Surprisingly difficult surprise party planning...
September 1, 2011 6:16 PM   Subscribe

What should I do/get for my boyfriend's birthday when we've only been dating 6 months and I haven't met his friends?

I've looked at other "what-should-I-do-for-the-birthday" questions but nothing really seems a match...

I'm in a relationship with a great guy I met earlier this year. He's met a number of my friends, and I've met his immediate and extended family members, as well as two out-of-town friends. However, I haven't met any of his friends who live here. I know he's not a super-sociable person and hasn't actually hung out with anyone recently except occasional lunch dates, since I see him every evening. I don't think he's intentionally keeping me away from them, but I suppose it's possible (I have trust/jealousy issues from past relationships so perhaps he's protecting my feelings, since, I believe, most of his friends are women). More likely, I think, is that he's a private, bookish type who doesn't need a lot of social interaction.

That said, his 30th birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, and I feel like we've been together long enough that it would, normally, be incumbent upon me to plan something for it. In past relationships, that would involve contacting his group of friends, and inviting them out for a surprise dinner/drinks. However, in this case I don't even really know who he is closest with, or how to get ahold of them. I can't just trawl Facebook because he hasn't used it for a couple years.

On the other hand, I don't want to just plan privately for the two of us because that seems presumptuous. I shouldn't monopolize his time on a milestone birthday!

What should I do? Contact his siblings and see what they recommend? Drop hints or even ask him outright? Plan something private and then let him invite along whoever he chooses?

Secondly, I am not sure what I should spend on a gift. I love gift-giving and tend toward the extravagant, but don't want to scare him off. I have purchased concert tickets but they're not that pricey. At the 6 month mark, where both parties earn good incomes, what should be spent on a gift?

Thanks in advance!
posted by Pomo to Human Relations (14 answers total)
I'm not sure why the plans have to be a secret? Why not just ask him what he wants to do for his birthday?
posted by Ashley801 at 6:19 PM on September 1, 2011 [11 favorites]

I concur with Ashley. Ask him what he'd like to do, if he has something planned.
posted by mekko at 6:26 PM on September 1, 2011

For the party part of it... I think you should ask him what he would like to do, and then you can be the party planner. Surprise parties are great when you can pull them off, but if you aren't sure who to invite, it might get tricky.

However, you might also do some subtle inquiring about his local friends and use that to plan something... I once planned a surprise party for a good friend who I knew would want a certain person there. So I borrowed his phone for something innocent (I really can't remember what my excuse was, but it gained no suspicion from him) and looked up her number really quickly. Luckily he went to the bathroom right after he handed me his phone so I had a chance to copy it down :)
posted by DoubleLune at 6:27 PM on September 1, 2011

I think your circumstances mean that a surprise birthday party isn't really an option, and in that case it solves a lot of your party-planning woes. Ask him what he wants to do. Since this is his first birthday with you, I wouldn't try to plan a surprise blowout because some people hate surprises, or they really aren't the birthday-celebrating type at all. It could get hairy if you misjudge. Just ask him what he wants to do and offer to run point on all the major plans; that way he can still have the feeling of having a party thrown for him without risking creating an awkward situation.
posted by lilac girl at 6:31 PM on September 1, 2011

Best answer: I have planned surprise parties before and the people I have planned it for has always been delighted. However, my cousin is married to someone who HATES surprises. He said to me that he could have enjoyed the thought of the coming event all along and feels robbed of that. There is also the possibility that he may not like to be the center of attention. It may make him uncomfortable or embarrassed.

You should ask what he would like for his birthday. You can also have a quick quiet drink and appetizer someplace before you meet up with a group of his friends if that is what you decide he would like. You still have some alone time and accomplish not monopolizing him on a big birthday!

Oh! One more thing...just buy something that he would enjoy. Don't spend too much that would make him uncomfortable, but something that he really would be delighted to have. I recently gave the love of my life a birthday gift that consisted of few small items that really didn't cost much, but things that I thought he might enjoy and mentioned he needed. He seemed very happy. I wanted to give him an e-reader, but luckily I asked him and he already had one. I would have been mighty disappointed to give him something he already had.

Have a great time, I love joyous occasions!
posted by Yellow at 6:38 PM on September 1, 2011


Seriously, you're stressed out because you don't know what he wants you to do. The only way to relieve the stress and answer your question is to ask him what, if anything, he wants you to do. And if he says "nothing, I don't want to do anything for my birthday," please respect that.

As for the gift, there's no "should" in terms of what to buy or how much to spend. Concert tickets sound like a great gift. If you wanted to add in a book you thought he'd like or a trinket that made you think of him or whatever, do that. But at six months, I would hold off on anything that could reasonably be described as "extravagant," especially since you seem unsure.
posted by decathecting at 6:41 PM on September 1, 2011

I agree with others here that there's no need to be secretive.

A few years ago, a friend planned my entire birthday, pretty much from the moment I got up until I went to bed, and she told me about it ahead of time. Not only was it a great gift, it was also a great way to improve the days leading up to my birthday since I had something awesome to look forward to.
posted by 2oh1 at 7:10 PM on September 1, 2011

"A private, bookish type who doesn't need a lot of social interaction" is a person who probably would not be very pleased by a big surprise party. Nthing everyone else - talk to him and find out how he wants to celebrate his birthday.
posted by something something at 7:17 PM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ask him if he wants a party, for sure. Some people don't.

But you can still surprise him on his birthday with something for just the two of you!
posted by auto-correct at 7:53 PM on September 1, 2011

Tell him you'll be taking him out for drinks and dinner for his birthday. He picks the day and the type of food and you'll book the restaurant (pick somewhere nice and special - in other words not your usual haunts) and decide the bar to drink in before/after.

That way he gets a nice evening which fits in around his other plans and you both have fun.
posted by mr_silver at 8:49 PM on September 1, 2011

Nthing ask. Since you haven't met his local friends, planning a surprise party could seem weirdly presumptuous. If the relationship lasts, you have lots of time for lavish gifts and celebrations. This in probably not the year.
posted by cyndigo at 8:59 PM on September 1, 2011

Ask him.
posted by mleigh at 9:17 PM on September 1, 2011

Although it's his 30th birthday, I'm going to go against the grain here and say DO NOT organize a party for him. There are a couple of reasons: your relationship is still young (only six months!), he doesn't sound like the type who'd enjoy a big production around him anyway, and especially he doesn't sound like the type to enjoy a surprise party.

Why not just treat him to a fancy restaurant and maybe tickets to something? It doesn't even have to be ON his birthday (after all, his mother and/or siblings might have something planned with his family!), just near it.
posted by easily confused at 4:18 AM on September 2, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers! I did ask him and it became more complicated as someone I don't know may be taking him out of town. But I will use your advice if that doesn't happen, and keep things simple. It's good to know that not everyone expects a surprise!
posted by Pomo at 12:54 PM on September 6, 2011

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