There are few better reasons in life to throw a party than a high school or college graduation. Everyone is out of school, summer has arrived, and your family, your grad, and their friends are experiencing a momentous life experience and change.
The last thing you want though, is for hosting a party to turn stressful. Read on for our ideas how how to put together your celebration, from where to spend your budget, what to DIY, how to plan for food and drink, and how to spread the word with invites.
Prioritize and set your budget
Maybe you want to go all out for your kid before they leave the nest, or maybe you’re working with more limited funds. Either way you go, you can plan a great event, but you want to plan ahead. A good general rule is to spend approximately 60% on food and drink, 25% on serveware, including cups or glasses, flatware, and serving dishes, and 15% on decor.
Find creative ways to save money
Prioritizing your budget helps you think through what you can DIY and save, and what is going to save a headache by hiring out or renting. For example, renting dishes, glasses, and servingware will cost you a bit more, but you may decide to prioritize funds here and skip all the dishes (you can return rented items without washing). Or, you may decide you’d rather simply both save money and skip clean-up by buying compostable — and disposable — plates and flatware.
Your grad may want to host their party jointly with a close friend — go ahead with that idea! Not only will you be able to share costs with another family, but hosting a party jointly makes it easier for friends and relatives to stay a little longer, rather than having to hop to another party.
Instead of hiring a photographer, or stressing about making sure you’re taking enough photos while hosting, throw up a DIY photobooth. These are a huge hit at events from weddings to charity fundraisers, and they’re fairly simple to put together. Grab a selfie stick and some fun props and set them up next to a simple backdrop. You can even leave a chalkboard for guests to write messages on, or DIY or buy on Etsy a simple white Polaroid frame for dry erase messages. Last but not least, make a small sign and place it in a picture frame on your table with the party hashtag, so you and your grad can go through and see all the fun photos your guests are taking.
Lastly, when it comes to sending out invites, plan to send yours out 4-6 weeks in advance. Think about your audience, and buy print invitations for relatives and older friends, but save some money by sending evites to your grad’s friends — they’re already living on their phones and a digital invite not only makes more sense for them, but also saves you a little on postage and printed materials.
Host your party during mid-afternoon
You’ll invite a casual, relaxed feeling to your summer afternoon event, and guests won’t arrive starving, either. That means you can focus on simple crowd-pleasers, like BBQ sliders, and a variety of yummy, easy-to-eat finger foods and snacks.
Place your food selection throughout your home or venue, including outside if you’re using your yard, so you don’t end up with a swarm of people at the buffet. Plan for each guest to eat between 6 and 10 snacks or appetizers as well.
When it comes to dessert, mix it up as well — batches of cookies or brownies are crowd-pleasers, that you can use to cover the bulk of your sweet offerings and then sprinkle in some more creative bites as well. For example, have fun with creating a candy bar in your grad’s school colors — or take it a step further and create mini chocolate mortarboards with mini peanut butter cups, chocolate squares, and fruit or sour straw rolls.
Set a fun, relaxed, and celebratory mood
Even with only 15% of your budget allocated for decor, there are plenty of ways to set a casual and fun mood. Pick up some flowers from your local farmer’s market, and spread them throughout the house in a variety of jars and vases.
If you’re utilizing outside, string up lights or lanterns, and fill metal buckets and even garden planters with ice to set drinks in, from water and soda to pitchers of tea and lemonade.
Ask your grad to set the playlist, with a mix of songs for every age group.
Set up a simple gift table, or use old mailboxes found at flea and vintage markets as centerpieces for people to leave cards in — a good trick is to set a couple of envelopes in the mailboxes before people arrive, so they know how to use them.
Decorate fun signs for the yard, and even at the top of the street if you live on a cul-de-sac.
String up a clothesline of memories with photos of your grad with their friends, throughout their lives. You can even create another clothesline with sports jerseys they’ve worn throughout the years.
Not into the clothesline? Take a cue from wedding planners, and try DIY-ing a balloon chandelier instead, and hang photos down from the balloon strings. All you’ll need is printed photos, cardstock to mount them on, a curling ribbon, 12” balloons, scissors and hole punch, double sided tape.
Most importantly, have fun! And if you want to take the stress of planning your graduation party food off the table, call us in to help with the catering, from apps and sliders to desserts.