PARANORMAL PARTY
Maybe ghosts are more her thing than aliens. For this theme, you can decorate your venue like a haunted house, blast creepy music, play ghostly games and serve ghostly food, like Paranormal Pretzels (http://butterwithasideofbread.com/2014/10/alien-pretzels/).
85) MURDER MYSTERY SWEET 16 IDEAS
At this type of party, guests must try to solve a murder mystery by asking the right questions and deciphering clues. You can purchase Murder Mystery games, which come with all the things you need to host your party and everything your guests need to figure out whodunnit. You can also find downloadable Murder Mystery party kits online.
Like a “Murder Mystery” party, but taking after the old-favorite board game, clue. Guests will each take the role of a different character and try to figure out whether it was Professor Plum in the conservatory with the rope or someone else entirely.
87) MALL SCAVENGER HUNT SWEET 16 IDEAS
You can execute this theme party in one of two ways. Option 1: find people who would be willing to be “hunted” in your local mall. Provide party guests with a picture of each person they are supposed to find and get a picture with. The winner is the team who finds the most people on the list, or finds everyone on the list first. Option 2: make it a photo scavenger hunt. Give players a list of things to find and take a picture of someplace in the mall, such as: blue underwear, a Corvette in the parking lot, a bowl of chocolate frozen yogurt, a yellow bath bomb, etc. The team who finds the most items or all of the items first wins. With either option, make sure to set a time limit of one to two hours.
88) COLOR WARS/PAINT WARS
This is a broad theme with few hard and fast rules except that there should be lots of different colors, and guests should be prepared to get messy. You’ll need to purchase bulk quantities of washable tempera paints (you can water it down substantially so it goes further and washes out easier) and devices to deliver paint shots to the opposing team, such as water guns or squirt wands. Games can be tailored around shooting paint. (You’ll probably want to have a hose available for clean-up afterward!)
89) WET AND WILD PARTY
This variation on the beach or pool party involves non-stop, high-octane water games. You can have this party at the beach or in your backyard pool, but you don’t necessarily have to have a pool or go to the beach. Set up a kiddie pool for fun and have ample water balloons, water guns, water guns or just plain old buckets and hoses for this party to be successful.
90) BOHO CHIC SWEET 16 IDEAS
Everything boho chic is hot right now. When it comes to clothing, it’s a mix of 1960s, Victorian, with some influence of 50’s and 70s style as well. Crepe and lace fabric and sparkly embellishments are common characteristics of boho chic, and these look beautiful when worked into a decor theme, in pretty girlie colors of course.
91) PINK CAMO SWEET 16 IDEAS
Since this theme is fairly popular these days (just look how much pink camo clothing is in stores), you should be able to find pink camouflage decor at dollar, discount or party supplies stores as well as online. Any games will do, but it will be even more fun if you make your activities into epic battles.
92) BIGGER BETTER SWEET 16 IDEAS
The Bigger Better event has been around for a long time, but it never gets old. The idea is to split guests into two or more teams (“teams” can even be pairs) and give each team a very simple item, say, a pen. The idea is that the teams must go around the neighborhood (be sure to set perimeters to keep guests safe) and try to trade the pen up for something “bigger and better” within a particular time limit (an hour or so is usually sufficient). Then they must trade that new item up, and so on. It sounds hard, but you might be surprised by what some of your teams come back with! The winning team is the one that comes back with the biggest and best item.
93) BOARD GAME SWEET 16 IDEAS
Board game fans can come for a night of playing their favorites. Depending on the number of guests you plan to have, you’ll probably need 2 – 4 different board games so that everyone gets to play. Some of the best board games to play at parties for teens include Apples to Apples, Telestrations, Taboo, Settlers of Catan, Risk (or one of its many variations), Killer Bunnies and Exploding Kittens. Some of these are available in stores like Walmart, while others can be found in specialty games and specialty toys stores.
94) STEPHEN KING SWEET 16 IDEAS
We’ve already shared the idea of hosting an “It” party (the Stephen King novel-turned-movie). However, fans of his work would probably enjoy celebrating all of King’s novels. You can combine ideas from our “It” and “Paranormal Party” sections for this one, with activities and decorations that reference his novels or scenes from some of your sweet sixteen’s favorite King book.
95) SORORITY PARTY
At 16, your girl is probably looking forward to college and all that campus life has to offer. Why not give her a little taste of what is to come and throw a college-style “sorority” party? Serve mocktails and dress up your venue like a sorority house.
96) SPORTS PARTY
This is a fab idea for athletes or for those who are passionate about following a particular sport or sports team. Decorate in a sports motif, or decorate in the colors of her favorite team.
97) BLACK AND GOLD PARTY
This is a popular contemporary party theme, and one that is relatively easy to plan. The idea is that black and gold symbolizes glamour, so make it glamorous. All of your decorations should be black and gold, and you can accent with glass jars, martini glasses, etc., filled with “gold nuggets” (gold foil-wrapped candies). Ask guests to dress semi-formally and to wear black and gold.
98) WHITE PARTY
Same idea as the Black and Gold Party, but in white instead. Think white decor, white food and white clothing.
99) SCI-FI SWEET SIXTEEN IDEAS
For this type of party, you can combine ideas from our sections on “Paranormal,” “It,” and “UFO/Alien” parties. It’s a broad theme, so there is a lot of opportunity for creativity with it. Your decor, props and food should all reflect science fiction in some way.
100) SUPERHEROS SWEET SIXTEEN IDEAS
The idea here is similar to the “Comic Book” theme party, except with superheros. You can reference superheros in general, or focus on your sweet sixteen’s favorite. (Find more superhero party ideas here)
101) ANIME PARTY SWEET 16 IDEAS
For this type of party, which celebrates culture’s (and your teen’s) obsession with the anime genre, you can draw upon a number of different themes. You can incorporate ideas from our “Japan” section as well as our “Comic Book” section for an Anime party. Decorations should be cartoon-like and fantastical. One really cool activity, if you can swing it, is to hire an anime artist to draw anime-style caricatures of each party guest to take home.