A graduation is the perfect occasion to show your grad how proud you are of their hard work and accomplishments. Planning well in advance will guarantee a memorable graduation party for your child to share with family and friends. You want to start thinking of a theme for your graduation announcements, invitations and thank you notes. Once the date, theme and venue are set, start looking into other elements including decorations, entertainment, food and party favors. To help you along, we’ve put together this graduation party checklist. It helps give a comprehensive view of the endless possibilities in creating an unforgettable moment to celebrate your child’s milestone.
3-6 Months Prior
Set the Date and Time
Most families decide to celebrate on the day of the graduation ceremony but if you would like to avoid the crowds, consider another date around that time to host your party.
Establish a Budget
Knowing from the beginning how much you can spend can really help you hone in on what you need to arrange for a memorable experience. Set a realistic budget and plan the details with your goal in mind.
Choose a Theme
Think about what your graduate is passionate about to create a unique party theme. Use it as a way to encourage them into their next step in life.
Create a Guest List
Having a rough estimate or setting a cap on your guest list will come in handy when choosing a venue and food options. A small gathering can be just as fun and special as a big bash so consider the type of environment your graduate prefers.
Reserve a Venue
Whether you’re choosing to host your party at home, a restaurant or an event venue, be sure to consider the space for the number of guests you will be expecting. Distance from the ceremony location and possible weather conditions are good things to keep in mind when making your decision.
Figure Out Parking for Guests
When the location is finalized, it’s always a nice gesture to ensure ample parking options for your guests. If you’ll be hosting the party at home, we recommend informing your neighbors.
Start Collecting Photos and Memorabilia
Make use of any photos, diplomas, medals and other significant items your graduate has received as props and decorations. Displaying a shadow box, poster or an award are simple ways to add meaningful decor without breaking the bank.
If you’re interested in having a DJ or band, start looking at options early. If you’ll be playing from a playlist, begin compiling a list of fun and upbeat songs that your guests will enjoy.
Begin a List of Decorations and Supplies
With the theme in mind, make a list of decorations you would like to see at your party. Note all the necessary supplies for any DIY decorations you’re planning.
Buy Stamps and Address Labels
We like to be prepared. With your estimated number of guests in mind, purchase your stamps and address labels for your invitations and announcements.
1-2 Months Prior
Begin Purchasing Decorations and Supplies
Graduation decorations go quickly during this season so do your shopping early. Aspirational banners, streamers and confetti will not only add to the fun, but ensure many picture-perfect moments.
Begin Purchasing Food and Drinks
Whether you’ll be cooking yourself or catering, start thinking about the food your graduate and guests will enjoy most. Fun snacks and recipes like fondue or pretzels are always a hit. Buying non-perishable ingredients can help lessen the load as you get closer to the date.
Make Any Travel Arrangements for Guests
There may not be many, but it’s always good to book rooms and travel arrangements early for out-of-town guests to avoid any last-minute hiccups.
We recommend ordering any tables, chairs, props and decorations at this time. Wedding and graduation seasons often overlap so be sure to order your rentals early.
Book Photographer and Videographer
Good photographers and videographers get booked quickly! Begin looking at their work and reach out to some of your favorites. A budget-friendly option is to ask a friend or family member who has an eye for photography to take your photos.
Make Appointments for Hair and Makeup
Whether your graduate wants to have their hair and makeup professionally done on their big day or will be in need of a haircut, booking at this time will help you avoid settling for a last resort.
Start Your Photo Boards and Slideshow
Placing photos of your graduate’s achievements and milestones throughout the event is another great way to share special memories with your family and friends. Collect any pictures of your child participating in academic contests or sports, receiving an award or studying abroad.
Begin Looking for Outfit(s)
About a month prior is a good time to start shopping for your family’s outfits. If you have any little ones, be sure to keep a second option close in case of any spills. You want to make sure the whole family is looking their best for the photo.
1-3 Weeks Prior
Order Cake and Flowers
Whether you’re ordering a bakery cake or baking it yourself, lock down your plan. With the theme and season in mind, place your order for any decorative flowers you’re planning on having as well.
Order and Send Out Announcements
Giving your guests a heads up is a great way to avoid conflicting schedules. Figure out the best time to send out your announcements based on your guest list.
It doesn’t have to be custom but a big “Congratulations!” or “You Did It!” sign is a must-have at graduation parties. Large photos or personalized canvas prints can serve as unique and fun outdoor props.
Order Guestbook and Party Favors
It’s always nice to remember the people that celebrated your family’s milestones. Having a guestbook will make for a nice keepsake for the family.
Finalize Food and Drinks
If you’re cooking yourself, go over your shopping list and make sure you have all the necessary ingredients and supplies. Don’t forget items like warming food trays and serving utensils. If you hired a caterer, now would be a good time to check in and confirm your order, time and date.
Finish Purchasing Decorations
Go shopping for any missing decoration items and begin any DIY projects you have on your list. Don’t forget to get creative! Use your theme, inside jokes, memories and accomplishments to inspire your party’s decor.
Assign Tasks to Your Helpers
Many family members and friends are always willing to lend a hand. Take some things off your plate and assign tasks to others. Think of manageable errands like picking up the cake, setting up signage or setting out food and drinks.
Wrap Gift(s) for Your Graduate
Since this can be easily forgotten, we thought we’d include a reminder to wrap any gifts for your graduate. If they’re the curious type, be sure to hide them well.
Check the Weather
Although the weather can be tricky, looking at a general forecast a week prior can help avoid any unwanted surprises. If the forecast is not ideal, make any arrangements where possible.
Begin Preparing the Speech
Saying a few words to share any memories and express how proud you are of your graduate is another must in our book. Look up speech tips and ideas to help you find the inspiration you need to convey an inspiring message.
Purchase Bathroom Supplies
If you decided to host at home, be sure to stock up on bathroom supplies. Customized frames and signs are easy ways to incorporate your party theme in the bathroom.
Create a Loose Day-of Agenda
Prepare a general timeline for how you want the party to flow. Delays are always common but knowing when you want to serve dinner, give the speech and cut the cake will help things run smoothly.
1-2 Days Prior
Begin Decorating If Possible
If you’ll be hosting at home, begin decorating a day prior. Don’t forget to consider weather conditions when choosing which arrangements to set out early—you don’t want to have any of your decorations ruined by the morning. If you decided on a venue, pack and label decorations accordingly a night prior so set up will be a breeze.
Clean the House and Yard
Making sure your home is looking its best when your guests arrive will guarantee a perfect backdrop for your photos.
Charge Camera and Empty Memory Cards
If you or a family member will be taking photos, start emptying out your memory cards and charging your batteries. We also recommend purchasing a backup battery so you don’t miss capturing any special moments.
Buy Any Last-Minute Supplies
It happens — last minute needs always come up when planning a party. Write a to-do list of the few things you may have missed and make a last errand run before the big day.
Finalize Your Agenda and Confirm Weather Conditions
Now that all is planned and ready to go, finalize your schedule and let your helpers in on the plan to ensure a smooth day.
Pick Up Cake, Balloons and Flowers
Whether it’s you or your assigned helpers, make sure there’s enough time to pick up any day-of items.
Place Drinks in Cooler
This step can be so easily overlooked but nobody likes warm soft drinks. Place any beverages in your fridge or cooler at least one hour before your party.
Finish Setting Up Decorations
Most graduations are scheduled early in the day so make sure you plan a time to set up your decorations and arrangements before your guests arrive.
Set Up Games
There are many fun game ideas you can add to your party. If you planned on having any games, make sure you designate a comfortable, large space for your guests to play.
Set Out Food
If you purchased warming trays, set out food about 30 minutes to an hour before it’s time to eat.
Enjoy and Celebrate with Your Graduate
A graduation truly is a family accomplishment. Celebrate and pamper your graduate for all their hard work and let them know how excited you are for their next journey.
Printable Graduation Party Checklist
This ultimate graduation party checklist is organized like a timeline to help you plan the most memorable graduation party for your hardworking scholar.
They say it takes a village to raise a child so use this opportunity to thank your student for their dedication and anyone else who has played an important role in their life. Be sure to create some special personalized gifts for your guests that will capture this event for years to come.