Having four children who graduated two years apart, I have been planning high school or college graduation parties for over a decade. The two most important pieces of advice I can offer is to set a budget and plan early. Figure out how much money you have to spend on your celebration. This is critical, as your budget will determine the number of guests you can have and the venue you will use to host your party. Many families have their parties out at restaurants, in halls or other locations. These will cost more money. With four who graduated within a 7-year span, we knew with our oldest that we couldn't set a precedent that we couldn't continue with the rest. So the idea of the "Backyard BBQ" took shape. It's easy, casual and relatively inexpensive. Plus the outdoor theme allows for a larger guest list for your graduate. Our kids invited their friends, fellow grads, teachers, coaches, and of course, all the family. We ran the graduation parties like an open house.
Once you have a budget and have decided on your venue, then settle on a date and do it early. You will be competing with lots of other parties this time of year and by getting yours on the calendar first you will avoid conflicts. Next decide on invitations. You can order them online or buy them in the stores. However to save money, you can make them yourself on the computer. There are numerous invitation products available in office supply stores that will give you templates to make your own. Be creative... add graduation clipart, a logo from the college or high school of your graduate or even inset a photo! Unless you have room in your house or are having it off site, ALWAYS plan a rain date. Also make sure you have an RSVP with a date deadline and add your email as well as your phone number. A 'regrets only" RSVP system makes for tricky planning. Recently, I have even seen people use free online invitation services.
For food, your options are numerous if you are hosting your graduation party at home. You can have it catered, you can cook or our family favorite for our barbeque theme is hamburgers, hot dogs and heroes. Add some salads, fruit platters and a graduation themed dessert and you have an easy, inexpensive menu. We set up a "stadium" food booth near the grill. My husband and his buddies were grilling to order, with the condiments and rolls set out at the booth. You make a poster and name your area. For example, at our party for our youngest who was going to DePaul University in Chicago.. we set up the "DePaul Dug Out" and decorated the table with the school colors. For our son, who was headed to Rutgers University, we had a "Knight Stand" as their school mascot is the Scarlet Knight. For another of our parties, I bought cases of bottled water, took off the store label and made my own personalized labels celebrating the graduates!
For your graduation themed dessert you can always make or order a sheet cake. However, I have received great kudos with my graduate cakes. I make dozens of cupcakes and make tags on card stock with the high school or college logo. When our daughter was headed to Chicago for college, I made tags with pictures of Chicago landmarks. I then tape the tags to a toothpick and insert into the cupcakes. Make sure your tags are small enough that they don't cause the cupcakes to tip over. Display on a platter and you have a unique dessert plate.