Graduation Party Planning Checklist

Planning Your Graduation Party

Celebrating your child's graduation is important and exciting, and it can be expensive. It may be the second most important party you throw for them. (We'll assume the wedding will really be a show!) Below, you'll find a simple checklist with a few comments from the Party Girl tossed in. Where appropriate, we even suggested some places to shop for this very special day.

Make your life easier, and print out a pdf version of the Graduation Party Planning Checklist to keep with you when planning.

Set the Budget

Like any big party, this is an essential first step. I've graduated three, and half the time I think I shouldn't throw a party and just put the money in an envelope, and half the time I lean towards throwing the biggest graduation bash ever. The best choice is probably somewhere in-between. Bring family and friends together to celebrate this great accomplishment but keep it informal enough so that it's fun and relatively inexpensive. Setting a budget will let you answer three important questions; "Where will the party be held?", "Who is doing the cooking?", and "Will I hire entertainment?".

Where Will the Party Be Held?
There are 3 basic choices. Your final choice will depend on your budget, how much time you have, and how many people are attending.

1. You can rent a hall.
If you are having lots of people, this works very well. No worries about renting chairs, tables, or silverware. Most halls have good entertainment opportunities also. Dance floors, stages, and even outdoor activities like horseshoes for the old folks and playgrounds for the kids. A good choice for big parties.

2. You can make restaurant reservations. Perfect for smaller events. If your child is graduating from an out of town school and just the immediate family can make it, this is a great solution. Easy to plan; the restaurant does most of the work and you can concentrate on the celebration. Try to get a private room, if possible, so you don't have outside interference and you don't feel obligated to leave quickly.

3. You can host the party at your house. Still the most common option. Many graduation parties are open houses and your house works for this approach. This can also be the least expensive option while still giving you great opportunities to make it special.

To Cook or not to Cook?
A big decision is whether you want to prepare the food yourself or have the event catered. If you have lots of help, cooking can save you money and let you prepare the graduate's favorite meals. But cooking for a big crowd can be scary, time-consuming, and, let's face it, not a whole lot of fun. Catering can be the solution. It can also be expensive. More and more we are seeing a combination of the two. For example, my Mom's family is tremendous at making pizza and cookies. And if I didn't let my aunts bring food they would be very upset. So, pizza and desert is covered. I make a fruit salad and a garden salad. We order chicken and pasta from the caterer and we have great food for an open house, the cost is good, and my aunts are happy!

Entertainment or Not?
We've seen lots of graduation parties with DJs and even bands. Really, it depends on where the party is at, how many people will be there, and can they entertain themselves. With an open house or at a restaurant, this is probably not necessary. At a hall, this could be a way to go.

Before the Event
Getting the word out. Once you have settled on a guest list you'll have to get the word out. There are lots of very cool invitations out there. And don't forget to order other printed materials you might need:

Invitations/RSVP/Other Printed Items
___ Invitation to the party! - Go to your local party store, or get a personalized invitation from Party411.com or Carlson Craft. There are always plenty of graduation parties happening at the same time so get this out early and try to make it special!
___ Response Card and
___ Response Envelope - Not standard for a graduation party, but, if you are having lots of out of towners, it's not a bad idea.
___ Directional Card - Basically a map to where the party is being held. If it's at your house, this is probably not needed, but, if you're going to a restaurant or a hall, it's a nice touch.
___ Seating Cards - Only if you are having a sit down affair.
___ Agenda - I think this is a nice touch for out of town guests. Especially if there are other informal get-togethers over the weekend.
___ Signage/Sign-In Boards - If you are getting any specially made signs, sign-in boards, or cut-outs now is the time to order them. We have some great graduation signs and banners, or you can go to your local printer, or do them yourself.
For the Day of the Event

Decorations Checklist
Outside Location:
___ Signage
___ Graduation balloons
___ Lighting
___ Other (e.g. life size cut-out of the graduate)
Inside Location/Outside Room:
___ Welcome Sign or personalized banner
___ Entrance Sign at "room" entrance
___ Life-Sized Cutouts are great for picture ops or send us your photo and you can use these to greet your guests at the front door.
___ Graduation balloons
___ Sign-In Board and/or
___ Sign in Book
___ Pens (Can be a great favor too!)
___ Directional signage based on theme
___ Restroom signs theme-oriented

Inside Room:
___ Photo Blow-Ups - Having big pictures of the graduate (and the family is a great way to decorate and gives you a great take away from the event.)
___ A "Class of" Photo Op paired with personalized cameras to snap great memories
___ Gift Table
___ Balloon Treatment/Arches - Graduation balloons are always fun and very inexpensive.

Tables:
___ Linen ___ Specialty ___ Color Choice(s)
___ Napkins ___ Specialty ___ Color Choice(s)
___ Centerpiece - You can make your own or get a three-sided, personalized graduation centerpiece!
___ Confetti/glitter
___ Graduation balloons
___ Games

Graduation Party Favors:
___ Favors for your guests. Personalized graduation party favors or custom graduation pens are all good choices