We love surprises! And we’ve learned a thing or two about how to carefully craft the perfect surprise for an unsuspecting loved one. It’s easy to overlook certain details, so we’ve put together this list of rules to adhere to in order to ensure surprise success!

  1. Thou shalt not force a surprise on someone who doesn’t want one.This is the cardinal rule! Some people just don’t like to be surprised and there’s nothing wrong with that. When in doubt, assume the person will not appreciate it, and find a less startling way to show you care.

  2. Thou shalt keep track of good ideas. You may want to keep a list of ideas for potential surprises throughout the year. These could include “things,” but also experiences. Listen carefully and take note when your mom, your brother, or your boyfriend casually mentions an experience they’d like to have someday. Even if it seems outlandish or unrealistic at the time, it could provide the inspiration for a great surprise later.
  3. Thou shalt not forget about the value of anticipation. Sometimes looking forward to an event is almost as enjoyable as the event itself. This is especially true of experiential surprises. Rather than whisking someone away to an island vacation the morning of the flight, consider letting them know a week in advance. You’ll extend their pleasure by a week (and you can still add surprise elements along the way).
  4. Thou shalt not make the cover story sound better than the real thing. It’s hard to create the perfect cover story – it has to be believable on the one hand, but not as good as the surprise on the other.
  5. Thou shalt not be disappointed by an underwhelming reaction. It turns out most people don’t do the standard wide-eyed, slackjawed, hands-covering-mouth expression that we associate with surprise. And not everyone is going to scream with delight. A genuine look of surprise might be more low-key, as the person’s brain catches up with what they’re seeing. Don’t feel badly if the best you get is a dumbfounded look of confusion. Remember, those reality show “surprise” moments are usually rehearsed.
  6. Thou shalt give the surprisee just enough information to properly enjoy themselves. Even people who loved the shock of the initial surprise may get tired if the surprises keep coming. They’ll appreciate being let in on important information such as “how much longer is this surprise scavenger hunt going to last?” or “am I going to have to do something active later on?” The more information people have, the less anxious they’ll be, and the more they can adjust their energy levels accordingly.
  7. Thou shalt make it about them, not you. You’ve got to get into their head and consider what they’d like to do, who they’d like to see, how public they’d like the surprise to be, etc. If you’re planning a surprise that you’d enjoy, you might be doing it wrong.
  8. Thou shalt give them something to remember. A great advantage of surprise as an emotion is that it locks into our brain forming a strong memory. We can draw upon that memory later for a jolt of happiness. You can help aid in this process by providing some small token that will serve as a reminder – it could be a framed photograph, a card signed by everyone who participated, or something specific to the surprise.

Anything to add?

You may also want to check out previous posts about how to throw a great surprise party here and here.