What Exactly is a Bed Party?

By Lucy Karp

For those who decide to commit to college a celebration of their acceptance is inevitable: Flowers from neighbors, balloons from grandparents and bed parties? 

Bed parties are a new phenomenon that started in 2020 throughout TikTok and other social media platforms. Bed decorating allows teens to publicly celebrate their enthusiasm for their university and share the news with friends on social media. Bed parties consist of lettered balloons, loads of college merchandise, blankets, themed snacks that match the colors of their school, and if they’re lucky, a bedazzled champagne bottle complete with their college logo in the middle. 

The process is pretty straightforward: the main contact or closest friend of a teen gets in touch with a circle of friends to invite them to the bed decorating. Each friend is in charge of one aspect of the decorating from the balloons to themed snacks. They arrive around 30 minutes before the college-bound teen gets home to set up the decorations. The friends surprise the teen, and immediately indulge in the patterned cupcakes or college cake. The teen poses on their bed surrounded by their college spirit to post on instagram, and share with family members. 

Sadie Karp, 19, a sophomore at Washington University in St Louis Missouri shared her experience with her bed party her friends threw her 2 years ago. (The author interviewed her sister and mother for perspective).

Q: Have you heard of a “bed party”? Can you describe it to me? 

A: A bed party is a celebration of somebody’s college acceptance and commitment and normally it is a surprise to the person it is for, so their friends will distract them while others set up the bed also sometimes there are gifts on there with lots of college merch. It’s a big celebration with food, friends, family, and sometimes they can be a bit showy in terms of everything that’s put on the bed. 

Q: How did you hear about bed parties? 

A: That’s a really good question that I am not completely sure the answer to. I think I probably saw people posting on Instagram and Snapchat, but there wasn’t a specific person that I associate it with. Probably my friends or mutual friends posting on social media. 

Q: Have you had a bed party or do you plan on having one when you commit to a college? 

A: I had a bed party thrown by my lovely friends and family. It was a great time. An awesome time. My friends celebrated my achievements, and my family got really good food and it was a really great way before the summer to see all of my friends in one place before we all went off to college to do separate things. They made my room look beautiful and I kept it up for a really long time. 

Sadie Karp’s bed party after her acceptance to Washington University in St. Louis.

Q: What do you think about this new phenomenon? 

A: I really appreciate the sentiment and I had a really great time having mine. That being said, they are incredibly expensive to do at times and not everyone has the resources to put on a big production like that. So you know, having a smaller scale bed party if that’s possible is a great idea. I think that part of a bed party is how flashy and showy it is, so that is just something to be considered when having one or throwing one for a friend. 

Q: How do you think bed parties will evolve in the coming years as college acceptances become more competitive? 

A: I honestly think they will stay mostly the same, maybe a bit more showy as more companies start to be created to celebrate colleges because it becomes so competitive that people feel the need to show it off so there will probably be more options and things to buy, but I don’t think the premise itself will drastically change. Also, one thing I did not stress enough was that bed parties are not just about the material things, it’s really a great time to hang out with friends and family and celebrate something and I think that’s something that can often be overshadowed by all the material goods on the bed. It should be a celebration and time spent with people you love and enjoy spending time with. 

Sadie Karp’s mother, Susan Karp, offers her perspective on college bed parties as a parent.

Q: How did you hear about bed parties? 

A: I saw it on social media and then I heard from my sister’s friend Suzanne who actually had older kids who had gone through it with their friends. 

Q: What do you think about this new phenomenon? 

A: I think if you are completely over the top it can be dramatic, but if you keep it tasteful and low key and not too expensive, you can help the kid celebrate what’s going to be an exciting point of their educational journey. 

Another image of Sadie at her bed party.

Q: What’s your perspective as a mother whose daughter had a bed party?

A: Sadie’s friends organized it and did all the work so I was happy to host. There wasn’t a lot of work involved for me and I think it’s great when the kids take responsibility and plan everything and do it for their friends because it shows their deep friendship. 

Q: How do you think bed parties will evolve in the coming years as college acceptances become more competitive? 

A: I think in the culture where everyone needs to one up each other that could lend to bed parties getting out of hand and that would actually be really sad if it’s about you know “keeping up with the Jones’s” and doing better than what you see on social media and trying to make it crazy. I think they should celebrate their relationship with their friends and the excitement for the next chapter of their journey and not how crazy expensive or fancy a bed party gets. That’s not what it’s about. I think as long as everything is kept in perspective it should be fun and celebratory and not meant as a um show of excess. 

High school senior at the Masters School in Hudson Valley, New York, Madeline Marlowe, has recently committed to Syracuse University. 

Q: Congratulations on your early decision acceptance to Syracuse University! Do you plan on having a bed party to celebrate? 

A: Yes I definitely plan on having one. I’m so excited to get more merch and yummy snacks. 

Q: What is your opinion on bed parties? 

A: I think they are an extremely cute idea. However, I can see that there is a line that makes it more dramatic or materialistic. Something that makes it so nice is how official a bed party is – everyone is celebrating because your friends planned your party. 

Q: How do you think bed parties will evolve in the coming years as college acceptances become more competitive? 

A: I think that bed parties could go two ways. First, they will become more exciting and a better reason to celebrate because college admissions are becoming more and more challenging. Second, they could actually become less common because people might not be as happy about where they’re ending up/that they don’t want to offend other people.