12 Sweet Sixteen Party Ideas

A teenager’s sweet sixteen marks an important milestone in their growth into an adult. In many places, the sixteenth birthday marks the age where teenagers can acquire a drivers’ license. In several countries around the world, the legal drinking age is sixteen, too.

Even without the critical age-related milestones we mentioned above, the age of sixteen is a point in a teenager’s life when they start to mature and find their independence. Perhaps this is why so many critical legal statutes are tied to turning sixteen.

The reasons above are just a few of the many that help explain why the “sweet sixteen” is so sweet! As such, it’s your responsibility as the party-thrower to make sure their sweet sixteen is everything they imagined it to be. In the paragraphs below, we’ll walk you through several of the best methods and ideas that will help you do just that.

1. Movie Night

Spending the night watching movies, whether scary or not, is a time-honored tradition at just about any party. The sweet sixteen is no different! While some freshly-minted sixteen-year-olds might be eager to get out on the town, anyone who’s a homebody or is already tired from a busy week might gravitate toward a movie night instead.

The best part of a movie night is that it eliminates awkward silences and any communication barriers that might come from people meeting for the first time. If the birthday boy or girl has invited friends from different walks of life, they might find it difficult to get along at first. However, a movie night helps to eliminate this difficulty.

Different people have different ideas of what a movie night should entail, of course. Some people envision an all-night movie marathon, while others would rather watch just one movie before moving on to other activities. This should be up to the birthday boy or girl, of course, since it’s their day.

If you’re planning an all-night movie marathon, one thing you can try is to ask each person to bring a copy of the movie they want to watch. This only works if the party is somewhat small, of course, but if you don’t have enough time to view all of the movies in one night, you can always vote on which ones the party would like to see.

Instead of bringing physical copies of a movie, people can simply write down or think of what they’d like to see, too. If one of the friends involved has a movie streaming service, this might be the best idea, as you won’t need any hard copies anyway.

2. Dance Party

The dance party is second to none in terms of party themes. However, since dance parties can become wild quickly, you’ll need to be more careful with them, too. Just a few unruly individuals at a dance party can quickly turn it into a house party without supervision and ground rules.

Of course, with the proper boundaries set in place, a dance party can turn into a truly memorable experience. However, for a good dance party to happen, you need an abundance of excellent decorations! Consider things like:

  • Disco balls
  • Sequins and glitter
  • Streamers
  • Paper decorations
  • Themed decorations
  • Strobes or spotlights
  • Fog machines

If you have the money and the space to set up a dance floor, this is a great way to get people comfortable and in the mood for dancing. However, if you don’t, an excellent alternative is to set up a dancing game for your guests! These games are available at arcades everywhere, and they’re easy to set up on a home game console.

A dancing game is especially valuable if your guests don’t feel comfortable dancing on your own. A dancing game introduces a rigid system of judging into the equation, so partygoers can worry less about being “good” or being “bad” at dancing.

For a dancing game, you don’t necessarily have to be a good dancer; you just have to be good at the game itself. You don’t even need to look good while doing it! In fact, it’s kind of hard to look cool while playing these games, which only adds to the fun for your guests.

3. Costume Party

While costume parties are usually reserved for Halloween, there’s no reason why you can’t use them for other occasions, too. A costume party is a great way to level the playing field between guests at a party since no-one will be in their usual state of dress. You might not be able to tell who everyone is! This is part of what makes a costume party so fun!

While some people might not like the idea of turning their sweet sixteen into a costume party, there are a few ways that you can set it to your advantage. For example, try asking guests to wear masks or costumes that obscure their faces. The birthday girl or boy will be on his or her toes all night trying to guess who’s behind each cover, and each person will be a pleasant surprise!

If you’d like to narrow the theme down even further, you can turn a costume party into a themed costume party reasonably quickly. All you need to do is decorate your party area to go along with your chosen theme, then ask guests to show up in costumes that complement that theme. Think things like:

  • Gowns and evening wear for a Cinderella’s Ball party
  • Dark fantasy costumes for a witch coven’s party
  • Themed outfits and “cosplay” for a party based on a book, movie, or TV franchise

4. Video Game Party

While video games have long been thought of as something more popular for boys than girls, this video game sweet sixteen is appropriate for both genders. In fact, we’ve introduced you to some of the party favors already. As we said above, several varieties of game consoles come with dancing games to play, and these are excellent for use in party settings.

Instrument-playing games, such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero, are quite similar to dancing games but are sometimes considered more suitable for parties. These games often have party modes built-in specifically for this purpose.

The reason why these instrument-playing games are more popular for parties is that they have less of a “shame” aspect tied to them. Many people don’t like dancing in front of others for fear that they’ll make a fool of themselves. However, they don’t have to worry about this as much with instrument-based games.

There is a bit of a barrier to entry with instrument-based games. However, the entry-level difficulties are so easy that, for the most part, people can pick them up and begin playing right away.

Of course, there are other party games out there besides instrument-based and dancing video games. Mario Party, for example, is an extensive line of games that were created specifically for that purpose. Mario party is a game filled with several small minigames that are suitable for large groups of individuals to play together.

5. Skating Party

Ice skating has been popular for many years. While roller skating is a slightly newer variation on the sport, both activities are incredibly fun when paired with a birthday party. What’s more, ice skating rinks and rollerblading arenas are often available for rent to throw private parties and the like already.

While renting out these venues will be more expensive than throwing a party at home, it’s often worth it. Similarly to renting out a bowling alley or arcade, there will usually be refreshments and foods such as pizza available, too. Between this and the skating rink, any party attendees will quickly have a blast.

While the soon-to-be sixteen-year-old may like skating for one reason or another, any guests attending need not have any experience to be proficient. While skating isn’t too friendly on fresh beginners, anyone will get the hang of it quickly after falling down a few times. By the end of the night, anyone who attended as a novice will have their feet under them, ready for the next time.

Don’t think you need ice skates or roller skates to participate, either. If you have your own pair of skates, that’s excellent, but they are often available to rent for very cheap from these venues.

6. Lake Party

People who live on or near a lake have a clear advantage when it comes to lake parties (although those living on the beach can take advantage of this, too). While children tend to lose interest in the water as they grow older, they should still have plenty of interest in playing in the water around their sixteenth birthday. This is even truer if you have a boat or a water trampoline to celebrate on!

Even if you don’t have a boat, jet ski, or trampoline of your own to celebrate with, if you live near a big enough body of water, the chances are that there are some available to rent nearby. If you live near a calm river, you can even organize trips like the following:

  • Camping
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Rafting
  • Fishing

Even if you don’t have anything fancy like boats or rafts to offer, living near a lake or other body of water is provocative in and of itself. After all, you can swim, suntan, and more!

7. Glow Party

A glow party is a relatively new party theme that involves blacklights and plenty of glow-in-the-dark paints! Anything that glows in the dark is an excellent addition to a glow party, and if you do it right, everyone will be “dancing in the dark” by the night’s end.

To make a glow party successful, you need to pay special attention to the decorations. Firstly, you need a room that’s completely isolated from outside light sources. If you’re having the glow party after dark, this is significantly easier, but if not, you may need to invest in some blackout curtains or fabric instead.

Next, hang something on the walls that your partygoers can customize with glowing paints or appliques. Black paper is excellent for this, as it will be in keeping with the blackout theme. If you have the time and flexibility to do so, let your partygoers paint and customize this paper ahead of time with glowing spray paints.

If this isn’t possible, though, you can achieve a similar effect with simple brush-on paints, stick-on glow stars, and glow sticks of all shapes and sizes. Just be careful not to use paints or other media with harmful fumes in an enclosed area.

After you’ve decorated, all you need to make your glow party complete is a few blacklights, potentially some strobe lights or spotlights, and some rave-friendly (and age-appropriate) music! For an extra bonus, encourage attendees to wear white clothing that they don’t mind getting glow-in-the-dark paint on.

8. Slumber Party

Of course, we couldn’t forget the classic slumber party. Slumber parties are appropriate for groups of all ages, whether they’re celebrating their sixth or sixteenth birthday. Since slumber parties often involve groups of people spending the night at the host’s house, your opportunities for activities expand greatly, too.

Often, slumber parties are paired with movie nights, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Instead of a movie, you can set up party games, tell stories, and even just talk to each other. Alternatively, you can plan to go out to some sort of event or venue, then return to the host’s house in time to go to bed.

Slumber parties for boys and girls tend to see very different activities, but they have many fundamental similarities. For both sweet sixteens, you’ll need dinner, snacks, things to do, and sleeping arrangements for everyone who’s staying over. However, the things you choose to fulfill these needs can be vastly different.

9. “Sweet” Sixteen

If the sixteen-year-old-to-be has a bit of a sweet tooth, you can always throw a sweets-themed sweet sixteen party. While this theme might be a bit too lighthearted for sixteen-year-old boys, it’s a theme that most girls will enjoy.

An excellent way to get started is to stock up on the birthday girl or boy’s favorite candies and sweets. From there, branch out into different things that she or he will probably like just as much. You can also add requests and favorites from the guests who will be attending the party if you need a bit more variety.

However, with this party (and with all birthday parties), make sure to keep food allergies in mind. Peanuts are a prevalent food allergy, and they’re common in various types of candy. If you have a guest that can’t be in the same room as peanuts or another allergen, be careful not to feature any at the party.

If they only face eating limitations, however, make sure to check the ingredients on your sweets thoroughly and mark them before setting them out for consumption. If possible, keep your allergen-containing desserts separate from the rest of the sweets.

While this sweets party will be mostly focused on providing deserts (and hopefully dental checkups after), there are a few things you can use to supplement the experience. Firstly, line up sweet movies such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the guests to watch. You could also take the birthday girl or boy out to a confectionary instead of a restaurant for their birthday meal.

10. “Mocktails”

While the legal age to drink is 16 in only some parts of the world, there are still things you can do to celebrate your teenager’s sweet sixteen. One excellent option is something called “mocktails!” As you might have figured out by the name, mocktails are mock-cocktails, or non-alcoholic cocktail beverages.

It’s pretty easy to make a non-alcoholic cocktail. At a bar or restaurant, you can do this by merely asking for a “virgin” version of whatever drink your sixteen-year-old has in mind. At home, you can replace the alcoholic portion of beverages with water, seltzer, soda, or fruit juice.

If you’re not looking to mix your own drinks, you can get non-alcoholic versions of some drinks for the teenagers in your care. Non-alcoholic wine and champagne, for example, are both acceptable alternatives to the originals and are safe for minors to drink.

However, be careful with the amount of freedom that you allow your teenagers with a mocktail party. If your party creates a desire in your sixteen-year-old to try real alcohol, they could end up getting themselves into trouble. No matter what your stance on the issue is, always teach your children safe habits, and never throw a “mocktail” party if you don’t believe your teenager is ready for it.

11. Destination Parties

Many teenagers, especially teenage girls, dream of having birthday parties in romantic or stylish destinations around the world. While not many of us can afford to take our children to a new worldwide destination on each birthday, it’s possible to do the next best thing by throwing them a “destination party.”

To throw this type of party for your teenager, there are two main things you need to do: decorate the venue to look like the place you have in mind and provide foods that match up with that location. For example, if your child was dreaming of Paris for their sixteenth birthday, you might decorate the venue like the Eiffel Tower and provide french foods to eat.

Paris isn’t your only destination to consider, though. There are hundreds of romantic destinations around the world that both young girls and boys alike might dream of visiting. Some examples include:

  • The Great Pyramids
  • The Great Wall of China
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Athens, Greece
  • Hollywood, California, USA

As with some of the examples we covered above, your teenager might not just be thinking of a city. They could be thinking of a world landmark instead. The process for this would be the same as you would do for a city.

If you want to take things a step further, you can even have your guests (and potentially the chaperones) dress up as one would if they were from that destination. If you can fake an accent, that’s even better, too! Try to make their exotic destination party seem as real as possible.

12. Space Party

The infatuation with space has been prevalent in children of all ages since man first told stories about it. With civilian space travel becoming more and more of a possibility for the future, children’s interest in the subject has climbed, too. New media such as the latest additions to the Star Wars franchise have only added to this fascination.

Boys and girls alike will appreciate a space-themed party (though, if they have a particular fascination with Star Wars, you may just want to go straight to a Star Wars party instead). The great thing about a space party is that it’s easy to set an incredible mood for the party, too.

There are two simple ways to make a space-themed area for your space-themed sweet sixteen. While glowing star appliques will work, we recommend staying away from them unless you think you can turn up the maturity level a bit. Some sixteen-year-olds might feel like such things are beneath them at their age.

However, an excellent alternative is what’s called a “starry sky projector” or an “at-home planetarium.” As you might have guessed, the former will be less realistic and more fantasy-like, while the latter will be much more lifelike.

This small, inexpensive device is easy to get, easy to set up, and marvelous to look at. The right projector will make an entire room look like the night sky. Depending on how much your teenager’s dreams fringe on fantasy, you can go with either realistic or fantastical.

To top off your space-themed party, line up a series of space-themed movies. Of course, as we mentioned, Star Wars is an excellent place to start, but there are hundreds of space-themed films and television shows to choose from out there. Get creative!