Entertaining with Emily: The dos and don’ts of throwing your own birthday party

Whoever said you shouldn’t throw your own birthday party must have very generous friends with deep pockets and way too much time on their hands.

I turn 37 this month, and like I’ve done nearly every year since I was 12, I’m going to throw myself a birthday party. And you know what? I’m not going to feel even a little bit bad about it.

Throwing a party is a lot of work, and a lot of money (especially if, like me, you want copious amounts of bubbly rosé at said party). I wouldn’t expect anyone to do that for me on an annual basis. Sure, every few years someone will throw me a thing, and I’ve put on my fair share of birthday parties for other people, too. But by the time you’re old enough to legally toast the anniversary of your own birth with booze, you usually have two options: Throw yourself a birthday party, or don’t have a birthday party at all.

The bright side of throwing your own birthday party is that you get to call all the shots. Want a big bash? Throw a big bash! Prefer something more low key? Easy peasy.

However you decide to celebrate, it’s totally okay to throw your own birthday party as an adult — as long as you don’t act like a child about it. Here are my dos and don’ts of throwing yourself a birthday party.

Do be clear about your expectations. Are you having a karaoke party and reserving a private room? First, that’s a great idea! Second, be sure to let your guests know — when you invite them — what you expect. Do you want everyone to chip in on the rental? Is the bar cash only? Even if you’re hosting at your own home, be up front about the details from the get-go. There’s nothing rude about writing: “Dinner is catered, but please bring a bottle of wine to share.” It’s much worse to leave people wondering!

Don’t forget your wallet. If you want to eat at a fancy restaurant for your birthday, go for it! But if you’re picking the place and inviting your friends, you should plan to pay for your own lobster and four glasses of $18-a-glass champagne (and later realize you should have just ordered a bottle instead).

Do make it easy for your friends to say “no.” Yes, you are a poetic and noble land-mermaid. And your existence is worthy of an annual celebration. But if your friend can’t make it to your party, don’t turn it into a thing. Maybe the lobster-and-champagne dinner is not in the budget right now, or perhaps your buddy is busy spending the evening celebrating one of the other five million people on Earth who share your birthday. Whatever the reason, don’t press it — nobody likes to be bullied into attending a party.

Don’t expect gifts. It’s fine to ask people to bring wine, or a potluck item. But it’s definitely not cool to mention birthday presents. Don’t even make any mention of gifts on your invite.

Do make an effort to throw a fun party. Okay, this one might seem redundant; after all, there’s no point in throwing a party if it’s not going to be fun. But keep in mind when celebrating yourself that your friends and family have made the effort to show up and celebrate you, too. So do your best to pick a place or activity that most people will enjoy — especially if you want them to show up again next year.

For more entertaining and a few bubbly rosé outtakes, follow Emily on Instagram @theboozybungalow or visit her blog,