Celebrating a Birthday at Home: Having Fun While Social Distancing

It’s April. Can you believe it?! April has always been my favorite month, simply because it’s my BIRTHDAY month. I love my birthday. I always say it’s my second favorite holiday (behind Christmas, although Halloween runs a really tight race for second). It’s maybe a little self-absorbed to love a day simply because it’s MY special day, but it’s the truth, I do.

Maybe you have the same deep affection for your birthday as I do. Maybe you actually don’t AT ALL, but someone important in your life does. So, if you or someone you love is feeling a little bummed about not being able to celebrate a birthday (or anniversary, or any special day!) by getting together with friends and family due to the coronavirus/social distancing/quarantine, we have some ideas for you!

Side note: As an introvert whose then-boyfriend-now-husband had to work many New Year’s Eves, I often celebrated the evening by eating popcorn, drinking sparkling wine, and watching “General Hospital.” In my room, in my apartment, by myself. And it was truly blissful! So, for my fellow introverts, even if getting a bunch of people together is never on your birthday wishlist, I hope that you still find a way to celebrate your special day in a way that’s meaningful for you. Some of our ideas below may be exactly up your isolated alley.

Make it fancy, festive, friendly, or fun… just make it fabulously yours!

Make it Fancy

Glam Oscars Night
Our family’s glam celebration at home

Do you love to get fancy? Glam it up? Get all dressed up to go out? Well, you can still do that without leaving your home! Some ideas:

  • Dress up in black tie or cocktail attire (if you’re having a kid-friendly celebration, let them get in on the fun too)
  • DIY fancy food – cute little appetizers (Pinterest is always a great source of inspiration if you’re not sure what to make), a cheese board, homemade cupcakes. Never baked a layer-cake before? This could be a fun time to give it a whirl!
  • If you’re looking to step it up a notch to make this birthday extra-special, you could order fancy food from a favorite restaurant or an upscale one you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Order a cake, donuts, or cupcakes from a local bakery (YES, they may still be open and offering delivery or curbside pickup)
  • Eat by candlelight
  • Set the mood with some elegant music
  • Enjoy a celebratory beverage – fancy it up by adding an appropriate garnish or drinking it from your fanciest glassware


Some fancy food inspiration – sparkling wine, gourmet donuts with a fancy candelabra topper (similar here), and a gorgeous cake! (Cake photo by FondantFlinger.)

Make it Festive

Want to decorate and feel like you’re having a big-to-do, even if the only guests will be yourself, your roommates, or your family members who live with you? There are so many ways to make your birthday festive:

  • Put up some fun lights – Do you have those cute little fairy lights? Christmas lights? Outdoor mini-lantern lights you’ve never put up yet? (Maybe that last one’s just me?) Put them up in whatever room you want to celebrate in.
  • Play your favorite music from a Spotify or iTunes playlist, or if you want to be surprised, have your Amazon Alexa or Google Home play whatever type of music makes your heart happy. My go to: “Alex, play dance music.”
  • Wear a party outfit – maybe that’s something sparkly, or a fun dress, a handsome dress shirt and (fun?) necktie, or a shirt or outfit you just look and feel great in. You can add a birthday sash, or a classic birthday hat (you could even DIY one out of paper, cardstock, or felt, and twine, ribbon, or bobby pins to secure it, or really whatever you have on hand). Or if you’re a little bit extra like me, take it a step further and wear a tiara or crown.
  • DIY birthday decorations – we had fun making our birthday wreath a few years ago, and now we hang it up for the whole week whenever it’s someone’s birthday at our house. If you like crafting and have a surplus of tissue paper on hand, you can easily make some of these adorable tissue pom pom balls {we used this tutorial for ours below}, or you can buy them.
  • Have a bar crawl or an around the world tasting party – you can set up a different fun, adult (or non-adult) beverage in various rooms throughout your home, or sample foods from around the world as you travel from room to room. You could even play a new uniquely themed song as you arrive at each destination… the possibilities are endless. (I’m actually getting very excited about this idea as I write it… we may do it ourselves in the next few weeks!)

Bday decor

Make it Friendly

For most of you extroverts out there, I know it means a lot to you to connect with people, and that you really get your energy from the people around you. So that makes social distancing extra tough. And while you can’t be physically in the same space with your friends and family, you can still have them join you {virtually} in your celebration! Of course, any of the ideas above could also include a FaceTime, Zoom, or Google Hangout multi-person video call with your peeps. But there are many other ways to include them in your big day, too. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Have a game night – you can try a traditional roll-the-dice game, or a party game like Apples to Apples, Charades, Pictionary, Scattegories, or many other options that would work virtually. You can host a trivia night. Or, you can go with a virtual party game option, like the ones from Jackbox – they range from drawing, to bluffing, to trivia, and more! They’re relatively inexpensive, and only one person has to buy a game in order to play it with friends. Everyone uses their smart phone, tablet, or laptop to play. For more details and even more ideas for game night, check out this article from the LA Times.
  • Have a dance party, dance-off, or learn a dance together – get your friends and family together on a video call and play some fun music. You can have one person play the music, or, if you want to make sure everyone can hear the music equally clearly, you may want to try what we’ve done: use Amazon Alexa, iTunes, Spotify, or whatever you use to play your music, and after each song you decide which song is next (we take turns deciding) and do a mini countdown (“3, 2, 1”) so that you all start the song in your own homes at relatively the same time. You could add more fun with a dance-off contest, or you could take a totally different route and all learn a TikTok dance together for lots of laughs and synchronized skill building! (Check out this list of top TikTok dances for some inspo, and this one too – just beware that some of the dances are a little bit PG-13.)
  • Karaoke night – everyone can take turns individually, or you can pair up! Just search “karaoke version of ________” (your song of choice) and sing along. Tip: If you’re pairing up to sing a song with someone in a different location, be sure you both press “play” at the same time so you’re in sync.
  • Dine together – if you’re having a dinner party or meal together virtually, let your friends know ahead of time what you’ll be eating in case they want to share in the same type of cuisine. You could have taco night, pizza night, steak on the grill, whatever makes you happy! Or ask them all to have their favorite dessert in front of them when they sing “Happy Birthday” to you.

Make it Fun

Maybe you have a child who’s missing out on that big birthday party you had originally planned to have for them. There are several ways you can help make it special, in addition to pulling from the ideas above, here are a few more:

  • Make an at-home treasure hunt for them – have them follow clues that lead, one after another, to a birthday gift or to their cake
  • Ask their friends’ parents to drive by your home in a car parade – give them a specific time and a starting location, so that they can all caravan together. They can have signs, noise makers, balloons, or just wave and shout “happy birthday” out the window as they pass by.
  • Have a dance party with just your family, or have some of your child’s friends join in on the fun through a video call
  • Ask their friends to send birthday video messages to surprise them throughout the day
  • Have them help you bake or decorate their birthday dessert, or print out some cute cupcake wrappers to add a little extra flair
  • Host a Facebook or Instagram Live video of your baby’s cake smash, or have a video camera running while you host a Zoom call or FaceTime so your baby can see everyone and they can all sing “happy birthday” to the little one
  • A friend of mine is going to set up the party decorations she had already planned for her daughter’s first birthday party, and they are going to make a time capsule video explaining why no one was at their house for her party
  • I’ve scheduled two different dates for my daughter’s 8th birthday party – since it’s not at our house this year, we needed to book the location, but with all the uncertainty right now about when things will start to return to normal, we wanted to have a backup date, too (for 2 months later). And we let her know that we just may not be able to have the party she wants this year, but that we will definitely do something fun to celebrate no matter what!

Bday fun - AW cupcakes and smash cake

Make it Fabulously Yours!

Whatever you do for your birthday, make sure it’s what you want to do – don’t feel pressure to do a lot if you want it to be low-key, and don’t feel like you have to downplay it just because everyone is staying safe at home.

For me personally? I’m going to have a mini-spa day at home in the morning with a DIY facial mask I’ve always wanted to try but haven’t opened yet, roping one of my kids or my husband into giving me a mini-massage, all while lovely relaxing spa music plays in the house. Then I’m going to give myself a mani-pedi. In the afternoon, I’ll do pretty much whatever I want, which will likely be playing games and/or watching a movie with my family.

I’ll be celebrating throughout the entire day with an assortment of decadent chocolate treats (think: chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, chocolate pudding or a chocolate smoothie with lunch, chocolate pasta we picked up at the farmer’s market a few weeks ago for dinner). Then I’ll have several chocolate desserts available to enjoy in the evening: 2 different brownies (one that’s healthy but not-yet-tried, and one classic and not-at-all-healthy as a backup), either chocolate fudge or a chocolate cake, and chocolate chip cookies. And sparkling wine. Yes, it’s a bit indulgent. But that’s how I like my birthday, so that’s what we’ll be doing.

After the kids go to bed, we’re going to have a virtual game night with two of our good friends and my family in Chicago. Together. We’ve already participated in two virtual game nights, but this is the first time our good friends will be playing competitive games with my very-competitive family-of-origin, so we’ll see how it goes! I’m so grateful that I get to celebrate with all of them, and no matter what happens, I know this virtual birthday will be one I’ll always remember… so I plan to make it a great one. And I hope you do, too!

AB bday

What do you think? What other ideas do you have for celebrating a birthday or other big celebration while we are all keeping up this social distancing? I’d love to hear your ideas –drop a note in the Comments below! For even more ideas, check out our Pinterest board!

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