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How to throw the most epic virtual birthday party ever

Everything you need to know for setting up a special night for a loved one—from games to play to gifts to buy.

Collier Sutter
Written by
Collier Sutter

So you have a friend who's going to be stuck at home on their birthday. Who says you can’t still throw them the baddest party around?  

When it comes down to it, the most important part of anyone's birthday is feeling celebrated by the people they love. So even though you can’t meet them at their favorite bar, catch a broadway show or dine at a newly opened restaurant, you can still bring together the people that matter most to them. And thanks to technology and delivery options, you can make memories that they’ll value long after this. 

Here are a few things not to miss while you plan.

Put an official Zoom time on the calendar

Make it official! It's a party! You’ll definitely be hopping on a video-chatting platform like Zoom to see your birthday baby face-to-face, and so you can all tell them how much of a rockstar they are. Whether you want to keep it simple with a group text or make a more elaborate e-invitation, let that digital date and time be known!

Don’t forget a birthday card this year

When you used to meet up with your birthday honcho in-person, bringing a birthday card wasn't usually a top priority. This year, make it one. Reach out to those closest to them and have every friend send the birthday star something via an e-card with their favorite memory of them and one thing they're looking forward to doing together when this is all over. While cards are usually kept private, why not shake things up this year? Have them read each birthday message out loud to a (virtual) room full of folks that love them the most.

Surprise them with a Cameo message

If they’d rather have their favorite celebrity say “Happy Birthday” than anyone else in this world, now's your chance to shock them. For the uninitiated, Cameo is an app that lets you pay celebrities to record a brief, personalized message for someone special. Right now, you can buy shout-outs from stars and donate to charity in the process. For example, money sent for recorded message from Giacomo Gianniotti, Dr. DeLuca on Grey's Anatomy ($215) will go straight to My Friend's Place, a charity benefiting homeless youth in LA, and This is Us actress Mandy Moore ($300) is sending all money earned on Cameo to No Kid Hungry. So, plan a Cameo, have whoever is coming to the virtual party chip in, and have the birthday person receive the big reveal on camera so you can see their reaction.

Have a unique gift delivered that they can open on camera

For a fun pick-me-up, get a unique delivery sent to their house! Pop Up Grocer, a local shop known for curating selections of hard-to-find snacks, is now delivering mystery snack boxes. Brooklyn bar Tailfeather launched a new cookie delivery service via Postmates and is selling chocolate chip cookies and natural wine in packaged bundles. Speaking of alcohol, are they a fine liquor nerd? Buy them a bottle of rare alcohol from one of the New York restaurants and bars that have begun to sell hard-to-find bottles with discounts or at cost. Or how about ordering them dinner from their favorite restaurant or beer delivery from an amazing NYC brewery? A gift card or merch works, too, from a place they never stop talking about. Heck, you can even order them a bunch of perfectly ripe avocados if they can't live without the fruit in their pantry or a special cheese delivery if they love charcuterie boards with their wine.

Take the digital party to a second location

Based on their interests, run with whatever you think they’d love spending time doing the most. Then, get everyone else fired up about the plan. We'll get you started on some ideas.

Go virtual clubbing

If the birthday star usually stays out dancing until wee hours in the morning, let them pick where they want to go virtually clubbing, and watch DJs throw down house grooves via stream. Club Quarantine, Virtual Nowadays and House of Yes zoom parties are among a few of the many options in the digital party ethers.

Share a movie night 

Are they a film and entertainment buff? Let them choose a flick they've been dying to see, and watch it together on a platform like Netflix Party or Scener which allow you to video-chat while you watch. If you can, start early so the party-goers can re-group post-movie, toast to the person of the hour and chat about scenes. Don't have time to rally the group for a full movie? Do a movie game, instead. Set a time for the whole birthday crew to log onto Houseparty and play a round of trivia.  

Learn to get professionally glam

If your birthday queen or king loves to get glam, what better way to spend their birthday than playing around with some new styles of makeup. London-based makeup artist Emilie Louizides is giving virtual lessons on using whatever you have at home in your makeup bag. "Clients often don’t realize that they already have all the makeup they’ll need to create a really beautiful look so that’s where I come to teach new techniques," says Louizides. "The best part is the final result of each lesson when I get to look at each client admiring the makeup they did on their own face. At the end of each lesson, I also make personalized product recommendations." For compensation she's been having folks pay what they think is fair for the lesson, which usually run about an hour. Need help nailing down a theme? Try learning how to do eyeshadow like they rock in Euphoria (without looking like a clown) or how to put on foundation and concealer without it looking too cake-y. 

While this is a birthday they'll certainly never forget (for obvious reasons,) you can still give them a night that they can remember fondly. Time to party so hard your wifi gives out! 

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