Hosting a graduation party is a lot of work and it takes a lot of planning. As you’re thinking about ideas and making plans be sure to create a checklist of “to do’s” so you don’t forget anything later.
Create a time line and organize your “to do’s” within that time line. Try to get things done and out of the way as soon as possible. Graduation time is an extremely busy time of year and you’ll be thankful you got some things done early.
To give you an idea of what a time line might look like and to help you get started thinking about your own here’s one to start with …
6 weeks before the party:
- Check your calendar and call the school to get a schedule of events happening at graduation time – graduation days & times, prom days & time, senior parties, etc. Don’t forget to include regular holidays and special events like Mother’s Day & Father’s Day.
- Decide if you want to co-host a party with another family or multiple families.
- Start collecting memorabilia – pictures, awards, trophies, newspaper clippings, special projects, artwork, etc.
- Start assembling scrapbooks, poster boards, DVD’s, etc.
- Determine your budget.
- Pick the date & time for your party. The time is important for planning things like food. If your party is from 2-4pm then perhaps you’ll serve finger foods. If your party is early afternoon (eg: noon-3pm) then maybe you’ll serve a brunch. If your party is in the evening (eg: 4-7pm) then you’ll want to plan a more substantial menu.
- Pick a location – your home or somewhere else?
- Decide if you need to rent party supplies like tables, chairs, tent, catering supplies and start visiting your local rental companies to see what they have. Reserve these items as soon as you can as other people will be looking for them too.
- Decide on a theme. Call for entertainment prices.
- Start your invitation/guest list.
- Decide on food and shop around for caterers. Select and reserve a caterer as soon as you can.
- Buy tableware – plates, napkins, cutlery, serving dishes, glasses/cups.
- Buy decorations – centerpieces, banners, yard signs, table cloths.
- Buy party favors such as candy & chocolate bars.
- Buy thank you notes, stamps, return address labels.
- Find a place for your pets for the day of the party.
- Buy greetings cards & gifts for your graduate & friends.
- Save or buy storage containers for leftover food.
- Notify out of town guests so they can make hotel & car reservations. Call them or send save the date cards.
- Determine if any house repairs or yard work needs to be done.
3-4 weeks before the party:
- Finish your scrapbooks, poster boards & DVD’s.
- Decide on a cake or cupcakes and place your order with the bakery.
- Order balloons.
- Mail your invitations.
- Confirm any reservations you have made – caterer, rental company, pet boarding, hotels for out of town guests.
- Wrap gifts for graduate & friends.
- Make cardholder box.
The week of the party:
- Pick up beverages and store them somewhere cold – extra fridge or in your neighbor’s fridge.
- Pick up non-perishable food as early as possible. Pick up other food closer to the party. Some food may need to be picked up on the day of the party. Recruit someone to do this for you.
- Make sure you have lots of blank camera cards and video cartridges.
- Charge video & camera batteries.
- Send invitations to school with your graduate.
- Review guest list and expectations with grad.
- Confirm delivery of rental equipment. You’ll want this to arrive the day before the party. Plan to be there when equipment and supplies are delivered so you can check it.
- Clean your house. Do as much ahead of time as you can.
- Set up/hang decorations, banners, posters.
- Confirm hotel reservations for out of town guests.
- Mow the lawn (day or two before the party).
- Clean your garage if you’re using this for your party or as a backup in case it rains.
The day before the party:
- Pick up perishable food.
- Last minute cleaning.
- Last minute yard work.
- Put up last minute decorations.
- Set up tables.
- Set up tent. Depending on weather this may be done day before the party or day of the party.
- Pick up cake/cupcakes from bakery.
The day of the party:
- Sleep as late as you can. You’re gonna need all the energy you can get!
- Wake up your graduate with breakfast in bed.
- Take your pets to a kennel or a friend’s house.
- Pick up food from caterer or make sure you are there if it’s being delivered. Check what is picked up/delivered so you get what you expect.
- Set out trash bins and recycling boxes (for cans and bottles).
- Do last minute cleaning and tidying.
- Sweep walkway, sidewalk & garage (if using).
- Pick up balloons.
- Set out yard signs and directional signs.
- Put up outside decorations.
- Set out tableware.
- Set up serving dishes. Put out non-perishable food early in the day, persihable food at the last minute.
- Set out coolers with ice and beverages.
- Give your graduate a letter saying how proud you are of them.
- Give your graduate a big hug and let the celebration begin!