12 Ideas for Celebrating Your Birthday as an Adult

My birthday is tomorrow!! But let’s be honest, by your late 20s and into your 30s and 40s, it’s not uncommon for your birthdays to have lost their sha-bang. Either you feel it’s unnecessary to make it a big deal or request big events or your life is just too full of other things (career, kids, etc) to stop and celebrate. If you’re like me, the day sneaks up on you. Honestly, I still always love my birthday no matter how low key, because it’s awesome to receive the texts and Facebook messages and even small acts of acknowledgement. Anything bigger is icing on the cake.

But that does not mean one should feel guilty about wanting to do something fun or memorable for a birthday. Plus, there are ways to celebrate that don’t necessarily mean tons of money or time. Here is a list of ideas for yourself or to plan for someone special in your life whom you feel deserves a memorable day.

1.Go all out with dessert or drinks
Birthday meals are great and all but great drinks and great desserts are really the way to celebrate. Try doing finger foods or appetizers for your main birthday meal and instead focus on an elaborate and fun dessert. If sweets aren’t your thing then go all out with your drinks. Come up with a fun new drink to try.
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2. Celebrate like a Hobbit
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbits celebrate birthdays in a unique way where the one having a birthday gives gifts. (In their case, it is because they are infamous for accumulating way too much stuff and this is a way to get rid of things.) If you have kids, I think this is a great tradition to teach and start with them. We should always remember that even though a birthday is a fun reason to feel celebrated, know our lives would not be what they are without the special people we have in them. Find a way to fit the Hobbit tradition into your own birthdays.

3. Have a day out while the house is cleaned
Maybe it’s just me, but the one thing about throwing a party, having people over or any kind of birthday activity is that it tends to result in a mess needing cleaned up afterward (and sometimes pre-cleaning as well). Avoid creating extra work for yourself on your birthday and instead plan a day out–either with special people or solo– and have your house cleaned for you while gone. You can hire someone to come in or someone you know (your kids and/or husband, for example) can do the cleaning as a gift.

4. Have a themed party and dress-up
Make a get-together with friends a little different for your birthday. There are plenty of occasions where you all dress up nice (showers, weddings, holidays), so try something a little fun and different to make your celebration special. Throwback to the days of high school or college and have a decade-themed party. (70’s/80’s/90’s) Some other ideas are to dress as favorite movie or TV characters, have a luau even if you don’t live near the beach, a pajama party (and play board games!) or a “formal prom” or a Goodwill inspired party where you find attire at a local Goodwill. You can even simplify it further and have fun accessories for a laugh. One year we all wore temporary tattoos for my birthday.

Birthday 2010

5. Date Night or Girls’ Night
Whether your work keeps you busy, you have moved away from many close friends, or you are involved with children, it is likely you don’t get a lot of time to just have fun the way you once did. Plan a date night with your husband only or a girls’ night if that is what you are in need of. I, for one, rarely get either. Between now having kids to accommodate for and the fact we live away from most of our friends, nights or days out like we had in our early 20s are few and far between. There is no better excuse than your birthday to plan special time away from normal life and celebrate like your 22 again.

6. Do a Bucket List item
Rather than a standard gift, think about all of the random things you’d love to try–your bucket list–and choose one (or more!) to try. Experiences are what make life memorable and your birthday is a perfect time to have a memorable and new experience. Maybe it’s something like zip-lining or skydiving; maybe it’s taking a class (cooking or dance). Don’t let life just pass you by.

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Celebrating a friend’s birthday… atop a firetruck!

7. Take a Mini Roadtrip
An adventure doesn’t have to include a plane flight or a 14-hour drive somewhere. You might be surprised the fun you could have with a mini-getaway roadtrip. Even a night out at a hotel in a nearby city is something that everyday life doesn’t present. As adults we have plenty of excuses to not have time or money for things that aren’t a part of the daily grind, but if you don’t make time for special adventures, they won’t happen on their own. Pick a place. Pick the people. Get away.

8. Let the Kids plan your party
If you have kids–especially young children–you may find planning a special event for your birthday is more work than it’s worth. So make it memorable by bringing them into your celebration. What child doesn’t like a birthday party? Live vicariously through your kids and feel young again. Let them help you pick decorations and set up a party. Let them help decorate the cake. You only have so many years where you will celebrate your birthday with your children at their young excitable age, so cherish it.


9. Make a Mix CD/Playlist
How do teens make their mix tapes these days? I highly doubt they do mix CDs like we did, but surely to goodness creating your own personal soundtracks to life is still the thing to do. Do it for your birthday. Fill a playlist/cd/whatever works for you, with songs that make you happy and play it throughout the day. The other things I love about mix tapes/cds, is finding old ones. I can put one in and it takes me back to a certain era of my life. Be sure to hang on to the one you create and in 10 years, listen to it again on your birthday and feel 10 years younger!

10. Take a family picture
Start a tradition of taking a family photo on your birthday. It’s not uncommon to do an annual photo for your children’s birthday to see them grow year by year. Now, we my not physically change that much year-to-year, but our family does. It can include your spouse, significant other, pets, or children. It could also be a group shot of who you celebrated with that year. Do this every year and see how your family grows and evolves. (We do this each summer in the same location as something Jon and I did the first two years of being together even before marriage.)

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Annual family “Bench” photo: 2012

11. Journal the year’s highlights
Start a birthday journal and write down the highlights of your past year and aspirations for the coming year. I do something like this as a New Year’s tradition. It’s fun to look back on the accomplishments and happenings from the past years. I’m often surprised by things I wrote, thinking I’d “of course” remember them, but actually have forgotten. By writing hopes for the coming year, you can not only set goals for yourself, but it also records a place in time of who you were and what your life was all about.

12. Surprise parties truly are the best
Obviously this isn’t something you can plan for yourself, but if you are looking for ideas for someone else, I truly think everyone deserves to have a surprise party thrown at some point in their life. (Unless it is someone who would truly hate the experience for one reason or another.) Hubs did this for my 27th birthday and it was such wonderful fun. We’d been married less than a year and it had been a couple of years of living away from most of the friends I’d spent all of my early 20s with in daily life. To suddenly have them all gathered for a night of fun was the best gift.

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Surprise party!

Share in the comments your ideas for celebrating birthdays as an adult or something fun and unique you’ve done.



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