Today's birthday decorating ideas for adults are a sure way to create a fashionable celebration that will make the guest of honor feel special. 

When planning a party, I like to brainstorm three categories of decor to get my creative juices flowing. The result is a pulled-together look that elevates the occasion and guides my decorating purchases. 


Motifs are “a dominant idea or central theme”, a specific item that represents and/or personalizes the occasion and is repeated throughout the event. 

Ideally you should repeat a motif at least 5 times to establish prominence throughout the party area, or you may use multiple related motifs to establish a theme. 


The choices for icons are endless, but here are some popular suggestions for inspiration: 

  • Sweets
    • Cupcakes
    • Popsicles/Ice Cream
    • Gum drops
    • Bubble gum
    • Peppermints
    • Lollipops
    • Birthday cakes
  • Jewels/gems
  • Travel
    • Trains
    • Planes
    • Boats
    • Luggage
  • Gifts/presents
  • Hats
  • Tools
  • Flowers
  • Weather
    • Suns
    • Clouds
    • Moons
  • Drinks
    • Martinis
    • Champagne
    • Beer
    • Wine
  • Shoes
    • High heels
    • Cowboy boots
    • Tennis shoes
  • Animals
    • Birds
      • Owls
      • Flamingos
      • Pelicans
      • Sea gulls
    • Fish
      • Tropical
      • Sharks
      • Whales
      • Lobsters
    • Barnyard
      • Pigs
      • Ducks
      • Cows
      • Horses
    • Safari/Jungle
      • Lions
      • Elephants
      • Giraffes
      • Zebras
    • Bugs
      • Bees
      • Ladybugs
      • Ants
      • Butterflies
  • Food
    • Fruit/vegetables
    • Chili peppers
  • Plants
    • Cactus
    • Palm trees

The birthday boy or girl has many years of happy memories to celebrate, and incorporating the number into the decor and desserts always makes for a easy motif. 
  • Use digit candles on the cake, for example, for 24, use “2” and “4” candles
  • Offer bundles of “24" party favors
  • Arrange appetizers, cupcakes and/or drinks in the shape of "24" 
  • Alternately, use block letters of the guest of honor’s initials to make a personal impression without drawing attention to age
  • Make cookies shaped in numbers or letters 
  • For milestone birthdays, use lots of zeros
  • Use all numbers as your theme, with "24" highlights throughout

You may opt instead for a decorative pattern to weave many elements together, such as:

  • Circles/dots
  • Rectangles/Stripes
  • Chevrons/zigzags
  • Stars
  • Fleur-de-lis
  • Triangles
  • Card suits
    • Diamonds
    • Clubs
    • Hearts
    • Spades
  • Paisley
  • Damask
  • Animal print
    • Zebra
    • Cheetah
    • Leopard
    • Tiger
  • Plaid
  • Greek Key
  • Houndstooth
  • Checkered
Incorporate the pattern into all of your decorations, including:
  • Invitations
  • Shaped confetti
  • Cake decorations
  • Hors d'oeuvres
  • Place settings
  • Napkins
  • Ceiling decorations
  • Favors
  • Banners 

Choose a color scheme as a foundation and guide for your birthday party decorating. Consider the birthday guest’s color preference, the background colors of the party area, and the availability of merchandise. 

Trendy or seasonal colors are generally easiest to find, and buying products from a single company may aid with color matching. Here are some broad color schemes that work well for any occasion: 


Use a single portion of the color spectrum to create a cohesive look without having to match everything exactly.This is also a good technique to create a specific look or mood. For example, use varying hues of each color:
  • Cheerful & fun: pink, yellow, orange
  • Cool & sophisticated: aqua, turquoise, blue, purple
  • Vibrant & energetic: red, red-orange, burgundy
  • Fresh & natural: From emerald to lime green
You can also take a monochromatic approach to blend varying hues of a single color. For example, the color “teal” can range from pastel bluish-greens to bold, dark greenish-blue. Incorporate as many different hues of “teal” as you can to create a unified look. 


Isolate your theme color(s) in a field of neutrals for a dramatic effect that makes the color pop. In addition, this will downplay colors that aren't exactly the same, although it’s quite effective for matching colors too! 

For example, use a pristine white tablecloth as a background with a table runner and dinner napkins in your theme color to make them really stand out. Replace other colors with your theme colors, when possible:
  • Pillows
  • Bathroom towels
  • Throws
  • Rugs
  • Even the light bulb in a corner lamp
Use the same technique with food and cake decorating by highlighting a color on a neutral background. For example, top a white cream cheese canape with a bright red pepper.


An excellent strategy for birthdays is to pack in a variety of colors to create a festive atmosphere that is whimsical and calculated. 

The key is balance; choose a “background color” that will serve as the unifying hue, then give other colors equal visual weight by spreading them out evenly over the decorative surfaces. 

Choose the basic direction of your color palette or let your decorations be your guide. Popular combinations include:
  • Primary: red, blue, yellow, green, orange, purple
  • Pastel: light pink, light green, light blue, lavender, pale yellow
  • Trendy: hot pink, teal, purple, orange, lime green, gold

Ideally, your motif and colors all come together to support your theme and there are endless options for themes, as well. In fact, I plan to devote an entire future post on birthday decorating theme ideas for adults.

Don't be afraid to add a grown-up twist to traditional children's themes for a fun party that is still adult. The contrast will be a unique experience for many, just be sure to avoid cheap decorations. For example, mini rubber ducks in martinis or a talking Sponge Bob Square Pants dinner centerpiece will probably be a first for most in an adult setting.

But, for now, here are three of my favorite themes for a birthday party dinner: 

Gourmet Chef

Whether the guest of honor is a chef extraordinaire or just likes good eating, this theme is apropos. For this theme, I use a combination of foods and chefs as motifs, as well as a black & white checkered pattern. 

For the color scheme, I use a neutral background to create a dramatic contrast with a primary color of red, black & white check pattern, and brightly colored vegetable candles.

In this photo:
  • Chef Centerpiece
  • Chef Salt & Pepper Shakers
  • Vegetable Candles
  • Black Check Beverage Napkins
  • Red Metallic Party Beads
  • Red Metallic Tomato Confetti
Some other items that work well with a chef and food theme:
  • French Pastry Toothpick Holder
  • Empty wine bottles bearing lit Realistic Wine Cork Candles
  • Birthday Party Confetti - Cakes & Streamers
  • Cupcake Salt & Pepper Shakers
  • Assorted Cheeses Spreaders and Cutters
  • Burgundy Grapevine String Lights
  • 11” Metal Wine Goblet Tealight Holders 
Whimsical Birthday

Whimsical “birthday” decorations are universally pleasing and will delight people of all ages. For this theme, I use a primary motif of cupcakes with a bright multi-color scheme.

In this photo:
  • Cupcake Canisters
  • Leopard Base & Peppermint Top Cake Stand
  • Cupcake Candles
  • Flocked Designer Birthday Presents
  • Pink Cupcake Salt & Pepper Shakers
  • Multi-colored Metallic Party Beads
  • Multi-colored LED Ice Cubes
  • Clear Eiffel Tower Vases
  • Multi-colored Flocked Curly Sprays
  • Birthday Party Confetti
Some other items that work well for a whimsical birthday theme:
  • Happy Birthday Balloon Yard Stake
  • Colorful Rainbow Paper Lanterns
  • Gifts on Tray Salt & Pepper Shakers
  • Glitterball Sprays in vases of colored water
  • Original Musical Flower Birthday Candle
  • Multi-colored Dots Confetti
  • Glittered Cupcake Electric String Lights 
  • Birthday Fever Beverage Napkins

Under the Sea

Exciting shapes and colors from creatures who call the ocean home cultivate a joyful birthday atmosphere with endless decorating possibilities. Using a monochromatic teal background color scheme, I use sea turtles as a primary motif with assorted sea shells.

In this photo:
  • Resin Sea Turtles
  • Tiger Cowrie Salt & Pepper Shakers
  • White Coral Chunk
  • Bleach Mud Starfish
  • Bleached Finger Starfish
  • Fox Conch Shell
  • Spider Conch Shell
  • Mexican Lion's Paw Shell
  • Melon Mollusk Shell
  • Baby Sea Turtle Beverage Napkins
  • Teal Metallic Party Beads
  • Teal Dots Confetti
Some other items that work well for an Under the Sea birthday theme:
  • Sea Turtle
    • Sea Turtle Votive Candle Holders
    • Sea Turtle Electric String Lights
    • Sea Turtle Shaped Soap
  • Lobster
    • Lobster Chefs In Pot Salt & Pepper Shakers
    • Fresh Lobster Gingham Beverage Napkins
    • Lobster String Lights
    • Lobster Shaped Soap
  • Fish
    • Tropical Fish on Coral
    • Jellyfish Wind Chimes
    • Whimsical Tropical Fish String Lights
    • Shark Head & Tail Candles
    • Purple Triggerfish Shaped Soap
    • Bouncing Fish In Grass
Find these decorations and more birthday decorating ideas for adults at Let us know how hosting your next birthday event goes, and share YOUR perfect party planning tips!

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