16th birthday party celebration

Sweet 16 Party Planner: Checklist & Procedure

For many families, a sweet sixteen birthday is a notable landmark along a child’s journey to adulthood. However, just thinking about planning a sweet 16 can cause shivers to shoot up your spine. Don’t worry; with this sweet 16 party planner, sweet 16 planning is a piece of (birthday) cake.

Planning any party can be stressful. Planning a sweet sixteen blowout can be especially stressful because you want to throw a celebration that your daughter will treasure. However, as long as you give yourself enough time (basically, once she turns 15, begin your sweet 16 party plan), planning a sweet 16 can be (relatively) stress-free.

By using the following sweet 16 party planner, you can help ensure that you, as parents, enjoy the festivities as much as your child.

Sweet 16 planning checklist

Here’s your sweet 16 list of things you need and when you need them.

12 months in advance

Pick a date for the party.

Before you can plan anything else, you need to set your date. The sweet sixteen celebration does not have to occur on the exact date of your daughter’s birthday, especially if it’s in the middle of a school week. Instead, try to hold the party on the following Friday or Saturday, so the partygoers can enjoy themselves and not worry about school the next day.

Set a budget.

While your daughter may envision something out of MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, you may need to remind her that your last name isn’t Musk (and her name isn’t “X Æ A-12”). You can still have a fantastic celebration without your daughter being carried on the shoulders of four gold-painted men (that actually happened) or wheeled inside the venue in an elaborate, giant doll box (yup, also happened).

By determining a budget, you can throw the sweet sixteen of your dreams while staying within your means. Be sure to include some buffer money for unexpected expenses (because there are always unexpected expenses). Once you set the budget, keep track of every payment, even the small purchases, because they can quickly add up. Tracking expenses is more manageable when you save all receipts and copies of your vendor contracts.

Find your perfect venue.

Event halls tend to book up quickly, especially around holidays and during wedding and quinceañera season. So, if you want to have the party near the date of your daughter’s birthday, start looking for a sweet 16 party hall early.

When looking for a venue, be sure to find one spacious enough to accommodate your anticipated party size. That also means it needs to have enough free parking for those guests. You should also be sure of the specific amenities you need from the banquet hall, and don’t compromise. Some possibilities include:

  • A stage for a DJ or band.
  • Microphones and speakers.
  • Enough room for a dance floor.
  • A projector and video screen.
  • Slide show projectors.
  • Dressing rooms.
  • Prep kitchen for catering.
  • Icemaker available onsite.

If you find an event hall that fits your needs and your preferred date is available—grab it. The closer you get to your date, the more your options will shrink, and you will likely have to compromise.

Select a party theme.

The best event venues are eloquent and glamorous, yet they still easily adapt to almost any theme. This is because the best event halls keep their ballroom color palettes neutral. So, it is effortless to completely transform an event hall to complement a party’s theme.

8 months in advance

Book party professionals.

There are a wide variety of party professionals that can make life a little easier as you prepare for the big sweet sixteen event. The first one most people think of is a party planner. A party planner will help coordinate the event with the theme, send invites, monitor RSVPs, oversee catering, and run everything on the day of the event.

Next, consider hiring a photographer, videographer, or both. Sure, everyone has a camera on their phone, but this is both a blessing and a curse. It may be tempting to crowdsource the party photography, but you run the risk of missing heads, far too much headroom, selfie after selfie after selfie, and Aunt Vera’s thumb blocking the father-daughter dance. To guarantee that you capture those precious sweet sixteen moments—in focus and in frame—it’s always best to hire a professional.

Finally, if you plan on having a band, DJ, variety act, or another form of entertainment, you want to book early. Six months in advance is an ideal time to research your entertainment options.

Pro tip: you may have the best luck securing your preferred party professional during January through March, which are the least busy event months in DFW.

6 months in advance

Research and book a caterer.

The food at a sweet sixteen should feature some of the birthday girl’s favorites. However, it also needs to reflect the theme. For example, if your event is formal, consider having a few hors d’oeuvre tables or waiters walking through the crowd with trays. You could also have a drink station with a server making juice and soda mixes to order.

If the event is casual, consider a buffet for your banquet setting. An afternoon party could have a buffet of appetizers and snacks, so guests can nosh whenever a hunger pain strikes. Evening parties usually have buffets with entrees and sides.

If you need assistance finding the perfect caterer, your venue will have recommendations. You can also check out this helpful checklist and tips on choosing vendors.

4 months in advance

Send “save the date” notices.

You probably have a pretty good idea of your guest list by this point. You can expect around 75% of invitees to RSVP “yes.” Be sure to check and double-check everyone’s physical and email addresses. Being careful now will help you avoid awkward conversations later as you try to explain why your daughter’s best friend never received an invitation.

Once the guest list is nailed down, you can send out your “save the date” notices. These announcements tend to be pretty straightforward. Let people know the occasion, date, general timeframe (afternoon, evening, etc.), and location. “Save the dates” help people clear their schedules and make travel arrangements (if necessary).

3 months in advance

Order invitations.

If you are mailing invites, this is the time to order them. Don’t forget to include an RSVP card, which should have a return deadline.

Research decoration ideas.

If you have a party planner, this step may be unnecessary. However, if you are doing some decorating yourself, head to Pinterest and other DIY sites to discover some fun ideas. Your daughter and her friends may also want to join in the decorating action.

2 months in advance

Mail invitations.

If necessary. However, even if you emailed the invites, be sure to set up a system to track the RSVPs.

Book a hairstylist and makeup artist.

Your daughter—and her mother—should look radiant on this special day.

Reserve rooms for out-of-town guests.

If necessary. After all, you don’t want too many people crashing on your couches.

1 month in advance

Order the cake.

If you plan to have an elaborate custom cake, most bakeries need a month to prepare a gorgeous gateau. If you selected a heavily in-demand bakery, you might need to place your order two or three months in advance.

Call anyone who hasn’t RSVPed.

There’s always someone (usually several someones). Give them a polite ring to remind them that the big day is nearing.

Order transportation.

Are your daughter and her close friends arriving in style at the sweet sixteen party? Well, it’s time to book that limousine to ensure it arrives on time.

Sweet 16 party procedure

There are several time-honored sweet sixteen traditions. Although these rites are established, they may not be for everyone these days. Remember, this party is for the birthday girl (and her parents). If you want to only do a few or even none of these rituals as part of your sweet 16 party schedule, it’s perfectly fine. Do what makes you happy.

That being said, here is the traditional sweet 16 order of events.

Shoe and tiara ceremony

The party kicks off with the birthday girl entering the venue wearing flats or tennis shoes (historically, slippers were worn, but fashion has evolved since Cinderella’s day). She sits in a chair, and her father (or godfather, grandfather, close male relative, etc.) removes her shoes and puts on new shoes, typically a pair of heels.

Next, her mother (or father, godmother, grandmother, close female relative, etc.) approaches with a tiara and places it on her head.

Father and daughter dance

If the event has dancing, it is customary for the birthday girl and her father to share the first dance. The song can be anything, but it’s typically meaningful to both. Often, the father will give a speech before the dance reflecting on their lives to this point. A recent trend is to follow the father-daughter dance with a mother-daughter dance.

Candle ceremony

The candle ceremony follows the father-daughter dance (or mother-daughter dance). During this event, the birthday girl hands out sixteen candles to individuals or couples who made a meaningful impact on her life. Typically, she announces the recipients and says a few words about why they are special to her. Although the birthday girl may hand out the candles to whomever she wishes, there is a standard order to the ceremony.

  • Candle 1: parents
  • Candle 2: siblings (or grandparents, if no siblings)
  • Candles 3-6: family members
  • Candles 7-14: friends
  • Candle 15: best friend
  • Candle 16: boyfriend or close male friend
  • Candle 17 (optional): represents good luck

A sweet sixteen is an important event that creates treasured family memories. We hope this sweet 16 party planner helps ease some of the stress of the day so that you can enjoy it as much as your daughter. As you’re planning a sweet 16 and searching for an event hall, look no further than DFW Celebrations. Our centrally located party venues in Dallas feature multiple ballrooms, tons of free parking, and a team of experienced event planners dedicated to your every need. To schedule a tour, please get in touch with us here.