Graduation, whether from high school or college, is a major step in adult life. You might be preparing to start a new degree or new career, or it might be a time to consider the world of possibilities in front of you. Whatever the case, it’s a time of massive achievement and opportunity, so of course you have to cut loose with an awesome party to share the time with all your supportive friends and family.
Planning for the graduation party
As soon as you know you’re going to graduate, start planning the party. This affords plenty of time for your friends and family to plan for the ceremony and whatever party plans you might have. You may want a simple two-hour after-ceremony party, or a memorable weekend-long extravaganza. Maybe you want both, but only certain people will be invited for the entire weekend. Figure out your guest list, date and venue as quickly as possible so that you can get invitations out. Schedules are often busy, so the sooner you can do this part, the better.
Invitations don’t have to be expensive, but some graduates like to have portrait pictures and high-quality invitations or announcements that guests can have as keepsakes. Decide what kind of invitations you want. If you opt for the keepsake version, decide if everyone gets one, or if you’d rather save money by sending those only to close friends and family members who will actually keep them and a cheaper version to everyone else.
Decorations and lighting for the graduation party
Lighting for a graduation party varies widely by the type of location and the time of day you schedule the party. Outdoor parties can be lit with Christmas lights, tiki torches, solar lights, paper lanterns and more. Indoor parties may already have all the lighting they need, but you might opt for colored light bulbs or battery-powered candles to create a special atmosphere.
When planning decorations, always remember that you’re stuck with them after the party. Graduation-themed candies, wine charms, or other useful or consumable items can take the place of garlands or table toppers that will just be thrown away after one use. If the graduate is planning to move into his or her own place or starting a new career, decorate with household or office essentials that would need to be bought later anyway.
Place cards might be a high-quality picture of the graduate with, “Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. X” embossed at the bottom for a keepsake that guests can take home. This is a great alternative to expensive invitations – guests still have something to keep, but you can still get everyone there with inexpensive postcards or online event invitation tools. Alternatively, consider fun and reusable options such as chalkboard cards.
Graduation party food and drinks
Obviously, graduation party food varies widely from one party to the next. You might want full meals for everyone or just appetizers. You might have alcohol-free drinks, an open bar that you finance, or “bring your own beer” for those who wish to bring their own beverages – of course, these latter two options are only for people who are over the legal drinking age in your area. The advantage to BYOB is that you save a lot of money by buying only inexpensive soft drinks or mixing fruit punch, and your guests are sure to get their favorite drinks.
Regardless of the type of food that you choose, you’ll need to know how many guests to expect and then buy enough for all plus 10%. The actual percentage over can vary a bit, but buying a little extra will ensure everyone gets all they want. If possible, plan for something that will keep for a while without spoiling so that you have time to eat leftovers, or make plans with your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter to drop off leftovers. Don’t forget enough reusable or disposable plates, silverware, napkins and cups for all.
Overall, bear in mind what a graduation party is all about – reaching a significant milestone in life, then continuing on to the next. Try to keep “throwaway costs” to a minimum and, if possible, use the party as a means to gather items that will be useful in the pursuit of that next milestone.