Sweet 16 Birthday Theme Ideas

Teenage girls celebrating a birthday
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Looking for sweet 16 ideas? Start here with these ideas for themes and see what inspires you most. 

One popular idea is to put the sweet in sweet 16 with a sugary theme such as candy bars, sundae bars, and dessert tables. Sharing sites like Pinterest and Instagram are loaded with images of these types of beautiful spreads. 

Concerned about teens reeling from a sugar rush? You could keep the “sweet” theme without the extra sugar. How about decorating with giant lollipops made from Styrofoam balls stuck onto dowels and covered in cellophane? You could make a garland of oversized bubble gum pieces either using fabric or paper. And the cake could be covered with candy pieces.

What other birthday themes would teenagers enjoy? Here are some ideas:

  • Karaoke: Rent a karaoke machine, send invitations that look like concert tickets, tell everyone to dress like rock stars, distribute temporary tattoos, set out cans of colored hairspray for the kids to use on each other and serve the kind of food you’d expect to see backstage, like pizza or tacos.
  • Hollywood: Send invitations shaped like stars from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, set up a red carpet area where the kids can have their pictures taken next to life-sized cardboard cutouts of your child’s favorite stars, show a movie on an outdoor screen, and encourage everyone to wear feathered boas and sunglasses.
  • Masquerade Ball: Ask the guests to wear costumes, then hand everyone a mask when they arrive. The kids should wear the masks when they yell “surprise” as the guest of honor walks in. Serve a masquerade-themed cake and send everyone home with a mask-shaped cookie in a cellophane bag as a favor.
  • Alice in Wonderland: Alice in Wonderland parties can be whimsical and fun. Set out a colorful and elaborate tea party table. Make cupcake toppers that read “eat me” and place tags around juice bottles that say “drink me.” Designate a table where the kids can play card games, like Black Jack. The cake could be shaped like a 3-D rabbit and frosted white. Hang a pocket watch around the bunny’s neck. For more Alice in Wonderland inspiration, check out the Mad Hatter tea party styled by party planner The TomKat Studio.
  • Under the Sea: For invitations, send seashells with the party details written on the smooth side. Decorate your house with fishing nets, pirate treasure chests and rubber lobsters. Host the party at a beach or swimming pool, if possible. Serve an ocean-themed cake.
  • Paris: Decorate your house in pinks, cream, and other pastel colors. Play romantic French music. Print black and white photos of Paris off your computer, then turn the pictures into cupcake toppers. For more inspiration, watch the "I Want Candy" scene from the 2006 film Marie Antionette.
  • Decade: Choose a decade to celebrate, such as the ‘20s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s or ‘80s. Ask the guests to dress accordingly, and then serve food that fits the era (hamburgers and milkshakes for the ‘50s party theme, for example).
  • Color scheme: Build the birthday theme around a color scheme, such as black and white, pretty in pink, red white & blue, school colors, or the whole rainbow. Make everything match the colors—from the balloons to the food. For a dessert, for example, you could serve black-and-white cookies or multi-colored layered Jell-O.
  • Creature Theme If your teen is obsessed with vampires, zombies, werewolves (oh my!) or any other sci-fi-type of being, you don't have to wait for Halloween to indulge that dark side. (No one ever said a sweet 15 has to be sweet, right?) Throw a sweet 16 party that features those creatures. 

Once you have chosen a theme, you can focus your attention on the details. You may find that having a concept on which to focus helps the rest of the details (such as color scheme, menu, decor, favors) fall into place, resulting in the perfect theme party.