How to throw an A+ graduation party

February 15, 2021Lauren Windle

With a little advance planning, pulling together a fabulous and fun graduation party this spring can be a blast!

First things to consider:

  • First and foremost – who will be invited? If we’re talking friends and family, make sure your plans – from venue to time-of-day – will be suitable for grandma as well as your kid’s classmates.
  • Involve the graduate in the planning. S/he will definitely have some ideas that should be considered.
  • If it’s a high school or college reception, think about holding a late afternoon-into-evening party. That way, family members can come with well-wishes during the mid-afternoon, and partying teens and/or twenty-somethings can have the place to themselves later in the evening.
  • Set a realistic budget, especially if you will be renting a venue, and hiring a caterer and a DJ.

Next up: Set up your guest list

  • The larger your potential crowd, the more important this is.
  • If you are considering a backyard affair, make sure you consider through-house traffic. (Fifty guests will make an average of 100 trips in and out of the house for bathroom visits, for instance.)
  • 50 to 100+ people will likely mean a venue other than your yard. That could mean anything from a clubhouse to an indoor or outside venue.
  • Factor in those “plus ones.” That means student’s friends may want to bring a date, your boss will come with his/her spouse, and so forth. Make sure you invites are clear as to who can come (i.e., are little kids welcome?)

Choose a time, date and location

  • Pick a date. Weekends get filled up quickly, so if you are leaning toward a Saturday or Sunday, choose the date early and send “save the date” e-vites.
  • Want to ramp the party up? Choose a Friday or Saturday evening.
  • Want to keep things tamer? Sunday afternoons can be lovely.
  • Consider an outside venue. Especially in the spring/summer, this can be a brilliant way to keep costs down, respect the uncertainty of evolving COVID restrictions, and allowing for ample parking.
  • If you have a large backyard, absolutely think about renting a tent. Not only does this add instant class to a backyard event, but it also protects guests from the sun and provides a natural place to sit down and eat.
  • Need venue ideas? Ask us! We know a lot about places around town – probably a few that may not even be on your radar screen!

Consider what you want to serve

  • The type of party food you serve is so important. It can make or break a party.
  • Hand-held, easy to eat food is great for mid-day – especially in warmer weather.
  • Have options so that guests on diets or those with restrictions can all find something they like.
  • Sit down dinners make a statement. So do bold, non-traditional and creative food choices.
  • Choose a caterer – and ask for options. You can ask for everything to be cooked, laid out and served… or pans of entrees delivered or picked up – and ready to go.
  • Having the food catered -- no matter how you decide to do it – can be a great way to cross one worry off your list. Just enjoy your guests!

Pick a theme

  • School colors are easy to work around – but traditional.
  • Consider a fun, upbeat theme you can build music and décor around, building from the college or state the graduate will be headed, or if your graduate is taking a year to go abroad – wrap the theme around that.
  • Other themes include “Change the World,” “The Sky’s the Limit,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” – you get the idea. Again, make sure your graduate is on board with the theme.
  • Be sure to use the theme in everything from décor to food. You’ll make the event more interesting and tie things neatly together.
  • Start putting together memory boards for your student, finding theme décor, and creating invitations. (Send those out about a month in advance).
  • Next, have someone set up your music play list. Your student is probably all over this one!
  • Make sure you have a sound system that works for your venue, from speakers to electrical output. Many outdoor venues have restrictions when it comes to music levels, and when boisterous music and partying needs to come to a close. (Especially important if your yard is your venue!)

Back up plans

“What happens ‘if’…” is a huge consideration – especially with young people. It happens. Guests get injured. Someone gets drunk. Somebody gets in a fight. For instance, what is the back up plan if:

  • It rains
  • A guest becomes too intoxicated to get safely home
  • Someone shows up uninvited and causes trouble
  • Something important like keys or phone gets lost
  • There is a minor injury
  • A guest inadvertently hits someone else’s car coming or going

The idea is – stuff happens. So be prepared. Know where the party will go in case of rain. Have a designated driver on hand. Make sure you have emergency numbers loaded on your phone. Have a first aid kit nearby. Know which of your guests has medical experience.

The best parties are well planned-out, with no surprises from food to venue – to music – right up to the very end. We’d love to help make that happen for your graduate. Let’s talk!

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