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How to Plan a Surprise Dinner for Your Husband

by Christina Hamlett, studioD

Whether you have been married for two months or 20 years, keep the spark of romance alive by never losing sight of some of those early courtship rituals such as the home-cooked meals, candlelight and intimate conversations that won his heart. Don't wait for an anniversary or other hallmark occasion to show him that he's special. Planning a surprise dinner for your husband is a sweet way to turn any ordinary day into an extraordinary memory for both of you. Get your kids involved in the planning even if they won't be at the dinner so they'll be more willing to help you keep the surprise dinner secret.

Timing and Logistics

The success of any surprise event rests on two key factors. The first is whether your husband likes to be caught off guard. The second is whether he's going to show up when and where he's supposed to. Assuming that he's indeed amenable to "gotchas," your task is to put him in a receptive frame of mind for fun by scheduling a fake event, the authenticity of which he won't question. Examples include a movie night with friends, a supposed surprise party for someone else and events at your children's school. Keep in mind that the more conspirators you have to recruit to keep your surprise dinner a secret, the greater the chances of a slip-up.


Make it a night to bring out your best dinnerware, tablecloth, linen napkins and candlesticks. If you always eat at the dining room table, make this an evening to try something completely new. Examples include an outdoor patio, a balcony, a corner of your bedroom, the garage or a home office that you can transform into an intimate bistro. If you have kids, arrange for them to spend the night with neighbors. Buy fresh flowers. Choose something from your wardrobe that he hasn't seen before. Load the stereo with his favorite CDs. If you're good at graphic arts, create a printed menu and put a copy on each of your plates.

The Menu

Plan a menu that requires you to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen. Examples include make-ahead appetizers and entrees that go from the refrigerator straight into the oven, slow-cooker stews, marinated steaks you can broil in less than 10 minutes or cold seafood platters containing crab legs, prawns and a variety of dips, such as cocktail sauce and ranch dressing. Put together a salad in advance that needs only a splash of creamy salad dressing just before it is served. If you have to do any cooking beyond heating a main dish, measure all of the ingredients beforehand and place them in plastic bags or covered bowls to save prep time once he arrives home.


Whatever fake event you orchestrate needs to be played right up to the moment he comes home. If you call him at work, for instance, and tell him that the Johnsons have cancelled the plans to get together, he could subsequently dawdle leaving the office or -- thinking that you're crushed and disappointed -- make dinner reservations or go buy movie tickets. To keep him from coming home early, you may need an ally in his office to artfully delay him. This same person can also let you know when he goes out the door so you can gauge his arrival time. Surprise dinners on the weekend are harder to pull off unless he customarily plays golf or runs errands in the afternoon. To get him out of the house, you may have to recruit a neighbor or a relative who needs an emergency ride somewhere or who has a car or home maintenance problem that only your hubby can fix. Another plan is to deliver everything in advance to a friend's house. The friend then calls to invite both of you over to see something -- a new puppy, a new car, new furniture -- but is, in fact, all part of the surprise to slip out for two hours so you can enjoy a quiet dinner away from home.


  • "Party For Two: Fun, Fancy & Easy Romantic Recipes from The Date Night Chef "; Bruce Cadle; 2011
  • "Table For Two: The Cookbook For Couples"; Warren Caterson; 2009
  • "30 Great Ideas For Keeping Romance Alive on a Budget"; Siena Ward; 2010
  • "365 Days and Ways to Keep Your Romance Alive"; Deanna L. Taber; 2010

About the Author

Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images