Eighty years of life is a huge accomplishment. It’s hard to imagine both how long and how short of a time period it is. Regardless, if you have a friend, neighbor, or relative who’s celebrating an 80th birthday — you likely want them to feel special. Whether you think a huge gala or a more intimate gathering would make more sense, we’ll provide plenty of ideas to get you started.
Jump ahead to these ideas:
- 80th Birthday Theme Ideas
- 80th Birthday Party Decorations for a Table
- 80th Birthday Cake Decoration Ideas
- Inexpensive or DIY 80th Birthday Decoration Ideas
If you foresee planning a large or small gesture or event, you’ll likely find a good bit of inspiration below that you can customize as needed. We’ll walk you through a variety of party theme ideas, table décor ideas, cake ideas, DIY tips, and more.
80th Birthday Theme Ideas
Themes can alleviate decision-making and help you tie everything together. Many themes are also rather affordable and easy to create with a bit of brainstorming. You can easily tweak the themes below to your liking and make them your own.
Blast from the past
You can choose a specific decade to highlight, such as your loved one’s “prime,” or you can allow guests to dress up from any decade they’d like.
This theme is easy for planning music as well as décor, and you can likely play up the décor that already exists in your home.
If your loved one enjoys sci-fi, is a fan of NASA, or other intergalactic endeavors, an outer space theme would be easy with glow sticks and blacklight elements.
You can also likely find astronaut food from local camping or outdoor stores.
The Wild West
Western movies, though not uncommon today, are extremely popular among older generations. The peak of Western films raised quite a few cowboy and outlaw-enthusiasts, respectively.
A cruise (boozy or not)
Cruises and booze. One or both of these things may make your loved one tick. Regardless, this would be an unforgettable theme.
And, better yet, if you can organize an actual cruise as part of a gift for your older loved ones, that’d be pretty unforgettable too.
British royalty or high tea
Planning a party based on British royalty or high tea can be fun for anyone. You can create custom hats or fascinators out of craft paper and other materials as a group activity, for example. The menu could be relatively simple, too.
You can provide finger sandwiches, scones, a variety of teas, and more (affordably) since portions can be smaller.
Golf, bowling, or other sport
You don’t necessarily have to bring an entire group out to a golf (or mini-golf) outing, bowling alley, or out to a ballpark.
However, you totally could, depending on how big of a group you have. It would be easy to create any of these themes at home with a bit of DIY, too.
A food or drink crawl
A food or drink crawl, such as visiting all the best mimosa and pancake spots, or, pizza joints, for that matter, can easily have another theme incorporated into it.
This is also a great opportunity to create custom T-shirts to keep your group together, and perhaps craft a custom map of places or events. You may even consider traveling to another city to do so, if it’s on your loved one’s retirement bucket list, for example.
A favorite holiday
Christmas in July is a real thing, or you can make it happen for that matter. If your loved one has a favorite holiday, you can easily recreate the spirit and magic of it and tailor it to celebrate him or her.
80th Birthday Party Decorations for a Table
Relying on a table or two to tie the entire theme or party together is actually wise, as you can centralize food and décor without making a mess of the event space or your home. However, this doesn’t mean that décor has to remain strictly on the table.
Movies and films
You can easily create the look and feel of a high-class movie theater with fabric and other craft supplies, as well as snacks and drinks.
You may even wish to go the extra mile and represent a specific series that the guest of honor likes, such as Jaws or Star Wars.
Just all candy
Though candy isn’t really a theme, it’s fun, inexpensive, and easy when you’re at a loss. It may not be the healthiest choice, but it’ll likely be fun to set up. You can also unload leftovers on guests with goodie bags.
Gaming or casino
Whether your loved one is a fan of game shows, board games, or some other type of game, using real game pieces you already have will make set up affordable and simple.
A casino-themed table can also incorporate other elements often found in casinos, like lights, showgirls, and general gaudiness.
Cars or racing
If your loved one is a fan of classic or new cars, this is an easy tablescape to create. You can use miniature cars and likely create some unique centerpieces out of food to model after some of his or her favorite vehicles.
Pirates or the deep sea
Pirates or the deep sea may sound like it was made for kids, but what are some 80-year-olds, than just larger kids?
This is a great idea if your loved one has a love for the ocean, sailing, or even canoeing and inland water activities.
Adventure or travel
An adventure or travel theme is pretty open-ended. Perhaps your loved one has a passion for visiting National parks or spending time in nature. You can easily use items such as postcards, river rocks, plants, and the like, and repurpose them after.
80th Birthday Cake Decoration Ideas
Don’t let the concept of “cake” limit your imagination. If your loved one has another favorite treat — sweet or not — run with it for something truly personal and memorable. That being said, classic cake can be special, too, with the right decorations.
Birthday flan (or something else unique)
If you’re a fan of the show Friends, you may recall that the flan wasn’t well-received by guests (and a wayward volleyball ended up ruining it anyway).
However, your guest of honor may appreciate some sort of authentic or cultural dessert instead of a mainstream one.
80 words about your loved one
Poll the guests of the party when they RSVP, and ask them to provide a list of words that make them think of your loved one.
You can write these on top of the cake or preferred dessert yourself, have a decorating activity as part of the party, or hire a pro.
80 cookies or pastries
If you’re thinking of creating a tower of 80 macarons, for example, this isn’t a bad idea. Tackling a family cookie recipe and recreating it to match your chosen theme is also a great way to honor your loved one.
80 pigs in a blanket (or another classic app)
Pigs in a blanket are a relatively cheap and crowd-pleasing food. If your loved one doesn’t have the biggest sweet tooth, you can instead opt for a display of pigs in a blanket, mini quiches, or some other savory appetizer, for example.
Some people really love bagels of all kinds. If you’re having a brunch party, for example, this would be a great centerpiece to create.
Then again, some people only like authentic NY bagels. If you don’t have an authentic bakery near you, consider ordering online to make the gesture extra special.
80 apples (or another favorite fruit)
Creating a tower out of 80 apples (to keep the doctor away) may be a bit of a challenge. In that case, another fruit of choice will work just as well.
You may also wish to provide dipping sauces, such as chocolate or caramel, to go along with this.
‘80s themed (or any decade, for that matter)
You can choose whatever decade you’d like for this. There’s likely a time when your loved one considered themselves in “their prime,” which is likely a fun choice.
A tower of french fries
As another unconventional example of a cake, you can opt for something as out there as containers of french fries.
This would be fun to incorporate if the theme of the party had to deal with classic diners, Americana, or cars and racing.
Keep it classic
There’s nothing wrong with the classics. If your loved one is a fan of black forest cake, chocolate cake, or just plain vanilla, that’s cool too.
It’s all about making your loved one feel special and appreciated. You can get creative with decorations to match the theme, or do something exciting (but slightly dangerous) like sparklers on top.
Inexpensive or DIY 80th Birthday Decoration Ideas
There’s quite a bit of pride that can come along with DIY projects, especially when they’re done for the direct benefit of others. With a bit of brainstorming, planning, and creativity, it’s easy to repurpose household items or other affordable materials into amazing party decorations.
Beach or tropical
If your loved one’s birthday falls in winter or on a less than sunny day, you can easily create a beachy or tropical environment with decor, lighting, live plants, and an exotic menu.
Feel free to gather a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and more. You may even wish to order online and buy a variety of balloons in bulk. Balloons are an affordable, but fun way to express “party” without overcomplicating things.
You may also wish to personalize the balloons yourself with permanent marker, for example.
A memory board
Creating a memory board with photos and other items you already have couldn’t be more affordable. Plus, it’s a fun way for your guests to get nostalgic and reflect on memories and events they may or may not have been present for.
A family tree
You can easily get all of your guests and family together to create a family tree out of paint, a “tree,” and thumbprints.
This leftover memento will also serve as a great way for future generations to learn about their family tree and where they came from.
There are literally limitless things you can do with paper. Buy a variety in bulk and print out some templates and other resources so your guests can create flower crowns, origami, and other art pieces.
It’s a fun way to involve guests of all ages and give them something to take home with them.
You Only Turn 80 Once
It’s true, you only have the chance to turn 80 once (or any age for that matter). Making it count with little details personal to your loved one will make all the difference.
However, it’s likely all they want is your company and the company of their other friends and loved ones. For more advice and tips on life’s milestones like birthday resolutions or end-of-life planning, check out the rest of Cake.