Learn how to plan a graduation party to celebrate and honor your graduate! Download your free Graduation Party Planning Checklist and planner to keep track of every detail.
Until you have a senior in high school,it’s hard to grasp the emotional roller coaster ride that you experience as a parent during this milestone year. In addition to all the emotions, being a parent of a senior comes with a ton of additional mini-tasks centered around two MEGA tasks:
- the college application process
Looking back on this time last year, I can recall the never-ending To Do list associated with the high school graduation party that we hosted for my daughter in early July.
I’m not going to lie — planning for this shindig was a HUGE source of stress (although the party itself was SO FUN).
I vowed that when the party was behind me and the dust settled, I would create a resource for how to plan a graduation party, based on what I learned going through the process for the first time. Also, I need to create a high school graduation party checklist for myself, since I’ll be repeating the process next year for my son!
How to Plan a Graduation Party
Before we dive into the nitty gritty planning a graduation party checklist, let’s first cover some general tips for planning the event.
1. Start the Graduation Party Planning Process EARLY
Even though the graduation party planning timeline I outline below suggests starting your planning eight to twelve weeks prior to your party date, you may need to start even earlier.
If your party requires a caterer and/or rentals (tent, tables/chairs, photo booths), I’d recommend nailing down those vendors at least six months ahead. The lead time you need will vary based on your location. Ask other local families who have recently hosted a party (in the last year or two) what their recommendation is for when to reach out to vendors.
Wait too long and you run the risk of paying a huge premium for what you want or having to settle for your second or third choice.
2. Include The Graduate in The Party Planning Process
During the graduation party planning process, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that this is supposed to be the graduate’s party, not your party. As you begin the planning process, be sure to communicate with your graduate to learn about their vision for the party.
Do they want a huge bash or a small “family only” backyard barbeque?
Is there a particular theme that they would like to incorporate?
Do they have specific thoughts regarding the food that will be served?
Do they want to create a music playlist for the special day?
When I sat down with my daughter to start nailing down party details, she requested a cupcake tower instead of a cake. She also shared an idea that she had for table centerpieces. Weaving these specific requests into the graduation party plan made the celebration even more meaningful to her.
3. Set a Graduation Party Budget
Setting a budget for your party upfront will help to prevent things from getting out of hand during the graduation party planning process. It will also assist you when it comes to figuring out how many guests you can realistically accommodate.
For reference, here’s a summary of average graduation party costs based on location.
Graduation party budget line items include:
- food & beverages (catering)
- venue rental fee
- other rental fees (tables, chairs, linens)
- entertainment (DJ, photo booth, yard games, etc.)
- videography and/or photography (if you plan to hire a professional)
- decorations (balloons, streamers, banners, centerpieces)
- paper products (plates, napkins, cutlery)
- invitations and thank you notes (including postage)
- party favors
4. Ask for Help & Look for Ways to Save Money on Your Graduation Party
Planning a graduation party at home (or even at a venue) can be overwhelming. If a family member or friend volunteers to take on some of the tasks on your graduation party planning checklist, by all means, take them up on their offer.
My good friend volunteered to create floral centerpieces for our tables using flowers from her amazing garden. My mother-in-law created the photo “picks” for the centerpieces and provided all the cupcakes and cookies. It takes a village!
During the summer I hosted our daughter’s party, I had several friends who were hosting a party for their graduate within a month of my party. We helped each other out by sharing some of the decorations with one another. We also borrowed large serving trays and drink dispensers from one another.
I also borrowed some wood pallets from someone in my local Facebook Buy Nothing group to use for photo displays:
Get tons of ideas for how to save money on your graduation party here.
Planning a Graduation Party Checklist
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There are so many details that go into planning a graduation party. Being organized is a must during the process. By following the recommended graduation party timeline below, you can throw a bash that will be truly remembered!
8 – 12 WEEKS BEFORE GRADUATION PARTY
- Set party date and time
- Select (and reserve) a venue
- Book a caterer
- Book rentals and/or entertainment (tables, chairs, photo booth, DJ, etc.)
- Choose party theme and/or color scheme
- Create guest list
6 – 8 WEEKS BEFORE GRADUATION PARTY
- Order invitations and thank you cards
- Plan menu and create grocery list
- Purchase decorations (Shutterfly and Amazon were my Go To sources)
- Purchase paper products & cutlery
- Gather memorabilia to use for table displays
- Create graduation party photo displays
4 – 6 WEEKS BEFORE GRADUATION PARTY
- Send out invitations (we used Minted to create ours)
- Finalize menu
- Confirm all rentals and bookings
- Designate a photographer (or hire one)
- Borrow any items you need but don’t own (e.g., tiered trays, platters, drink dispensers, extra trash cans)
- Make arrangements for parking and/or notify neighbors of extra cars on party date
2 – 4 WEEKS BEFORE GRADUATION PARTY
- Determine table/chair layout
- Determine layout for food/beverage stations
- Order desserts (cake/cookies)
- Purchase beverages and any non-perishable food
1 WEEK BEFORE GRADUATION PARTY
- Confirm final guest count (and supply to caterer)
- Make arrangements for your pets to stay offsite on party day
- Deep clean house (if you are hosting party at your house)
- Begin decorating and creating memorabilia displays (e.g., Words of Wisdom display, graduation card box, etc. Get some awesome graduation party decorating ideas in this post)
- Create signage (e.g., directing cars to the venue or guests to the bathroom in your home)
1 DAY BEFORE GRADUATION PARTY
- Complete the decorating process
- Set up tent
- Complete last-minute cleaning tasks
- Prepare food that needs to be made on party day
- Take pets to their offsite destination
* PARTY DAY *
- Set up tables and chairs (and table decor)
- Set up entertainment (e.g., yard games, photo booth, etc.)
- Set up food/beverage stations
- Pick up last-minute items, including: helium balloons, ice, and cake
- Put out signage
- Stock bathroom with extra toilet paper and soap
Phew, that’s A LOT!
Free Graduation Party Checklist Printable
To make things a bit easier to manage, I created a printable Graduation Party Planning Checklist that summarizes all of these tasks on a one-page printable:
You can snag this checklist, as well as 10 other super helpful graduation party planning printables that are all included in the Ultimate Graduation Party Planner:
The 11-page graduation party planner printable set includes the following:
- Party Master Plan Worksheet
- Party Planning Timeline Checklist
- Party Month Planner
- Party Week Planner
- Master To Do List Worksheet
- Guest List Tracker
- Menu Worksheet
- Shopping List Worksheet
- Items to Borrow Worksheet
- Notes Sheet
Y’all know that I’m a HUGE FAN ofusing binders for organizing household papers and projects. Creating a binder specifically for the party is a must. The Ultimate Graduation Party Planner will fit beautifully in a one-inch binder.
I like to use a binder with pockets so that I can keep extra papers in it. Here’smy favorite binder. You can use a three-hole punch to make the planner pages binder-ready OR slip them intopage protectors(the three-hole design-type).
Wishing you the best of luck with your high school graduation party planning! Circle back after your party and let me know how it turned out in the comments below.
Oh, and don’t forget to send your thank you cards out after your amazing soiree to let your guests know how very much you appreciate their graduation gift!
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Natalie Gallagher is a former professional organizer and home stager who has spent the past 12 years helping people achieve their vision of an organized and beautiful home via the Refined Rooms brand. During her time as a professional organizer, she was a member of the National Association of Productivity & Organization Professionals, serving as Director of Communication and Technology for the North Coast Ohio Chapter. She is also an APPO-certified photo organizer who specialized in helping her clients with photo organizing and paper management. Natalie earned her staging and redesign certification through Home Staging Resource in 2013. She loves to teach home sellers how to stage their homes to attract buyers. When not blogging about home organization, decluttering or decorating, she's likely making plans to tackle the next DIY home improvement project on her never-ending To Do list.
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Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
About Me: Demonstrating Expertise in Graduation Party Planning
As an experienced event planner and enthusiast of celebratory occasions, I have organized numerous graduation parties and have a deep understanding of the intricacies involved in planning such events. I have firsthand experience in coordinating various aspects of graduation parties, from setting a budget and creating a guest list to selecting venues, hiring caterers, and managing entertainment. My expertise extends to collaborating with graduates to bring their party vision to life, incorporating personalized elements, and ensuring a memorable and enjoyable celebration for all involved.
Concepts Related to Graduation Party Planning
Graduation Party Planning Process The process of planning a graduation party involves various stages, from setting the date and time, selecting a venue, and booking vendors to creating a guest list, choosing a theme, and finalizing the party details. It is essential to start the planning process early and involve the graduate in decision-making to align the event with their preferences.
Involving the Graduate in Planning It is crucial to communicate with the graduate to understand their vision for the party. This includes determining the scale of the celebration, preferred themes, food choices, and entertainment options. Incorporating the graduate's input adds a personal touch to the event and enhances its significance.
Setting a Budget Establishing a budget upfront is fundamental for effective party planning. The budget should cover expenses such as food, venue rental, entertainment, decorations, invitations, party favors, and other essential elements. Having a clear budget helps in managing costs and ensuring a well-organized event.
Seeking Help and Cost-Saving Strategies Planning a graduation party often involves seeking assistance from friends and family members. Accepting help with tasks such as creating centerpieces, providing food, and sharing decorations can alleviate the planning burden. Additionally, implementing cost-saving strategies, such as borrowing items, sharing resources with other party hosts, and utilizing DIY decorations, contributes to efficient budget management.
Graduation Party Checklist A comprehensive checklist is instrumental in organizing and tracking all essential tasks leading up to the graduation party. The checklist includes items such as setting the party date, ordering invitations, planning the menu, arranging decorations, confirming rentals, and preparing the venue for the event. Following a structured timeline and checklist ensures a systematic and successful party planning process.
Printable Graduation Party Planning Checklist Utilizing a printable graduation party planning checklist streamlines the organization of tasks and helps maintain an overview of the planning process. The checklist covers crucial aspects such as party date selection, venue reservation, catering arrangements, guest list creation, menu planning, decoration procurement, and finalizing party logistics.
Ultimate Graduation Party Planner The ultimate graduation party planner comprises a set of printable resources designed to facilitate seamless event coordination. These resources include worksheets, timelines, planners, guest list trackers, menu planners, shopping lists, and notes sheets. Organizing these materials in a dedicated binder enhances the efficiency of party planning and execution.
By integrating these concepts and utilizing the provided resources, individuals can approach the planning of a graduation party with a structured and organized mindset, leading to a memorable and successful celebration.