The Complete Guide: 21st Birthday ideas – 21st birthday ideas for him and her!
Congratulations, you’re almost 21!
You’re about to enter a new realm of adulthood. That big 2-1 means you can go anywhere and do anything (except rent a car at a reasonable price).
How will you mark this new chapter in your life? With an amazing party, of course!
Whether you choose to include alcohol or not, it will be a night you remember forever. However, it won’t just fall into your lap. You should plan at least a couple of months ahead of time to make sure you get everything right.
Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we have all of the 21st birthday party ideas you need to get the ball rolling! Make a list of your favorite ones to guide your plan and conjure inspiration.
Before you plan anything else, you’ll need a guest list.
#1 Who will be there?
Prepare to be a heartbreaker. The size of your guest list will dictate your location and your budget (at the very least). As your guest list grows, so will the total price tag and size of the party area.
In other words, it’s your party and you can invite who you want to. Don’t let the pressure of being polite push you to pleasing all of your social circles. Trying to bring together coworkers, distant family, and your sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s roommate will only lead to chaos.
Besides, do you really want to spend the whole night trying to save your friends from Great-Aunt Mable’s long-winded stories? Keep these kinds of things in mind when creating your list. Start big, then narrow it down to top-priority guests – because of course, this is a top-priority event.
Who’s your right-hand person?
Planning and executing a party will only require as much work as you want to expend. When you’re planning a party bigger than your intimate group of close friends, you’ll need some help.
In this case, think of your most dependable friend and ask them to be your “go-to” person. Not only can they help you with the footwork, but they might have some great ideas too. Your right-hand person will help with things like:
- Researching venues
- Creating/mailing invitations
- Setting up decorations
- Preparing food and drinks
- Picking up last-minute items
- Keeping the party & events moving smoothly
- Helping everyone get home safely
- Cleaning up afterwards
Of course, whoever you decide to choose, reward them fairly when it’s all over. Whether it’s offering to buy them lunch or sending a simple “thank you” card, show them some appreciation. Not only is it just good practice, but it makes them more willing to help you again in the future.
Now that you know who you’re going to invite, where are you going to put everyone?
#2 Where will you go?
Your options for party venues are limitless. However, if you’re planning a house party or a couple’s day with your partner, scroll down for more info.
On the other hand, if your guest list is too big for your place, there’s plenty other places to choose. Depending on where you live, you’ll have tons of rental spaces. These could be in an office space, an arcade parlor, a bar, or a restaurant. Even if your dream space doesn’t advertise rentals or reservations, it never hurts to call and ask.
Does nothing in your hometown pop into mind right away? Here are some unique 21st birthday ideas:
- Meadery, vineyard, or moonshine still tours
- Wine tastings
- Bowling alleys
- Pedal Pubs
- Puzzle rooms
- Comedy clubs
- Board game cafes
And the list goes on. However, you can choose more than one place and create a birthday tour! Although this requires more planning, it will keep everyone on their toes and make the day memorable.
Things to Consider
Planning to reserve group spaces, tours, or events should be done at least a couple of months prior. Before you make that down payment, be sure to review their hours are or any special rules and guidelines.
Around the holidays, you’ll want to practice extra research and planning. If you wait too late, just about any rental space will be booked up during holiday months. Also, some places won’t even be open throughout holiday seasons.
When you do find the perfect place, ask these very important questions before you make it official:
- How big is the area?
- How many people will it hold?
- Are there packages available that include food, drinks, or other services?
- Are people under 21 allowed?
- How early can I start setting up – the night before or only an hour ahead of time?
- Are there safety deposit terms?
- How much is the cancellation fee?
While asking these questions helps you plan better, knowing their answers will prevent any last-minute roadblocks or slip-ups. How embarrassing would it be for your 20 year old friend to be asked to leave due to their age? What if they only allow 30 people and your friends bring along an uninvited plus-one?
Note: Prevent further hardship by calling 3-5 days before the big date to confirm reservations.
If planning a rental venue turns into a big headache, there is a cure for freedom. When you’re partying at your house, you can make your own rules.
Throwing a House Party
Besides setting your own rules, throwing your big bash at your own pad has unique advantages:
- You have all the setup time in the world
- It provides a familiar and intimate space for everyone
- Dishes, silverware, and cups are already there
- You won’t be hauling gifts, food, and drinks from place to place
- Your intoxicated guests have a safe place to sleep it off
However, the size of your place may be too small for all of your guests. Sure, it looks like it could hold 15 people, but don’t make assumptions. After all, a major advantage of a house party is maximum comfortability.
So, how many people can your place comfortably hold?
- Extra-small living room (about 7x10ft, 70 square feet): ideal for 5 -6 people
- Small living room (about 10x13ft, 130 square feet): ideal for 10 – 11 people
- Medium living room (about 12x18ft, 216 square feet): ideal for 18 – 20 people
- Large living room (about 15x28ft, 420 square feet): ideal for up to 35 people
What about the rest of your house? Consider its layout. An adjacent den, kitchen, or other open space gives you more leeway. When you’re considering what rooms to leave open for guest, use this rule of thumb: 12 square feet of space per person.
Having a backyard – preferably one that offers privacy – allows for a few more people too. Depending on how much space you have outside, you can account for anywhere between 2 – 8 extra people.
Regardless of what areas you choose to open to guests, make sure the theme flows from one to another. Make sure all of the party areas feel festive to keep your guests in the mood.
Things to Consider
Be aware of one little thing that could unravel all of your work and planning – the neighbors. Tell them a few days or a week in advance that you’ll be having a party. The last thing you want to happen on your 21st birthday is for the police to show up. If you have difficult neighbors that you try to avoid at all costs, change the venue to a friend’s house instead.
Now that the neighbors are taken care of, there’s a few more things left to do. If you have a party at your house, there are a very important things you should do during setup:
- Go through all drawers and cabinets to remove any items you don’t want to be seen and/or stolen. Put them up somewhere safe.
- Leave plenty of surface room for drinks, food, etc. Designate some of your side tables for extra space (even if you have to pull them out of the bedroom)
- Arrange furniture in a way that allows effortless navigation (especially if you’re serving alcohol!)
- Put out extra toiletries in plain sight (toilet paper, soap, etc.) so your guests don’t suffer any awkward moments
- Make sure each area has a trash bin available
- Have extra lighters and ashtrays on hand for your smoker friends
- Plug in extension cords so everyone has a place to charge their phones, tablets, and cameras
Although it sounds like a lot of work, these final touches only take a few extra minutes. It’s small work that makes a huge difference in the big picture.
Besides, you’re utilizing your own house, so you know where everything is and what is available to you. Just think about the worst party experiences you’ve ever had, then take actions to save your guests from having the same troubles.
What if you want a more intimate birthday celebration – like, really intimate?
21st Birthday Ideas for your Partner
Although showing your love can happen in many forms at any time, a birthday can be extra special. Even if they aren’t the celebrating type, they’ll appreciate your loving efforts.
Of course, you have some great ideas since you know exactly what they like and don’t like (hopefully!). If you’re still at a loss on where to go, we have some 21st birthday party ideas they’ll love.
21st Birthday Ideas for Him
- Buy him tickets to his favorite team’s game
- Take him to the spa (yes, guys like massages too!)
- Go on a day-long booze cruise!
- Send him on a booze-fueled scavenger hunt around town
- Take him Go-Kart racing
- Find a nice trail for a romantic hike (don’t forget the picnic basket with birthday treats!)
21st Birthday Ideas for Her
- Take her to the place where you met or had your first kiss for a birthday picnic
- Find a car dealership that will let her test drive her dream car
- Send her on a vineyard/meadery/liquor store scavenger hunt
- Spend the weekend at a resort with room service, hot tubs, and spa service
- Go on a botanical garden tour
- Take her to a Paint & Sip class
- Go to ladies’ night at a local bar and sing her “happy birthday” on karaoke
#3 What will you do?
You have a place and a guest list, but what are you going to do when everyone shows up?
Three weeks before the date, start collecting RSVPs from your friends. This lets you know how much of everything you’ll need for any games or activities. Of course, always get extras for your more spontaneous friends.
At least two weeks before the party, you should develop a timeline of events. Since setting a strict schedule will kill everyone’s buzz, this timeline should be a simple guide for the evening. Also consider that your location will have an effect on the types of activities you’re able to host.
Not sure where to start? We have some 21st birthday party ideas your friends will love:
- Dizzy Bat
Do you have two sticks and a large area? Good! Split up into two teams and line up on one side of the room (or yard). The first person in line must bend over with their head touching the stick, then spin 10 times.
While they spin, the bat cannot leave the ground. Then they run to the other side of the area and back. Continue this until one team is completely done.
Believe us, it’s not as easy as it sounds!
- Birthday Hot Seat
As the birthday person, come up with 100+ questions about yourself that’ll have short answers. Each guests spends 20 – 30 seconds in the “hot” seat while you go through the list.
Whoever can answer the most correctly in that timeframe wins! You can play this game just about anywhere!
- Clothes Pegs
Everyone starts with 5 pegs around their collar. Think of 3 – 5 words (you can’t use “the”, “and”, etc.).
Whenever you catch someone using one of the forbidden words, you get their peg. At the end of the night, whoever has the most pegs is the winner. You can play it anywhere!
- Birthday Family Feud
Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like and it will require some planning ahead. While you follow the rules of the TV show, the questions here will be about the birthday person. Split up into teams of 5 and see who can get the most points!
- Peg Tag
Start the night with one peg. Whoever the “pegger” is must attach it to someone else without them noticing, then count down from 10 out loud. If the person who got “pegged” can’t find it before the 10 seconds are up, they finish their drink. Then they’ll become the “pegger”. If they do find it, the “pegger” must finish their drink and try again.
Although this is a fun house party game, it’s even more fun at a bar!
- “Most Likely”
Everyone takes turns going around the table saying “most likely” statements. Examples could be “Most likely to get into a comments section argument” or “most likely to stay up all night”.
After the statement is made, everyone looks at the person they think the statement fits. However many people are looking at you equals the number of drinks or shots you take.
- Sip, Sip, Shot
Did you love “duck, duck, goose” as a kid? Get ready for the adult version: “sip, sip, shot”. As one person walks along the outside of the circle, they bop people on the head and say “sip”. Those people take a sip of their drink.
When they bop someone and say “shot”, that person must chase them around the circle. If they can’t catch them, they must finish their drink then become the new “bopper.” If they do catch them, the bopper finishes their drink and must try again.
- Never Have I Ever
Of course, we have to mention everyone’s favorite classic party game. Everyone goes around the circle taking turns making “never have I ever” statements. It must be something they haven’t actually done before. If it’s something you have done, you must take a drink or shot.
It’s a perfect game for strangers to learn about each other without the awkward small talk.
Things to Consider
What’s a party without music? Since everyone is not as comfortable with silence as others, playing music helps.
For a small party, put together a playlist of all of your favorite music about a week before the party. Unless you plan on dancing, it should serve as background music that keeps everyone in the mood. Hook it up to a speaker and let it go!
What about larger parties? You might consider hiring live music or a DJ at least a month ahead of time. Live cover bands are even better for theme parties. They can play all of your favorite songs with a twist of jazz, swing, hip-hop, or whatever fits the theme.
21st Birthday Party Ideas for your Partner
Planning a private day with your birthday partner is even easier since it’s just the two of you! You may have some ideas about where to take them, but what will you do when you get there?
What if you live in a small area and there’s nowhere special to go? Make the best of it with these fun 21st birthday ideas for him and her.
21st Birthday Ideas for Him
- Sign him up on birthday email lists 2 -3 weeks before his birthday. Then take him around town to collect birthday freebies.
- Give him a scavenger hunt list with clothes from the women’s section. Then enjoy the laughs when they step out of the dressing room!
- Set up a homemade shooting range in an accessible field or your back yard. Fill empty 2-liter bottles and milk jugs with something messy like whipped cream and food coloring. Confetti is a good idea too.
21st Birthday Ideas for Her
- Find a world record that involves something she loves and try to beat it.
- Instead of sending roses to her work, send a nerf gun. When she gets home, let the battle begin!
- Create a script for a short movie where she is the star. Have fun with the costumes and setting up scenes, then enjoy your big blockbuster!
These are just the beginning. Since it’s your party, you can adjust the rules however you want. If none of these stand out to you, take a survey from your friends for their ideas.
However, don’t get too excited just yet. It’s time for the final touches!
#4 How will you tie it all together?
At this point, you know where you’re going, what you’re doing, and who’s joining you. Now that the essentials are out of the way, you can start making it feel like a real party.
You want all of the final touches that let your friends know exactly what to expect. We’ll start with the most important one.
21st Birthday Themes
Whether you’re inviting 5 people or 50, a theme makes it feel like a party instead of a casual get-together. Most likely, without any kind of direction, your friends will enter the party feeling a little confused. Something as simple as a central theme puts their mind in the right place: party mode.
Whatever theme you choose should be obvious on your invitations and at the party itself. With so many 21st birthday ideas for her and his favorite things, choosing just one can be hard.
Here are some ideas you can choose from or use for inspiration:
- Your favorite color(s)
- A decade theme (70s, 80s, 90s, etc.)
- Famous locations and holidays (Las Vegas, Mardi Gras, Cinco de Mayo, etc.)
- A costume party. The costumes can be free-choice or based on a central theme like movie monsters.
- Your favorite TV show, video game, or movie (The Office, Pirates of the Caribbean, Super Mario, etc.)
- Food themes (50s diner, ice cream parlor, candy shop, ethnic fusions, etc.)
- Your favorite sports team
- Celebrity theme (everyone dresses as a celebrity)
- Time period theme (western, Victorian, etc.)
These ideas are just the beginning. If you have a goofy or ironic sense of humor, you can have a ridiculous nonsensical theme.
Choose something at random from the kid’s birthday aisle like Dora the Explorer or Bob the Builder. Combine your Halloween and St. Patty’s Day decorations for a weird mash-up of holidays. Have a rainbow party and paint all of your friends a different color.
Get crazy! It’s all up to you. Your theme can be as simple, extravagant, straight-laced, or as silly as you want it to be. When there’s nothing else left, the easiest of all the 21st birthday themes is obvious: alcohol.
What if I can’t decide on a theme?
If nothing stands out as your dream theme, there’s a couple of things you could do.
- Pass a survey around to the people you intend to invite and get their opinion. Most likely, they know you better than you know yourself anyway. They’ll know exactly what to do for you and will have more fun knowing they helped make the party.
- Is your party close to a holiday? Just go with that theme. If you’re able to, wait until right after a holiday so you can buy all of your decorations on clearance. You’ll save money and your friends will too since they’ll get double-use out of their holiday gear.
It’s easier to wear an ugly Christmas sweater from last week than coming up with a Game of Thrones costume last-minute. When you don’t know what else to do, a recent holiday theme makes it better for everyone.
21st Birthday Decorations
What theme did you choose? Whatever it is, it’s going to dictate your decorations.
Store-bought decorations will add up quick. That means less room in your budget for food, drinks, and fun. If you’re planning a small party in a small space, you can get away with this. However, if you’re planning a larger party, you might want to consider only buying what you can’t make yourself.
Your decorations are something you should have ready a couple of weeks ahead of time. With everything else going on, tablecloths and centerpieces should be the last of your worries. Don’t know where to start?
First, pick up the main basics: tablecloths, napkins, snack trays, and plastic plates/cups.
Now, here are a few more final touches you can do yourself.
Cheap & Easy DIY 21st Birthday Decorations
- If you’re using balloons, fill them up with confetti before you blow them up! Either blow them up manually and hang them from the ceiling or use a helium tank to let them float.
- Are you using plain white napkins? Place them in colorful jars to save space and liven up the table.
- Will you have a big tub or cooler full of drinks? Fill up water balloons with ice to make your practical cooler also serve as decoration.
- Use decorative cupcake liners to make cute paper garlands. These can accent your solid color streamers.
- Hang streamers or balloons from doorways to create a festive entry.
- Do you have some clear jugs and glasses? Fill them with food coloring and water as a base for fun decorations. Fill them with waterproofed LED lights, flower petals, confetti, or little tea candles.
- Are you using birthday candles? Don’t leave them plain and boring! Spice them up with jewels, glitter, and paint.
- Spunk up your plain, plastic cups and silverware with washi tape.
- Use a projector to make simple cutouts that you can hang up in the windows and on walls.
- Looking for placeholders? They’re already on the table next to the spoons – yes, the fork! Stick shaped pieces of papers with the person’s name under the middle prongs and over the outer prongs.
- Want some cool lighting? Drill a hole low in the wall of a glass vase. Then roll or bundle string lights inside of the vase and run the plug-in through the hole.
- Use leftover ribbon, streamers, and balloons to make a festive chandelier. Hang it in a central part of the party area.
Things to Consider
Decorating can be really fun, especially with a right-hand planning partner to help you. However, before you start buying decorations, consider how much and how quickly you’ll clean. As your décor gets more extravagant, your cleanup time will increase.
Are you and your go-to person willing to stay after and clean for an hour or more? Would you rather pack up and go as soon as possible? Your location plays a big role in the answers to these questions:
- Of course, if the party is at your own house, you can take your time cleaning up. Unless you have roommates, there’s no one else to answer to besides yourself.
However, if you use a friend’s house or rental space, you’re going to clean it up all in one go.
- Although no one is forcing you to clean, leaving a mess is just completely inconsiderate and rude. At a rental place, it could result in losing your security deposit or paying a cleaning fee. In the worst case scenario, they might just ban you altogether or take you to court.
- On the other hand, leaving your friend’s house a mess will cause a huge strain on your relationship. They were kind enough to fill their house of raving partiers for your benefit. In return, the least you can do is pick up after yourself and your guests.
Now that everything is mapped out and ready to go, it’s time to get the word out!
21st Birthday Invitations
How big and formal are you planning your party? If it’s going to be a small, informal gathering of friends, invitations probably aren’t necessary. However, they’re always an easy souvenir that your closest friends can keep. The smaller your guest list, the more time you can spend on intricate invitations worth saving.
However you design your invitations, make sure it clearly relays the idea of your theme. Here are a few ideas to get started:
- The “before & after”
These are easier to create online and print out at a shop. On one side, your “after” will be a current picture of yourself. Your “before” can be a funny baby or toddler picture of yourself. This is especially a good idea if you have family members or childhood friends coming.
- Food shapes
Does food somehow fit into your theme? You can cut out simple shapes to make your invitation look like a doughnut, popsicle, or cupcake. Even making a watermelon or fish shape doesn’t take an expert DIY’er! Get creative without overwhelming yourself.
- Bottle shapes
How can we give you 21st birthday party ideas without mentioning alcohol? Cut out cards in the shape of a liquor bottle, beer mug, or martini glass!
- Text message card
No, this isn’t like sending an evite. Here, most of your creativity lies within your words. You’ll find blank text message templates online and fill them out yourself. Of course, put your name at the top of the “screen” since the message is from you. Then include all of the party details in a “text message” bubble. All that’s left is to print it off and mail them out!
- Ticket stub
Are you having a movie theme? Or maybe even a carnival or arcade game theme? Giving your invitation a ticket stub border is an easy way to lay out the details in a fun way.
- Movie Poster
Regardless of your theme, you can tie it together with yourself and the party details in a mock movie poster. You can even make up your own tagline! It will definitely be a funny keepsake for all of your friends.
- Keep it Simple!
If you don’t have the time or resources to create novelty 21st birthday invitations, you don’t have to worry! Buying blank greeting cards with pretty pictures is quick and affordable. Get as many as you want, fill them out with the party details, and stick them in the mailbox. Are you a procrastinator and don’t have enough time left for snail mail? Hand deliver them on your day off work!
While the invitations are an important aspect, don’t get hung up on them. If you’re having a large party, make it easy by printing them off somewhere. It’s a good opportunity to support your local print shop!
Now everyone knows where to come, what time to be there, and what to expect. So what happens when that moment comes? Commence the partying!
#5 During the Party
Finally, all of your hard work has come to fruition. Decorations are up, food is steaming, and drinks are bubbling! Leave your right-hand person in charge of the planned events and have a blast. However, to make things more convenient for everyone, you should have some backups at the ready.
Extras you should have on hand
- Garbage bags
- Extra toilet paper
- Citronella candles or bug torches
- Paper Towels
- Silverware for each course
- Spare trash cans (to spread around)
- Ashtrays (for smokers)
- Lots of ice!
- An insulated cooler
- Club soda (great spot remover for surprise messes!)
- A broom with dustpan
- Extra dishwashing soap
- Emergency phone numbers
- First aid kit
Not only will some of these items reduce cleanup time, they reduce unnecessary hassles too. Keep things running smoothly and efficiently to maximize fun memories.
Extra Tip: If everyone is going to be drinking, it’s a good idea to designate a “keyholder” so no one drives home drunk.
Even when the night is over and everyone has left or fallen asleep, that doesn’t mean your work is done.
#6 After the Party
We all dread the morning after – with or without the hangover. The rising sun signals the end of fun and the beginning of a new day. Everyone has staggered backed out to their everyday lives. You’re sitting amongst scattered remnants of a night that you wished would have lasted forever.
Don’t be sad. In a way, you can make it last forever (after you clean up the mess!)
Write it Down
While the memories are still fresh in your mind, write them down. Make note of crazy shenanigans, hilarious jokes, and any other moments that made you happy. You should also write down new things you learned about your friends. Whether it’s their favorite drink, a childhood story they told, or a note about something on their bucket list.
Knowing their dreams, desires, and favorite things will give you 21st birthday ideas when it’s their turn to celebrate.
Make a Memory Book
Of course, you can share your exploits on Facebook and Instagram for everyone else. Why not do something for yourself too? While they can be a lot of work sometimes, scrapbooks are the ideal way to make your memories tangible.
- After they’ve had time to recover, ask your friends for copies of pictures they took through the night. Then print these out with any that you took yourself.
- Keep them together in a box with anything else from the party worth keeping. Streamers, confetti, and paper cut-outs will survive as decorations in your scrapbook too. This includes a copy of your invitation as well, which should go on one of the first pages.
- Make copies of any notes you took about the party or your friends and put them in this box too.
- Buy a scrapbook with plenty of inserts, background pages, and stickers.
- Plan a night with one of your creative friends from the party to put the scrapbook together. Not only will they offer their artistic eye, but plenty of laughs as you review the night together. You might even learn about something new that you didn’t notice during the party.
Now you have a new book to keep on your shelf. Then, when next year rolls around, you can pull it out and test everyone’s memory! If you had a private birthday with your partner, they’d love having a nostalgic keepsake memorializing a very special day.
Create a Collage Video
Were you and your friends sober enough to capture some videos? Let’s hope the more embarrassing ones didn’t make it on Snapchat!
Gather the videos and pictures that you and your friends took. Upload them into a video editor on your computer and piece it all together. Put your favorite songs in the background, or maybe there was a funny song from that night.
Then make it even more fun with a blooper reel, sound effects, and captions!
Are you not that tech-savvy? Hire one of your computer nerd friends or a freelancer to do it for you! When it’s all put together to your liking, share it to everyone that was on your guest list.
The Next Great Meme
Are any of your pictures worthy of going viral? Put them to the test!
Find the funniest candid pictures from your party and ask your friends to caption them like a meme. There are plenty of free sites where you can upload your own pictures and add text. After you find the funniest one, send it out to all of your guest list in a virtual “thank you” card.
Then, if you’re really lucky, you might become an internet legend.
What else is there left to do? Enjoy adulthood!
We hope these 21st birthday party ideas gave you a great place to start planning the best night of your life. Check out our other articles (link here) for even more specific ideas. If we’re missing anything, let us know about your fun ideas in the comments below!