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  • Three to six months before the party
    • Save Set up an account at your bank specifically for saving funds towards the party, and add a little each week. Ask other family members to chip in.
    • Make a guest list This is subject to flux, but get a ballpark idea of how many guests you can handle.
    • Choose a venue June is wedding month as well as graduation, so book early and put down a deposit. Or, plan to have the party at your house, or a classmate’s home.
    • Network Planning way in advance can discourage wild off-site parties being planned by the graduates themselves. Work with other parents to plan an all inclusive party for a safe, fun time.
  • Six to eight weeks before the party
    • Budget By now you should have save some cash and have an idea of what you can spend. Lay out a realistic game plan.
    • Supplies Graduation party supplies can sell out fast, so get some of the paper products and decorations early – they won’t spoil.
    • Liquor If you are holding your college graduation party in a banquet hall you may need to obtain licensing, and find a vendor well in advance.
    • Entertainment Maybe one of the graduates is part of a band, or you can convince a local DJ to provide musical entertainment.
    • Catering Another item that should be taken care of sooner rather than later, as spring schedules fill up fast.
  • Two to four weeks before the party
    • Invitations Send these out in plenty of time to make sure your party is the one people decide to go to. Ask for RSVPs – include your phone number and email address.
    • Dress code Decide if your party is formal and elegant or casual and laid back. Include this information I the invitations.
    • Games Plan some fun games to break the ice and get the party started.
    • Karaoke. Put a deposit down on a machine and sound system early for maximum fun
    • Seating Make sure you have plenty of folding chairs even if you are having a casual event.
    • Dishes/cutlery/linens If the caterer isn’t providing plates, silverware, napkins and tablecloths, make sure you have this covered on your end.
  • Two to three days before the party
    • Cake Get your cake ordered and set a time to pick it up – this avoids delivery problems.
    • Extras Make a list of what the caterer is covering, and fill in any gaps.
    • Deliveries To avoid late deliveries and delays, accept as many deliveries as you can prior to the actual day of the party.
    • Flowers No party is complete without them, so order early and arrange to pick them up the day of the party.
  • Day of the party
    • Relax. Get some extra rest in the morning – the party will be exhaustingly fun!
    • Memories Have batteries in cameras and video cams, and a blank book for all guests to sign and later transform into a scrapbook.
    • Decorations Balloons, streamers, signs and everything else should be in place in plenty of time.
    • Refreshments Make sure the caterer has room to work, and pick up the cake.
    • Gifts Set up a table for gifts for the graduate if it is a private party.
    • Fun Have some! This is a celebration, and everyone should have a blast.
  • After the party
    • Caterer Pay promptly and thank them for their service.
    • Clean up Have plenty of large trash bags and get everyone to pitch in.
    • Congratulate Let your graduate(s) know how proud you are.

Your child’s graduation is one of the proudest times of your life, and a big party to show that pride is a perfect way to celebrate the occasion. All the years they put into their schooling, whether they are graduating from high school or from college, culminates in graduation, and it should be a memorable day. That said, graduation parties don’t have to be expensive, even if you are on a budget, you can prioritize and still give your child everything they deserve. You just have to plan ahead and be organized. Booking certain things well in advance and setting aside funds throughout the last year of school can help you throw a terrific graduation party without a staggering price tag that leaves you reeling the day afterward. Use this checklist to plan a great party that everyone will remember – for all the right reasons!


For high school grads, plan a alcohol free party – grownups should remember the day is about the graduates, not them, and join together to ensure a safe party for all involved, with proper supervision and a safe venue. College graduations can be a little more adult, with beer, wine and liquor served and no need to keep an eagle eye on proceedings.

You’ll need to decide in advance how large of an event you can manage, and make sure that a private party for a dozen or so close friends and relatives isn’t crashed by your child’s entire graduating high school class.

Consider working together with other parents to throw an extravaganza that lets all the kids celebrate together and effectively splits the costs. College affairs are liable to be wilder, and you’ll need to ensure the venue is safe and that there are plans in place for safe trips home. Responsibility shouldn’t go out the window – there’s nothing like being greeted with a hefty bill for damages at the hotel checkout.

Graduation Party Checklist
  Laura Cooper Peterson

on December 26, 2011

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