What Should You Do If You Learn That a Surprise Is Being Planned for a Friend Who Doesn’t Like Surprises?

97ed5f37fe729ab49744e8c037a60cb6I recently learned that some very well-meaning people were planning a surprise party for a dear friend. There were a lot of layers to the surprise–not only was the party itself a surprise, but also the reason for the celebration and a few of the people in attendance.

I was only tangentially connected to the main group of people planning the party, but they invited me because they know how close friends I am with the person. So I actually received the invitation through the friend’s wife. After she explained to me what was happening, I knew I had to ask, “Do they know that he doesn’t like surprises?”

Now, to be clear, as well as I know this person, I don’t know everything about him. It’s quite possible that he likes certain types of surprises. It’s also a topic we haven’t talked about in a while, so perhaps he’s grown to like them.

But as far as I knew, he didn’t like surprises. My best guess was that he would love everything about the party, but he would be able to relax and enjoy it far more if it weren’t a structured as a surprise.

Even though my friend’s wife and I suspected that my friend would prefer to be informed about the surprise in advance, it wasn’t really our thing to spoil. We were guests at this event. We could tell that the people planning the event were super psyched about the surprise element. Seriously, people who love surprises love nothing more than surprising other people. I honestly think–despite their best intentions–they have a hard time even considering the possibility that the recipient may not like surprises.

Plus, the tricky thing about surprises is that once you spoil them, you can’t take them back. So you have to really be sure that the person would prefer the surprise to be spoiled if you’re going to do that.

I almost wish there were some sort of official surprise registry where you could go at any time to check to see if someone likes certain types of surprises but not others. For example, I like being surprised with chocolate and Slurpees. But I don’t like random people showing up at my door unannounced. I don’t like surprise parties for any occasion. And other than chocolate and Slurpees, I don’t like surprise gifts. In fact, I’d almost rather the person tell me right before they get the Slurpee so I can make sure they get the Coke flavor and not some other subpar variety.

Unfortunately, there is no such registry. So what would you do if you were in this position? You have a friend who you know doesn’t like surprises, and you learn that someone is planning a surprise party for them and they’re super excited about it. Do you:

  1. Try to convince the organizer not to have the party but not make it a surprise?
  2. Gently spoil the surprise for your friend a few hours before it happens so they can be mentally prepared for it?
  3. Let the surprise happen and try your best to make the person as comfortable as possible when it happens, given the insider information you have about them?

5 thoughts on “What Should You Do If You Learn That a Surprise Is Being Planned for a Friend Who Doesn’t Like Surprises?”

  1. It might be too late, but what about some subtle hints here and there for the guy up to the day of the party? Send him a “Surprise” update email with a “Birthday” cake icon and name your car “Party” bus when you take him out to lunch as a diversion.

  2. The real question: dark or milk?

    But… For the friend, it’s through pain and suffering that we grow, eh? And I want all my friends to grow into his or her full potential…. So of course I wouldn’t tell.

    That, and I’d be much entertained by the whole thing…..

    • I like dark and milk chocolate. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your perspective! It was somewhat entertainment, though I don’t like to see my friend in discomfort.


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