Celebrating a fortieth birthday is a monumental event that typically includes lots of preplanning and exciting fanfare. No matter the gender of the guest-of-honor, they’ll love the effort you put into planning their party. That includes finding the best 40th birthday party ideas to help make this event that much more memorable.
If you are also looking for ideas on what to give your grandfather on his birthday, you may check out our list of 26 Gifts for Grandpa for the best tips and recommendations.
Planning this milestone birthday also involves making this event as personal as possible. Although it might be tempting to pick up the typical “over the hill” decorations, why not consider something emphasizing the guest of honor’s tastes and interests. Making that effort helps create a more meaningful party.
Top 10 40th Birthday Party Ideas
1. Remembering 40 Years
Back in the day, writing personal letters was the norm. Now, people correspond using digital means far more. However, that doesn’t mean the nostalgia of receiving a handwritten note doesn’t still exist. That’s the focus of this party idea. This party idea works exceptionally well if the guest of honor loves letters and their lost art.
On the day of the party, ask guests to arrive a little early. Set out enough sheets of stationery, pens, and envelopes for each guest. Make sure all the paper and envelopes match. You can put out a variety of pen colors to help add more whimsy to these letters. Before their arrival, decorate the envelopes with faux postage and a liner featuring a photo of the guest of honor.
Let each guest know that, while the purpose of this letter writing gift is about celebrating the guest of honor’s life, it’s also okay to write sentimental and “favorite memories” letters. Once all the envelopes are full, tie them together in a stack with twine. Add a gift tag that reads, “40 Years of Memories.”
Consider using “airmail” envelopes to help add some additional flair to this gift. You can also use washi tape to line the edges of each. You can also let guests know ahead of time what you’re doing in case they want to write a longer letter or include copies of the pictures they have.
When decorating for this party, you can approach this in a variety of ways. For example, you could string sealed and addressed envelopes on a piece of fishing line and use that as the garland or have it suspended from the ceiling. Then, take the letter-writing theme a bit further by baking a cake that looks like a vintage letter.
2. 40 Reasons Party Theme
Here’s another party idea whereby you involve each guest in attendance. Consider downloading this template and bring it to a printer to have it enlarged. Then, matte and frame it before the party after you write the guest of honor’s name in the center. Make sure you leave the glass out of the frame and keep it aside for later.
Place this framed memory on a table with ultra-fine sharpies featuring a variety of colors “guest book” style. Then, as each guest arrives, ask them to write at least one or two reasons why they love the guest of honor. Start by filling in one or two of the thought bubbles as an example.
If you notice there are any thought bubbles empty before it’s time to give the gift to the guest of honor, then either ask for more participation or fill them in yourself. Once it’s full, place the glass that came with the frame over it and give it to the guest of honor.
A variation of this includes asking guests to write one or two things they love about the guest of honor on their R.S.V.P. Then, you can add these sentiments along with corresponding names on this sentimental gift. For those who don’t like their handwriting, they may prefer this option.
This template also includes a download for capturing all these anecdotes digitally. So, another option is setting up your laptop and asking guests to type in what they love about the guest of honor. That way, the print on the thought bubbles all looks alike.
3. Paint and Sip Party
Are you planning a party for someone who loves creativity and has an appreciation for wine? Do they love the idea of getting together with friends to indulge in delicacies while creating something beautiful? If so, hosting a paint and sip for their fortieth birthday is an excellent idea. Many venues across the country feature these parties, or you can organize them privately in your home.
There’s no need for anyone attending this party to be a master artist. Typically, the class has step-by-step instructions for creating each work of art. If the guest of honor prefers pottery, you can find similar workshops whereby all guests pick out ceramics to paint.
Before everyone arrives, find out if you can decorate and what other items you need to bring. For example, you might be hosting this event at a location where they have art supplies, but you need to bring in the wine. Decorations could include using wine or art-themed decorations. If the host doesn’t supply aprons, consider picking one up for each guest.
If the guest of honor prefers not to drink, you can host these kinds of parties with an instructor and no wine. For example, the host may come to your home or a separate venue. Doing this will allow you to set up decorations, set out food, and serve the cake. Many may prefer this option because it gives you more control over the party-planning aspect of the event.
If you can bring in food, keep everything “bite-sized” and easy to carry on a small plate or napkin. Examples of these foods include cheese and crackers, zucchini bites, shrimp bites, pizza-stuffed mushrooms, and fried pickles. Keep the “bite-sized” theme going by using petit fours featuring the guest of honor’s favorite color.
4. Count the Years with Karaoke
Who says singing karaoke only happens in bars? Here’s an excellent opportunity to bring friends together and celebrate the guest of honor’s fortieth birthday with some tunes. Planning for 40th birthday party ideas like these involves renting a karaoke machine, selecting music, and setting up a “dance party” atmosphere.
When selecting music, consider developing a list consisting of all the hits from the past forty years. You can assign someone to be the “DJ” and count down each musical hit until you reach this year. Encourage everyone at the party to take turns participating at the karaoke stage or area you set up.
If you can find a disco ball that can hang in the center of the room, that will make this party that much better. Include other decorations that depict the music from the years you’re counting down. These can be anything from hanging up old CDs, cassettes, and vinyl records you find at a thrift store to adding concert posters and t-shirts.
You could also encourage all the party guests to come wearing their favorite concert t-shirt. That will help add more “pop” to this party in photos and when everyone sings together. On the karaoke stage, don’t forget to include lights. For example, strings of white holiday lights against a black sheet or extra-large tablecloth create a beautiful backdrop.
Set up another staging area for party-goers to use for taking pictures. Put out hats, wigs, fake mustaches, and other elements to help them look like their favorite musical artists from a particular year. Then, ask them to tag their photos on social media with the one you pick out to make them easier to find.
5. Gaming Galore
Does your guest of honor have an affinity for all things games? If so, this fortieth birthday party idea is one they’ll love. Not only will you be featuring what they adore—games—but you’re giving the guest of honor opportunities to play them with their closest friends.
Depending on what the guest of honor prefers, you can plan this party to include an assortment of board and video games. Preparation for this party idea includes renting a large screen TV (or using what you have), using your game station (or borrowing one), and picking up a variety of board games.
In the board game area, set up several card tables or other small tables with one board game each. Don’t forget decorative touches, including tablecloths and game-themed decorations hanging from the ceiling above each table. These decorations can include giant game pieces, balloons, and so on.
Setting up the video game area involves ensuring there’s enough comfortable seating for everyone holding a controller. You could consider setting up more than one TV and game station, depending on how many guests are attending. Decorate the area by featuring posters of the games everyone is playing.
Take this party a step further by including game-themed food and desserts. Find out what the guest of honor’s favorite game is and have a cake decorated in that style. Then, include finger foods in the shapes of game pieces and game controllers. For example, you could create a cookie platter featuring a variety of cookies decorated to look like game themes or game pieces.
You may also read our Guide to Picking Fun Games for Birthday Parties for more ideas.
6. Foodie Fun
Is your guest of honor the type who loves coming up with new recipes or eating at the latest restaurant to come to their area? Are they continually featuring pics of their most recent finds or creations on social media? If so, then consider making their fortieth birthday party’s theme all about being a foodie.
Preparing for this party involves deciding if you believe the guest of honor would prefer a cooking party or one where they can enjoy a variety of foods. Either way, they’ll love the fact that it’s all about indulging in delicious cuisine.
If you decide a cooking party is the best way to go, then you’ll need to print out enough recipe cards for everyone in attendance. Instead of traditional party hats, consider picking up chef’s hats and aprons for everyone to wear. You’ll also need a variety of cooking tools and appliances everyone can share.
Throwing a tasting party whereby everyone indulges in new foods involves hiring a private chef or cooking the entire menu ahead of time. You could also encourage guests to bring their favorite “fancy” dish for everyone to share. If guests are bringing food, encourage them to look at the guest of honor’s social media for inspiration.
Decorations for these types of 40th birthday party ideas involves finding “food-themed” or “restaurant-themed” decorations at the party store. You can also include blown-up photographs of the guest of honor’s favorite foods and restaurants. Set up the guest area to look like a chef’s kitchen or dining room of a restaurant.
Regarding color inspiration, use what you typically see in a restaurant—deep shades of green, burgundy, black, silver, and gold. Mix in pops of orange, bright white, red, and yellow. Bring in clear glass wine glasses, champagne flutes, and serving bowls. Tie everything together using place settings featuring the guest of honor’s favorite color.
7. Focusing on Relaxation at the Spa
Who doesn’t need to destress and add more relaxation into their lives? Does the guest of honor seem to carry a lot of stress? Are they working a lot of hours or have a busy home life—or both? If so, then this is an optimal party idea.
Preparation for this party can happen in a couple of ways. If you don’t have any idea about massages or pedicures, consider hiring massage therapists to come and offer these services at the party. Another way you can approach this party is by doing everything entirely DIY. Set up stations throughout the guest area for home facials, foot soaks, makeovers, manicures, and pedicures.
Consider hosting this party at a hall where you can set up massage chairs and the rest of the stations with plenty of room. Set up a buffet table featuring fruit infused water and delicious finger foods. These delicacies could include cucumber sandwiches, cheese board platters, small salads, mini muffins, and vegetable platters. Don’t forget to add gourmet sauces, spreads, and dressings.
Decorations for this event could include setting up all the tables, balloons, and paper goods, so they feature the guest of honor’s favorite color or colors from their favorite spa. Take that color inspiration a step further by popping napkins into wine or champagne glasses, wrapping water bottles with custom labels, and filling bowls with colorful candies.
Don’t forget to include a cushy bathrobe and slippers for the guest of honor. If it’s in your budget, you can pick up these items for the guests as well. Other party favor gifts you can give to guests include sleeping masks, fluffy socks, and small manicure sets.
8. Rubies and All Things Red
Did you know that red is the traditional color for those celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary? Because the color is so striking, why not making it the inspiration for a 40th birthday party? There are dozens of ways you can use this color to make the moment magical and memorable.
Create a “red” theme that becomes a feast for the eyes of the guest-of-honor eyes, as well as the rest of the party-goers. Look for place settings featuring deep red-colored glass. Complement that with a coupe, or saucer, champagne glasses, black napkins, and a black and white table runner.
Add touches of glitz by using by creating centerpieces featuring white taper candlesticks and fresh flowers bursting with a variety of shades of red. Sprinkle in silver and rhinestone accented napkins rings, or ones featuring ruby red beads, to add sparkle. Place silver “charger” plates beneath each table setting to enhance the look further.
Think about your menu selection and try to incorporate dishes feature ingredients that match or contrast with the serving pieces you choose. For example, avoid pinks and oranges in desserts, flowers, or sauces. Instead, go for white, green, blue, or black. So, if you were focusing on black, some choices could include using black pasta, sesame seeds, mushrooms, or mission figs. If you’re focusing on blue, then some examples could consist of blue corn, blueberries, purple potatoes, or red cabbage.
Now, when you consider the decorations and gift wrap, follow the same cues as you are for your menu. If you pick black decorations, avoid the typical “Over the Hill” varieties. Instead, choose shiny or lacy items. You can add formal and whimsical flair by including small black top hats and silver stilettos to use as a party favor.
9. Create a Sweet Shoppe
Have you ever thought about how many different candies have been available over the past forty years? Does the guest of honor love everything about sweets and treats? If so, then creating a “sweet shop” themed birthday might be the best option.
First, research online—like on Amazon, for example—the various vintage sweets you can pick up. Then, include sweets from today that you know the guest of honor loves. If you’re not sure what they like, then choose a wide variety of hard candies, chocolates, and caramels.
Start by filling goodie bags and using the treats as party table decorations. Put these goodie bags into a small wooden crate or basket. That way, they’re easy to ‘grab and go,” and they don’t get mixed up with the rest of the party foods.
Instead of a cake, consider creating a tower of cupcakes that feature “sweets” as their decorations. The topper can include a vintage canister full of candy or a small gumball machine. Choose brightly colored cupcake wrappers and use them in combination with a white cupcake tower.
Decorating for this party is as easy as finding candy-themed decorations, table clothes that match the candies you choose, and bunches of brightly colored balloons. Make sure you’re posting little “sweet shop” signs on tablescapes and next to foods.
When creating your menu, think about all the sweets you loved growing up—Rice Crispy treats, frosted cookies, and caramel covered popcorn, for example. Fill clear glass jars or vases with a variety of lollipops, fill baskets with caramel corn, and include chocolate-covered strawberries.
10. Host a “Theme” Party
Do you know what your guest of honor’s favorite superhero, sport, or movie is? Do they talk about this “theme” frequently? If so, why not consider hosting a “theme” party for their fortieth?
Once you figure out what theme to go with, like their favorite superhero, for example, the planning is much more straightforward. You’ll be focusing the entire party around this theme, so that’s how you’ll choose foods and decorations.
For example, if they love Superman, then that’s the theme you’ll use. Try not to pick “kid” party decorations, even though that might be what’s readily available. Instead, focus on upscale and “grown-up” party decorations.
Order a cake that features the guest of honor’s favorite theme. Harkening back to the superhero idea, you could highlight the hero’s emblem or a picture of the superhero. You could also create a cupcake tower featuring the superhero’s colors.
For the guest of honor, pick up a t-shirt featuring the theme of the party. That way, they can wear it as soon as they arrive at the event. Pick out party favors that match the t-shirt you select. For example, if the t-shirt features a Superman logo, pick out party favors that match.
If the guest of honor is a sports fanatic, you can use the same techniques for planning their theme party. Put out an assortment of foods that someone would typically enjoy while watching a game. Instead of choosing your typical pizza and chips, go for chocolate covered strawberries that look like footballs, pull-apart pigs and blankets, and a “make your own nacho” station.
As you can see, there are a variety of 40th birthday party ideas from which you can choose. Your goal is to figure out what the guest of honor love and plan the party in that direction. Don’t forget to include details like party-themed foods and unique decorations. That way, this party becomes memorable and sets itself apart from others the guest of honor may have attended in the past.
If you need help on what to give your grandmother on her special day, check out our list of 26 Gift Ideas for Grandma for some tips and recommendations.