How to Host an Effortless (and Fun!) Graduation Party

That time of the year is coming, when high school and college kids will be decked out in caps and gowns with diplomas in hand and stars in their eyes. They’ve done the hard work and deserve to be honored for their accomplishments.

In other words: it’s time to party!

A graduation party is a huge deal, something your grad will remember for the rest of his or her life. The easiest way to make it effortless? Let someone else host it! Many restaurants cater to special events, relieving you of most of the burden (including set-up and clean-up).

graduation girl holding her diploma with pride

Here are our top tips for an effortless and fun graduation party:

1. Create the guest list.

This will be a mix of your grad’s friends, your friends and family. Start big, and then cull down the list if you need to for budgetary purposes. Pro tip: drop the list into a spreadsheet program to easily manage it and have everyone’s information (address, phone, email, etc.) in one place.

2. Set the budget.

Some of you are saying, “What budget?” If you’ve not considered what it might cost, visit a few of your favorite spots and talk to the event planner. You’ll get a good idea of what you can get for your dollar at each venue. Pro tip: don’t skimp on the food; we’ve got other money-saving ideas for you!

Vickers celebration credit SplitShire

3. Have a joint party.

Money-saving idea number one: Explore whether it’s possible to co-host with your graduate’s best friend’s family. It’s likely their interests and preferences are the same, and splitting the cost can only be a good thing. Pro tip: set expectations with your grads early about number of guests.

4. Work with a theme.

Let the grad choose a cool theme that means something to her or him. It can be as elaborate as Game of Thrones, as laid-back as a “beach theme” or as simple as a favorite color. Weave this throughout the invitation, decorations, food and even thank-you notes. Pro-tip: ask your grad to participate in getting the decorations—this is a fun outing and a way to spend the day together.

5. Send invitations online.

Teens and 20-somethings live in a digital world, so use something free like Evite or Paperless Post, or work with your grad to pull together a Facebook event. Pro tip: be prepared to send paper invitations to older relatives who may not be computer-savvy.

6. Work with the venue for the perfect food.

How to handle food sensitivities and preferences for a crowd? Leave it to the professional! Most good restaurants have a special event planner who’ll keep an eye toward gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and even vegan options that fit your theme and are delicious. Aside from that, allow your grad to choose a few favorite items (especially the dessert!). Pro tip: you’ll save money with a finger-food and small-plates event instead of a more formal, sit-down meal.

Vickers fingerfood credit kaboompics

7. Make sure there’s music.

Depending on your budget, that could be a local band or DJ, but to get exactly what the graduate loves, consider having your guest of honor pull together an iPod playlist (another money-saving win!). Many venues have equipment in place to pump music out from your device. Pro tip: remind your grad that Aunt Betty and Grandma aren’t into the latest and greatest and perhaps he should mix in a few “quieter” songs now and again.

8. Ask about audiovisual.

Hey, it’s your kid, and you’re going to want to say a few words. Your graduate may or may not give you the eyeroll, but you’re proud and everyone should know it. Most good restaurants have a simple microphone and speaker set-up. Pro tip: keep it short and sweet, and ask the grad to say a few words, too.

9. Tell the story in pictures.

Photo montages are all the rage, but you don’t have to pay someone or be a design-master to pull one off. PC users can accomplish great things in Powerpoint or with the free Windows Live Photo Gallery. Mac users can do the same in Keynote. Pro tip: while it’s tempting to whip out tons of baby pictures, go for a good mix with a low embarrassment factor (as in, keep it to one crying baby picture, please); hit the big life moments instead.

cupcakes credit Life of Pix

10. Ponder party favors.

Not as big a deal as they are with showers, party favors still are a nice touch—and you don’t have to break the bank. An easy, popular and money-saving trick is to put out assorted candies plus decorative cello bags. Guests can make-their-own on the way out. Pro tip: make sure there’s good mix for those who may be sensitive to chocolate or dairy-based candies.

11. Send thank-you notes.

This gracious tradition is not old-fashioned; it’s good manners. Ideally, these would be paper and sent via snail mail—an incredibly classy touch. But even digital notes are preferred over no thanks at all. Pro tip: this is where a well-constructed guest list spreadsheet comes in handy.

Hosting in a hall is another option, but you’ll need to be prepared to do everything from scratch including the food, place settings, beverages, audiovisual equipment and sometimes even tables and chairs. Hosting in a restaurant will cover many of those items as part of the price, plus you’ll have access to the event planner’s trusted vendors—it’s one-stop shopping for the big day. Make a few calls, meet with a few venues and you’ll find the perfect spot (at the right price!) to celebrate your graduate’s accomplishments. Congratulations!

Vickers Restaurant serves traditional Continental cuisine with classic French flair. Indulge in attentive service and outstanding menus in quaint and comfortable surroundings. The same European service is available through our stellar event planning service. Whether it’s a romantic dinner for two or a wedding for 150, you can rest assured you’ll enjoy the highest level of care and attention to detail. Join us for happy hour, dinner and live piano on Fridays and Saturdays—we’ve got the area’s most extensive European wine list and excel at vintage cocktails. In season, relax in our outdoor garden for drinks or dinner. Vickers is the perfect spot for fine food, cocktails and entertaining.

Nina Malone

Photo credits: top to bottom, BigStock, SplitShire, Kaboompics, Life of Pix

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