Graduation season is around the corner, and parents are shedding tears everywhere as they prepare to send their babies off to college, the military, to study abroad, or embark on whatever other life plans they have.

Graduating high school is a considerable accomplishment, deserving of a celebration filled with lively laughter, reminiscing, welcoming the future, and expressing love for your special graduate.

First Steps

The hustle and bustle of graduation season can be overwhelming. There are ceremonies, special events, and lots of planning. For this reason, make sure to begin planning at least a month in advance (and more if you’re enlisting the help of a professional party planner. They book up quickly during grad season). Starting early will help you avoid procrastination anxiety.

Start by writing down a guest list, picking a date and time for the party, and choosing the perfect location for the big bash. Here are nine more steps to cross off your list as you begin planning the perfect graduation party.

1. Consider Unpredictable Weather

Spring is often a beautiful time to be outside, with its bright flowers and cool air. The beauty of springtime might prompt you to plan your graduation party outdoors, and we’re here for it. However, it’s always wise to have a backup plan in case of unpredictable wind or rain.

**Pro Tip**
Your child’s friends are also graduating, meaning they’ll be having parties too. Talk to their parents to ensure your parties don’t overlap, and consider an open house-style party, so guests feel comfortable coming and going as they party hop.

2. Pin Down a Party Theme

Choosing a theme for a graduation party is a fun aspect of the planning process. Graduation parties are the perfect occasions to incorporate fun and personality. Here are some possible themes to get your juices flowing:

  • A Fancy Flare
    Some young adults are all about black-tie events and fancy dinnerware. After all, they’re entering adulthood for the first time. Think elegant flower arrangements and intricate hors d’oeuvres.
  • A Casual Celebration
    Your grad may want nothing to do with formal attire and prefer a laid-back and casual party with guests wearing whatever they feel comfortable in. Plus, simple food, paperware, and simple decorations make cleanup easy.
  • A Lovely Luau
    A Hawaiian luau is a perfect theme for a festive grad party. Supply a lei for each guest and a fancier lei for the guest of honor. Decorate with Hawaiian flowers and colorful banners, and don’t forget Hawaiian music. If you want to go the extra mile, hire some hula dancers to put on a show with dinner.
  • A Backyard BBQ
    You’ve been cooped up through the winter. Explore the space with a graduation barbecue. Make sure to have vegetarian options and ask about other food restrictions ahead of time to accommodate everyone.
  • A Sentimental Soiree
    For the ultra-sentimental families, you can build a theme around your grad’s past accomplishments or plans. For example, you can create a “memory lane” complete with pictures of their sporting events, speech and debate championship ribbons, newspaper clippings, and other accomplishments that make you proud.

You can also focus on the future. If your child is setting their sights on nursing school, you can have a “red cross” theme. Likewise, if they’re headed off to New York for school, consider a Statue of Liberty cake and a cityscape backdrop.

**Pro Tip**
Choose a theme THEY want, not a theme YOU want. It’s a great way to bridge the transition as they move from being under your roof to heading out on their own, where they’ll “adult” and make their own decisions.

3. Plan a Budget

Graduation parties are fabulous, but it’s important to set a budget ahead of time, so you don’t go into shock when your bills arrive. Consider how much you want to spend and then budget accordingly. Things to calculate into your budget:

  • Invitations/thank you notes plus postage
  • Décor
  • Centerpieces
  • Food
  • Tableware
  • Photography/Videography
  • Catering
  • Venue
  • Entertainment
  • Tent rentals
  • Equipment rentals (cotton candy machine, karaoke machine, photobooth, etc.)
  • Party favors

4. Choose a Venue

Where is this party going down? In your home? Strictly in your backyard? A luxurious country club? A banquet room or events center? Dave and Busters?

Choosing and booking a venue should be one of your first steps because they can fill up quickly. Besides that, the whole party hinges on the type of venue. Your party will look a lot different if the neighborhood clubhouse is all booked up and you need to your neighbor’s barn in the country instead.

5. Plan the Entertainment

High school grads are young and carefree with lots of energy; they love entertainment! Make your party the grad party of the year by hiring a DJ or popular band to encourage dancing the night away and making the best of memories in good company.

6. Order Invitations and Send Them Out

What’s your plan for invitations? Are you sticking with the traditional physical invites, or something more affordable like an e-vite? Or go creative by sending out rolled-up invitations with a mini cap to mimic a white and black cap and diploma.

***Pro Tip***
Whatever style of invitation you decide on, make sure to order thank you cards simultaneously so they match and can be written and ready to go as soon as the festivities pass.

7. Plan the Food

Teenagers are hungry people. Make sure you choose a crowd-pleasing menu that keeps the positive vibes flowing and mouths watering. Determine if you’d like to cook, cater or hire a chef.

8. Decorate

It’s important to lock down your theme first to have a clear direction when purchasing décor. A typical “graduation” theme can be excellent, complete with caps and gowns, diplomas, and personal touches honoring your grad.

9. Guest Books and Special Notes to the Grad

Create a guestbook of some sort to be a special keepsake for your graduate. You can set up a large poster with a picture of their graduating class. Guests can sign it and add a special note. Or you can make a photo book with lots of white space for guests to sign.

***Pro Tip***
If you’re overwhelmed by planning a party during such a busy time, consider party planning services in your area.

In just a couple months, graduation season will be in full swing. It’s exciting, surreal, busy and possibly a little sad. Now is your chance to show your grad how proud you are of them and how much you love and support them. What better way to show your love then by throwing a party filled with their favorite themes, entertainment, and food? This may be your last chance to throw them a party before life changes significantly.

If you’re feeling a little weepy these days, you can channel all your emotions into your grad party. We call it “party planning as therapy.” Or, sit back, spend time with your grad and leave the heavy lifting to our expert party planners in Dallas, DC, or Los Angeles.