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How to Plan a Memorable Celebration for Your Graduate

May 27, 2018

Celebrating our child’s hard work through their first twelve grades of school, or years of college, is the priority of graduation season.  While there are many things happening at the end of senior year, the celebration is one element not to be neglected.  I’m a believer in marking milestones.  It is important to stop and acknowledge, in a fun way, all that has been done and accomplished.

If we don’t celebrate our children, who will?  Even if a child does not like a lot of fanfare (I have one of those), we can still find ways to make it memorable.  The goal is not to put on the best party possible for others, but to custom tailor the celebration to the child. Do what she loves.  Tap in to his / her values and currency.  Invite those she enjoys and wants to be there (not just your friends).

I will outline the planning steps below. As an example, I will use my daughter’s Gold and White themed traditional party. 

I have a podcast you can listen to that walks through planning a party (episode #61) on The Open Door Sisterhood Podcast.  I have son that will graduate in a  couple of years. I know we will do something completely different for him.  Like I said, the goal is to celebrate the child in a way that makes him or her feel most loved.

Decide on the best type of celebration for your graduate (and do it early)

Sit down and brainstorm ideas.  What sounds fun to him or her?  A traditional party? A small, intimate dinner?  A campfire in the backyard? A hike to a special location?  A private concert in a park?  A picnic by the lake?  A church service in the woods or at your local church?

Ask the question to your graduate:  what will make you feel the most celebrated?  

Nail Down the Guest List  

If family is coming in to town for the event, be sure to figure out how to incorporate them into the celebration.  It doesn’t have to be for the whole time, but at least a part.

Decide if the invite list will be small or large.  Write down names.  You can have two lists:  one for graduation announcements and one for the celebration.  It’s OK to send out an general announcements but keep the party small if that is what the graduate decides.

Decide on the Theme, Date, and Time of the Celebration

It makes the planning of the event easier if there is a theme.  Even if the theme is a color, or an object.

My daughter wanted a traditional Gold and White themed graduation party.  We decided on the Thursday evening from 5-8pm before graduation weekend to be on the early side of the party-wagon. We were excited about the idea of her celebration being the “kick off” to the weekend.  Because my husband and I were also working the Sr. All Nighter Party, doing it early turned out to be a good move.

For the theme, what decorations will you need?  Make a list.  We decided that we would spray paint ordinary items gold (lamps, candlesticks, old bowls, etc.) for the decorations.  We also went with white tablecloths, gold balloons, white streamers, and clear class jars and cake stands.

Create a Menu

Decide on one of the most important features of a celebration:  the food!  If you have a theme, this may determine the type of food you serve.

Because we were having a large group for my daughter’s party, we decided to go with a meal that would feed a lot of people.  We landed on Asian Barbeque.  I made the shredded pork several weeks ahead of time and put it in large tins in the freezer.  We also served Teriyaki Chicken Thighs, my sister’s famous Asian Bow-Tie Pasta Salad, rolls, and a large green salad.   I ordered the big warming trays off Amazon and this helped keep the meat warm during the party.  There is also a caterer’s trick in the podcast on keeping food warm.   

The one item we hired out was the gold and white cupcakes.  Well worth the expense!

Obviously if you do the food yourself the savings is substantial.  Or compromise – order half and make half.

Talk Through Details 

Think through variables of the event.

  • Is there a possibility of rain?
  • Do tents need to be reserved?
  • How will food be served?
  • Who is going to do the cooking?
  • When will that person shop and prep? or when does food need to be ordered?
  • Full meal or just dessert?
  • Who will serve the meal and restock the drinks / food during the party?
  • How many tables and chairs are needed?
  • Are tablecloths needed?
  • What will go in the center of the tables for decoration?
  • Where will pictures be displayed?
  • What yard work need to be done to accommodate the event?

Brainstorm all details that need to be worked out ahead of time.

On our list was:  

  • create an invitation
  • mail invites
  • rent tables + chairs
  • shop and prep food
  • spray paint items gold
  • buy white tablecloths
  • order balloons + streamers
  • order gold + white candy
  • order cupcakes
  • print pics to put in gold frames
  • order back up tents in case of rain
  • bark dust the beds in the yard.

Create “due dates” for each item, and decide who responsible for each task.

Put everything on the calendar.  If Dad is in charge repairing the firepit, by when will it be done? What date will bark be delivered?  What day of the week is set up happening?  When is there a space to grocery shop and food prep?

Assign tasks and details to a date together to make sure there is a plan, not just a list.

For our party, it was supposed to be sunny but we had a last minute rain storm.  We were so glad we created a “back up plan” with tents.  The preparation saved us a great deal of stress.

Enjoy the Moment!  

Once you’ve done all the planning and execution of the celebration – be sure to ENJOY IT!  Don’t be so exhausted or sleep-deprived that you can’t soak in the moment.  Your graduate is crossing a threshold and life will be changing.  Grow together, celebrate together, and be intentional during this precious graduation season.



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