teen girl posing in front of a carousel in smithville, new jerseyEvery teen girl knows that a sixteenth birthday is a big deal! Going all out for your sweet 16 has been a long-lived tradition, and also something that covid put a major damper on. But, that honestly doesn’t have to ruin the celebrating. Whether you can’t have a full blown party OR you’re just looking for some different and creative ways to have fun, here are my top tips on how to celebrate your sweet 16 birthday without a big party.

Book an adventurous sweet 16 photoshoot with pro hair and makeup styling

Oh, you all knew this was coming first! Being a teen photographer, I’ve seen how much fun girls have with doing a professional photoshoot for their sweet 16. Whether you decide to do it for yourself or include some friends, it’s bound to be a blast.  When you book a sweet 16 photoshoot with me, you have the option to also have professional hair and makeup done so you don’t have to stress about getting ready. Before your shoot, we’ll chat about outfits, the vibe you want for your session, and locations. During the shoot, it’s all about YOU! I like to make it an adventure and a fun experience.  Wherever we go, it’s not JUST about pretty pictures. It’s ALSO about making memories and capturing your authentic self! If posing makes you nervous, I am an expert at getting you comfortable in front of the camera by giving you fun prompts and movements to do.  This creates fun and candid moments! We’ll also play your favorite music on my bluetooth speaker to set the vibes. You’ll leave feeling like a Free People model: wildflowers in your hand, breeze in your hair, skipping around on the beach.teen girl in the middle of a white path holding a brown hat wearing a white dress

Fly somewhere for the weekend with your best friends to celebrate your sweet 16 birthday

Get up and go!!! Flying somewhere epic for the weekend with a few friends is an awesome sweet 16 idea without having a big party.  Whether you decide to head to a city or somewhere warm, there’s lots of fun places to explore.  If you’re on the East Coast like me, heading down to Florida for some sun or going to New York City for shopping and site seeing are just two ideas that would make a sweet 16 trip amazing.  And, they’re not super far so you won’t spend too much of your time traveling!  This idea is one of my favorites because sometimes the best memories are made with just a few of your closest friends!

teen best friends at the beach during sunset. playing in the water eating, pineapple and mango

Have a sweet spa day instead of a big party

If you are someone who loves to be pampered, this is a really fun idea for your sweet 16.  Head to a high-end spa with a few of your besties and schedule a facial, massage, mud bath and mani/pedi! It’s all about girl time! When you’re booking a spa day, make sure to read reviews online and visit their website to see photos of what it looks like. The atmosphere is everything! Some spas even have showers and steam rooms, which up-level the experience as well!

Plan a sweet 16 beach bash

If your birthday is in a warmer month, planning a beach bash is an easy party idea! You don’t have to worry about a venue, seating or entertainment. Rent or buy a canopy, order tons of food or have your party catered, and spend the whole day in the sun and waves with your friends. Make sure to bring lots of fun floats and a few surf boards or paddle boards to venture in the ocean with. Snuggle up and watch the sunset, and keep a cooler of ice cream nearby. There are tons of cute ideas on Pinterest for beach parties and you can check out mine here! Make a mood board while you’re planning yours!

Celebrate in nature with a camping or glamping night for your sweet 16 party

Sleepovers are fun, sleepovers in tents are even better! Either head into middle of the woods to see the best stars of your life, take the “glamping” route, camping can be an adventurous way to celebrate your sweet 16. Make sure to be prepared for anything that comes your way: a tent cover in case it rains in the middle of the night, LOTS of wood for an endless bonfire, and of course everything you’ll need for s’mores! I’ve made a Pinterest board full of cute camping and glamping ideas for your sweet 16. It includes decor inspo, food and game ideas. Check it out here!

teen girls sitting by a bonfire roasting marshmallows and making s'mores

Lastly, host an outdoor mini formal dance night for your sweet 16

Since a lot of schools have cancelled prom, host a mini prom night in your backyard for your very own Sweet 16 dance! Send out pretty invitations (make sure to include a dress code like, “formal attire” or “semi-formal”). Hire a DJ or create an amazing playlist, string fairy lights all over the yard, and set up a buffet for fun food or snacks that will last all night long. You could even make it a themed dance such as “50’s retro” or “Cinderella’s ball”. Once again, make a Pinterest board to organize your ideas into one mood board. It will help you narrow down the vibe you want, and also details like food and decor.

teen girl wearing pink and green prom dress, twirling in a park

Let’s be bff’s! Follow me on the ‘gram: @nicole.mariephotography OR head to my website at www.nicole-marie.co 

  1. Kirstin says:

    Such a cute blog and good ideas! I would love to do all of these things for my sweet 16!

  2. Briana says:

    I love your photo shoot idea… My oldest daughter had an amazing sweet16 formal with a horse carriage ride to and magic show for entertainment. She even got a car! My next in line is Rhea’gan.. she’s going to be 16 on September 20th and since her sister’s event she’s continuously claimed to not want a big celebration. I feel as if that’s somehow changed. Photo shoot it is… any suggestions on.. well .. anything? We’re in Columbia Tennessee… about an hour from Nashville

    • A horse and carriage ride! That sounds amazing, I bet it was a blast! For photoshoot suggestions, I recommend going on Instagram and searching hashtags like #nashvillephotographers or #nashvilleseniorphotos, etc. There, you’ll most likely find the best photographer near you with a style that you’ll love! They’ll be able to suggest locations and help you plan. Some girls choose to do a sweet 16 photoshoot with a bunch of their friends and that makes it even more fun. Have the girls pick a color scheme of 2 or 3 colors and stick within that style and palette for their outfits. Hope that helps! Happy almost birthday to Rhea’gan! September birthdays are the best…mine is on the 21st!

  3. Masha Basil says:

    Dear Sir/Ma’am,
    I hope that you are doing well. My name is Masha Basil and I am the marketing manager at Holiday Keepers.
    We are very keen to collaborate with you on a sponsored post or get a mention on your existing pages to a vacation rental platform in the USA.
    In exchange, we are more than happy to have a commercial arrangement to get this done.
    Looking forward to hearing from you and taking this forward.
    Thanks and Regards
    Masha Basil

  4. Dawn M. Smith says:

    Hi my name is Dawn Smith and my daughter is turning 16 and i’m wanting to have her pictures taken in and around Ocean City, NJ. We vacation in Ocean City every year and are planning on being their week of July 9 – July 15. I was wanting to have beach pictures, some on the boardwalk, maybe at bay, 9th street bridge, around town, and any other location that would be unique.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *