Wow, what an open ended question. Our firm specializes in helping people plan milestone celebrations like Sweet 16s, Baby Showers, etc. We've seen it all, and some of it is outrageous.
In some cultures, the age of 16 represents a transition to adulthood, a "coming out" or introduction to the more mature world the young lady is entering. In some situations, it's has religious tie-ins.
When advising clients, I tend to recommend that the Parent's style and personality be combined with the guest of honor's. There are ways to host a celebration like this without having it turn into an overly commercial, overly gaudy event. Specific ideas:
- If the birthday girl already has her material needs met, recommend guests bring donation(s) to a favorite charity or organization (like a food bank, or shelter). Encourage the guests to really put the same energy into the donation gift as they would have a regular gift. Then, after the event, have the Birthday Girl deliver these gifts to the charity, and have her write thank you notes to the folks who made the donation possible. My own son just did something similar for his birthday, and I have to tell you the experience for him was awesome!
- Make the birthday celebration "activity" oriented. The real gift of the event then becomes the memories that are made. Do something unusual (indoor sky diving, rent a classy pool hall & throw a fun party, etc.) Her guests will remember the day as a day of fellowship, not of gifts and such.
In terms of decorating about the event, we just published a hub page relating to decorating and planning ideas for a Sweet 16 birthday - hope it helps!