Milestone birthdays signify important life achievements that are worth commemorating. Whether the milestone year is 21 or 50, these birthdays are the ones we tend to celebrate in creative, unforgettable ways.

According to researchers at The Wharton School, recognizing temporal landmarks such as a birthday or new year are motivational because they provide an opportunity for reflection and gratitude. With such a powerful opportunity to reflect and remember the occasion, it’s no wonder people look to honor these milestones in big ways! Below, we’ve listed memorable celebration ideas for each major milestone birthday.

Fun ideas for throwing an 18th milestone birthday bash

The 18th birthday is the first big milestone in our lives. With it comes many adult perks, such as being able to vote, purchase a car, and establish credit. “It’s the one in which western culture bestows young people with rights they will enjoy for the rest of their lives,” said family therapist Kyle King. “They are excited to flex some of their new independence and privileges.”

One way to celebrate this new independence is with a sophisticated party to mark the occasion. Encourage attendees to get dressed up in formal wear and if you can, try renting out a party venue to make the day extra special. You could even plan a “bon voyage” cruise-themed party as you watch your childhood years sail away, with a cruise-themed menu and snacks.

18th birthday gift theme: Flowers

Flowers are a perfect gift for an 18th birthday. As full adulthood approaches, childlike interests lose favor to more sophisticated enjoyment. Roses, lilies, and orchids are classic selections. And you can never go wrong with a birthday bouquet. Receiving a birthday flower delivery also introduces an 18-year-old to a lifelong pleasure that happens when you receive a delivered gift.

Go all out for a 21st birthday

milestone birthdays with 21-shaped balloons for celebrating one of the biggest milestone birthdays.

Twenty-one is a milestone that grants new privileges, so it’s usually honored by indulging in these fresh abilities. Celebrate with a wacky scavenger hunt for the honoree to complete that night. To feel luxurious, rent a limo on the way to a casino or 21-and-up nightclub! If a big bash isn’t ideal, then an evening of sophisticated cocktails with friends at home can make the night special. You could hire a mixologist (or buy a mixologist kit) and keep the night intimate as the honoree celebrates their new freedoms, complete with a Girls Night In Rosé Gift Basket.

21st birthday gift theme: Alcohol

Most everyone agrees that full adulthood and being able to legally drink are why the 21st birthday matters. Customized champagne flutes are more elegant than shiny SOLO cups, while a wine-related gift introduces pleasures found in more grownup tastes.

Celebrate 30 in style

If your honoree is feeling particularly old at this milestone, you can throw an “over the hill” party. Ask guests to dress in black to “mourn” their youth and bring gag gifts like fake teeth. If they’re not up for the joke, the 30th birthday can also be a time to celebrate the refining of tastes and interests. Organize a dine-around your local city, where you try a different course at each restaurant. Or you could find a private chef to cook an intimate meal at home for a sophisticated touch. If your honoree would rather their 30th still feel youthful, you can throw a classic slumber party, full of cheesy movies, pajamas, and plenty of snacks.

30th birthday gift theme: Chocolate

Chocolate for the 30-year old who loves decadence in a delicious package. Give a sampler of chocolate cookies or a selection of assorted chocolates, like a Neuhaus Chocolate Excellence gift basket filled with truffles, pralines, and bon bons.

Get festive for the 40th

A fun way to honor the 40th is by throwing a 1940s big band-themed party. Guests can dress in 40s-era clothing and the party can feature swing music or vintage movie classics. For a more low-key event, try an at-home spa weekend for your closest friends. You could host a wine tasting, mani/pedis, or even hire a masseuse. Complement the weekend with a Lavender Spa Basket for a luxurious experience.

milestone birthdays with Woman with candle

40th birthday gift theme: Self-care

Indulge the 40-year-old with self-care goodies to relieve the exhaustion that comes from active living. Ideas include spa gifts, candles, or cozy comfort gifts like tea and blankets to encourage relaxation.

The best ways to bring in the big 5-0

milestone birthdays with two balloons mark the 50th milestone.

The best ways to bring in the big 5-0

Aside from the 21st birthday, the most popular birthday for adults to celebrate is their 50th. According to Matt James, an award-winning professional event planner, most people turning 50 prefer a tasteful party, with good food and good company, rather than a cheap joke-shop-style theme party. He recommends activities that celebrate the person, not just the age, such as a personalized crossword puzzle or even a piñata bust created to their liking. If your honoree wants to skip the party route, then create a to-do list with 50 tasks to complete over the year. Or, select a destination 50 miles away and spend the day exploring the area for a peaceful retreat.

50th birthday gift theme: Gourmet food

Who would ever turn away a gift basket of food favorites? From healthy fresh fruits, foods that satisfy a sweet tooth, or a variety basket, food for 50 is the ideal celebratory gift. Food gifts also have a dual function if the recipient wants to have an impromptu celebration with friends and family.

Celebrate 60 to the max

Each decade that passes provides even more reason to cherish time with loved on. A 60th birthday (or even 70th or 80th) should be full of smiles and laughter, celebrating old friends and new family members alike. You could arrange a birthday around old childhood favorites, including a Birthday Sweets Basket. If the honoree is up for it, try childhood activities like a bike ride, ice skating, or a visit to a local amusement park. For an at-home event, surround the special person with stories and memorabilia from their youth, taking time to share stories.

milestone birthdays with plant and flower birthday gifts

60th birthday gift theme: Flowers and plants

Most 60-year-olds are empty nesters and with that extra time allotted from not shuttling kids to sporting events, there’s more opportunity to care for flowers and plants. Adding both beauty and enjoyment to home life, plants are a natural, uplifting gift that’s sure to be enjoyed.

Making a 90th birthday milestone memorable

At such a special milestone, this birthday can be commemorated by planning an event where new or distant family and friends have a chance to reconnect with the honoree, either in person or over video. You could have attendees write a short note honoring their life, or even gift a Personalized Message in a Bottle. If you can, take a visit back to a favorite childhood location or neighborhood and hear old stories. If you’d just like to provide some company and conversation, an outdoor lunch at a new café or restaurant can offer a lively afternoon.

90th birthday gift theme: Puzzles & games

Nonagenarians have the gift of wisdom. Develop their mind with classic puzzles and games. Games also encourage leisure time with the ones you love, which is more engaging than digital entertainment.

Honoring the ultimate milestone birthday: 100 years old

After 100 birthdays, there’s less value in material gifts, and the gift of time and love from family and friends can be more valuable. Center the theme of the party around their life. Create a pictorial timeline of the honoree’s milestone moments, and ask friends and family to contribute photos and videos for a “this is your life” presentation. And allow guests time to toast with their fondest memories, or you could even roast them with funny jokes and stories. Make sure to eat lots of cake and honor the day with a beautiful arrangement.

100th birthday gift theme: Personalized gifts

Celebrate centenarians with a personalized gift. Examples include one-of-a-kind keepsakes like engraved gifts, jewelry, and photo albums that include pictures of life’s greatest moments.


Rachel Kolman specializes in personal essays on wellness, technology, beauty, family, and self-care. Her writing has been published in Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, The Inquistr, The Tech Viral, Sinkhole, and others. She teaches English classes at Drexel University and is the editor of Rathalla Review literary journal.

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