Harish Marnad's Diary

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Category: Milestones

Birthday Surprise Ideas For wife (or husband)

Pleasant surprises are best part of life as they make life interesting and exciting. However if you are planning this for your wife (or husband) then it make it much better. When you put all the effort of collecting the best birthday surprise ideas out there and execute one of them, then it is the best gift you can give to your husband or wife. Since my marriage I have just had change to celebrate two birthdays of my wife, Ramya (including this one) and in both cases I have tried to ensure that I come up with a surprise birthday idea and execute them. This birthday celebration was one of the best I was ever part of till now and this article is my effort to preserve its memory, idea so that anyone wishing to do enact a similar birthday party can get an idea out of this.



Surprise Birthday Prerequisites

List your criteria

Surprise birthday party is always difficult to enact esp. in this age of Internet and Facebook where most of us have access to smartest of ideas without any effort. Non-flashy nature of me wanted to ensure that I did not go over the top with everything and wanted to keep it simple. However there was this expectation that got built up due to hugely successful surprise birthday party last time. Last one was easy as the expectation was low and the best option was also the easiest of options. Now, new factors have got added things making it much more difficult to ensure that this birthday is also a surprise.

Plan & Shout!

I finally got the plan drafted in my mind. Unlike the last one, this time I wanted to get some friends involved. So split the event into two – Midnight cake cutting event and birthday evening get-together. I got a rough head count for both parts by conducting a preference poll via email. Once I got the numbers I got one of them from each part to volunteer mainly for co-ordination in my absence. Once the ideas for each part got finalized, I sent out the ideas to each batch separately to avoid unexpected surprises. 

Main Part – The Cake!

Cake is the most important ingredient of a birthday and I never wanted to be found wanting on this. So few days before the event I left office to the only egg less cake shop I knew, located few miles away (sure, for her it was last minute extra work at the office). I ordered big enough cake based on the head count and our possible appetite.

The previous day being a Saturday helped me to get the cake personally from the shop. Unfortunately the normal trains were canceled and I had to opt for a longer route. For this event my reason to Ramya was to play tennis with Krishna. I called him early in the day and told him about the plan so that he tells the same if and when he has any unexpected chat with Ramya. There was a goof up here but I get to that in the end. Cake was big, soft and fragile so fridge was the only option. A part 1 participant volunteered to keep it till mid night and get it when I need it – yeah! just perfect.



Part 1 – Let’s cut the Cake!

The Plan

The plan was for everyone to assemble below my flat at 11.50 AM and once all have assembled they will barge into our home at 12 AM. The co-ordinator, Uma already had a spare key with her so that they can just come in without knocking.

Need bigger impact? – Add the Disappointment

The impact of the surprise party/gift will greater if you disappoint the person first. The rational for this is simple – the jump in her happiness from a disappointed state will be greater than a jump from a normal state. So I wanted to add couple of disappointments before the day so that expectation will be real low.

First Disappointment – “Do you need a cake?”

The first disappointment was to making it look like I had no plans for her birthday at all, being enacted by me since couple of weeks to the birthday. The least she expected probably was that we will have a cake private cutting celebration like the last time. So I took no time to break even this expectation. Few days before the D-day, So I also asked her – ‘Do you need a cake this time?’ which put her off completely. My reasoning to her on this question was that I would rather prefer to do what she liked than surprise her. But that question haunted her for few days and she kept repeating it for next couple of days. My final word was ‘OK, OK, I will get a cake’ and she ended with ‘I don’t need one’. With this, I believe I was able to put water onto any small expectation she had making a surprise birthday party a far fetched idea.

2nd Disappointment – “This one has Egg, So no cake today”

I checked a suitable time in the evening before the birthday night and pushed all the watches, clocks and laptop times by 10 minutes. I wanted to use these ten minutes to enact my false birthday celebration at 11.50 when the clocks will be showing 12.00. I also got a small cake from nearby shop to enact this false birthday. I purposefully ensured that this one had egg in it as we always try to avoid eating egg.

So when we did hit 12.00 at my place, ten minutes earlier than the actual birthday, I wished her happy birthday casually. However, just when we decided to cut the cake I saw the ingredients and said this has egg and suggested, requested and insisted that we should not cut the cake and she finally obliged.   


As I was enacting the above disappointment, somebody started to knock the door. Ramya tried to see through the door lens but a hand was covering it. Ramya got scared and I acted as if I was too. She finally opened the door and our friendly gang barges in with the cake which left Ramya completely surprised. After allowing her to settle for few minutes we had the cake cutting celebrations, eating as much as possible and party ended soon after.


Surprise Party Invitations play a big part in having a successful surprise party, be it for a birthday or any other occasion. Check my new article on what needs to considered before finalizing the details of your Surprise Party Invitations.


Part 2 – Get the Friends!

Along with Part 1 surprise, I wanted part 2 also to have its surprise element. So here is how it all got spanned out. First thing in the morning, I told Ramya that cake is huge for us to complete so we should invite those who call her to wish to join us in the evening for a small get together. So as her friends called to wish her, she invited them to come over in the evening.

The Plan

The plan was to get part 2 participants to decline Ramya’s invite for evening party. In the evening I would take Ramya out for couple of hours and during this time the participants will occupy our home and surprise Ramya as we enter home on our way back. I had to introduce each participant to other remotely as most participants didn’t knew each other, and the common link – us, who will not be around when secretly occupy our house.

Disappointment, Again – ‘Sorry, got to sleep today!’   

Given the short notice of our invitations, few declines were expected however I am not sure if Ramya was ready for all of them to decline. To make the disappointment worse (or better), I wanted each person to give a very lousy reason for not making it to make it a better disappointment. So if one said that they cannot miss an old movie being aired on TV that evening the other wanted to rest and some said they were feeling lazy. So by the lunch hour Ramya realized that no one will make it.

Taking her Out, Again!

As a practice, we always go to temple on the birthday morning and eat at the nearby Indian restaurant. So this birthday followed suit and by late afternoon we were home. The travel to temple, shopping in the nearby grocery shop had taken the energy out of us and as soon as we reached home bed looked very inviting. However as per plan the Part 2 participants will start arriving at my place in next 30-45 minutes and we being anywhere near our home would kill the surprise.

So as soon as we arrived I started cleaning the house as I did not want house in an un-presentable state to invited guests. As Ramya had no clue she was confused by my sudden cleaning activities. I did what I could before her confusion turned into suspicion and I asked her to join me again for returning the “egged” cake.

We went out, returned the cake and walked further. In an ideal world all the participants should have been inside by now. However due to practical issues there were delays and I had to keep Ramya out till everyone made it into the temple (well, our secret word for the house to be used in conversations when I had Ramya around). So I did what I could to keep Ramya out and when I got a confirmation that most devotees were inside the temple I took Ramya back.  

Surpriseeeeeeee, Again!

We were approaching our home and my only fear was that of Ramya catching some of the late comers making their way to our home. So I sent those few extra messages to get that confirmed. I sent one final message to tell them that we are 5 minutes away hoping that they will all quite down just like the way it will be when you enter your locked home. We slowly arrived near the door and to my dismay the noise from inside our home was similar to that of a small noisy get together.

Frightened she asked me – “who is inside our home? “ I said “How do I know”. We slowly opened the door and Ramya was invited by roars, wishes and applauds. Seeing all of them at once at our place was fantastic. We all had a great time and thanks to everyone I was able to pull off one the best birthday party I ever been part of.


Right and Wrongs

There were quite a few things I did right to get this birthday right. Having said that there were lot of things which I could have got it right. Below are the important ones from both sides.

What I did Right? – The Bulls-eyes
  • Planning – I am a poor planner outside my work but this one was an exception. Even though I did not write down every step with its deadline I pretty much had everything covered in my head and executed them well.
  • Confidential Communications – I created a separate email address for all communications add did all communication when I was not around Ramya.  For the SMS messages which did sent out from my mobile were deleted immediately.
  • Advance Acknowledgements – As all the invited friends had to get into groups when we (rather I), the hosts will not be around meant that I send out a remote introduction email introducing one another. I made sure that I acknowledge each and every one with kind words and appreciation they deserved. This advance acknowledgement meant that those friends who were not sure of attending were now psychologically obligated to return the favour by attending.
  • Ordering the Cake in Advance– The Cake is one of the most important ingredients of a birthday but we forget it most often and end up with a last minute rush to a nearby cake shop to get an expensive not so good cake. So ordering the cake a week in advance meant that I managed to order an eggless cake, with the right text on the cake (Damn! I don’t have the snap).

What I did wrong? – The little & the big Goof Ups!

  • Incomplete Communication– Even though I did the most communication right I slipped up a bit at places. For example, for those attending Part 2, I did not communicate what is the house address, where to park the car if they do get one and so on. This created last minute jitters which resulted in frequent SMS messages to the co-ordinator, doubts in Ramya’s mind and more stupid lies to cover them up. There was also a case when Krishna was suppose to be on his way to play tennis with me but was found online by Ramya. On asking why by her, he said he was waiting for me to start where as I had left home some 45 minutes before and was near the cake shop getting the cake. Another big goof up.
  • Co-Ordinator Preparations– Not hiring a professional co-ordinator has its price but can be made up by sufficiently motivating your personal co-ordinators and preparing them. With enough preparation they will ensure that no unexpected and sudden queries will come through to you, esp. when you are with your spouse and ensure that everything remain confidential. Motivation is key because remember, they won’t get anything being the co-ordinator of you surprise birthday party for your spouse, may be a ‘Learn from him’ statement from his/her spouse. I must say, I did fail to sufficiently motivate my co-ordinators but they were great sport and did a stellar job to ensure that surprise element of birthday remained intact.
  • Closing the Access to Private Area– Choosing our house for birthday meant that the surprise will have its impact but it also came with the clause that all the friends will have unlimited access to everything unless I block out some access points. I did not doubt any of my friends of misadventure but  I surely did not want a thought of them playing treasure hunt at my place and unearthing our little secrets.  Given that I did not do enough to close out on these private access points meant that I had endure the thoughts our friends spilling our secret beans and agony that comes with it.
  • Not so detailed Script–  As I did not have a detailed script for what each person have to do there were unplugged gaps which chipped away some of the surprise elements. One clear example being the noise coming out of our home when we just landed near the end of Part 2 where my idea was that there will be pin drop silence but reality was far from it.
  • Capturing the moments– I did not capture those surprise moments well enough in a video which is shame as it would have helped us revisit these events and relive them again in future.
  • Biggest Gift before the surprise Birthday is never good– I made the biggest mistake of buying her jewellery the day before birthday. It was unexpected for both of us and she was on cloud 9 thereafter and never got down for next day or two. This alone was enough for her as a birthday gift and everything else on top of it looked like a bonus. The disappointment was never as big a disappointment; surprise never as big a surprise.  Looking back, I feel, I should have given that as a gift on the night of the birthday and should have enacted another drama at the store by declining to buy it.

Though this article has turned out to be a big one, I have tried to focus more on the planning & executing the surprise birthday and its pitfalls rather than boasting how proud I am or on my feelings (though it’s hard not to massage one’s ego). All of this would not have been possible without the help of participating friends and co-ordinators. My sincere thanks go out to all of them for making this event happen from nothing. If you have reached so far reading this article I will greatly appreciate your comments as what you think about the event and the article. 


HMDiary Launched..

I always needed a blog of my own where I can go and dump my thoughts, ideas and more. Blogs were always there but extensions like .blogspot or .wordpress.com dont give a picture to myself that I am serious about them. After some thought I chose to go for a online journal of my own and on the day of my 30th birthday I bought the domain hmdiary.com. I had few issues to get it up and running but now that all that is sorted I am starting off today with this..

Let us see how buying a domain will help me keep my own promise to myself about making writing as a regular hobby. Hoping for the best though.

First Surprise Birthday Party of my Wife!..

Let me admit this first – I personally don’t feel like celebrating my birthday and on the D-day I always keep a very low profile. This is because I feel there is nothing significant about birthdays and with age this view of mine is getting stronger (I know there are positive ways of looking at it, but for now I am reluctant to try them).

However this year I had a new person in my life – my wife, Ramya. For both of us each other’s birthday was special firstly because it is the first one with each other and secondly we were far away from our families. Hence there was this desire to do something on that day so that we make the other person special.

Incidentally we both are Leos and share birthdays in the same month of August separated by just 2 weeks. First in line was my birthday and even though I wanted to keep it very low profile Ramya got surprise gifts and a cake, all without my knowledge and we had midnight celebrations. I really appreciated the fact that she managed to do all this without my awareness, this takes up higher significance if I consider the limitations she had – her limited knowledge of whereabouts of London and hectic commute for her daily work. It was a very nice occasion. She did set the benchmark for me, if I opted to take it on.

One week passed and I did not think too much into it. Enter week 2 and I put the thinking cap on. I planned one of the nicest gifts for her and contacted her brother, Hari to execute the same. Once we agreed to the plan, it was game on. I planned for other smaller gifts in parallel and set off executing things accordingly. Finally, with all the planning and effort I did manage to give her the below gifts, in the order of their importance (lowest being the first). She was blown away by all of them coming her way when she least expected it.

1st one was a chocolate cake. This was an easy choice as she liked chocolate a lot. However lot of effort was spent in getting it the previous day without her knowledge and hiding it in the fridge.

2nd one was a cute doll (soft sitting bear) which was offering a heart with words ‘Love you Loads’.  This was an accidental choice in place of a greeting card. Greeting card I am sure will warm the cupboard but for few extra bucks, this was a way better choice.

Anything beyond these gifts needed me to use bit more of my lazy brain.

3rd one was 25 unexpected wishes from 25 different folks as it was her 25th birthday. For this I sent emails to numbers of my friends whom she did not know or did not expect a wish from. I sent an email well in advance with my wife's email id and a small drafted content (for those lazy ones) to help them in wishing her. Few of them did, and some of them did more than expected (special thanks to them). The target of 25 was missed but never the less the unexpected wishes did make its mark.

4th was a surprise eat out with Close Friends – After arriving to UK, we had built a small circle of close friends outside our work circle. I invited 6 of these folks to join us at our regular eat out without Ramya's knowledge. All of the folks were told well in advance with timings, location and the way event should happen. I wanted to make it look accidental to Ramya but I could not hold on to the secret as almost all folks did not arrive in time. However once we all met, it was a very good time together.

5th was being on top of London on London Eye – After the party with folks I took her saying ‘oh! There is more time’. She had no clue where we were going and all along I said, let’s go with the flow and see. When we got near to London eye,

I said ‘wow, let’s go in that’.

She was like ‘What? It costs hell lot and you always said before that it is not worth it’.

I said ‘Today is special and I feel like going in that

She did not question again and went to buy tickets. However I had planned for this by going for a Merlin annual pass (unlimited entry to multiple attractions including London eye). It also meant that we did not have to wait in queue for tickets and we were onto the eye quite soon. It was an amazing experience to see London in the nights from the London eye.

6th was wishes from whom it Matters, when it mattered. Though this has been mentioned last, this was one of the first gifts she got in the day. This was the special one which she cherished the most. This was the web cam wishes from her mom and brother at 12 AM GMT local time (4.30 AM India time). This one was a very well timed gift considering the various aspects. What are they? Read on..

For Ramya, who lived for 24 odd years close to her parents it was obviously very tough to relocate far from them in London with me. The insensitive piece of me did not sense this at all and she being such a nice person did not utter a word about it as she did not want to bother me with it. Since her arrival to UK 3 months back she was missing her family a lot and I wanted to gift something to help her out.

So I thought of web cam. This was not a completely unexpected thing. Me and Ramya had discussed to get a web cam so many times in the past but did not manage to get it (which gave me this opportunity). I first checked with Hari and he was all keen to do this. So me and Hari both got webcams and got the set up done. We interacted couple of times over phone and email to know the progress we are making.

I got a Logitech webcam which looked great. I did the install and tried firing it up with Yahoo Messenger. Bang! It blanked out with YM and I was left with only option of asking the Guru Google for solution.  I found out that the web cam model I got had some issues with YM and it was advised to use Skype. With my fingers crossed I tried it with Skype and it worked like magic. All this made me bit apprehensive about how it will all go on the D-day as one small thing not working will derail the plan and impact significantly.

On the night of Birthday, we had to attend Indian version of Guru’s Leaving drinks. Ramya was on a job which made her travel for long hours. This meant that I have an opportunity to come home and do the final test. So I came early from office and tested the webcam chat with Hari. Initially Hari's words were not coming through but then after few checks we were all done and it was working perfectly fine. It was wonderful to see the results (Yes, I am talking like webcam was my invention or seeing it for the first time). I was very excited to see how Ramya will react to this. I asked Hari to log in around 5 minutes before 12 AM (his 4.30 AM) and give me a missed Call. He promised to get Mom-in-law to be awake and ready as well.

Once everything was ready I went to party, picked up Ramya on my way to the party (by which I ensured she doesn’t come home before mid night). Party was good; it went all fine and we arrived home at 11:30 PM, bit earlier than expected. I tried to delay it a bit but could not. So I had to take her directly to the room asking her not to enter the hall. She wanted to check emails and I said NO (as few of the 25 wishes had already come and I wanted her to see them after 12). She was ok to wait which helped me to do final set up.

It was 5 minutes to go and I got the missed call. Even though I had kept the phone in silent mode, she noticed it and asked ‘who is that?’ I said it was my project mate and I will call him tomorrow. After a minute or so I asked her to stay back and I went in. I booted up the computer, logged into Skype.  Hari and mom-in-law were ready and waiting, I whispered to Hari to be around and wait (as Ramya was playing songs she did not hear this). I got the bear doll next to it and the cake from the fridge. I got all of them hidden under different towels covers.

When the time arrived, I called her to the hall, wished her first. I told her to guess the 3 gifts in front of her. I kept 3 notes in front of each one of them to help her guess. They being 'It’s Sweet like you' (in front of Cake), 'It’s Cute like you' (in front of bear doll) and 'It’s Just like you' (in front of laptop).

I was so excited that I could not wait too much for her to answer for the first two. For the last one, I said her to guess considering that this gift cannot be measured in Money. Ramya was clueless, so after a pause she took the cover off to find Hari and her Mom staring at her. All three months she interacted with them on phone, saw them on photos but now she is seeing and hearing them real, live. She could not believe it. She spoke to them for 15-20 minutes and asked them to go to sleep. After that she wept in my arms. For us it was the best day of our marriage life.

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