I remember just a few years ago, I asked my parents if I could hold a high school graduation celebration at our house before I went off to college. I dreamed of having a dessert table with a tassel garland like the ones I had on my “Party Time” Pinterest board. My only request was to have that dessert table, but my sweet and talented mom came through with way more. I invited close family and friends, and we celebrated by enjoying lots of food and laughs before I moved to Austin. Now that graduation season is coming up, I’ve been thinking about those fun times I got to spend with the people I loved most from home. I wouldn’t redo anything from my graduation party, but I love the idea of a colorful, fun get-together for a future college graduation event. Below are some tips and ideas if you’re hosting an upcoming graduation party soon, and keep scrolling for details of a GIVEAWAY below!
1. Pick a size-appropriate space.
Whether you choose to host your event at a restaurant, rented space, or your home, pick a place that’s appropriate for the type of gathering you want to have. Your intended guest size may change, so it’s good to consider a flexible space. At my graduation party, we used almost our entire home and backyard to accommodate more people.
2. Choose a theme that best suits you.
Choosing a theme will help immensely when planning out your color scheme, decorations, and invitations. I love the idea of a fiesta, ice cream parlor, garden party, or girly Texas Longhorns theme. (Hehe hook ’em!) By choosing one, you can start gaining decor inspiration online and through your surroundings.
3. Have an “open house” setting.
It’s likely that your friends will also be holding graduation celebrations around the same time you are, so when should you hold yours? First, it’s helpful to have a chat amongst your friends to get an idea when they’ll be hosting theirs, so you can plan accordingly, and avoid the awkward “I can’t come to yours, because I’m having mine” talk. Second, the most convenient time for people will probably be around mid-morning to early evening on a weekend. It’s good to keep in mind that the timing may not work out for everyone, so a relaxed “open house” concept where people can freely come and go will work out best. It’ll give your guests a chance to have some food, play games, and say hello without the pressure of staying for too long or too short.
4. Mailed invitations are preferred.
Call me old-fashioned, but I really appreciate receiving invitations in the mail. It helps set the tone for the event, and they make great keepsakes for later. Of course, it’s totally acceptable to send a Facebook event invite or an E-card, too! Whatever you choose, be sure to include all important information like your name, address, time, and attire for the party, and send them out a month ahead, so your guests have plenty of time to plan their schedules.
4. Build a backdrop for photo ops.
Once a theme and space is chosen, planning decorations gets much easier. I love the idea of welcoming guests with a beautiful entrance, a great place for fun photo ops. Some of my favorite design inspiration ideas include a balloon installation, floral wall, or a weaving. Just make sure to not block the doorway! Also, try using a hashtag on social media accounts like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, so people can share pictures from your event. Here are some backdrops I love:
5. Stick with a color scheme for decorations.
Decorations can be made much simpler by using a color scheme based on your theme. I say simple decorations are best, but simple doesn’t have to be boring. I’m all about minimum effort with maximum effect! I would go with about two to four colors for decorations. Some of my must-haves include: a colorful table cloth, statement balloons, garlands, and some simple floral arrangements. Be sure to set up a table for gifts close to the entrance, and provide some personal touches throughout the space by adding pictures and memorabilia of your high school or college journey. Here are some fun decorations:
6. Go with finger food.
Unless you’re hosting your event at a restaurant, food will probably be the most time-consuming part of the planning process. If you’re hosting your celebration at home, you might have to ask yourself the question: to cater or not to cater? While catering seems like a convenient idea, it can get expensive. If you plan on doing food yourself, I would stick with snack-sized eats, since people will be moving around. An elegant cheese board with charcuterie and olives, a veggie platter, and a variety of finger foods such tea sandwiches, fruit skewers, and crostini or chips with your favorite dip are some suggestions. If you feel like you need to provide more substantial food, go with a DIY food station like a baked potato bar, bagel bar, or chili bar. Also, don’t forget with more guests comes more cleaning! To cut down on cleanup, I recommend going with disposable cutlery, plates, napkins, and cups. There are lots of festive, disposable tableware out there now (like these at Target)!
7. Set up a fun drink station.
Incorporating a drink station is a fun way to let guests help themselves to a variety of drinks at your celebration. To set up the perfect drink station, try setting up a separate ice bucket of store-bought ice, and pouring different mixed drinks like a simple basil lemonade or virgin sparkling grapefruit mojito into glass vessels. Fun straws, berry garnishes, and see-through cups make it a fun time!
7. Give out fun party favors.
Party favors are a great way to show your guests a small, immediate token of appreciation. One of my girlfriends did an impressive DIY candy bar where guests could help themselves to a variety of monochromatic candies, and toss them in a clear bag. I love that idea, but to make it even more fun, I think candy skewers are the way to go. Some other affordable and fun ideas are mini succulents, balloons with attached pictures on the ends, or confetti poppers.
8. Show your appreciation.
I believe saying “thank you” in written form is the best way to wrap up your graduation celebration. Make a list of each guest or family that showed up at your event, and write a thank you note on some cute cards to express your thanks for the help they provided at the party and/or the gift they gave you. I would sent them out a week later, but better late than never. Make sure to include a greeting, add personal details, and restate your gratitude.
I am so excited to be partnering with Pretty Goods ATX to give away one set of gold letter balloons and one confetti popper I’ve shown above. The balloons are super easy to blow up with a bike pump or even a straw, and they’re perfect for celebrating any special occasion! I think they’d look spectacular on a wall or as a garland like I’ve shown above hanging on a door frame. I’m also giving away one of these fun confetti party poppers, perfect for celebrating any high school or college graduate! To enter, follow the steps below:
Photo Courtesy: Kelly Rice Photography