Your guide to throwing a 21st birthday party with stress-free celebratory style.

Zara Harper

Congrats on twenty-one glorious years. Now it’s time to celebrate! Every 21st birthday should be celebrated in style, including an unforgettable party to celebrate your milestone. As with every party plan there are things you can do to make sure everyone enjoys themselves. After all this isn’t just any cocktail party or celebratory soirée, it’s your (potentially notorious) 21st birthday party. Have a wild time, while dodging humiliating speeches and your latest squeeze trying to impress your family, with these pro tips.

Choose the right venue and decorate it with style

When your guests enter a party space with signage, greenery, table décor, and blooms, their behaviour will match the tone of the event. If you would prefer your guests to be upright at the end of the party, decorate your space with classy style. If you prefer raucous abandon hire a beer hall and keep it relatively bare.

21st Birthday Party Plan on

Scott Webb

Your personal style of décor will create a unique look for your party. Your style might be Fresh Youth with a side of candy floss or Classical European featuring champagne and hors d’oeuvres. If you're not sure what style you prefer, check out our FREE Mood Boards (+ colour palettes). Simple but effective décor that beautifies your space with minimal effort is the goal. For a natural vibe gather flowers and branches from friends’ gardens. Bunch these into giant loose bouquets and hang them upside down from the ceiling. For bohemian style use thick velvet ribbon to hang them. The larger your space, the bigger your botanical bunches should be. This will help the party space feel more intimate.

Complete the details with hand lettered signage on your food and dessert tables. First, weave a wide ribbon between the food plates, around the cake, and drape it over the edges of the table for a luxe finish. Next, use a thick white fabric pen to write on the ribbon. Letter the names of the food you’re serving, the ingredients, or cute messages for your guests in elegant script. For country style use a wide strip of hessian or burlap instead of ribbon.

Early speeches sans spirits

If you’re keen to avoid tequila fuelled speeches that reveal the sordid details of your year abroad, serve your guests beer and wine instead of spirits. This approach is also cheaper. Rounds of shots can leave you with a surprisingly high bill at the end of the party! Serving beer and wine allows you to manage serving quantities at the start of the night and pre-pay your bill.

Start speeches early to avoid awkward apology phone calls to your grandparents the next day. Not only are early speeches more appropriate, they’re shorter and sweeter than slurred, whisky-breathed sentiment. If you’re worried about inappropriate over-sharing (we all have that friend) start the speeches yourself. Keep it brief and lay the sentiment on thick. “It means so much to have you all here.” “This is such a special moment for me.” “<Over Sharer>, thank you for always supporting me.” It’ll be harder for people to publicly embarrass you after you've laid on the sweet stuff.

This is also the perfect opportunity to cut your cake. A family member usually orders the cake for a 21st. Let them know what your colour palette is in advance so that they can order a cake that matches your party style. Cutting the cake after speeches allows your guests to enjoy this moment while they are gathered. This is also a good opportunity to tie in your culture's unique 21st birthday traditions.

21st Birthday Party Plan on

Dance like nobody’s watching

Make sure your dance floor space is clear of tables and chairs at an early hour. When guests are ready to kick up their heels it’s wise not to hold them back! A professional band or DJ can sense the vibe of a party and increase the intensity of the music as a result.

If you’re playing your own music through a portable device make sure you’ve loaded or queued enough hours of music. Pro Tip: Hide the device away from your guests. There’s nothing more distracting than someone getting hold of the music playlist and skipping through every second song. It’s a guaranteed way to clear the dance floor and detract attention away from your celebration. Lock your device with a passcode and hide it behind the bar or securely tape it near the speakers.

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Caitlyn Wilson

Throw a day party

If you’re not interested in a dance party host a classy day time event instead. Consider a garden party, roof top party, pool party, or glamorous picnic. This approach encourages your guests to mingle and allows you to spend time with everybody at your party.

Day parties are all about the details. As your guests wander about your party space they’ll have the opportunity to take in your beautiful styling and personal touches. Overindulge in the quality of your food, décor, glassware, cake, greenery, and blooms. Of course, don’t forget to add personal touches. Cupcakes can be topped with your favourite edible bloom and decorated with your initials. Your condiments can be arranged in a 21 shape. If you love tennis order a tennis court cake and roll bliss balls in dehydrated pineapple crumbs to make delicious tennis balls. Adding your personality to your party creates an even more special and memorable occasion.

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Brooke Lark

Entertainment aka adult party games

Gift your guests a photo booth to play with. There’s no need for a fancy set up, people can even take their own photos. Paint or vinyl a backdrop with your name, 21, and oversized botanical illustrations for an on-theme backdrop. Add a unique hashtag for your party to help everyone share their social media uploads.

Throwback to the party games you loved as a child like jelly digging. Fill bowls with jelly trapping the number 21 in the middle of each bowl. Blindfolded guests compete to find the number first without using their hands. For a drinking version, you can easily add vodka to the jelly mix before it sets. Food on a string is another classic kid’s game that is hilarious when played by adults. Hang a bratwurst at a set height above each blindfolded player’s mouth. Their feet aren’t allowed to leave the ground as they strain to find and eat the food. The more they eat the harder it gets. A tacky certificate entitling the winner to bragging rights is the perfect prize.

Non-alcoholic options

To avoid ostracising your friends who don’t drink or are underage, serve non-alcoholic cocktails. If you’re hosting at home create a make-your-own cocktail bar stocked with juices, cordial, soda water, fruit, sprinkles, and edible blooms. Our Recipe: Elderflower cordial, feijoa juice, soda water, and crushed fresh blueberries topped with candy floss makes a delicious mocktail. Decorate with edible blooms for a dreamy style worthy of your beautiful occasion.

Tag us in your celebration photos #occasionlab We love seeing and sharing occasions that inspire our community @occasionlab


Header Photography: Sofiya Levchenko


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