They say life begins at 30, and for good reason. Reaching this birthday milestone can feel like you’re bidding farewell to a more carefree phase of your life and stepping into true adulthood…which sounds like a cause for celebration!

Past milestone birthdays, such as your 21st, were probably thrown for you. But when you turn 30, you have every right to plan this bash yourself. Far from being a turning point to dread (my youth is gone!), turning 30 ushers in a time to get amped for all the wonderful opportunities life holds now that you’re a little older and, hopefully, a lot wiser. And what better way to welcome such a momentous milestone than with a birthday celebration that’s uniquely you?

Taylor Jones mug

The best way to plan a 30th is to ask yourself what you love.

taylor jones

Owner, Prop My Party OKC

Invites signal a 30th birthday done right

You might be thinking, “Do I really NEED invitations to a birthday party?” In your 20s, life may have been filled with random parties that mostly came together over group texts. But this is your time to feel grown up, so it’s worth the splurge to classy up the experience and set the tone for an affair that’s a tad more formal.

Another reason is much more practical: weddings. Does it feel like everyone around you is getting married or engaged? That can mean plenty of weekends already eaten up by pre- and post-wedding affairs within your social circle. Invitations provide that tangible way to lock loved ones into your celebration date. Plus, it’s a fun way to give guests a preview to your theme and any instructions for the event, such as dressing as their favorite Pokémon (although we’re totally not suggesting that as a party theme…or are we???).

Give props to your 30th b-day

You only turn 30 once, so why not maximize the experience with the right decorations. Giant “3-0” numbers really drive home the point, lest anyone forget the age you’re turning. These can be anything from giant homemade cardboard cutouts to big rented pieces with Hollywood-style light bulbs. Or you could hire a designer to make them theme specific. Taylor Jones, owner of Prop My Party OKC, suggests travel-friendly inflatable numbers when hosting a destination party, like she did recently for her own 30th celebration in Palm Springs (in hot pink no less).

th birthday ideas balloons
th birthday ideas tay day
Photos courtesy of Taylor Jones
th birthday ideas spraying champagne

If you’re sticking close to home, props can act as standalone party decorations that fill up a space. Oversized “3-0” Mylar balloons are an absolute must for decorating and posing with. Balloon arches, honeycomb paper spheres, and custom floor signs all create the perfect place for guests to gather for photos. Add a clever saying like “Talk Thirty to Me” for Instagram-worthy photo ops. Customize everything to the color scheme for instant visual pop. Jones recently designed the decor for a Barbie party, which included a pop-up toy shop (complete with doll box to pose in) featuring self-serve walls of sprinkled waffle cones and pink glasses of Champagne and rosé.

Turning 30 calls for a transfixing theme

The most important part of planning a 30th birthday may be choosing a theme, as that will likely dictate many other party elements, from decor to food to entertainment. Jones advises going with a theme that reflects a personal passion. “The best way to plan a 30th is to ask yourself what you love. We all have saves on Pinterest that we one day want to happen. Well, go find those pins and do it! You’ll be happy you did.”

Picture of animated birthday ad

Here are five themes to consider.

1. “13 Going on 30”

Did you love the Jennifer Garner movie “13 Going on 30″ growing up? Here’s your chance to reverse roles and relive your younger years. “This is such a vibe right now. Bringing elements of the movie to life in a fun way, such as ‘I wanna be 30 and flirty and thriving,’ playful purples, yellow, and lime green, and Razzles, of course,” Jones explains. For bonus points, make it a pajama slumber party and deck out a living room with inflatable beds. In the morning, serve up a scrumptious grown-up brunch with a heat-and-serve eggs Benedict bar complete with sparkling wine and sweet treats.

2. ’90s and ’00s nostalgia

Were you a Nintendo kid or Yu-Gi-Oh! player? Whatever your pre-teen passion was, here’s your chance to replay it in grand style. Host a gaming night or your own book fair, or just dip Dunkaroos (yes, they still make them!) while binging on classic cartoons (SpongeBob!) from your favorite era. Dig up some Tamagotchis or Furbies, break out the Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and enjoy a blast from the past. Need party favors? Lip Smackers and Goosebumps, of course!

3. Dirty 30 for real

Whether it’s glamping in the backyard or just serving up a “dirt and worms” cake, embrace this fun play on words by getting back to nature for your 30th. You could even add in camp crafts from your younger years, such as making friendship bracelets or playing paper fortune teller games.

Want to keep the camp theme but skip the dirt altogether? Host s’more making inside with a kit that has everything you need to make your own ooey gooey dessert sandwiches.

4. A tasteful 30

Embrace the new all-grown-up you with something super sophisticated, such as a wine tasting, French-themed dinner party, or vintage-inspired soiree — whether that’s a proper Regency-style royal tea party or recreating a boozy Roaring ’20s speakeasy. Think lots of candlelightfresh flowers, and monochromatic colors for an elevated table setting. Don’t forget to ask guests to dress up in their glitziest evening attire.

5. Recreate your favorite TV show

Whether it’s “Saved By the Bell” or “Succession,” trick out your celebration with the colors, sayings, and costumes that make each TV series unique. Play up on your “aging” with a “Golden Girls” sunny Florida get-together, or make it “The One Where You Turned 30″ with a “Friends” theme, complete with trivia about the show.

Permission to be extra with 30th birthday entertainment

A photographer might not be one of your first ideas when planning an epic 30th birthday party, but do not overlook this pro in your plans, Jones advises. “Finding the perfect photographer is huge,” she says. “There are different styles of photography, so finding someone that completes your vision is really important.” You’re sure to have wonderful memories to document, and you won’t have to worry about getting everything captured.

Beyond that, lean into your theme when it comes to keeping guests entertained, whether that means renting a bounce house or ball pit, or putting up a projector screen to watch favorite movies from your youth.

th birthday ideas retro cookies
Photo courtesy of Mindy Cruz

Renting a Champagne cart can also make for a fun, interactive way to serve up party fare. Jones, who supplies carts for many of her parties, says these can be customized with wallpaper or paint to match the party theme. She’s turned hers into everything from a bouquet bar to gelato cart to mobile smoothie display, so the possibilities go beyond just a fancy way to serve bubbly.

Don’t forget the favors

Any proper adult party has to have favors. Chicago baker Mindy Cruz of Mindy’s Cookies and Sweets says cookies can make an awesome — and yummy! — favor that guests will appreciate taking home. “Over the past few years, custom cookies have really grown in popularity as an option for dessert tables and party favors. As an added bonus, they do well outdoors, unlike cakes and cupcakes.” Design ideas for 30th birthday custom cookies can include the birth date circled on a calendar graphic, a cute saying like “Thirty & Flirty,” or the word “Thirty” spelled out in different styles.

Consider favors that guests will get real enjoyment out of post-event. Keep the “Dirty 30″ theme going after the celebration is over with take-home gifts of mini succulents, help them maintain the feel-good vibes at their next party with mini bottles of bubbly — wrapped in personalized labels to remind them of the fabulous time they had at your bash, of course — or give them a sweet sendoff with ice cream cone cake pops.


Jackie Rupp is a longtime writer and editor who enjoys covering home, family, and lifestyle topics. She usually writes with at least one cat by her side and juggles fostering kittens with dabbling in handmade crafts. A connoisseur of pancakes, you can find her brunching when not writing or working on home renovation projects.

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