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How to Plan a Sweet 16 Birthday Party With Your Daughter

Moms and Daughters Learn So Much About Each Other When Planning a Sweet Sixteen Party Together

Enjoy Every Minute of the Planning Process While Teaching Your Daughter How to Make a Budget, Send Invitations, and Be a Gracious Hostess

Remember: the planning is more important than the party!

Remember: the planning is more important than the party!

Planning a Sweet Sixteen Party: The Process Is Most Important

The closest I've come to having a Sweet Sixteen Party was when I got married. Believe me, I learned a lot from that experience. I was a newly-minted kindergarten teacher working long hours, commuting, taking graduate classes, and spending lots of time with my fiancée. Because of all my commitments, my mother seized control of the wedding planning and I happily let her.

Then my father got hospitalized the week of my Big Day, had emergency surgery the day before, and died two days after we returned home from our honeymoon. Needless to say, the wedding and reception were just a blur to me – full of stress, worry, and confusion. It wasn't fun...not one bit.

So how does that tragic tale connect with planning a Sweet Sixteen Party? My point to all mothers and daughters is to enjoy the process. Who knows how the real event will pan out? The birthday girl may have cramps. Mom may get a migraine. There are things out of our control. We do, however, have power over all the days leading up to the event. That's when the REAL magic happens, when memories get created, and the mother-daughter bond gets solidified. As you plan the Sweet Sixteen Party. keep in mind that mothers and daughters working together presents challenges, but it's so worth it!

Work Together to Create a Memorable Event

The biggest mistake a mother can make is to do it all herself and not get her daughter involved. While that's quicker and easier, it misses the point by a long shot. The process of planning the party is far more important than the party itself. Even though mother and daughter will butt heads at times (it's inevitable), the two of them won't experience anything this special again until they plan the daughter's wedding one day.

Mothers, your mantra is: It doesn't demand perfection. It just demands fun. Let go of the pressures that come from trying to create something beyond human. Let go of the phony world depicted on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. Make it real. Enjoy every step of the process -- warts and all. Keep the big picture in mind and don't get bogged down by the minutiae.

Recognize you're teaching your daughter important life lessons – establishing a budget, sending out invitations, preparing the activities, and planning a fun time for her guests. Anything that gets a teenage girl to think beyond herself is incredibly powerful. Don't fall into the trap of saying: “This is your big day, honey. It's all about you.” Show her what it takes to become a gracious hostess – putting her guests before herself. Teach her this profound quote from Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Hopefully, she'll never forget it and use it throughout her lifetime.

Here are three Sweet Sixteen Party ideas that are sure to make a memorable occasion for all:

Teenagers Love to Celebrate the Decades With Their Unique Clothes, Music, Dances, and Foods

Teenagers are intrigued by the fashion, music, and entertainment of the 1970's.

Teenagers are intrigued by the fashion, music, and entertainment of the 1970's.

1. Have a Disco Party and Celebrate the 1970's

The decade of the 70's captivates the teenagers of today. They love the big silvery disco ball spinning from the ceiling, mini skirts, hot pants, bell bottoms, platform shoes, Star Wars and, of course, the disco music – including the soundtrack of the decade, Saturday Night Fever. A 70's disco party is a groovy way to create a cool vibe so everybody gets up and boogies.

Have a variety of activities that mirror the different personalities of your guests. Not every teenager is an extrovert who wants to dance and talk the entire party. Some are introverts who prefer quieter, more cerebral pursuits. Create stations throughout your home (and outside, too, if weather permits) so guests can move about and discover what appeals to them.

Station #1: Popular Foods of the 70's

Have a buffet set up so guests can help themselves to food throughout the event:

quiche, fondue, Hamburger Helper, Shake n' Bake Chicken, Pringles chips, Swedish meatballs, cocktail weenies in toothpicks with dipping sauce, deviled eggs, stuffed celery with peanut butter, carrot cake, Pop Tarts, pineapple upside down cake

Station #2: Popular Games of the 70's (eBay is a good source at reasonable prices)

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Have a quiet room where guests can hang out and play games and do activities:

Battleship, Mousetrap, Stratego, Manhunt, Risk, Clue, Legos, Toss-Across Tic-Tic-Toe, Lite-Brite, Spirograph, Trouble, Yahtzee, Connect Four, Mystery Date, Hungry, Hungry Hippos

Station 3: TV Shows from the 70's (also available on eBay)

Have a room set aside where kids can gather and watch popular sitcoms from the 70's:

Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, Good Times, Welcome, Back, Kottter, and Happy Days.

Station 4: Disco

Have a room with a disco ball on the ceiling, dim lights, and someone acting as a DJ to play hits from the disco era:

the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, KC & the Sunshine Band, Gloria Gaynor, Sister Sledge, and Anita Ward. Have someone act as a dance instructor to teach disco moves such as: the Hustle, the Bump, the YMCA, the Funky Chicken, and the Bus Stop. Check out YouTube for demonstrations!

Watch YouTube Videos to Learn Disco Moves

2. Have a Spa Theme and Get Pampered

Some girls prefer a party that's more intimate with less guests, less noise, and less chaos. A spa party fits the bill. It's ideal for the birthday girl who wants a longer party (perhaps, a sleepover) with female guests only.

Station 1: Making Mini Party Pizzas and Do-It-Yourself Sundaes

Because it's a longer party, there's time for guests to make their own dinner in the kitchen. Mini party pizzas are quick, easy, and fun:


bagels, halved

pizza sauce/pasta sauce

shredded mozzarella cheese

Optional Toppings:

other cheeses, ham, pepperoni, tomatoes, mushrooms, pineapple, fresh basil

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place pizza bagels 1 inch apart on baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes until bagels are crisp and cheese is golden.

For dessert put out ingredients so the girls can create their own sundaes:

ice cream, sauces, whipped cream, maraschino cherries, nuts, and sprinkles

Station 2: Manicures and Pedicures

Purchase a variety of nail polishes. Let the girls give each other manicures and pedicures as they listen to music, watch a movie, or just talk. In addition to the polish, you may want to purchase: nail files, top coat, nail decals and gems, and a hand and foot nail dryer.

Station 3: Facials

Have ingredients on hand so the girls can make their own facials (there are plenty of recipes on-line for all types of skin types). Some common ingredients are oatmeal, fresh lemon juice, sour cream, cucumbers, and cottage cheese.

Station 4: Hair Styles

Let the girls experiment with different styling products – mousse, gel, hairspray, wash out hair color – as well as different styling tools – blow dryers, curling irons, crimping irons, and rollers. Before the party, go to the library and gather books about different hairstyles and how to achieve them.

Have a Spa Party With Manicures, Pedicures, and Hair Styling!

A spa party is great for a sleepover.

A spa party is great for a sleepover.

3. Support Your Cause With a Party for the Humane Society

Many teenage girls are socially conscious and politically aware. A birthday girl such as this may prefer a Sweet Sixteen party that supports a particular charity that's dear to her heart. Animal welfare is a favorite cause that lots of girls embrace. Therefore, a party that benefits your local Humane Society is a fantastic idea.

Station 1: A Vegetarian Meal

Since you're honoring animals, serve a vegetarian or vegan meal. There are many recipes on-line that will appeal to teens.

Station 2: Opening Gifts

In the party invitation, ask guests to bring a gift for a dog or cat instead of one for the birthday girl. Explain that you will give these gifts to the Humane Society. Suggestions include: collars, leashes, dog food, dog toys, bones, cat toys, cat food, and cat litter (contact you local Humane Society for their wish list).

Station 3: Making Dog Treats

In the kitchen, set out ingredients so the girls can make dog treats that will be donated to the Human Society:


1 cup rolled oats

2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 cup nonfat dry milk

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup peanut butter

2 large eggs

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cold water (enough to make dough cohesive)


  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or tin foil.
  2. Mix together the oats, flour, dried milk, and salt.
  3. Add the eggs and peanut butter. Stir until they're combined (the mixture will be a crumbly consistency).
  4. Add water until the dough comes together.
  5. Roll the dough about 1/4” thick. Use cookie cutter to make various shapes or make “cookies” by dropping the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and flattening.
  6. Bake for 40-60 minutes (depending on the size and thickness) until dark golden brown.

    Station 4: Making Cat Toys

    Teenage girls are incredibly talented and full of great ideas. Give them an open-ended task of creating cat toys that will get donated to the Human Society. Set out supplies and see how innovative they are!

    Supplies (most of which you can find around your home):

    yarn, string, old socks, sticks, pompom balls, yarn, needle and thread, non-toxic glue, shoe lace, fabric, toilet paper rolls

Support Your Cause With a Party for the Humane Society

There are many kind-hearted teenage girls who would prefer a party to support their charity rather than something frivolous.

There are many kind-hearted teenage girls who would prefer a party to support their charity rather than something frivolous.

Final Thoughts

Having a successful Sweet Sixteen party is all about enjoying the journey and not stressing over the result. If you have a positive, relaxed attitude, your daughter will pick up on it and see that planning a party is fun. You're not competing with anyone else – just having a good time working on a project with your daughter. She's sixteen now and your time together is limited. Make every precious moment count and you'll never regret it.

Use These Adorable Props for Selfies!


McKenna Meyers (author) on April 19, 2018:

Thanks so much, Anita. Last year at my son's middle school we did a 70's themed social and the kids had so much fun. They had learned the Hustle in P.E. class and really took to it!

Anita Hasch from Port Elizabeth on April 18, 2018:

Super hub, love the recipes and the video.

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