It doesn't seem all that long ago that I turned 16, even though if you asked a sixteen year old they'd guess it was back before air travel. All the same, I can remember how I felt when I became Sweet 16. I felt that I was pretty much all grown up at that point, and only my parents (and some minor legal technicalities!) stood between me and adult privileges. I bring this up because when you're planning to celebrate this milestone event, it's important to respect the self-image of your growing teenager and her desire to be treated as an adult. But at the same time, if you're lucky, your teenager is still young enough not to have lost the desire to have lots of kid-like fun.
In some places, the community norm is to host a Sweet Sixteen party at the level of "a wedding without the groom", to quote a friend who lives near one of those areas. The formal dress event is held at a catering hall, with a band, professional photographer, expensive floral arrangements and all the other formal details. If that's what is expected, don't let me stand in your way. But with college expenses on the very near horizon for your child, I pity your poor bank account.
Fortunately, in most areas your options for celebrating are as diverse as your daughter and her friends. Before I suggest some of those possibilities, let me give you a few things to think about as you plan this occasion.
Sweet 16 Planning Considerations
- Unless this celebration is going to be a surprise, you should involve your teenager in all the planning stages. She may have a completely different idea of what she'd like than you think.
- Be realistic about your budget. It's an important milestone, but as I mentioned earlier, a lot of other important expenses are on the horizon. Many teens just want a fun time with their friends, and it can be done without breaking the bank.
- Does your daughter want a party with girlfriends only or boys too?
- What are your daughter's favorite interests or hobbies? Or what would make her feel especially grown up within legal limits? Try to select a party plan based on these considerations.
- Let the season give you some direction. If it's a summer birthday, a barbecue or clam bake on the beach would be a blast.
- Make it clear that you will be there as well. You might be discreetly in the background, but present nonetheless. It is your responsibility to chaperone. Remember, this group thinks they're all grown up, and that could lead to problems.
- Avoid any misunderstandings by letting your teen know what's not going to happen at the party, such as alcoholic beverages or other things of which you disapprove.
- What kind of food would she like? Does she and her friends have sophisticated tastes yet? Or are they still into teen food such as pizzas, hamburgers, salads, etc. Whatever her choice, have plenty on hand.
- If you're planning a party, consider hiring a disc jockey. Let your teen select the music.
- Don't forget to have a camera handy for pictures of this milestone event. You could give a disposable camera to each guest and ask them to take pictures for you throughout the party. That will give you lots of different perspectives on the festivities.
- If the party will be a large catered affair with mixed generations, selections should still be made with your teen's interests in mind with food and music topping the list!
Now that you've narrowed down your priorities and considerations with your teen, the following pages will give you lots of different ways you can celebrate this event. Some ideas involve large parties, others are more intimate gatherings with friends. Some will be quite costly, and others can be done on a small budget. You can also use these ideas as a starting point for creative celebrations of your own. After all, your Sweet Sixteenager is like no other!