5 Secrets to Planning the BEST EVER High School Graduation Party!

This is one of those milestone parties that is planned with excitement and anticipation, but also anxiety and exhaustion from everything else swirling around senior activities. No matter what everyone’s individual drama is, Miss Party encourages you to mark this happy occasion with a celebratory party. So, just how does one plan the ‘Best Ever’ High School Graduation Party? Well, read on…

A graduation party is pretty much an open house party (with an RSVP if you’re lucky), where it is expected and understood that guests will come and go. Many guests, teens and adults will attend multiple graduation parties or other events on a lovely weekend date in May or June. So, what are the secrets to getting a good turnout and, thereby, making this the BEST EVER Graduation Party? Miss Party’s super-secret secrets are…

Secret #1Plan for a staggered food and entertainment schedule AND giving invited guests a HINT at what is planned in the invitation. Do both to pique your guests’ curiosity before and while there. For example, in the invitation write: “Lunch will be served and an ‘iSCREAM! Dreams Sundae Buffet’ begins at 2 o’clock”; or, for entertainment, “Check out the Band on YouTube”; or, “Dunk your favorite Grad at 3 o’clock”. Whatever you and your teen thinks will draw in his/her friends to attend the party. Family members are not nearly so hard to please, it’s the teen’s peers that are the tough nuts to crack, just getting them there is half the battle when there are so many other parties and fun things going on at the same time.

Here is a very general, staggered schedule for a 4 hour party:

Party starts:
-Party begins with Lunch or Dinner buffet (keep available for 1 1/2 hours to cover guests arriving late)
-Have open-ended lawn games or amusements available from the start, such as Badminton, horseshoes, Ladder Ball Toss, Frisbee toss or swimming
-Begin a new entertainment 1 hour into the party

Halfway through:
-Pull lunch and put out grazing-type foods, refresh bar, set out party favors (many first arrival guests will now need to leave)
-Dessert buffet (set out desserts 1 1/2-2 hours into the party so that first arrival guests will be able to partake before leaving)
-Begin a new entertainment or amusement midway into the party (which may keep some guests at the party longer)

Party ending:
-Let party wind down over the last hour with dessert, general lawn games and socializing

Suggestions for teen-pleasing stations, activities or entertainment:

Lunch or Dinner Buffet
Salad Bar
Salsa Station (See ‘Spotlight Tasting’ post for ideas on how to put one together)
Candy Buffet (for 1 of 3 posts on setting up a colorful candy buffet table)
Ice Cream Sundae Buffet
Dessert Buffet
Photo Booth
Swimming, Basketball, Volleyball
Badminton, Ping Pong, Ladder Ball Toss, Horseshoes, Frisbees, hula hoops
Water games like Water Balloon Toss
an ‘old-school’ activity like a Piñata
Dunk Tank (Dunk the Grad)
Inflatable Bouncy House, Moon Walk, obstacle course or other large Inflatable (speak with a couple of rental companies for other ideas that are popular for teens)
Live Band or DJ with a stage and wood dance floor
Face Painting Makeup Artist
Fortune Teller or Palm Reader
“BLING Your Beverage!” Station
Yearbook Signing Table (have Grad tell teen guests to bring their yearbooks for signing)

Secret #2– Be organized! Start a ‘Grad Party’ file folder. Print out a good Party Planner Checklist and use it, get a calendar and use it. Pencil an outline schedule for food, dessert, amusements, entertainment, and a list of activities offered all afternoon (such as swimming or a lawn game) that your teen and his/her friends would enjoy; put it in the folder. Start collecting catering menus and recipes to consider; put them in the folder. Get referrals for tents or party rentals you’ll need; print pictures from party planning websites that have the look you want; put together an “inspiration board” to keep you focused –put it all in your folder. Be organized so you can pull out what you need, when you need it.

Secret #3 – Grab a party date and time very early in the game and send ‘save the date’ emails AND have your teen do a Facebook invite to get on the teens’ theoretical calendars. When to start your party may already depend on parties you know are slated on that day. At the least, try your best not to conflict with the parties of your Grad’s best buddies, there’s no bigger downer for your senior or his/her friends. Sending a quick note to ‘key’ guests is a good idea. Send invites 3-3 1/2 weeks ahead for this party.

Secret #4 – Reserve early! DO NOT WAIT! Once you have a party outline, call to reserve an entertainer or that Princess Bouncy House your Grad knows her friends will want to move into. If outside, you may need to rent a tent, stage, dance floor, tables, chairs, etc. If so, get in line for an on-site estimate. You can’t even imagine how busy party rental businesses are April through June. It will take a couple of weeks to get the estimate, proposal and finally sign a rental contract.

Secret #5 – The secret here is in doing something about the situation ASAP (AS SOON AS POSSIBLE). If the grad party will take place in your backyard or, if rain, inside your home, look at all your spaces objectively with a critical eye. Is there landscaping or exterior house maintenance you’ve been putting off? Dirty windows? A broken fence that needs repair? Line up ALL the people needed to take care of jobs like landscaping, spring clean-up, deck cleaning/power washing, house painting, repairing, or window-washing, as necessary. The same goes for interior projects. Do public rooms need repainting, repairing, updating? In the spring, all maintenance-types of businesses are slammed with outside work, it could take weeks just to get them to your house and still have time to do the work you need done. DO NOT WAIT! You’ll be the one doing the job yourself or going without.

Find yourself a yellow pad, make a cup of coffee or tea and find a comfortable seat. Pick a party theme that you and your Grad can fall in love with – it will help sooo much in keeping you on track when there are too many choices. Keep going…have your teen help make a guest list of teens, important adults and family members so you have a ballpark total to work from. Stay organized! Yes, it’s a lot to think about, but you can do this. Your teen will love you for it (they might even tell you so)!

Check out these awesome teen party themes that are or could be easily adapted for a grad party, here on MISSPARTY.net: On Cloud Nine!, Part 1; Their Future’s Bright!; Reach for the Sky!; Keep Calm and Carry On!; iSCREAM Dreams!; Mad Tea Party. Also look through all of Miss Party’s DIY section for party decor projects you see in the posts for those themes.

One more thing! Don’t forget about yourself amongst all this craziness! Senior Mama needs to look and feel great on the day of the best ever grad party. Look at Miss Party’s Party Ensemble Planner so you’ll have all your ducks in a row on party day!


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