90th Birthday Celebration

A 90th birthday celebration is a family reunion.  The person you are honoring is probably the matriarch or patriarch of the family so you will want to plan an event that emphasizes love, respect and appreciation of the person's wisdom and experiences.

The most important elements of the celebration are friends and family. And because family members today are spread far and wide, the party will likely become a much anticipated family reunion that brings together relatives who have not seen each other since the last wedding or funeral.

Think about how you want friends and relatives to celebrate the good times and memories.  Be sure to start the planning early so that distant relatives will have time to make arrangements for travel and a place to stay.

You will also need to think about a keepsake for the honoree. One possibility is to make a scrapbook that collects memories of special times. Or you can ask guests to submit notes and pictures about events  they have shared with the honoree.  Someone who has lived for nine decades will certainly appreciate reflections  about the friendships and changes they have experienced over the years. 

I am wealthy in my friends.
-- William Shakespeare

The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you
don't like and do what you'd rather not.
--Mark Twain


And of course no 90th birthday celebration would be complete without some special speeches. You should be prepared to say something meaningful about the impact the person has had on your life or in the community. Think of one or two specific incidents that you can describe in detail that show how the person as affected your life. But if you're not comfortable being the main speaker, recruit two or three others who can say something memorable, witty and significant for the occasion.

Some tips to keep in mind as you plan

Timing - Evening parties may seem more festive but can create problems for senior citizens. Older friends and relatives who would want to come may not like to drive at night. Unless you are celebrating the 90th birthday at the honoree's house, you should consider having a brunch, lunch or afternoon gathering at a location that is easily accessible for friends and relatives. (Think handicap accessible and easy parking.)

Themes -- Family, faith, history and wisdom are the most appropriate themes for most 80th and 90th birthday celebrations. At this stage in life, aging jokes are not so funny as they are at age 60. So while the person may be fun-loving and relish the idea of a laughing at themselves and others, the birthday man or woman will most enjoy hearing about special times, places and events that connect them with others. 

Get others involved in the memories.

  • Ask special friends and family members to write down memories ahead of time  that can be included in a scrapbook. Most people need time to think about a special memory so even if you plan to have guests leave their comments during the party, give them some advanced notice. Assemble everyone's contributions into a keepsake book that can be presented as a gift to the honoree.

  • Do a timeline that ties significant dates in the person's life to important news events going on in the world at that time.

  • Have friends and family help with a list of 90 things they admire and love about the 90th birthday person -- or 9 things if you want to go by decade. (This idea works works well for senior celebrations of any age.)

  • Gather pictures from over the years that you can project during the party. But be sure to get prints that you can put in a book. It's easy to create personalized photo books by uploading photos to a company website that processes photos. Easy-to-use online systems that are intuitive allow you to be as simple or as sophisticated as you want. 

  • Create a calendar of memories. Get a blank calendar and have friends and family write short messages, quotes or memories about the person and fill in as many days as you can. Or for a less intimidating project, just focus on the months and have 12 people write something special -- one for each month. For example, how do you associate Aunt Betty with September?  Put these into a calendar that the person can enjoy all year.

  • Provide a guestbook with room for people to sign and leave notes. Again, give them some advanced notice. It may be hard for guests to write memories on the spot so when you send out invitations, let them know that they will have the opportunity to write special memories about the person after they arrive.

  • If faith is a central part of the person's life, get a Bible (or appropriate text for the honoree's faith) and have guests sign in beside their favorite Bible verses.

Designate a couple of people to take pictures or hire a photographer. Get a backup person so you will not miss that great family photo when someone's camera malfunctions or your great nephew never gets around to downloading photos from his phone. Be sure you share the photos with family members.  Digital photos are great, but give the honoree printed photos in an album or scrapbook.

Consider where out-of-town guests will stay. It would be considerate to arrange places for people to stay with family or friends in case they want to avoid the expense of a hotel. It is also thoughtful to make arrangements with a local hotel you can refer out-of-town guests to as they will appreciate guidance on what is the most convenient location for them to stay to easily travel to and from the party. And to go a step further, arrange transportation to and from the party if people are staying at one hotel.

Decorations. Pictures, balloons, flowers and sentimental objects make perfect decorations for an 80th or 90th birthday party. If you want something personal that is relatively inexpensive, make your own table cards from scanned photos. Or you can purchase decorations specifically for a 90th birthday party.