Fifty is the new 40? Thirty? Whatever the current wisdom, it is true: The half-century mark is different from what it used to be.

Most people turning this age have reached a certain level of stability in their work, family, and life in general. So, there’s no better time to do it up big than with a birthday party that celebrates the things you love with the people you care about most.

Too old for a theme?

The short answer? No. Of course, if you have never liked themed parties, don’t feel pressured to create one now. But according to Seri Kertzner, owner of Little Miss Party, which orchestrates fabulous fetes for clients from Florida to Toronto, themes get the party started quickly.

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“Fifty is not too mature for a theme,” she insists. “Theme parties are the best parties. People get really into them.”

One of her tried and tested formulas for a party theme is focusing on a former decade. This idea naturally lends itself to a certain vibe when it comes to attire, dècor, food, etc. “You can highlight the decades of the guest of honor with photos, a custom menu, and music, all reflecting the varying eras (of their life),” Kertzner says. “You can also ask guests to dress in their favorite decade.”

These five 50th birthday ideas are sure to bring the party to another level.

1. Classic: You’re golden

The signature theme of a 50th birthday is gold, so this is a chance to play up the glamorous side of the day. Think gilded dècor (Banners! Balloons! Cutlery! Napkins!), attire, and food, such as gold leaf cupcakes and golden baked potatoes topped with caviar. Shine on!

2. Mysterious: Murder mystery

Invite your adventurous friends to a formal dinner where mayhem and intrigue are on the menu (mwahahaha). You can hire a company to handle the actors, props, and clues, or, for a scaled-down version, buy a kit online. It will be a scream.

3. Food focused: Tasting party

What could be better for a hardcore foodie than savoring a tasting lunch or dinner with fine wine, spirits, meat and cheese, and chocolate? Good to the last sip/bite.

4. Travel: Great escape

You’ve heard of destination weddings. Well, a milestone birthday is just as worthy an occasion to hop in the car, or on a train or plane for a fabulous weekend away.

5. Sporty: Game on

Do you love golf? Are you obsessed with pickleball? Plan your big 5-0 around your sporting life. It’s a fun, active party for all to enjoy. Dress code = very casual.

50th birthday ideas 80s cover band
Photo courtesy of Seri Kertzner

Plan for fun

People at this age tend to be busy with work, family, and other life commitments, so it’s wise to get the word out ahead of time if you want your favorite people to show up at your party. That is especially true for a destination party or if guests need to plan for special attire.

Give guests a heads-up as much as six months in advance, then send reminders closer to 90 or 60 days out. If you want guests to bring memorabilia or photos for a slideshow or toast, let them know well ahead of time. Personalized invitations are always a nice touch.

Go timeless, not trendy

Kertzner recommends keeping color palettes classy. “I am a big fan of going classic with colors, such as white, black, and gold,” she says. “They always feel sophisticated and chic for a 50th birthday party.” Of course, you can fit the scheme around the party theme, but Kertzner’s advice is less than more.

50th birthday ideas balloons table
Photo courtesy of Seri Kertzner

When it comes to table dècor and accessories, take a cue from the venue. If you rent a speakeasy for a cocktail party, lean into a Roaring Twenties vibe. For a wine or tasting party, decorate sideboards and tables with wildflowers, plus bowls and pedestals overflowing with eatable dècor. These can include everything from still-life fruits like grapes, cherries, and persimmons to cheeses sitting on fig leaves.

And make sure to provide ample seating so guests are comfortable. Turning 50 doesn’t mean you are over the hill, but it also doesn’t mean you want to stand for 4 to 5 hours straight!

Food for thought

Whether a casual buffet or five-course, sit-down dinner, the food at a milestone birthday is what the majority of guests look forward to most. Think of your menu as another creative outlet to reflect the theme or guest of honor. Make sure to keep in mind your guests’ dietary restrictions by having some vegetarian or gluten-free options on the table.

During or after the meal, make time for guests to give a toast or share memories of the guest of honor. After all, it’s a big birthday, so you want to give everyone a chance to join in the celebration.


Our favorite ready-to-eat meals


Total Request Live

A 50th birthday is a time to splurge on a DJ instead of relying on your old mix tapes or vinyl collection (or, if you’re super hip, your Spotify playlist). “A live DJ is a must for this party,” Kertzner says. It takes the party to the next level, and feels elevated and special, which is what you want when you’re throwing a milestone birthday party.” 

Involve the guests by asking for their favorite song(s) when you send out the invite, and then share a master list of requests with the DJ. Another option is to hire a cover band to play the hits the guest of honor grew up with.

Hang on to the memories

Leaving guests with a reminder of this special birthday is a nice gesture. To make it personal, look to the guest of honor for inspiration, Kertzner says. “If they enjoy drinking Champagne (or sparkling wine), send everyone home with a mini bottle customized with a label designed for the 50th birthday,” she says. “And it’s always nice to send everyone home with a snack or treat.”

Other ideas are a keepsake frame to fill with a party picture, a keepsake glass, or a coaster. If it is a destination party, source a local craft or food item that guests can bring home with them.

Author

Kerstin Czarra is a writer/editor covering design, culture, and entertaining for publications like domino, T Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes and Gardens, and others. She resides in Los Angeles, and her dream interview will forever be a tie between Joe Strummer and Agatha Christie.

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