Sweet Sixteen Checklist

by Erin Moonyeen Haley ; Updated September 28, 2017

Having a Sweet Sixteen to-do checklist can prevent last-minute mishaps.

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According to Jean Chatzky’s 2006 article for CNN Money, Sweet Sixteen celebrations can cost as much as $20,000. In anticipation of what will most likely be an expensive soiree to honor a girl growing up, it is wise to have a to-do list months in advance. That way, things get done in a timely fashion and the risk of mishaps is minimized.


Before a single invitation is sent, start a guest list. As with a wedding, guest lists for Sweet Sixteen bashes can easily become too long, so it’s wise to write out names and eliminate those who aren’t especially close to the birthday girl. Also map out a budget before any purchases are made. Decide where the money should go. Some girls prefer to splurge on a live musical act while others would rather have lavish decorations or rent a ritzy location. Planning a budget helps identify party priorities.

8 to 10 Months in Advance

Page through teen and fashion magazines to brainstorm a theme. Themes can range from an Alice in Wonderland motif to a Mardi Gras masquerade. Once the theme is picked, start scouting locations. Look at garden areas, hotel ballrooms, reception halls, rentable yachts and beaches. Once the site is booked and the date is set, send out the invitations. Make sure that the invites include information regarding the dress code. Consider creating a blog that can be constantly updated so that guests stay informed in case of any changes.

6 to 8 Months in Advance

Make a list regarding what vendors are needed. This is when decisions such as hiring a DJ or getting a band need to be made. Interview caterers, decorators, florists, DJs and musicians. Vet their abilities and prices before choosing one. Ask friends and family for recommendations. Note that many will require a down payment at the time they are hired. Also start thinking about a dress. Once a dress is decided, consult hairdressers to find the one that can fashion a hairstyle to match the ensemble.

4 to 6 Months in Advance

Stay in touch with everyone that was hired for the event. Keep abreast as to what the florist is planning on putting together and keep the DJ or band up to date on what songs should be played and if there are any changes. Visit the venue with the florist to make sure that all ideas mesh with the available. If a dress needs alterations, this is the time to do it to avoid last minute wardrobe malfunctions.

2 to 4 Months in Advance

This is the time to focus on DIY or homemade touches. Either the birthday girl or loved ones can start gathering pictures to make a scrapbook or a collage that everyone at the party can enjoy. This is also the time to start thinking about party favors. Party favor ideas include a CD with some of the songs that are played, mini tiaras or a gift bags filled with candies such as Sweet Tarts or candy hearts with endearments on them in honor of the "Sweet" Sixteen.

1 Month in Advance

A month before the event is when all last-minute changes and confirmations should happen. Reconfirm the date with the rented venue, double-check floral delivery and go over the decoration choices once again. Make sure that the hairstylist has the teen in his appointment book and set pedicure and manicure appointments. Go over who sent RSVPs and check them off the guest list. If desired, contact parties that have not sent a response to find out if they can attend. Finally, just enjoy the party.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

A graduate of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a B.F.A. in writing for film and television, Erin Moonyeen Haley also studied art history at Studio Arts Centers International in Florence, Italy. A writer for over 24 years, she has been published in "Philadelphia Style Magazine" and "Collegebound Teen Magazine."