Will you have a graduate this year? Have you started preparing for the graduation party? I’m sharing ideas from my oldest son’s graduation party last year. Plus, I’ll share tips to help you plan and organize your celebration!
My oldest child graduated from high school last year. We hosted an open house at our home to celebrate. Planning for my first graduation party was good practice because I have three more to do! My second child graduates this year. Thankfully, he wants to have a very similar party.
Here’s a step-by-step to help you organize and prepare for your open house.
I’ll share photos of what we did. Maybe it’ll spark some ideas. Or, feel free to duplicate any of the ideas for your party.
Set a date, time, and location for the party.
Graduation for us was on a Monday night. We chose to have the party the day before since a lot of our family lives out of town.
I’ve seen parties where two or more graduates go together and hold their celebration at a community center or church. That’s a great idea!
Wherever you decide to have your celebration, here are some things to think about:
Do you have seating for guests? Do you need to get tables or chairs? If you’re outside what will you do if the weather is bad? Do you need any signage to help people find the location?
My son’s friends had professionals set up a tent in their backyard in case the weather was bad. Another friend had a balloon path to her party in the back yard.
Set a budget.
Decide how much you want to spend. Costs include invitations, a venue, food, decorations, gifts, thank you cards, postage, etc.
Make a guest list and order announcements.
I write out my list on a piece of paper. I start with family. Then, I add on the child’s friends, those that had an impact or influence in my child’s life, family friends, and church family. Think about neighbors, teachers, and leaders, too.
Count up those on your list and order your invites. Add a few extra in case you make a mistake or want to invite someone last minute. Don’t forget one to keep for memorabilia.
I ordered my invitations from Shutterfly. The first year I used one of their templates. This year I used a template on PicMonkey, edited it and then ordered 4X6 prints instead of announcements. They cost $.15 instead of $1.20+ each!
Be sure to have someone proof them.
Plan the food.
The kind of food will depend on your budget. I asked my son what he wanted to serve – giving him a few options. We went to several parties last year where food ranged from just desserts to sandwiches to a catered Mexican grill where they made fresh fajitas and tacos!
Whatever you decide will be fine. People aren’t coming for the food. So stick to your budget and pick something your child likes and will remember. Make sure you can prepare the food ahead of time. You don’t want to be cooking while everyone is arriving to the party.
I went overboard on the handmade treats. My mom and girls ended up helping a lot. This year I will not be making those little graduation caps. 🙂
We ordered the sandwiches from a local grocery store. The cookie tray and cake were picked up at Sam’s Club. We made a veggie tray, rainbow fruit trays, the mints, grad hats and diplomas ahead of time. I purchased the diploma cookies at TJ Maxx because I couldn’t find them at Sam’s Club since they were a seasonal item.
Decide on Decorations.
I searched Pinterest and put together this Pinterest graduation board. I had fun deciding what to do.
We made a list of things we needed and then went shopping at Hobby Lobby. Making the decorations was fun, but time consuming.
The tassels took the longest but added such fun color and festivity. We worked on them a little at a time. We hung them all over the kitchen, down the deck stairs, and at the photo booth. You can see them in some of the photos below. My girls helped a lot. I’m reusing them for every party! There is a pin on my Pinterest board with instructions on how to make the tassels from tissue paper.
We also decorated with ribbons and photos on our staircase and wrapped wire around two trees outside with photos held on by mini clothes pins in school colors.
Don’t forget tablecloths, cups, plates, napkins and silverware. Think about centerpieces for the tables. My daughter’s dance recital was the day before the party so we had fresh flower arrangements for all the tables. Perfect timing.
The Dollar Tree has $1 mylar balloons that you can buy in advance. They stay filled for several days. The Dollar Tree is a great place to purchase table clothes, too.
Plan your help.
I tried to do way too much. I planned to make all those cute decorations and food and then still had to do normal stuff like work and get my hair done and clean my whole house!
What helped the most was getting help. My mom came in town several days before the event and helped me. She did a lot of the cleaning. She also helped make the little Reese’s grad hats…really, she ended up doing all of them because I had to leave to run errands.
My mother-in-law was in charge of the punch – making it ahead of time, bringing it and keeping it filled. They also brought ice for the coolers.
My dad and step mom helped pick up the food, set up tables, entertained guests, and whatever else was needed. Everyone helped with last minute things.
All moms were in charge of refilling food.
During the open house, all I did was talk to people. It is touching to see all the people who care about your child. They took the time to stop by. I wanted to treasure every conversation and hug.
I never had a chance to look at the food so I was very thankful that I had help. If you don’t have moms to help, ask your good friends or hire someone – maybe some high school or college girls. Be resourceful. You’ll be glad you did.
Who will take pictures? Don’t forget to get pictures during the event.
Who will make sure the cake gets cut? My suggestion is to get a small cake. We had WAY too much leftover cake. Next time I’ll have half the cake cut when the party starts. Or, with a perfect pink cake like this, I might just leave it as the centerpiece of the party!
Who will refill food and drinks?
Will anyone greet guests when they come in?
Keep your display table simple.
Don’t put pressure on yourself that you need to have the most elaborate display table. I did not make a photo book or a video! Gasp. It sounded too overwhelming and time consuming so I bought a cool three ring binder, gathered some photos and all his certificates and put them in sheet protectors. We got some school-colored paper to put behind the photos and stickers to make it look festive but kept it simple.
We placed some of his favorite things on the table with his senior basketball trifold board that we had already made for senior night and that was it.
I’ve seen parties and displays themed with high school colors, college colors or the graduate’s favorite color like this one in pink. The globe on the right of the table was the “guest book” where everyone could sign a message to the graduate.
Plan some activities. Even though people mostly talk with each other and drop in and out quickly, it is good to have something planned. Our favorite game is Cornhole. We had a Cornhole game going and a badminton net set up.
If you have a lot of younger family you could rent a blow-up obstacle course like this.
Photo booths are really fun and everyone loves taking pictures. Almost all the graduation parties last year had one. Here is a friend’s pallet backdrop that was so cute!
I found some photo booth graduation sayings online (#finallydone, #classof2017, I DID IT!, mustaches, lips, etc), printed them extra big, traced them onto cute paper and cut them out. Then I taped them to sticks. We gathered our fun accessories (hats, wigs, etc.), borrowed some items from a friend, and put it all in a crate by a tree. I had an old frame I set near the crate. We stuck some balloons and tassels on the tree for color. And…a photo booth! Just the cost of the sparkly paper and balloons.
Finally, enjoy every moment.
Plan ahead. Take a deep breath right before it starts. And, don’t worry about what you forgot or what didn’t work out. Focus on the people.
Enjoy EVERY SINGLE MOMENT.
This is your baby…graduating!