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40th Birthday Party Ideas

By an Award-Winning Professional Party Planner

Get ideas for party invitations, surprises, decorations, food & drink, and styling.

About This Site

If you're tired of the same old clichéd party ideas, and are looking for something more inspiring or just a little bit different, this site is packed with original and creative party ideas. I'm Matt James, an award-winning professional event planner who has produced events for many celebrities including Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Stella McCartney, among others. On this site I'll share professional tips, advice, and trade secrets—that anyone can do—in order to add some creative touches to your party or celebration; whatever your budget.

matt james

40th Birthday party Ideas

Below is my ultimate list of 40th birthday party ideas with lots of tips and suggestions for both men and women, including ideas for 40th birthday decorations, 40th birthday invitations, and 40th birthday gifts.

40th birthday party ideas

In This Section...

Birthday Party or Group Activity?

First decide whether you want to throw a 40th birthday party or get a group together for an activity.


Party Themes

Then choose whether you want to combine a theme with these 40th birthday party ideas.


Countdown Ideas

How to plan a few surprise 40th birthday party ideas that countdown to the big day.


40th Birthday Party Invitations

Ideas for 40th birthday party invitations that will fit with your party theme / concept.


40th Birthday Party Ideas: The day of the party

Ideas for how to make the party as personal as possible.


40th Birthday Party Decorations

Ideas for how to decorate for a 40th birthday party—at home or at a venue.


Food, Drink, and Styling

Tips and tricks to personalize the food, drink, styling, and presentation of your party.


Gifts, Cards, and Wrapping

Personalized gifts, card, and wrapping to compliment these 40th birthday party ideas.


40th Birthday Party v Group Activity

Turning 40 is a big deal. Some people embrace it, while others would prefer to ignore it. And not everyone wants a traditional 40th birthday party celebration with a party at home or at a venue.

So pause for a minute and consider which category the host falls into—then plan the type of celebration accordingly. If someone's feeling sensitive about turning 40, the last thing you want to do is plan a huge surprise party with lots of family and friends. Instead, they might prefer to get a smaller group of 5-10 friends together for some sort of group activity. Just going out for dinner doesn't feel special enough for a 40th birthday, so make it something out of the ordinary or a bit adventurous.

My approach to buying someone a birthday gift is always to choose something that they wouldn't ordinarily buy themselves—so that it feels like more of a treat or a luxury. I recomend taking the same approach when choosing how to celebrate their birthday. Organize something they'll enjoy, but is not something they do often (or have ever done before!). This will create unique memories associated with their milestone birthday!

escape death row experience
Escape from Death Row Experience
dude ranch adventure days
Dude Ranch Adventure Days
Zero Gravity Flight Experience
Zero Gravity Flight Experience

Nowadays, there are so many unusual group activties and experiences to choose from that lend themselves to a 40th birthday celebration. Examples include:

  • Escape from death row
  • plan a heist
  • Wilderness and survival workshop
  • Dude ranch adventure days
  • circus school days
  • stunt driving experiences
  • hiking with adoptable rescue dogs
  • custom perfume design workshop
  • beer / wine tasting and sailing
  • a cooking party with a private chef
  • navy seal training days
  • sunset balloon rides

For more 40th birthday party ideas and group activities, check out the links below. Personally, I hate to split these into 'ideas for men' and 'ideas for women'—which seems so sexist—but unfortunately most people tend to search for birthday ideas by gender. Therefore, if you don't find something of interest straight away, please do have a quick browse of the other gender page!


40th Birthday Party Themes

Celebrate the Person, not their Age

If you are throwing a traditional party at home or at a venue, make sure it's a party the birthday boy or girl will actually enjoy. I can't stand all those 40th birthday parties where the entire focus is on poking fun at their age. It's tedious, lazy, and unimaginative. And definitely avoid all those awful 40th Birthday party supplies you see everywhere like banners, balloons, and plastic tableware with the number 40 emblazoned all over them—they're just tacky. You really don't need to be that literal.

Instead, celebrate the person, not just their age! There are plenty of clever ways to incorporate the big 4-0 into the party theming and decorations, without it dominating. Just focus on making the party personal.

Other Party Themes

If you want to add a theme to your party, check out some of my other theme party pages by clicking on any of the icons below. These are fully designed parties with ideas for invitations, party food & drink, and decorations. They're designed with both kid's and adult parties in mind, so not all of the ideas will be relevant, but you might come accross some additional ideas to go with the specific 40th birthday party ideas below.

baseball party ideas
bowling party ideas
carnival theme party ideas
redneck party ideas
garden party ideas
7 deadly sins party ideas
wine tasting party ideas


Countdown Ideas

40 Messages from 40 Friends

This is a really thoughtful idea and I love it because it fits prefectly with the idea of celebrating the person and making their 40th birthday really personal. It takes a bit of planning, but it's worth it.

Make a list of 40 of the birthday boy or girl's friends, family, and co-workers and mail them these blank, pre-addressed and pre-stamped, postcards (which can be personalized for any age / milestone birthday). The postcards come with a 'directions card' that asks them to write a favorite memory, kind note, or birthday wish for the birthday boy / girl and mail them back in the week leading up to their 40th birthday party.

This idea is particularly usefull for including friends and family far away, who might not be able to attend the party, or for those that they're only in occasional contact with, such as old school friends. The birthday boy / girl will be really touched to hear from so many people in such as personal way. Be sure to ask people to make the message as personal as possible, whether lighthearted or heartfelt.

40 messages from 40 friends
40 messages from 40 friends

Another nice touch is to use these personalized photo stamps (below left). Upload 3 photos of the birthday boy or girl from different stages of their life, e.g as a baby, at college, and present day, and the personalized stamps will be shipped to you (USA only). Alternatively, this range of milestone birthday postcards, below center, also has matching postage stamps. Check them out here. Although this design doesn't come with the 'directions' card.

personalized postage stamps
40 messages from 40 friends
40 messages from 40 friends

A Gift Every Hour—at 40 mins past

Spread the love over the entire day! Rather than buy one big gift, choose 12-18 smaller presents so that they can open one every hour—at 40 minutes past the hour! How cute would it be to pack the birthday boy or girl off to work with a bag full of small gifts to open throughout the day? You could even drop them a message every hour to prompt them or even call to share their response to each gift.

The gifts themselves don't have to be expensive 'proper' gifts, they can just be fun little trinkets, things with sentimental significance, or something that invokes a particular memory. For example, a framed family photograph, a favorite childhood candy or hard to find food delicacy from their hometown, a video message from a long distance friend pre-loaded onto a tablet, or a coupon for a foot rub. Remember, try to make everything personal!

You can make this even more personal by using this personalized photo gift wrapping paper (below center left, other designs available). Just upload different photos of the birthday boy or girl throughout the years and it will be printed onto each sheet in a mosaic effect. Also, check out this supplier for tasteful gift tags, such as the ones below (lots more designs available). Attach one to each gift and write on the time they should open each one, i.e 10.40, 11.40, 12.40 etc.

a gift every hour wrapped and numbered gifts
Photo: Chai & Home
personalized photo gift wrapping paper
numbered gift tags
numbered gift tags

Friends & Family Birthday Card

I came accross this photo by Jessica Green that she made for her Dad's 70th birthday, but I think it's a great idea that can work for a 40th birthday too—or any age for that matter.

Just Google 'printable letters' to find some free templates that you can email to friends and family. Ask them to color their letter in (you might want to tell everyone which color to choose), take a photo against a light colored wall, and then email it back to you to arrange into one image.

This site has lots of options for turing the final image into a birthday card or canvas print (which you could then frame as a gift).

Discount Coupons: Click the link above for coupon codes for up to 30% off personalized cards, prints, and gifts. Or use code: SHIP39 for free shipping on orders $39+

happy 40th birthday family photo
Photo: Jessica Green

Alternatively, the same site above allows you to print the image onto any number of different gifts such as tote bags, pillows, phone cases, candles, and more. The 'group' photo of friends and family is such a sweet idea that it would be great to print it onto something they'll use a lot, such as a mug, dry erase board, or phone case. This site also has some nice photo-based gift options worth checking out.

personalized phone case
personalized candle
personalized photo white board
personalized photo mug


40th Birthday Party Invitations

Check out my seperate page of 40th Birthday Party Invitations for tips and suggestions.

40th Birthday Party Invitation photo collage
40th Birthday Party Invitation photo
40th Birthday Party Invitation martini glass
40th Birthday Party Invitation vinyl record


40th Birthday Party Ideas: The Big Day

40 Years of memories

Who writes personal letters anymore? No-one. That's what makes this idea so special.

Similar to the 40 Messages from 40 Friends idea above, this version by Holly at Nothing But Bonfires, focuses more on memories and friendships, rather than just birthday greetings, to celebrate '40 Years of Memories'. Have friends write a one page letter to the birthday boy or girl that recalls a memory they share—perhaps something funny about how they first met or something that really cemeted their friendship—the more nostalgic the better.

This is about celebrating the person's life through memories and anecdotes, and by having friends and family articulate what their friendship/relationship means to that person. Tell people it's fine to get a little gushy and sentimental—but humor works too! It's an oportunity to put down in writing things they might think but seldom say to the birthday boy / girl. That's what will make this really touching.

Unlike the postcards, I would gather all the letters up and present them to the birthday boy or girl as a gift at their 40th birthday party. I like the way they've been presented in the pictures below, you can pick up different styles of vintage airmail envelopes here to create something similar.

40 years of memories
40 years of memories

If you think it's going to be too difficult to co-ordinate this in advance or friends are going to be too flakey to actually sit down and right their letter in time, you can also set this up as an activity at the birthday party. You can have these printable memory cards customized with a photo collage on the reserve, then print off a stack and set up a table at the party for people to fill them in over the course of the evening. There's also a matching sign titled 'Take a Trip Down Memory Lane' with instructions for guests. Check them out here.

40th birthday memory cards
take a trip down memory lane 40th birthday party sign

40 Years in pictures

These personalized photo books are a great way to celebrate a 40 years in pictures. Rather than just creating one using your own photos, contact friends and family and ask everyone to send you a photo of the birthday boy or girl from their own photo collection—along with a short memory about the photo summed up in a few sentences. This way you'll get to include lots of photos that the birthday boy / girl might not remember (or have even seen before!). You could even contact people at the same time as asking them to write a letter for the '40 Years of Memories' above, so that you get memories as both words and photographs.

The photo books come with existing design templates and embellishments, like the ones shown below, so all you have to do is upload the photos, arrange them in order, and add you own text / memories. Check them out here.

Discount Coupons: Check here for coupon codes for up to 30% off photobooks and use code: SHIP39 for free shipping on orders $39+

40 years in pictures photo book
40 years in pictures photo book

40 Reasons We Love You

Another way to celebrate the person on their 40th birthday is to have everyone contribute a few words to this list of '40 Reasons Why We Love You'. You can buy a printable of the template here, which you can then scale to any size. You could set this up as a guestbook as people arrive at the party and have them handwrite their reasons. Alternatively, it looks just as good when the messages are typed, so you could have it prepared in advance and then present the birthday boy / girl with a framed copy as a birthday gift. You could also display it somewhere prominent at the party so that people can read what others have written, or read some of them out if you're planning to make a few speeches.

40 reasons why we love you template
40 reasons why we love you template
40 reasons why we love you framed

I've also seen this idea presented in different ways, such as labels on beer bottles served at the party (below left), displayed on pegs as 40th birthday party decorations (below center), or even in a jar presented to the birthday boy / girl (below right).

Creative Guest Books

These ideas for creative guest books are actually from weddings, but I think they're just as appropriate for making these 40th birthday party ideas personal and filled with great memories.

The first, below left, is to set up a large dictionary and ask each guest to leave a message highlighting a word that describes the birthday boy / girl. Then ask them to tag the page. Alternatively, if the birthday boy / girl has a particular hobby or interest, base your guest book around this. For example, guests might sign a special bottle of wine, a baseball bat, or a guitar. Finally, blow up a large photo of the birthday boy or girl, one that has plenty of space around the edges, and have people sign this.

polaroid guest books

Another way to create great memories of their 40th birthday party is to set up a polaroid photobooth. You can pick up the new modern Polaroid cameras quite cheaply here. Set up a chalk board with instructions for guests and ask everyone to stick their photo into a guest book and leave a message for the birthday boy / girl. Or you can get printable signs here, such as the one below center right (other designs available).

Alternatively, you could use the photos as part of the decorations by pegging them on to string on a display board.

Photo Messages

Another way to create a photo guest book is to have everyone write their birthday wishes onto a chalk board and hold this up in the photograph—which makes it more fun and interactive. Or you can pick up these chalkboard speech bubbles here.

video messages

A variation on this idea is to set up an area for guests to leave video messages for the birthday boy / girl. This will create some lovely memories to play back in future.

You can do this quite easily by just leaving a tablet set up with a tripod so guests can pop in and do it themselves. Be sure to leave instructions, like in the photos below, telling guests which button to press to start and stop the recordings and also give them an idea of what you want them to say. Just remember to set this up in a quiet area away from all the party noise; on the way in is usually a safe bet. Although sometimes the messages are more fun after everyone's had a few drinks!

You can pick up the tablet tripods here for around $25.

fan faces

These fan faces are a fun way to greet the birthday boy / girl when they arrive at the party—especially if it's a surprise 40th birthday party. I would suggest you get them made using a few different photos of the person, from different stages of their life, to make it more fun. Check them out here.

Discount Coupons: Use code: SZFREE39 for free shipping on orders $39+

bucket list: Things to do before you reach 50

Have party guests help to create a thoughtful and inexpensive gift by contributing suggestions for a bucket list of 'Things To Do Before You Reach 50. Use these bucket list suggestion cards (below left, 'retirement' can be changed to '40th birthday') for guests to write down ideas throughout the party and present them to the birthday boy or girl in a personalized keepsake box, such as the one below right which is only $25. Then, instruct them to keep the box of suggestions as a time capsule until their 50th birthday party, when they can open it and see how many they actually did.

Alternatively, if you don't want to present them in a box, just pick up one of these printable signs (below center, which can be personalized for a 40th birthday instead of retirement) and have guests drop suggestions into a tin bucket. Either way, if you're doing speeches, you could read some of the suggestions out or have the birthday boy / girl contribute some of their own ideas of things they want to do.

bucket list suggestion cards
bucket list sign
time capsule personalized wooden keepsake box

Photo Booth Props

Towards the end of the party, once people have had a few drinks and loosened up, bring out some photo booth props and frames to capture some more lighthearted memories of the party. See here for lots of different types of photo booth props.

instagram photobooth frame props
birthday party photobooth props
40th birthday party photo booth props

Hello My Name Is.....

These Hello My Name Is.... stickers are a fun ice breaker for birthday parties because they come with an addition field for guests to write in their 'Special Talent'. Check them out here.

hello my name is sticker badges
hello my name is sticker badges


40th Birthday Party Decorations

Buffet / Dessert Table Backdrops

I always think it’s a good idea to concentrate the majority of your party decorations around a dessert/buffet table/food station. This will create a focal point in the room. Decorations often have to compete with existing room decor so they can get a bit lost if spread too thinly. I think you’re far better off creating one really well themed feature wall—with great food presentation & styling—that everyone’s eye will be drawn to. You can then use a few general decorations around the rest of the room to tie everything together.

Check out my other page of Dessert Table Ideas which has lots of different ideas for backdrops, along with tips and suggestions for how best to construct, support, display, or hang them. Although the page is called 'Dessert Table Ideas', the same principle applies for buffet tables / food stations.

great gatsby dessert table
balloon dessert buffet table backdrop
bead curtain dessert  buffet table backdrop
baby shower dessert table

40 Years in Photos

This photo collage idea, below left by Kami at No Biggie, was actually to celebrate her parents 40th wedding anniversary, but I think it would work well as a wall display or dessert table backdrop for a 40th birthday party too. Just arrange photos of the birthday boy / girl from different stages of their life into a 40 shape—it's a great alternative to all those store-bought party decorations with 40 emblazoned on them which just look a bit cheap and tacky. This approach is much more personal and fits in nicely with the idea of celebrating the person, rather than just their age.

I particularly like the way the photos are mounted onto a chalkboard, which allows you to add more personalized scribbles surrounding the photos. You can achieve this look by using chalkboard contact paper available here, or even chalkboard paint. Alternatively, for something more permanent, check out various option here for having the 40th birthday collage made into a print, canvas, or digital file that you can print yourself, so that it doubles as a gift.

40th birthday photo collage
40th birthday photo collage
40th birthday photo collage

Another option is to have the photo collage applied to paper mache or wooden letters like these, below left, (available here as letters as well as numbers if you prefer to spell out their name) or onto these 24" hand held or 48" freestanding cut outs, below center, (letters or numbers) which are quite cost effective at only $12 or $25 respectively. Check them out here. Alternatively, you can get these giant 4ft high 3D letters, below right, from the same supplier to spell out the birthday boy or girls name. You could stick photos to them, paint them with chalkboard paint for guest to write messages on, or decorate them however you want. For the freestanding cut outs or 4ft 3D letters, use discount code: SZFREE39 for free shipping on orders $39+

40th birthday photo collage 3d wooden letters
40th birthday photo collage letters
4ft high 3d letter cut outs

Fun facts you may not know about.....

I came accross this tutorial for how to make a balloon chandelier for a bridal shower on Wedding Chicks and it gave me an idea for a fun way to customize this for a 40th birthday party. As well as attaching different photos of the birthday boy or girl from different stages of their life, on the back of each image you could include a 'Fun Fact You May Not Know About [insert name].' The fun facts could be obscure, trivial, or random things about the birthday boy / girl—embarassing gaffs, amusing anecdotes, favorite things, dislikes etc—anything that gives an insight into their character, as oppose to dry facts that people are likely to already know. This a great way to add a personal touch to the party decorations.

Personally, I think balloon arrangements look more chic and sophisticated when you use just one color of balloon, such as these pearescent ones here or these silver foil mylar balloons ones. You can also make these glow by popping one of these battery LED balloon lights inside. Alternatively, for something more lighthearted, check out the cool / rude / adult balloons in the decorations section below

balloon chandelier
balloon chandelier
photos hanging from balloons

facts you may not know about.....(version 2)

This tutorial about leaving surprise notes in unexpected places by Lauren at The Thinking Closet, got me thinking that you could also fill balloons with fun facts about the birthday boy / girl and then scatter them all over the floor for people to discover. Start each fact with 'Did You Know.....'

message in balloons
messages inside balloons
pop balloon to reveal message

This idea would work really well when executed as a balloon drop—if you're having dancing, do it over the dance floor. You can pick up a draw string balloon bag here for $7 dollars which will take up to 100 balloons. You could also pop an LED balloon light into each one, available from the same supplier, and, as before, consider making the balloons all one color.

Discount Coupons: Use code: SZFREE39 for free shipping on orders $39+

balloon drop net
led balloon lights

40 facts for 40 years

These photos of number-related facts about a couple on their 50th Wedding Anniversary, from Marta Writes, is another cute idea that can be repurposed for a 40th birthday party. I like the way they used them as decorations and it gives party guests something to do early on while waiting for everyone else to arrive. You could display facts about the birthday boy / girl, relating each one to a number from 1 - 40, or you could display facts about the year they were born that relate to each number.

40 facts for 40 years birthday party decorations
40 facts for 40 years birthday party decorations

Alternatively, you can have various posters containing facts about the year of their birth personalized. Many of these, available here, are printable files so you can print as many off as you want and use them as party decorations. These often work well when presented on an easel, as in the photo below right, and displayed anywhere there might be a line, such as near the bar, coatcheck, buffet table, bathrooms etc or at the entrance to the party.

40th birthday facts
40th birthday facts
40th birthday facts


Another easy way to decorate for a 40th birthday party is simply to peg photos of the birthday boy / girl—arranged chronologically through the years—onto string or ribbon and use these as garland banners. Lots of people do this for kid's birthday parties, but it can be quite fun to do for a 40th birthday party because guests often won't have seen pictures of them as a baby, toddler, child, teenager, student, etc. You're probably better off scanning any original photos and printing copies off onto cardstock using your home printer so as not to risk them getting damaded.

If you're displaying these indoors, peg the photos onto these photo clip LED string lights for a lovely decorative glow. Alternatively, you could arrange them on a display board and use it as a backdrop to the bar / dessert table as in the example below right.

Another way to use photographs as decorations is to turn them into these custom photo garland banners (below left). Again, I would suggest using a selection of photos from different stages of the birthday boy or girl's life. Alternatively, you can get a range of different banners for milestone birthdays that spell out different phrases (below right). Check them out here.

custom photo face banner decorations
40th birthday banners


These letter and number balloons are a great way to decorate the entrance to the party, or to use as a backdrop to bars and food tables. Use them to spell out things like 'welcome', the birthday boy / girl's name, the year of their birth, their age; 40 or forty, phrases such as 'forty & fabulous', 'cheers', or just 'happy birthday'. Warning: I would suggest you don't buy these from sellers on Amazon. There have been so many reports of poor quality balloons that have holes in, tear easily, arrive in the wrong color, or the seams splits when inflated. Instead, I would suggest you get them here—the suppliers are far more reliable.

giant letter balloons
giant letter balloons
giant number balloons

Photo lanterns

These photo lanterns were created by Party Perect Orlando for a client's 60th, but it's the type of party decoration that could be used for any milestone birthday. You can pick up cheap lanterns and LED candles here, then follow this tutorial by Gladys at The Mother Overload for how to insert the photos. As with the other photo-based party directions, I recommend using a different photos of the birthday boy / girl from different stages of their life. Display them on plinths, bars, and buffet tables, as centerpieces, or to line the entrance to the party.

40th birthday party photo lanterns
40th birthday party photo lanterns
40th birthday party photo lanterns

Photo luminaries

Check out this tutorial from Our Best Bites for a similar idea for photo luminaries which you could also use as 40th birthday party decorations. You just print photos of the birthday boy / girl onto sheets of velum using your home printer and then apply to glass jars with double sided tape. There's a great example, below right, from Perfect Party Orlando who used these to create table decorations for a 50th birthday party.

photo luminaries
photo luminaries table decorations

Photo cone hats

Have photo cone hats created for guests to wear by uploading photos of the birthday boy / girl here. Again, use at least 3 different photos from different stages of their life (but only one photo per hat, just do 3 seperate orders). Personally, I think these look best with just the photo, preferably in black and white, so I would suggest not adding any text to the design. Check them out here.

Discount Coupons: Use code: SZFREE39 for free shipping on orders $39+

photo cone hat
photo cone hat

Big Head Cut Outs

These 'Biggest Fan' big head cut outs are typically used for sporting and homecoming events, but I think they could be used as decorations for a 40th birthday party. They're 36" high and if you order 2 or more they're only $18. Print several using photos of the birthday boy / girl at different stages of their life then hang on walls, on string from the ceiling, or lining the drive/walkway up to the entrance. You can also use them again for photo ops later on in the party. Full body life size cut outs are also available. Check them out here.

Discount Coupons: Use code: SZFREE39 for free shipping on orders $39+

big head photo cut outs
big head photo cut outs

Alternatively, you can get half-body cut outs here with optional heavy duty stakes so you can use them as yard signs to decorate the entrance to your party.

custom life size cut outs milestone birthdays
custom life size cut outs
custom life size cut outs milestone birthdays

cool Balloons

These cool balloons, printed with funny or adult slogans, are a great way to make traditional party decorations a bit grown up. There are a number of age-related slogans too, so they're perfect for a 40th birthday party. Check them out here.

lets party bitches funny balloons
too late to die young funny balloons
not today satan funny balloons
hot tramp I love you so funny balloons

If you have a darker sense of humor like me, there are also some funny rude balloons, such as these ones below (more sayings available). Check them out here. (Note: the Happy F'ing Birthday balloon below is not censored, just the photo is).

funny balloons
funny adult balloons
funny balloons
funny balloons


40th Birthday Party Food

Party Food

Check out my Pinterest boards for 40th birthday party food ideas, including sweet and savory ideas both hot and cold.

birthday party food
birthday party food

buffet table Styling & Presentation

Ever wonder why your own party food never ends up looking anything like the inspiration you found on Pinterest? Check out my Buffet Table Ideas page for a few simple food styling and presentation tips to give party food a professional look.

party food presentation ideas
buffet table styling & presentation
buffet table styling & presentation

Party Drinks

If you're throwing a party at home for a milestone birthday, you have to work a little harder to make sure it feels like a special occasion and not just any other house party or get together you might host throughout the year. The easiest way to achieve this is through attention to detail; add a few personalized touches to the most common party elements.

A really easy way to theme party drinks for a 40th birthday party is to have personalized beer, wine, or spirits labels made. There are lots of different designs available, many which allow you to upload a photo, and some are available as printable files so you can run off as many as you like at home. Identical bottles will look great lined up on a bar or drinks table and it's a really simple touch you can add to make everything feel a little more special. Check out this site for the full range.

personalized beer bottle labels milestone birthday party
personalized wine bottle labels
personalized wine bottle labels 40 and fabulous
personalized wine bottle labels

personalized napkins

At a crowded party with lots going on, it's often the clever little touches and smaller details that people tend to remember; things they touch, handle, or interact with. Continuing with the theme of 'making it personal', these personalized paper napkins can be a fun way to include fun facts about the birthday boy/girl (below left) or communcate an event-specific hashtag for guests to share photos and tweets (below center). There are lots of different designs available and you can change the text to whatever you want. For more info, see my Party Drink Ideas page.

personalized paper cocktail napkins fun facts
personalized paper cocktail napkins aged to perfection
personalized paper cocktail napkins milestone birthday party

Personalized Coasters

Similarly, you can also get personalized drinks coasters, such as the ones below. For more info, see my Party Drink Ideas page.

personalized drinks coasters milestone birthday
personalized drinks coasters
personalized drinks coasters birthday

Personalized paper plates

These personalized paper plates, where you can upload photos of the birthday boy/girl and arrange them into different collages, are a far more sophisticated alternative to all those tacky store-bought 40th birthday party supplies emblazoned with 4-0. See here for the full range of designs.

personalized photo collage birthday party paper plates
personalized photo party paper plates
personalized photo collage birthday party paper plates

Photo Cake Toppers

I love these photo cupcake toppers! They look so cool when identical cupcakes are arrange en-masse on a dessert table. Alternatively, use several different photos of the birthday boy/girl, as per the example below center. Again, it's a simple little touch but is guaranteed to make guests smile. Check them out here.

40th birthday party photo cupcake toppers
40th birthday party photo cupcake toppers
40th birthday party photo cupcake toppers
40th birthday party photo cupcake toppers full length body

Cake Toppers

These silhouette style cake toppers are a great way to personalize a 40th birthday cake. There are lots of different styles and designs available, including ones that incorporate the birthday boy / girls's name with their favorite sports or hobbies, or you can go for a more funny photo-based topper. See the full range here. Alternatively, I love these hand-sculpted cartoon figure style toppers (below far right), that are made from a photo of the birthday boy / girl, surrounded by things that represent their lives. Check out other examples here.

personalized cake toppers for adults
May the 40th Be With You cake topper
40th birthday photo face cake topper
40th birthday cartoon figure cake topper

Alternatively, you can easily create a beautiful photo cake like the ones below by using these custom edible picture icing sheets which you can then apply to any cake. As before, use lots of different pictures of the birthday boy /girl throughout their life. Check out the icing sheets here.

milestone birthday photo birthday cake
Photo: Cake Decor
milestone birthday aged to perfection photo birthday cake
Photo: Style at Life
custom edible picture icing sheets

Custom cookie cutters

What better way to make it personal than with these custom face cookie cutters made from a photo of the birthday boy or girl! As well as baking a batch of cookies, you could also use them on sandwiches, cheese slices, or fruits such as watermelon. Alternatively, pop them into celophane bags and give them out as party favors. Check them out here.

custom face cookie cutters
custom face cookie cutters

Alternatively, if you're not one for baking you can buy these cartoon-style cookies made from a photo of the birthday boy / girl. Check them out here.

custom cartoon face portrait cookies
custom cartoon face portrait cookies
custom cartoon face portrait cookies

Retro Candy

For a 40th birthday party, a fun addition to the dessert / buffet table would be retro candy from the birthday boy or girl's childhood. You can buy either a selection box for a particular decade or individual candies. If you're choosing a decades pack, remember to think about what year they would have been around 8-10 years old. For example, if they were born in 1978, you're probably better off getting a 1980's selection box as they'll have more memories of those candies than of ones where they were only 2 years old. Check out the full range here.

Alternatively, you can have these printable candy bar wrappers made here using a photo of the birthday boy / girl and just attach them to regular bars.

retro candy milestone birthday party
personalized 40th birthday party candy bar wrappers


40th Birthday Gifts, Cards, and Wrapping

Personalized gift wrapping supplies

This site has a great range of gift wrapping supplies, such as gift wrap, ribbon, and tags, which can be personalized with photos of the birthday boy / girl. You can add multiple images to some designs, like the photo collage wrapping paper below left, so use differet photos of them through the years.

custom photo collage gift wrapping paper
personalized gift wrapping paper
personalized photo gift wrapping ribbon
personalized photo collage gift wrapping tag

custom bobbleheads

These custom bobbleheads, made from a photo of the birthday boy / girl, are a fun gift for a 40th birthday. Check them out here.

custom bobbleheads
custom bobbleheads
custom bobbleheads
custom bobbleheads

Wish Flowers

These boquets of paper 'Wish Flowers' are a beautiful way to give a personal, meaningful, and lasting 40th birthday gift. Similar to book page flowers, but each flower is made with pages full of a word (and definition) that you choose. For a 40th birthday gift you could celebrate the person by choosing words that celebrate their admirable qualities and postive characteristics—to communicate how you see them e.g 'compassionate', 'wise', 'inspiring' etc. Each boquet has 12 flowers on 9" stems. Check them out here.

paper wish flowers
paper wish flowers
paper wish flowers

for geeks and nerds

Check out this site for loads of really original 40th birthday gifts for geeks and nerds. There's everything from Han Solo in Carbonite mini beer fridges, Star Trek phaser TV remote controls that let you blast your TV to change channel, and cloth-bound box sets of A Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) books, to tech gadgets such as this retro mechanical wireless keyboard for tablets or computers. They have unusual products for all the big movie and tv shows, such as Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Marvel, DC Comics, Breaking Bad etc.

40th birthday gifts han solo carbonite mini beer fridge
40th birthday gifts Star Trek phaser TV remote control
40th birthday gifts A Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) box set of books
40th birthday gifts retro mechanical wireless keyboard for tablets or computers

T shirts

These 40th birthday T-shirts make great gifts, but as I've mentioned previously, avoid the corny ones that just poke fun at their age and pick ones that celebrate it. This site has the best range, but it's also worth browsing here too for some other cool designs.

40th birthday t shirt
40th birthday t shirt
40th birthday t shirt
40th birthday t shirt


Another way to give an original gift is to buy them a unique experience—perhaps something you know they have expressed an interest in but have never actually done, such as race car driving or cage diving with great white sharks!

40th birthday gift experiences stunt car driving
Stunt Car Driving
40th birthday gift experiences take a ninja training class
Take a Ninja Training Class
40th birthday gift experiences create your own perfume
Create Your Own Signature Perfume
40th birthday gift experiences golf lesson with a pro
Have a Unique Song Written & Recorded For You

Some examples include:

  • have a unique song written & recorded for you
  • drive a nascar
  • experience stunt driving
Find These Activities & more here
  • TAKE a private DJ lesson
  • create your own signature perfume
  • TAKE a Ninja training class
  • learn to ride a rodeo bull
  • TAKE Improv comedy classes
  • rent a harley davidson
Find These Activities & more here

Not all activities are available in every city, but to check availability in your area, click on one of the links above. Between these two sites, you should be able to find something cool.

photo gifts

This site has a great range of personalized photo gifts, everything from pillow and flip flops, to laptop cases and journals. It's a great way to create something really personal using all the photo's you've collected of the birthday boy / girl at different stages of their life. See the full range here.

photo collage cushion pillow
photo collage flip flops
custom photo collage computer case cover
photo collage notepads
Don't Forget

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Click here to check out my Facebook page or follow my boards on Pinterest.

matt james

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Many thanks


40th birthday party ideas

About Matt James

is a professional event planner and owner of event agency Left Field Productions, which has produced events for Elton John, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kevin Spacey, Stella McCartney, David LaChapelle, John Waters, and Elvis Costello & Diana Krall. Since 2004, Left Field Productions has won 30 industry awards for excellence including Production Company of the Year.

matt james


  • 40th Birthday Party Ideas

    by an award-winning professional party planner