Etiquette for a Sweet 16 Birthday Party

birthday party image by Liz Van Steenburgh from <a href=''></a>

Many young girls look forward to having a Sweet 16 birthday party, which celebrates a girl’s growth into young adulthood. Sweet 16 parties can range from simple to intricate. No matter what the theme or how it’s designed, however, the party should make the birthday girl feel special during her celebration.


Sweet 16 parties are typically thrown for females. The party should be organized and thrown at home by the teen’s parents.

The best time to throw a Sweet 16 party is from 4 to 8 p.m., which allows younger teens to make it home at a reasonable time.


Birthday party themes are a great way to make a Sweet 16 party even more special. You should consider themes that specifically interest the birthday girl. For example, if she likes glamor or frilly things, consider a Venetian masked ball theme.

According to "The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette," "The style of the party may range from a formal dance to a backyard barbecue, depending on the 16-year-old. The trick is to work out an agreement between your pocketbook and your teenager's wishes."

The Dress

In some communities, a girl’s Sweet 16 dress is a focal point of the birthday celebration. Even if the party has a semiformal theme, the guest of honor may wear a formal ball gown.

This custom is similar to that of a debutant or coming-out party for an 18-year-old, where the guest of honor is introduced to society as a young adult. Donning a special or formal dress makes the teen stand out and feel special.

Like many aspects of the Sweet 16 parties, a teenager may decide she does not want to do this, particularly if she is not fond of formal dresses.

Inviting Boys

Depending on the wishes of the parents and their teen, inviting boys to a Sweet 16 party is perfectly acceptable. If boys are invited, parents should be sure to have a monitored, but fun, gathering that will be suitable for everyone. For example, if you throw a slumber party for your teen, inviting boys would not be appropriate.

Thank-You Notes

After the party has been thrown, parents should encourage their teen to send thank-you notes to gift givers as a way of practicing good etiquette.

“The sweet sixteener who fires off an instant thank-you note for every present received is setting a great example to her friends,” according to “Letitia Baldrige's New Manners for New Times: A Complete Guide to Etiquette.”