It takes planning and preparation to throw a successful graduation party. Here are some tips to help you get everything ready before the diplomas have been handed out and the caps have been tossed.
Start the planning process early
Don't wait until a few weeks before graduation to start organizing the celebration. Fallon Carter, a New York City-based wedding planner who also organizes graduation events, says that the first step is outlining a budget.
Next, determine how many people you want to invite, and then move on to your guest list and make a list of email or mailing addresses. Pick a date for the party and find and book a venue if you are not going to host the party at your home. Identify how formal the party will be--do you want a potluck, buffet or a seated dinner.
Now that you have some of the logistics squared away, create a plan and make yourself a to-do list comprised of the major tasks as well as the minor jobs that need to be completed to make the major tasks possible, Carter says. For example, you know you need to send out invitations, but first you have to design and print the invitations, and address the envelopes.
Carter advises sending out graduation notices six weeks before the date, especially if many of your guests need to travel.
"It's best to send the graduation invite and the party information at the same time to ensure your guests are prepared," she says.
Go for quality, not quantity
Don't go overboard with decorations.
"Retailers have a lot of options for consumers when it comes to decor," Carter says, "and it is easy to get carried away with the graduation confetti, balloons, matching cups, plates and napkins, but stay focused."
Instead of overwhelming your guests, keep the decorations simple and incorporate smaller details. Carter suggests designing menu cards in the style of a diploma or degree.
"If you purchase confetti, consider using it in goodie bags for your guests, instead of scattering it all over the house, it will definitely make clean-up a breeze," she says.
Don't forget to incorporate flowers into the decorations. Get some simple flowers in the school colors and make some arrangements. If you are throwing a high school graduation party for a college-bound individual, use future school colors.
Use items you already have
You can create interesting and meaningful displays with things you already have around the house. Carter suggests stacking over-sized books, encyclopedias or dictionaries and incorporating them into the food and dessert displays. If you have any old graduation caps, you can flip them over, insert a glass bowl, stand the hat back up and use it as a display.
Robin Beam, director of education at craft and art retail chain A.C. Moore, suggests using photos to chronicle and commemorate the graduate's high school or college years. You can make copies and laminate the pictures and then attach them to pipe cleaners or chenille sticks. If you think that will be too much work, Beam says you can scatter the pictures on the tables or place them in inexpensive frames.