Planning and Organizing the Perfect Graduation Party

The winds blow a bit warmer, green sprouts peek through brown earth, and the Class of 2006 anxiously awaits graduation day. The apathy of senioritis that set in months ago is being replaced with the excitement of prom just weeks away and then finally, after 13 long years, graduation. While the young people prepare to embark on a new path towards adulthood, parents freak out! There’s a party to be planned! Where to begin? Who to invite? What about decorations? What food to serve? How will all those people fit in the house? Take a deep breath, make a pot of coffee or tea, grab pen and paper. Write down dates with goals in mind. You’ll want to keep track of expenses and check off each task as it’s completed. and glide smoothly through the next few months with a solid plan of attack.

Sit down with your soon to be graduate and have an honest discussion about the expectations of the party. Only you, the parents, know what you can afford and how much space you have to create the perfect party for your young adult. Once everyone agrees on a specific price range, the fun begins.

You’re first decision is who to invite. You can decide if it will be a catered event, a do it yourself buffet, or just cake and punch depending on the cost you agreed upon and the number of people invited. Opting for the do it yourself buffet is a middle of the road way to go, but requires planning, organizing, and a lot of work. However, it’s also a way for the family to work together to create a memorable day for their graduate. If you have the means to hire a caterer you’re worry and work load is minimal. Let’s plan a do it yourself buffet that everyone will enjoy.

Start writing down tasks that need to be done and check each one off as it’s completed:

1.Address invitations. Do this task while it’s still cold outside and before you can begin working in the yard.

2.Order tent. If you don’t think there will be enough room in your home for all your guests, order a tent from a reputable company near you. Make sure you have a clear idea of how many people will be attending and what the tent looks like. The company usually comes out early on the day of the event to put the tent up for you. I highly recommend using a white tent with windows and the ability to open or close at one end, just in case of inclement weather.

3.Contact your church or someone who supplies tables and chairs for events. You’ll need tables for food and for guests to sit and eat at.

4.Plan the theme. More and more young people are planning the event around a theme. It’s usually something that brings to light a personal like or personality trait. The school colors are not always used these days. Ask your graduate if he/she has a preference. If notâÂ?¦ go with the school colors.

5.Create a menu. Since this is a day to honor your child’s achievement, let him/her be your guide. Perhaps all or some of their favorite foods could be served. You might wish to have a chicken barbeque or grill hamburgers and hot dogs. Ham sandwiches, chips and baked beans is probably the most used menu, but I would go a different route to create a buffet unique to your child. Mexican food, Italian, Greek, ChineseâÂ?¦ the possibilities are endless. A sample menu: Grilled chicken, mom’s best potato salad, Caesar salad with creamy dressing, crusty rolls, a vegetable plate that includes celery and carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, olives, both black and green, mixed fruit in a watermelon bowl, and of course, the cake. If you’re expecting a large crowd, place bowls of M&M’s mixed with peanuts on the tables, mints or another finger food. FYI: You can purchase just the color of M&M’s you need at specialty stores. This makes for a colorful addition to the table decorations.

6.Order the cake. Find a great cake decorator who creates unique one of a kind cakes. Have the cake decorated to coordinate with the theme. Order early to assure you get just what you want.

7.Begin shopping for items from the menu. Rather than wait and purchase everything at once, pick up needed items over the coming weeks and freeze them if possible. If you’re using bread products, wait until the day before the party to purchase them.
8.Beverages. It’s best to not include liquor or beer. The temptation for young people to drink may be too great. This is a season of partying, be the smart family on the block and do not serve anything but sodas, ice tea, lemonade, water, punch, or coffee.

9.Decorations. Graduation and congratulatory decorations abound through the spring. Keep a look out for unique items. If helium balloons grace your list, be sure to order early and don’t forget the weights to keep them on the tables. Flowers always add a festive touch and even guys enjoy a masculine assortment of blossoms. If your grad is a guy look into protea as a more masculine flower. Leave the daisies for the girls. A “Memory Corner” recreates the past 18 years of your new adult. Make a collage of photographs, childhood memorabilia with bits and pieces of all their favorite things. Display any awards, merits, scholarships acquired through their years in elementary and high school. If the equipment is readily available, a montage could be set up using a screen and projector. Let your imagination run wild to create a unique display that will be the hit of the day.

10.Music. Music always adds a festive touch to any party. Even though you may hate rap, choose music that your child loves or even better, leave the task of selecting the music to your graduate.

11.Pick up paper products. Specialty stores abound when it comes to party items like paper plates, cups, napkins, fruit cups and plastic ware (spoons, forks, knives). Customized napkins need to be ordered early, but most kids are happy with just the year on it. This is a good time to start thinking of trays if you need them.

Organizing Tips:

1.Keep purchases well organized. A couple large Rubbermaid containers, labeled with the contents will keep items clean and together making it a snap to haul out and set up on the big day.

2.Ask a friend or two to help you out with kitchen duties and to run last minute errands, such as picking up the cake, getting the balloons, flowers, etc.

3.Create a list just for the menu and food preparation. Put the list on your refrigerator to remind you what needs to be done and when.

4.Do as much cooking (if needed) before hand. Meats can be cooked and stored in the freezer. Clean and cut vegetables the day before, place in large baggies or plastic containers.

5.Confirm all orders a week before the party. Don’t allow a glitch to occur that day.

6.Create a timeline and make sure everyone helping knows what should be done and approximately how long it should take. The morning of the party you’ll feel little pressure because you planned and organized well in advance. You may have a bit of cooking to do, but hopefully the only thing left to do is watch the tent rise before your eyes. Place tables and chairs about the tent and outside if it’s a nice day. You’ll want to decorate early.

7.Draw a hot bath, sit back and relax. You’ll be fresh and smiling when the guests begin to arrive to congratulate your graduate.

Cleaning the house and yard were left out but those are things to take into consideration when working out a timeline of tasks. Be well organized. Plan a couple months in advance and you’ll amaze the guests at how cool, calm, and charming you are at the graduation party of your child.

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