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THE Graduation Party Checklist

Instead of partying like there is no tomorrow, party like there is no school tomorrow. It’s graduation, and that is a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated. Whether you are the graduate, or your friend or child is graduating, we want to help you plan THE graduation party to top all graduation parties.

CHECK 1: Planning

First things first in the graduation party process is the planning phase. This part can be both fun and tedious, depending on which decisions you are making. The obvious place to start is to set a date and time. This sounds simple, but the right date can determine how many people attend.

For instance, if your graduation party is taking place during the normal months of graduation, your party date is happening during a busy time. There is Mother’s Day, Memorial Day along with competing graduation parties. You don’t want to compete with these holidays or have to compete. Graduation is a big deal that deserves its own festivities.

Also, if your graduation party is happening during this busy time and your party is competing with other parties, it is a good idea to check if friends are having parties and what dates they are considering. Remember the movie “Bride Wars?” If you didn’t see it, a friendship was practically destroyed and forever altered when a mix up caused the two friends to have weddings scheduled on the same day. It may sound drastic, but it is important to consider.

You can cut costs and planning by combining graduation parties with a friend. However, if you want more of a family-oriented party, this may not work. If that is the case, work on picking a date that won’t compete with other parties.

If you are fortunate enough to be planning a graduation party some other, less hectic time of the year, consider yourself lucky but still give plenty of consideration to the date and any potential conflicts. Also, if there is someone special who simply must be there, make sure to check the dates with that individual before you really get into planning your graduation bash.

CHECK 2: Budget

Next on the agenda is setting a budget. We know this part is no fun. It is, however, necessary. This is where combining parties can come in handy. If you are flying solo on your big bash, a budget is a must. This will also keep you from spending more than you can afford without realizing it.

Once you have that number, figure out the essentials in order of importance and keep track of costs.

CHECK 3: Location

The next item on the agenda is deciding where to have your party. If you need to rent a venue, this can add considerable cost, which is why the place is one of the first decisions you should make. If you can have the party at home, decide if you need anything additional like a tent for outdoor festivities.

CHECK 4: Guest List

The next part of the part planning process is determining a guest list. Depending on what type of graduation party you want to have, your guest list may include family, friends or a mix of both. It is also a good idea to keep in mind that if the graduate, whether you or your kid, is still young, your guest list should be kept somewhat open and accommodating. Kids will be kids, and some of them may just show up, regardless of whether they are invited.

For parties and other events, the most interesting gatherings are those that are visually appealing, a veritable feast for the eyes. Consider the popularity of Instagram and Pinterest. It is all about the visual when it comes to planning parties. Embrace that trend and give your graduation party its own hashtag and encourage everyone attending to tag and post pics.

CHECK 5: Personalize

To make your party a visual masterpiece and celebrate the memories that coincide with school, string a clothesline across and above where your table is and attach photos from school with clothespins. Everyone will enjoy perusing the photos to find their own pictures.

Part of graduation is celebrating memories that will last beyond the last day of school, encourage guests to participate in making more memories. Ask each guest to bring something to bury in a time capsule that you can then dig up decades later.

CHECK 6: Favors

If you want to give something to your guests that doubles as a fun party favor for pictures, you can put out some plastic sunglasses in fun colors and shapes with a sign that reads, “Your future is so bright, you got to wear shades.”

If you want keepsakes you can physically keep, a Heart Drop Guest Book is a very beautiful keepsake. It is a thin box frame with plain glass. Guests are given a wooden heart to sign with their name and whatever other sentiment they might wish to add. There is a slot at the top to put the heart inside where it can be seen within the frame. These are very charming, and many can be engraved and personalized.

Another idea that is similarly visually interesting and a very nice keepsake is called “Keys to Success.” It is a board with pegs holding keys attached to little tags. Guests can write advice on the tags, sign them and place the keys on the board where they are then displayed.

CHECK 7: Picture-Perfect

Another way to create memories and add visual interest is by having a photo wall. This can be very cheap and easy to accomplish. Simply cut a piece of white poster board in the shape of a large polaroid frame and let the fun follow.

For the graduate who may want to travel after graduation, you can have a “Sign the World” guestbook on an actual globe. This way, the globe will be a decorative piece that will also hold fond memories of the graduation celebration.

If you do decide to create an area for pictures, consider beautifying the surroundings with greenery or gorgeous floral arrangements. Our florists at Conroy's Flowers Beverly Hills in Santa Monica, CA can assist you in creating a picture-perfect backdrop for your photo wall.

If an outdoor garden theme sounds like it would fit your party, you can have vinyl table cloths, candle jars and pretty centerpieces decorated with the school’s pennant.

If nature isn’t your thing, you can also do a classroom theme as a backdrop for photos by using a chalkboard. If you want to give guests the opportunity to be more interactive with their photos, consider getting a dry erase polaroid frame that they can write on.

Invite guests to write out their favorite memories to place in a jar, and this can be another pretty keepsake. You can also ask guests to bring a book that has been influential or inspirational to them and discuss which books were brought and why they were chosen. This is a great way to get everyone talking and perhaps get to know your guests in a deeper way.

Set out decorative wooden signs with your party hashtag to make sure everyone can place their pics in the same place.

CHECK 8: Decorations

Aside from creating the mood to record memories, you can also be visual with decorations. Consider using a school-colors color scheme or even incorporating the date of graduation into the décor. You can cut out foam in the shape of the year and place cupcakes on top for a visual and delicious representation of the year.

CHECK 9: Menu

When it comes to food and drink, it is better to have a bit too much than not enough. Decide whether you are going to have the party catered or if you want to prepare food yourself. We will include some interesting ideas for interactive food options for those who want to DIY the food.

Since we mentioned food, let’s make the food part of the atmosphere and décor and make it interactive. A fiesta taco or nacho bar and chips and salsa can be stunning in pics, fun, interactive yet also simple and affordable. The same goes for smores. Use wooden signs and colored glass jars to make the station dazzle. You can offer a burger bar with sliders that guests can add toppings to themselves. Popcorn and cotton candy can also be put in fun containers. You can really have an artistic display and be creative and still thrifty with food options.

If you are artistic, you can make graduation cap and diploma sandwiches. Using pumpernickel bread, cut top pieces as squares and bottom pieces round. What goes in is up to you, but make sure to keep the contents smaller than the top as that is the top of the cap. Use a couple of shreds of cheese or herbs like basil or cilantro as the tassel.

Another option for the artistic party prepper is a diploma roll appetizer. Using wraps, fill with salmon, cream cheese and spices. Roll them up and finish with a chive ribbon. Voila! These are sure to delight and find a way into pics!

When it comes to the silverware, make a statement by wrapping them up like diplomas. Guests will find them incredibly cute.

Some fun, decorative food items are cookies with signs calling them, “Smart Cookies.” When it comes to candy, play around with gummy worms by placing a sign renaming them “book worms.” With Starburst, put them in a jar with a sign that reads, “Reach for the Stars.”

Another dessert you can offer is prefilled mason jars with ice cream for ice cream floats or sundaes. You can make the toppings into a beautiful display.

You can also find plastic lightbulbs that can be filled with fun, colorful gumballs.

For drinks, be cool and keep them cold in an inflatable tabletop cooler. A kiddie pool can also be filled with ice to keep those drinks summery and part of the scene. A clean wheel barrow can be an interesting way to hold drinks and ice, too.

CHECK 10: Nostalgia

We know that not every graduate is an adult. Throughout childhood, kids go through many graduations. If the party you are planning is for a tiny grad, there are some cute ways to expand on what we have already mentioned.

You can create diplomas out of fruit rollups and tie with a string of licorice. You can make a caterpillar out of cupcakes and make sandwiches in fun shapes. The ice cream in mason jars also works for a child’s graduation party too.

A fun way to decorate a party and have an inspirational theme is by using Dr. Seuss’s, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” There is no limit to the decorations you can purchase to coincide with this theme if you are pressed for time or don’t feel like making your own.

Even though most little ones won’t be toting around their own phones (or maybe they are), you can still create a hashtag and use the many photo ideas we previously mentioned, if you have your phone ready. In fact, sometimes children are more willing to participate in pics.

Finally, sometimes a party needs a boost to bust boredom. For children, have some game ideas prepared. Treasure hunts and nature hunts are great for backyard parties and for teaching an appreciation of nature. If you are indoors or the weather disrupts your festivities, play games like Simon Says, Duck, duck, goose or musical statues.

Older graduates probably won’t want to play the kids’ games, but many people do enjoy Cornhole, Dominos or for outdoor summer fun, water balloons.

If you are the one graduating, take advantage of the moment of accomplishment and excitement about what lies ahead. Share your experiences with friends and family and bask in the moment.

Whether the graduation is from a college or university or kindergarten, the most important part is taking an afternoon or evening to reflect the passage of time and celebrate the memories that were made. A graduation is an accomplishment that s best celebrated and shared. School’s out, so let’s get this party started!

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