Thursday, July 28, 2011

Five tips to make your graduation party special

Well, the season for grad parties is over, and I’m finally posting a few pictures I managed to take before our guests arrived. As you can see, the Jesuit high school colors were red and gold with black as an accent color. I chose black tablecloths (a tad more masculine) and covered the tables with large-checkered fabric I found on sale at Joann’s Fabrics. I simply unrolled the fabric over one table and determined the length, and then measured and cut all the pieces quickly on my floor. No hemming of course, and luckily this fabric didn’t need it. If you’re going to do this you must determine the size of your tables prior to purchasing fabric. I think I bought eleven yards for $3.99 a yard with a coupon.


Do you like the tissue balls?  They reminded me of pom-poms which fit the high school theme. I purchased a dozen in various sizes HERE. But afterwards, I found out how to make them HERE.


For added color on my patio’s “ugly fence” side, I simply cut four inch ribbon in red and gold and hung strips from the patio’s side with white duck tape.


Patrick laughed when he saw his face on the M&Ms. You can purchase them HERE.


Here’s a close up of the tissue ball. And the strips of ribbon that were swaying in the breeze.

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Even though the chocolate fountain was a hit and we had cute monogram cookies from HERE, one thing was clear. Everyone still likes the homemade stuff. My chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies were all gone at the end of the night.

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I chose to display the dinner menu on white covered books. I simply determined the right size font and printed the names of each dish on the computer. I cut and positioned names with white duck tape.  By the way, Bandera’s Macho Salad is fantastic, you should try this recipe.

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Books are a perfect centerpiece for tables, to elevate vases of flowers or just reinforce your school theme. You can also create interest and height on your appetizer table by placing your plates of food on top of stacks of school books. I covered my books with white butcher paper but leaving them uncovered works fine. For more ideas using books as centerpieces go HERE.

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Simple coke bottles with yellow and red Gerbera daisies were on the tables. And votive candles (not shown on the tables yet).

And now, after a season of grad parties, there are a few things that stood out in my mind. And here are some of my tips:

Tip 1:  Have a Welcome Sign that offers basic info.

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Graduation parties are unique situations. For instance, unless you’re one of the first guests to arrive, chances are that there won’t be somebody at the door greeting you. Especially if it’s a bigger party. Often, you won’t even know the parents, only the graduate. The host needs to assume that someone is coming to their house for the first time. And when they enter, they will probably see faces that they don’t know. (Sorry, no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to greet each guest.) The grad-party Guest needs to know three things immediately:

  • where do I put my gift?
  • where do I go next?
  • where do I get my drink?

The sign can be very simple; a poster board decorated with a balloon and crepe paper. I used an old chalkboard to fit the “school” theme but the main goal is to welcome your guest and not leave them standing around feeling lost. And place the basket for gift cards in a visible place with a bow.


Tip 2: Put someone in charge of that first drink. Timing is everything. Putting a beverage in a guest’s hand is the warmest way to say, “hey, we’re so glad you’re here.”

I personally like having someone opening the wine and pouring it. Passing out drinks. I recently watched the Barefoot Contessa’s show on cocktail parties and she set up a self-serve table similar to mine. It’s fine for smaller parties with close friends, but for a grad party where there’s a larger mix of people, I think it’s nicer to have someone assigned.

Tip 3: Don’t forget the music!

This is my personal pet peeve. There’s nothing that sets a festive atmosphere more than great music. Yet, so many times I find myself walking into a quiet event. I notice. Especially if it’s supposed to be a lively party. I know grad parties are tricky because of the age range, but here’s where parents get priority (at least in the beginning of the evening.).  Good old tunes parents know and love at first; and later, let the music get “younger.” We used a DJ, but letting the graduate create a CD of favorite tunes can get him or her involved.

Tip 4: Don’t be afraid to move your furniture. Think “cozy.” And use round tables.

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Photo: Patrick (phone in his hand, of course) with good friend, Sammie

Think about some of the best times you’ve had at a party. What did you notice?

After years of giving parties, this is what I know. People have fun when they’re involved. Talking, laughing, bumping into old faces. Meeting new people. And this kind of mingling cannot happen when people are miles apart. Yes, some of the worst social experiences I’ve had, have happened at mammoth-sized homes. Gorgeous places, except for one problem: the host didn’t create enough intimacy. The action was too spread out, making guests work too hard to mingle.

Think “cozy” when planning your seating areas. Choose round tables instead of oblong. It’s so much easier to join a circle of strangers where eye contact is better, especially when the tables are smaller. Remember, even if your space can accommodate big tables, keeping them smaller and placing them closer allows for more contact between guests.

This is my family room which is next to the patio. I personally like the food indoors during warm-weather events, so I moved my furniture into the garage so I could set up my buffet in this room. What about my dining room? I kept it open for random seating and quieter conversation.

Tip 5: Offer a guest book for friends and family and put someone in charge of passing it around


I like this idea. Someday I imagine myself sitting down and sighing over a lot of albums like this. Grab a scrapbook album, NOT a photo album (mine was from Michael’s Crafts Store) and provide a lot of pens. You can chose a book with black paper and use white pens if you like. But remember to put someone in charge of taking the book around. I didn’t do this and I’m sad to say that a lot of guests never wrote a message in Patrick’s book. Later, you can add pictures from the party.

Hope I gave you some helpful ideas!

1 comment:

jrmommy said...

Loved reading this. Such great ideas! Thank you.....

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