Graduation Party Planning

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Whether you are having a large party or a cozy family dinner, the success of the party depends on good planning.

I hope to give you everything you need to successfully plan the party. I have also added some extra tips alongside theimportant points to decide on. 

Have a good look through the plans, print off the free detailed checklists, budget sheets, party set up, shopping lists and daily to do lists. and adjust the detail for your circumstances. 

Graduation is a busy time so I start early, set a budget and agree with the graduate what they want from the party including the size, theme and where they would like the party. They may want to share the party with a friend.

Lets start the graduation party planning by considering What kind of party you want, Who should be invited, When and Where you want to have it.

What Kind Of Graduation Party

what kind of graduation party

What kind of party do you wish to have?

  • Speak to the graduate and decide on the type of graduation party you will throw. Keep in mind their wishes as you decide on a smaller dinner at a restaurant or go all out and have a larger event. My eldest daughter does not enjoy any fuss and was very happy when we planned a family and close friends dinner. Our other children had much bigger things in mind!
    • You may believe an Open House party suit’s the occasion. Other parents may be doing the same and this would help your guests and the graduate to attend each party.

    • joint party with other families may help your child and their friends be together and also can assist with budgeting. It can also be a lot of fun.

    • You may wish to have a simple party with a small group of family and friends. You may even host the party at a local restaurant.

    • A party at your home with the graduate at the center of it.

    • A party for the whole class thrown in conjunction with the school

    • A graduation party theme can add that extra bit of fun, possibly making your party a bit different from the other ones this year. I do this if I feel the crowd, and the graduate, would really love it.

    • You might wish to go away and party at a weekend or vacation spot you love.

    • Have an activity as part of the celebrations. For example if you do an activity such as Paintball then you might have the party at the Activity Center.

    TIP - find out what kind of parties the other parents are throwing. You may want to be unique, you might find they are all having open house parties or you might be inspired by their ideas. 

    Who Should Be Invited

    who should be invited

    Who should be invited to the party is always a difficult question and the graduate should be involved in the decision. I always end up with a first draft list which is changed a number of times. There will always be people who you would like to invite but the numbers you have mean you cannot ask all of them, this can be tricky.

    • Start with How many guests can be accommodated within your budget

    • Consider which family and relatives you wish to invite.

    • Which teachers and coaches have been important in the graduate‘s life

    • Are there neighbors who have been a part of the graduates life

    • Have other families invited you to their party in the past or this year.

    • Which family friends should be invited

    • The graduate will have their own friends to invite

    • Which guests are also being invited to the graduation ceremony

    • Which people are being invited as helpers

    • Who lives out of town? You can plan to help them with hotel bookings, directions and transport

    • Colleagues – you may feel that a few colleagues should be invited as they have taken a big interest in the graduate’s progress

    • Is there someone special from the graduate's past who should be invited?

    • The numbers for an Open House party can be tricky. However the graduate should know who they want to invite from their class.

    • Once you have your list you have to prioritize the prospective guests and reduce it to your budget number.

    TIP consider also the graduation parties you have been invited to in the past. You may want to invite the hosts.

    When Do You Want The Graduation Party

    when is the graduation party

    Choosing the time and date helps you move your graduation party planning along, but can be tricky. This is a busy time of year so you need to consider the other events taking place. Review the information you have and pick the best date. Consider:

  • The activities the school has planned which will impact your date

    • Talk to the other parents to find out what plans, if any, they have. You can easily avoid each other‘s party dates.
    • The most convenient dates for your family, relatives and close friends, and also out of town guests.

    • Do you wish to have the party before or after the graduation ceremony, or even the same day. Graduates should be free all summer so perhaps holding the party after graduation will work.

    • Do you prefer weekends or week days. That decision may depend on the availability or your chosen venue. Week days can certainly be cheaper.

    • An Open House party should be held on the same night as the other ones so you can check with the other parents what the best date is.

    • A joint graduation party will need a joint decision.

    • Do you prefer a particular time of day?

    TIP - Once you have chosen your date let everyone know as soon as possible. You can issue Save The Date cards (you can print off on card one of the ones below if you wish).

    graduation party save the date card
    graduation party save the date card

    Graduation Party Venue

    where to hold the party

    There are many possible graduation party venues and each has their planning requirements.

  • Your Home can provide a great venue. Everyone will be relaxed and you can be the perfect hosts

  • Your backyard can be the perfect venue for an outdoor party. If it rains you can simply move indoors. Think about hiring a tent which gives more room, a great venue, a dry place in the rain and a cool place if it is hot.
    • The school gym may suit your needs

    • YMCA, Restaurant, Hotel ballroom, Country Club, Ski Chalet, Church Hall, Village Hall or even a coffee shop for a party for close friends.

    • Outdoor venues such as a Park or Beach are excellent.

    • A Shopping Mall or Museum would make different venues for a large party.

    • Exciting venues could be a Theme Park or Sports Stadium

    • An activity location such an outdoor activity center.

    • What is the graduate’s preference?

    • A theme party may have a venue that is perfect, for example a Bowling Party would be at a Bowling Alley.

    • Check the availability of your chosen venue

    • Talk to the venue team and check out what support they give in party preparation, through the party and after the party. Clearly for a hotel they will do everything. However for a hall that you hire they may have people who will help. Also check deals they can make with entertainment, decorations, food and favors.

    TIP - a party at your home can be excellent. You might want to check you have enough bathrooms for the number of guests you are inviting.

    Graduation Party Planning Checklists

    These free detailed checklists, budget sheets, party set up, shopping lists and daily to do lists are designed to give you a good start. Just add your own personal extra party details! 

    Once you click on the link it will open a new window with a free PDF file which you can print.

    Three Months Prior to the Graduation Party

    plan 3 months party planning

    You have planned the outline of the type of party, theme, location, when and who is coming. Graduation party planning for the 3 months to go stage starts to make it all happen:

    • Set your budget - this drives the key decisions.

    • Set up a committee to steer the party preparations if you are having a joint party

    • Send out Save The Date cards as soon as you know the date.

    • Book the caterer (if you are having one) as soon as you are ready, this does need a bit of research as you do need to be sure you have the right caterer.

    • Book the party venue, the best ones will be booked early!

    • Book the photographer. Check out their references as you only get one chance to have the right photos.

    • Book entertainment, if you know what you want. The best will be highly sought after. That goes for DJs, bands, magicians and all other entertainers.

    • Start collecting memorabilia, photos and assembling the scrapbook.

    • Book the video production firm.

    • Decide if you are completing some home improvements and schedule that in with your builder.

    • Book any large scale equipment like bouncy castles and other giant inflatables.

    • Start looking for cheaper ways to buy decorations, gifts, favors and food.

    • Hire a tent, if you need one

    • Rent games equipment

    TIP - talk to previous graduation party givers and get their top tips.

    Two Months Prior to the Graduation Party

    plan for 2 months to graduation party

    Graduation party planning moves on to some real detail at this stage.

    • Menu - Decide on what type of food to serve that will suit your guests. Select a caterer (if you have not already done so) or ask a friend to help. Plan the menu in detail.

    • Plan layout of the rooms and backyard

    • Plan the decorations you think will make the venue look outstanding. Purchase decorations (eg balloons, streamers and flowers) and party supplies as well as plates, cups etc. Also rent additional decorations such as little statues to enhance your garden

    • Invitations - Order your invitations or make your own.

    • Buy paper plates, napkins, glasses and other tableware. Include extra napkins for guests to use with their drinks and snacks.

    • Buy extra toilet paper and paper towels (and dish washing soap)

    • Plan the number of tables and chairs you need. Rent tables, chairs and any serving equipment required.

    • Order flowers

    • Helpers - Arrange who will be helping with the party and be clear what they will be doing. No one can throw a successful party by themselves. A good source of helpers is parents, siblings, grandparents and sitters.

    • Plan the tasks that the helpers will be doing. Plan who is in the kitchen, who will be the photographer, who will be running the games, who is playing the music and who is handing out the favors. Also who is helping to clear away afterwards and what will they be doing. After all their efforts on your behalf they should get a gift. You could consider getting them a gift certificate, photo album, food hamper or flowers, for example.

    • Book hotel for out of town guests

    • Security - if you need to, arrange security for the party.

    • Be sure you can park all the cars without blocking your street. You may be able to make arrangements with a local supermarket after it is closed.

    • Plan a Photo Booth including using your Ipad, having a photo booth App on it and the decorations you want for the background

    • Talk to the Police and Fire Department if you have any safety or security concerns.

    TIP - consider a buffet as you would not be tied to the kitchen and can concentrate on being a great host. 

    One Month Prior to the Graduation Party

    plan for 1 month to graduation party
    • Order food and drinks (including tea and coffee) - or meet with caterer to finalize requirements. Be careful with alcohol, you are responsible for any under age drinking.

    • Buy snacks to lay out around your venue

    • Send Invitations (you may have sent them earlier!). Include a map detailing how to get to the party.
    • Buy a personalized graduation gift for Graduate

    • Buy gifts for the helpers

    • Buy graduation favors for the party guests

    • Buy games prizes

    • Cake - Order a cake (or plan to make one) as no party is complete without a "Congratulation" cake to share with everyone.

    • Arrange a first timetable for the graduation party planning, including a timetable of games, food and entertainment.

    • Arrange a comfortable home for any pets for the duration of the party.

    • Schedule cleaners

    • Finish scrapbook

    • Finalize all building work.

    • Finalize arrangements with the caterer, photographer and videographer

    • Start freshening up paintwork

    • If everyone is having their photo taken appoint someone to edit and print the photos.

    TIP - start to de-clutter your home. You might also decide some items should be kept in safe storage. 

    One Week Prior to the Graduation Party

    plan for 1 week to graduation party

    Graduation party planning starts to drive the daily tasks at this stage.

    • Collect food and drinks (if necessary)

    • Send invitations to school with your graduate, if you are having an Open House party

    • Start decorating the house or venue
    • Review guest list - and check responses received. Chase no replies.

    • Check over any special requests and order food as required.

    • Confirm bookings such as caterer, entertainment, flowers and venue.

    • Confirm hotel reservations if you have out of town guests staying over.

    • Finalize party timetable.

    • Finalize list of games and music.

    • Set up the memorabilia display and photo board

    • Set up the guests sign-in book

    • Check you have all decorations, prizes, and favors. 

    • Set up and label recycling containers

    • Buy batteries.

    • Check your camera memory card is clear.

    • Complete fresh paint and clean up.

    • Make sure the garden is ready with grass cut, shrubs, plant and flowers cut, watered and pruned as required.

    • Bring together all remaining party planning items and be sure everything has an action to complete on time.

    • Press the tablecloth

    • Clean crystal and cutlery

    • Check over who is definitely coming.

    • Wrap gifts for the graduate and friends. Also wrap games prizes and lucky dips.

    • List gifts received and keep the list up to date as the week goes on.

    • Create seating cards for your table.

    • Talk to your neighbors about the party and let them know the details. If the party inconveniences them buy a gift.

    • Set up your backyard, including lighting

    • Set up a gift table

    • Set up Photo Booth and test it out

    • Buy or borrow buckets which will hold the ice and cool the drinks

    • Buy thank you cards for gift givers and helpers

    Three Days Prior to the Graduation Party

    plan 3 days to graduation party
    • Buy the remaining food required

    • Set up a coat check area

    • Check cameras and batteries

    • Confirm helpers.

    • Check CD player or MP3.
  • Set up tents and gazebos.

  • Label the recycling trash barrels.

  • Complete decorations.

  • Finalize party music, prizes and game equipment.

  • Create directional signs. EG at their simplest this can be an A4 sheets of paper saying bathroom this way or coat check.

  • Review planning checklists and identify areas requiring action.

  • Graduation Party Planning - One Day Prior to the Party

    plan for 1 day to graduation party

    Last minute Graduation party planning at this stage. 

    • Finalize party decorations.

    • Set out flowers

    • Finalize cleaning and furniture arranging.
    • Check garden for any last tidy ups.

    • Check likely weather for graduation party day if the party is outdoors. Essential graduation party planning!

    • Check everything at the party is safe for young children.

    • Make any food that you can store

    Graduation Party Planning - On the Day of the Party

    graduation party day plan

    At this stage the graduation party planning should be over and only a few actions let to do.

    • Set up the table, chairs, centerpiece, tableware, napkin and place cards

    • Confirm that your caterers and entertainment will attend.
    • Buy ice

    • Make remaining food

    • Decorate the graduation cake.

    • Slice fruit for drinks (pineapple, orange and lemon)

    • Lay out non-perishable food early, and snacks (plus olives)

    • Lay out perishable food late

    • Take pets to pet sitter.

    • Remove medicines to safe storage

    • Water plants and flowers.

    • Put up directional signs

    • Sweep driveway and check how it all looks as you walk up to the house.

    • Walk through the venue to be sure it is all as you expected.

    • Set out trash barrels.

    • Set out yard games like volleyball, Bocce ball, horseshoes and croquet. Also board games like checkers, Yahtzee, chutes and ladders and cards.

    • Vacuum one last time

    • Check the weather.

    • Check party helpers are ready.

    • Set out drinks coolers, filled with ice and drinks

    • Deal with any last minute graduation party planning hitches.

    • Relax for a while.

    • Party time - Let your hair down and have some fun! 

    TIP - Ask a helper to clear away used plates, plus empty snack containers and glasses as the party goes on. 

    Graduation Party Planning - After the Party

    After the party there are a few things you may need to do: 

    • Clearing Up - arrange helpers to help you clear away after the party. You could assign tasks such as clearing one of the rooms

    • Take down all decorations

    • If you are using a hired venue, shut everything down and lock up

    • Take out the recycling and garbage

    • Thank any neighbors affected by party noise or car parking for their patience

    • Send out thank you cards to all the gift givers

    • Give each helper a thank you card and gift (you can print off the cards below, just click on the one you want to get a free PDF copy!)

    graduation party helper thanks
    graduation party helper thanks other
    graduation party helper gift certificate
    graduation party helper gift certificate other

    TIP - after all your hard work give yourself a treat.

    Example Graduation Party Planning Timetable

    A key part of party planning is the actual schedule of events at the party.

    • Welcome
    • Ice Breakers
    • Social Time
    • Quiet Game
    • Noisy Game
    • Food and Cake
    • Speech
    • Quiet Game
    • Entertainment
    • Social Time
    • Noisy Game
    • Noisy Game
    • Quiet Game
    • Favors
    • Leave

    Graduation Party Planning Ideas - Things You Might Miss

    Some simple things that we all miss:

    • Committee - as early as possible set up the planning and fund raising teams.

    • Book pet sitters

    • Book limousines

    • Ask previous party givers for their top tips

    • Book any security you need

    • Arrange safe storage for any valuable items

    • Start looking for graduation poems and quotes

    Graduation Party Planning Ideas - Safety

    Graduation party planning to include keeping your guests safe at all times is a good idea. Certainly talking to the police and fire department can help if you have any concerns.

    • Be sure all flames burn safely such as candles and any heating

    • Be sure all food is safely stored, and served, no matter where the party is being held.

    • Fireworks - follow the recommended guidelines at all times. Set up a safe area and safe storage.

    • Venue - a venue like a beach does need safety checks for various reasons. You may have guests swimming, you don‘t want any sharp objects in the sand and you want to know the beach is clean, a beach patrol before the party can tidy the area.

    • Plan the safety of young children so they are safe and you know where they are at all times.

    Graduation Party Planning Ideas - Contingencies

    A recommended piece of graduation party planning is to have contingencies. What will you do if:

    • The weather is bad - for example either have a tent or be able to move the party indoors.

    • The entertainment does not turn up - perhaps a combination of already prepared party games, a toast, great music, dancing and a talent spot.

    • The caterer or cake maker do not turn up. Perhaps a lot harder to recover from, but you should still be able to order enough, for example, pizza, hot dogs, ice cream, coffee and cakes from a local retailer.

    • Uninvited guests turn up - ask them to leave politely but keep in mind the number for the local police.

    • A neighbor complains about the noise - I would just get round and talk to them. There should be a way they understand the noise is just for a while. Better to have spoken to the neighbors in advance to hopefully avoid this.

    • Equipment or batteries are not working - checking in advance of the party is best. However know exactly where you would borrow equipment or buy things like batteries at the last minute.

    Graduation Party Planning Ideas - Questions and Answers

    graduation party planning questions

    Some graduation party planning questions are:

    • How Do I Plan My Backyard? - sketch a plan for your backyard and come up with great ideas for different areas.
    • How Do I Plan The Park Venue? - First off walk round the area you are using and then draw out a sketch showing where the seating, BBQ, and games, for example, will be situated. Take account of any shaded areas you can utilize and also where the toilets are.

    • How Do I Plan Parking? - First decide how many cars will be parked and how many cannot be situated by your home. Look around your area for obvious safe places for as many cars as possible. Talk to a local store about using their car park when they are closed. You may even find your neighbors could take a car or two each in their driveway to help out. This will mean a helper is required to direct your guests to a parking space.

    • How Can I Be Sure Homemade Items Are Completed? - plan exactly what is being made, who is doing it, the materials they need and when they are doing it. Add a time contingency as they may take longer than you expect.

    • Are Tents A Good Idea? - If you have the right space they can be. Book early and plan the exact spot they will be. Be sure there is enough room for the guide ropes. Plan how to decorate it. They give more room, a contingency for a wet day, a shaded area and can be fun. Check the costs fit your budget.

    • How Can I Stay Positive? - we are all human and need to attend to our own needs too. Simple ideas like choosing helpers who are fun and booking a Spa day for a break can help. Also don‘t be afraid to ask for help!

    Graduation Party Planning Ideas - Teamwork

    The power of a team may help you through the graduation party planning and preparation. If you have a team helping you there are a few there are a few things you can do to help everyone feel part of the team. Your graduation party planning should include:

    • A team bonding occasion which could just be a coffee and cakes meeting in a local coffee store.

    • Buying a thank you gift for each person

    • Keeping in touch regularly

    • A personal thank you from the graduate

    • Perhaps a few days after the party is over, plan to show them the photos and talk about all the fun everyone had. Everyone will want to know the party worked really well.

    • Offer to help them when they are having a party.

    As well as excellent graduation party planning, there is a lot more you can do to throw a stunning graduation party. Make your party standout with these party ideas!

    I hope your graduation party planning goes very well.

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