Because I have the most experience with outdoor graduation parties, this guide will be from the point of view of planning and shopping for an outdoor party.
Send out the Invitations
- Buy stamps if you don’t already have some. They are cheapest at the post office.
- Buy cheap cards at a 99 Cent Only Store and write a nice handwrittten invitation, or
- Buy more expensive cards at a Hallmark or Papyrus
- Otherwise, you can use digital photos to design a card. This can be done at home or at various stores advertising these services.
While I know many people like to send e-vites now, I personally think an actual invitation sent through the mail still means the world to many people. Invitations are not just invites. They can also be gifts to your invitees. A stellar picture of your smiling graduate on a card can be a keepsake that family and friends will treasure and put on display.
- Buy thank you notes to thank your guests
- Buy a guest book: Have guests write in it and get their addresses for the thank you notes.
- Buy an instant or disposable camera: Take quick pictures with each guest to include in your thank you notes.
Head to crafting stores, dollar stores, or party stores
- Michaels or any other crafting store will have the tools to create streamers, signs, and whatever props you would like
- Dollar Stores or 99 cent stores are a good, cheap way to buy decorations.
- Party City is a little more expensive, but it is another store with great options for pre-made party decorations.
- Foldable tables or plastic chairs (rent it). Buying is too expensive for just one event (even better, ask guests to bring their own chairs portable chairs)
Food and Beverages
(Note: Depending on the amount of people, you may want to buy your food items and beverages at Costco or another bulk store. Buying in bulk only helps when it’s a party.)
- Buy a cooler for your drinks. Another good idea is to buy a small, inflatable kiddy pool and fill it with ice and drinks.
- Stock up on paper plates, plastic cups, and plastic utensils.
- Beverages: Besides whatever you decide to purchase, my suggestion is that you have cut up fruit for snack use some if to flavor your water. Cucumber is also tasty.
- Snack items: finger foods (remember: chop up some fruit or cucumber for the water)
- Main course and side foods
- Alternate food items: There are many vegetarians, gluten free dieters, people with allergies, etc. these days. Make sure you have options for your guests to choose from. If you have a pizza party, provide a salad. If you have ice cream, provide a gluten free, non-dairy sorbet. Be mindful of dietary restrictions in your guests when shopping for food.