Monday, October 25, 2010

How to Plan a Successful Sweet 16 Party

Congratulations Sweet 16!

Your sweet 16 celebration is more than just a birthday party. It is a celebration of your graduation into the world of young adulthood. With today's culture of over-the-top “Super Sweet 16” extravaganzas, it is easy to get swept up in the excitement of planning a great celebration. The following is a guide on how to focus on the most important aspects of this joyous and festive occasion.

1) Date & Time

You should select a date and time when the majority of your guests (both friends and family) are available. Friday and Saturday evenings tend to be popular choices for that reason, but a weekday during the summer vacation or Christmas break might also be good times to throw your party. Be careful to select a date that does not fall close to major holidays or clash with important school functions. It would be a big disappointment to plan your party close to a holiday only to find out many of your guests cannot attend due to family obligations.

Regarding the time of your party, if you have an afternoon party it is typically cheaper than an evening event at most catering halls. However, a daytime Sweet 16 may present a brighter room environment that is not conducive to a DJ dance party. Ultimately the date and time depend on what works best for the style of party you want and your budget, so give it some careful consideration, and consult with your friends and family prior to the date to avoid any schedule conflicts. As for the length of a Sweet 16 party, formal catering halls typically allot four hours per party.

2) Budget

In planning a Sweet 16, we recommend that families establish a budget. Important components of this budget include hall rental, food, invitations, decorations/favors, dress, music/entertainment, photography, videography and party props/prizes. Usually, the hall rental and food will be the largest expense items. Should you opt for a catering hall, expect the price of your party to increase significantly. At a catering hall, most likely you will be charged per guest. Menus may include finger foods, and/or served buffet platters such as salad, baked ziti and chicken piccata.

The total price of a Sweet 16 party can range from $1,000 or less, to the tens of thousands of dollars. We recommend that you spend as much as your budget will allow for. If you find it necessary to reduce expenses, certain components are subject to do-it-yourself solutions (such as photography and videography). We do not however recommend that you substitute a disc jockey with an i-Pod, as the guests will expect to spend the greater part of the evening dancing (most teenagers eat quickly), and a bad DJ (or none!) could result in a boring party.

3) Venue

Where are you going to hold your party? Will you rent out the grandest ballroom in town and throw an extravaganza worthy of Super Sweet 16 status? Or will you select a local rental hall (e.g., Elks Club, American Legion) in which food and decorations can be brought in? The selected party location is a reflection of your vision and budget. Perhaps you have a beautiful backyard that's perfect for a party! Or maybe you have a particular restaurant or catering hall in mind. Don’t be afraid to get creative, but make sure that the space is within your budget and offers the type of party atmosphere that you want for your big day!

4) Guest List and Invitations

A celebration is always better when we surround ourselves with friends and family who love and care for us. Your guest list is one of the most important parts of your celebration. Think about the party you want, and then envision the special people you most want to share that memory with. Particularly for high-energy dance parties, the guest list may primarily feature friends. Will you invite girls, boys, or both? Other Sweet 16 parties feature a balance between family and friends.

People need to know you are having a party! Let them know where, when ,the time the party starts and stops. Most teens need a ride to and from events, so this is especially important for them to coordinate transportation to and from the party. Make sure to include an RSVP date, as this allows you to know in advance exactly who is coming and how many people will need to be fed.

We recommend sending out a “Save the Date” notice two or three months prior to the event date, with invitations being mailed out approximately six weeks prior to the party date. These communications can be sent out cost-effectively via social media (e.g., Facebook).

5) Theme

Do you have a theme? It could be as simple as your favorite color for the decorations, or as elaborate as a Phantom of the Opera costume celebration. We encourage you to think outside of the box and select a theme that is personal to you! Below, we list sample Sweet 16 themes:

* Alice in Wonderland
* Broadway (New York-style)
* South Beach (Miami-style)
* Jersey Shore
* Pretty in Pink
* Black and White
* Blacklight Party (room in illuminated in ultraviolet light and guests are provided glows sticks or glow rings)
* Twilight Saga (or another favorite movie)
* Sports-related (favorite sport or sports team)
* Summer luau

Whatever theme that you select, be sure to let your guests know what to expect. Do guests need to wear a costume, a suit or dress, a specific color, etc.? Don't leave the details to chance - let people know what to expect!

6) Entertainment

Your selected DJ entertainer provides the voice and vibe for your once-in-a-lifetime celebration. Choose wisely as this person or company can make or break your party!

We recommend hiring a professional DJ company with Sweet 16 and teen dance party experience. A professional mobile DJ will have an up-to-date music collection of radio-edited teen dance music across genres such as hip hop, R&B, pop and club. They will also be able to play appropriate music for dinner and the adults in the audience. Professional DJs utilize professional-grade equipment (such as wireless microphones that can be used for the candle lighting ceremony) and bring back-up equipment. In addition to preparing your playlist and emceeing the party, many disc jockey companies provide valued-added services such as “wow factor” intelligent lighting shows, ambient uplighting, custom monograms, photo booths, music video mixing and video slideshows.

At the end of the evening, you and your guests should have enjoyed a magical evening of dancing to your favorite songs, quite possibly to a dazzling light show.

7) Candle Lighting

A Sweet 16 tradition that you may wish to incorporate is the candle lighting ceremony. In this ceremony, the birthday celebrant dedicates a candle to a family member/friend or to a group of friends, relatives, or other special people in their life. A candle may also be lit in memory of a family member. Typically, the Sweet 16 says a few words as to why they are dedicating the candle and then asks the person or persons to step forward and help light the candle. Most times, once the invitee is asked up, a special song is played as they walk up and while the candle is being lit. These song selections are coordinated in advance with your DJ. Once all candles have been lit, the guests sing Happy Birthday to the Sweet 16 celebrant, and she blows out the candles and makes a wish.

Should you have a candle lighting ceremony? On the one hand, the ceremony includes many of the guests at the party and creates great photo opportunities. On the negative side, the ceremony typically takes 20 or 30 minutes that might better be spent dancing. Also, certain Sweet 16 celebrants may be anxious about speaking on the microphone in front of their family and friends. In this latter case, we recommend either omitting the ceremony, or else having the disc jockey read a script provided by the Sweet 16.

Be sure to check with your catering hall to see if they provide the candles and accessories related to the candle lighting ceremony. If not, then you can either purchase kits, or else bring your own candles. We recommend the long, sturdy candlesticks that might be found on one’s dining room table. Also be sure to bring matches or a safety lighter. Girls with long hair should be extra careful during the candle lighting ceremony!

Other formalities that you may wish to include for your Sweet 16 include a grand entrance, a father-daughter dance, or a grand finale. Please consult the song list below for track selections.

Happy planning,

Your Ambient DJ Mixologists with special acknowledgement to Christopher Smith (DJ Spinz)


Ambient DJ Service is an award-winning mobile disc jockey company based in East Windsor, New Jersey and serving the Tri-State area. Ambient DJ specializes in weddings, corporate parties and sensational teen dance parties. For more information, visit us online at or Add us on Twitter at “AmbientDJs” or on Facebook at “Ambient DJ Service.”

Ambient DJ is your one-stop-shop for unforgettable Sweet 16 celebrations! Ambient DJ brings you top-notch pros who will walk you through the planning process and then rock your party. From room lighting to introductions, candle lighting and music selection, Ambient DJ has you covered. For those who seek the very best in disc jockey entertainment, contact Ambient DJ Service today for a free consultation.

Sweet 16 Song Ideas

Grand Entrance

1) Tik Tok - Ke$ha
2) Dynamite - Taio Cruz
3) Sweet 16 - Hilary Duff
4) Viva la Vida - Colplay
5) Pump it Up - Danzel

Father-Daughter Dance

1) Daughters - John Mayer
2) Sixteen Candles - The Crests
3) Will You Light My Candle? - From the Broadway musical Rent
4) Isn’t She Lovely? - Stevie Wonder
5) Child of Mine - Carole King

Open Dancing (these songs will change to reflect the latest and greatest radio hits!)

1) Teenage Dream - Katy Perry
2) Just the Way You Are - Bruno Mars
3) I Like It - Enrique Iglesias f/Pitbull
4) DJ’s Got Us Falling in Love Again - Usher
5) Stereo Love - Edward Maya f/Vika Jigulina

Copyright 2010, Ambient DJ Service, LLC. All rights reserved.


  1. Wow great advice! I have been planning a sweet sixteen party for my daughter and I have been wondering what sweet sixteen dj in nj is the best! Do you have any ideas?

  2. Great post. I am looking for a good sweet sixteen dj in NJ for my daughters birthday. Do you know where I can find one? Thanks.

  3. This would be such a fun idea for my daughter! She's inviting a lot of friends from her high school for her sweet sixteen party. Getting a DJ for her sweet sixteen would be so memorable!
    Celine |

  4. I am very excited for my party for which we reserved sweet 16 venues nyc venue. We are all meeting after so long and can't wait anymore for the day.

  5. Your article is on point with everything, from the photos to your great and helpful tips. Planning a sweet 16 is hardly easy, although it can be really fun, it's probably one of the most stressful events I've ever had to plan. My main responsibilities, as a party planner, are booking the venue, the entertainment, the caterer and food, decor down to sending out the invites. If I'm lucky, sometimes the sweet 16 girls will want to create and send out her own invitations.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Do you know of any ceremonies that can be done in place of the traditional candle lighting ceremony?

  8. This is an interesting post. A party theme looks good only with proper décor stuff and arrangements. If décor is not good then complete theme can be spoiled. I will host my sister’s birthday party at best San Francisco venues and would like to use a sweet 16 party theme.

  9. My friend has invited me for a Quinceanera party. When i have reached there , their Quinceanera Venues is decorated in such a way that i can't blink my eye for some minutes. It's really awesome to see such kind of marvelous decoration.I have really enjoyed there.

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