How to Plan a Birthday or Congrats Honk Parade


Contributing writer, former long-term care admissions counselor and social worker

In the days of social distancing, you may have seen a lot of “honk celebrations” happen on social media. For happy birthdays, best wishes, and congratulations, a honk celebration can send the same message as a fun and unique drive-by parade instead of an in-person party. 

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Planning this surprise will be fun but it’s about more than getting some friends together and driving by the celebrated person’s house. Don’t forget to consider time, place, participants, decor, and other ways to create a fun and unique experience. 

Let’s plan a step-by-step honk parade guide with some fun suggestions. 

Step 1: Pick a Day, Place and Time 

Choosing the time and date is the first step. Consider having the honk parade a day or two before your loved one’s actual birth date! Either way, be sure the person of honor is available on the chosen time. You will want to coordinate with roommates or family to ensure the surprise goes smoothly. 

A daytime parade is the best option so you can make the most noise and the decorations will be seen in all their glory! 

Pro tip: Have a friend set up lunch so your friend or loved one will be ready and waiting for a ride when the parade goes by. 

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Step 2: Decide the Theme and What’s Needed

Do you want to have a theme? Either way, you’ll want to make sure all bases are covered, from balloons, signs, and music. It’s up to you how in-depth and involved you want your parade to be.

Either a low-key generic birthday theme can do the trick or you can have a full-on personalized theme for each car. Here are some theme ideas.


Is purple your guest of honor’s favorite color? Go crazy with purple balloons and throw purple confetti out the window as you drive by.

Pop culture favorites

What’s your friend or loved one’s favorite band, show, or movie? For example, if your niece is turning five and loves Frozen, each car can be decorated as a different character.

Gifts can be related to the theme and music can be played from the movie as well. Get creative. The more personalized it is, the better!.


It might make the most sense to choose a sport or sports team theme for diehard fans. Doing this ensures you will have a few colors for decorations and gifts can be sports-related as well. 

Favorite things 

A perfect theme for any celebration is all things the person of honor likes. It could mean favorite nostalgic songs blasting from each car, a travel theme, or other favorites given as gifts. 

Step 3: Choose the 'Guest List' and Send an Invitation

A drive-by parade is a perfect time to utilize the phrase “the more the merrier!” Keep in mind that some people may not be able to make it on the day or time you’ve chosen.


You can send out invitations just like you would with a regular birthday party. There are plenty of ways to effectively get the word out and get a prompt response. 

Facebook invite

Facebook allows you to create a private or public event and lets guests invite others. You can see if your guests RSVP and each person will be notified when new information is added to your event. 

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Mass text message

A text message is another good way to go to keep all the planning in the same group. 

Email evite

Some websites offer digital cards for invitations and require an RSVP. 

Handwritten cards 

Go old school with actual handwritten cards. Be sure you send these out in plenty of time so guests receive them early enough. 

Any invitation you choose should include the day, time, meeting location, and when you need an RSVP!

Pro tip: Remind guests that it’s a surprise. You don’t want anyone to spill the beans!

Step 4: Decorate Cars and Make Signs

Share your theme plans and expectations with the group so everyone can take part in decorating and making signs. 

Decorate your car with streamers, banners, balloons, and window paint! Collaborate with the other cars to follow the theme and include everything you need.

Pro tip: Set aside an extra 30 minutes before the honk parade to do the decorating and use each other's decorations. 

Unique Theme, Decoration and Sign Ideas for a Honk Parade

A honk parade might sound like a far cry from a normal birthday, but with the best decor and gifts, you can make it a one-of-a-kind celebration! 


The best way to give gifts in a drive-by celebration is by putting them in a gift bag for an easy way to pass them off. Even better, send your gift via email with a digital gift

Don’t forget to align gifts with the theme if applicable. Here are some easy gift ideas. 

A favorite drink

A bottle of champagne or wine can be decorated with some ribbon and passed off quickly through the window. Otherwise, opt for coffee, fancy teas, or something else.

Gift card 

A card with a gift card inside is a great, simple option. Pro tip: Gifts can also be sent in the mail directly to the guest of honor’s home if they’re not small or easy enough to pass through the window. 

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There’s no limit to the amount of window paint, balloons, and banners you can use! Go crazy on your car with good wishes on windows in washable paint or hang a banner across your car. 

Some unique ways to decorate your car include the following.


Don’t just get the basic-sized balloons. Select unique balloons instead — you can get long balloons, balloons with confetti inside, and even number-shaped balloons for birthdays. 

Wrapping paper 

If you have the time and patience, go over the top with a gift-wrapped car. You can opt for “Happy birthday!” to “Congrats!” and just about any other gift wrap theme. 


Create your bows with ribbon or purchase a large bow for the top of your car. 

Cans off the back 

This is associated mostly with a wedding but can be a fun addition to any other celebration as well. Pro tip: Don’t forget to consider which side of the car will be shown as you drive by. Cover the entire car to ensure your decor is seen!

Sign and slogan ideas

You may want to create a message that’s a little more exciting than a simple “Happy birthday!”

  • Each car has a word: For this idea, you’ll need to coordinate with the cars to come up with a sentence to spell out. For example, 6 cars can each have a word of “Happy Birthday, Mary! We love you!” You can use your sign as a card by signing it and giving the person of honor your sign as you pass by. Make sure your signs are big enough to read. 
  • Quarantine queen: If your honk parade is due to quarantine or social distancing, you can use associated words for a fun slogan.
  • Honk for [person’s name]: This is pretty self-explanatory, but these signs encourage other drivers to get in on the fun as well. 
  • Theme related: Don’t forget to tie in your theme here! Signs can be held by the passengers of each car or taped onto the car as well. 

Drive-By Fun 

Even if you have an in-person party planned, a honk parade is a fun surprise that will make your loved one feel special. Be sure to collaborate with family and friends to create the perfect surprise. 

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