Graduation Party Basics

Guest list. Date. Invitations. Tent Tables and Chairs. Food. Fun.

Guest List.
Start working on a list. Family from both sides, don’t forget that rich uncle. Neighbors, remember that they probably watched your kids grow up also. Family friends. The graduates friends. Special teachers, coaches, church friends. You have the idea now start writing up that list. The guest list will be so important in a number of your other decisions so you really need to spend some time and nail it down.

Date.
The toughest decision you will have to decide on is what is the magic date for your grad party. There are so many different things to consider when choosing your date. Traditionally everyone picked a date that was within a couple weeks either side of the actual graduation ceremony, and that usually meant a date in June. Fifteen years ago most high school graduation parties took place on the weekends in June. Today grad parties are more spread out now with the heaviest concentration starting the last weekend in May thru the third weekend in July.

Many reasons contributed to the lengthening of the grad party season including schools completing their senior year of study by mid May, the strong desire to not have my party on the same date everyone else is, and there just is a whole lot less chaos going on in early July than in June (think graduation ceremonies, proms, summer job hunting, and of course all the other grad parties that are going on). Additionally finding equipment or a caterer for a July event is a whole lot easier than for a June event. There has been a real surge towards parties being planned the last weekend in May and the first weekend in June as well as a big increase in parties planned the first three weekends in July. Every graduate wants their party to be the best and biggest and to have all their friends make it to their party. The easiest way to accomplish that is to plan for a late May party or early July party.

Sit down with the graduate and get their thoughts on the date. Your son probably won’t care too much what the date is as long as he can still hang out with his buddies and have some fun. Your daughter on the other hand wants you to plan “the best party ever”(no pressure on you) and wants everyone at her party. It is also pretty common for friends to get together to make sure their parties are not all on the same date or weekend. Next big question is Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. While Saturday is still the most popular day with about 65% of the grad parties held on Saturday, Friday(about 10%) and Sunday(about 25%) over the past few years have become great options. One big draw for Saturday parties is you don’t have to get up for work on Sunday so the party can last as late as your neighbors will tolerate, and you have all day Sunday to cleanup and recuperate. The one big reason for Friday and Sunday parties is because of less competition. Sunday parties are not going to last very late into the evening they are usually afternoon events that wrap up by 7pm, where Saturday parties might just continue on into Sunday morning. Some people just love having parties on Fridays and many equipment companies have great equipment discounts available for June Friday parties.

Tent Tables and Chairs.
Now that you have figured out how many people you are going to invite and have done all the mathematical algorithms to figure out the perfect date the next decision is where am I going to have this party. The most obvious option is your own home or backyard. Some choose to have their party at a hall or clubhouse. Some will have their party at a friends or relatives home usually because they have a much larger home or yard. Some plan on having their party in the commons area in their subdivision or at a nearby park or picnic area. The most popular choice by far is having the party at your own home. The problem is your house is too small to hold all the people you want to invite plus the thought of all the wear and tear and mess of having all those people in and out of your home is just too much for you to imagine.

A hall is just way to expensive. The backyard is a great place to have a party but what if it is a warm sunshiny day or what if we get one of those pesky summer showers? You don’t want your guests to be sunburned and sweaty hot uncomfortable one minute and rainy wet the next. Canopies and tents are a great way to provide shade on a sunny day and protection from a summer shower. Tents just create a fun festive atmosphere for you and your guests. Figuring out what size tent you need is easy, just about any company renting tents can help you figure it out. There are only a couple different variables to determine. What surface will the tent be placed on (think on grass in the middle of the yard or over a concrete driveway or patio). How many guests do you plan to invite. Will your party be an “open house” event where your guest will come and go through the day or will they be there all at once? Do you prefer round tables under the tent (which take up more space but are preferred) or banquet tables under the tent (which maximize the available space under the tent and are usually cheaper).

Food.
Menus can be as simple as a deli tray and snacks or as elaborate as a fully catered party. Some like to fuss over food preparation and enjoy fixing burgers and chicken on the grill others don’t want to be bothered with the work and would rather sit back and enjoy their son or daughters party and have someone else worry about the food. If you choose the catering route remember the cost will be based on the number of guest you want to serve (remember the guest list you put together) and may be limited to just a few hours of service time. Also keep in mind that good caterers like good rental companies book up fast, many start receiving orders in December and January and some for busy June dates may be completely booked by mid April. Many of your favorite restaurants also have takeout catering menus.

The big concern with your food menu especially for the “open house” type grad parties is how to choose a menu that can last for the full party. Remember that your guest are going to come and go thru out the time frame you have identified for your party and keeping hot food hot and cold food cold plays a big role in exactly what items you plan for your menu. Some foods (think pasta from your favorite restaurant or whipped up in your kitchen) work really well (bring the pasta up to serving temperature place in a chaffing dish and all you need to do is make sure the sterno can stays lit and refill the food pan as it gets empty). Your local rental center can help as they usually carry large grills, chaffing dishes, portable bars, and coolers to help make your menu preparation and serving easy.

How to spice up your graduation party

Dress up your tables.
Add disposable or linen table covers to dress up your grad party. White is always popular but you can also add colors in either the grads high school or college colors. Add linen skirting to food tables or gift tables for that perfect finished look.

Add an inflatable.
Moonwalks are great fun at grad parties. Perfect for the little kids that get dragged to the party and perfect for the graduate and her friends as a way to have fun and burn off a little energy. Want to get really crazy add an obstacle course. Great fun for those that are going through the course and great fun for everyone else to watch!

Can I have this dance?
Over the past five years dance floors have become the must have item at the most popular grad parties. Grads love to show off their dance “skills”. Invite the neighbors because they will be dancing all night long. Don’t forget lighting for those parties that last after dark.

Add some fun food machines.
Whether it is a trusted fun food machine such as a popcorn, cotton candy, or snocone machine, or a frozen drink machine or soft serve ice cream machine, adding a fun food machine is always a big hit at any party. A snocone or smooth frozen drink on a hot summer day is a great way to make your party special.

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