Feeling guilty about forgetting your aunt’s 70th birthday? Or, on the flip side, tired of your iPhone buzzing every time some Facebook pal from your distant past has a birthday coming up?

Good news: it’s easy to set your iOS devices to give you ample warning before a friend or loved one’s big day.

Or, if you prefer, you can turn off automatic birthday reminders—handy if you’re sick of getting birthday alerts for former high school buddies, random business contacts, or anyone else whose birthday party you’d rather skip.

Note: In order for your iPhone to remind you of any birthdays at all, you’ll need to make sure you’ve filled out the “Birthday” field for your various contacts in the Contacts app.

Our first stop is the iPhone’s Calendar app. Open it up, then tap the Calendars button in the upper-right corner of the screen.

iPhone birthday alert settings

You can set your iPhone to automatically remind you of birthdays by tweaking your calendar settings—or, if you wish, you can turn off birthday alerts altogether.

Scroll to the bottom of the Calendars page, and you’ll find a “Birthdays” calendar under the “Other” heading. If you want reminders on your iPhone for the birthdays of all your contacts, your first step is to make sure the “Birthdays” calendar is checked. Don’t want to see any birthdays listed in the iPhone’s Calendar app? Then tap “Birthdays” to un-check it.

If you’ve connected your iPhone to your Facebook account (which you can do by tapping Settings, Facebook, and then keying in your username and password), you’ll also see a “Birthdays” calendar listed under the “Facebook” heading. Again, make sure you’ve got the “Birthdays” calendar for Facebook checked if you want birthday reminders for your Facebook pals—or unchecked if you don’t.

Next, open the Settings app on your iPhone, tap “Mail, Contacts, Calendars,” scroll down to the Calendars section, then tap Default Alert Times. You should see three options: Birthdays, Events, and All-Day Events.

Tap Birthdays, then pick a default time for birthday reminders: on the same day, the day before, two days before, or a week before. Don’t want to be bothered with birthday alerts? Then pick “none.”

Don’t forget that you can pick a style (anything from unobtrusive banners to show-stopping alerts) for your all Calendar reminders, including those for impending birthdays. Click here to learn how.

Bonus tip

Are you syncing your iPhone with iCal on your Mac through iCloud? If so, keep in mind that iCal has its own settings for automatic birthday alerts on your Mac desktop.

  • Open iCal on your desktop, click the iCal menu in the top-left corner of the screen, click Preferences, then click the Alerts tab.
  • Next, cycle through your various calendar accounts (iCloud, Google, Yahoo, etc.) by choosing an option from the pull-down menu.
  • Finally, pick a settings for automatic birthday alerts by clicking the Birthdays pull-down menu.