Are you a parent of 2016 graduate and feeling the pressure of hosting a party your teenager will actually enjoy and remember?
As the parent of a daughter who graduates high school this year, I feel your pain.
Time is short and budgets can be tight. This shouldn’t stop you from avoiding the pitfalls of a painful graduation party.
Don’t forget the guest of honor
The family may be the primary party planner, but don’t forget to include the guest of honor — the graduate. Include your teenager in the discussion about the party details such as when, where and what will happen. Make sure to set limits early so there will be no miscommunications or disappointments.
Other than a few details, many teenagers (such as my daughter) will leave most of the planning to the parents, so that leaves us struggling for ideas. After spending probably way too much time reaching for inspiration, I found a number of ideas to help plan the perfect graduation party.
Choosing a menu — and who will cook it
Be honest. The best party of any celebration, other than the guests, is the food. Families with a graduate already have a full calendar leading up to party day, so finding appealing, yet easy-to-make dishes can cause a lot of stress.
Before making final decisions on what to serve and who will prepare it, consider a number of options, including:
Having the party catered. Catering a party ranges from a large, formal affair by a dedicated independent business to picking up the phone and ordering trays of fruit, vegetables and sandwiches from a local grocery store. Also, consider calling around to a few of the graduate’s favorite restaurants and see if they do large party orders for pick up (wings, pizza, It may cost a little extra to have food brought in, but for those families who are tight on time or limited on cooking skills, there are affordable ways to have food provided for a party.
Make ahead meals. If you’ve decided you want to prepare the food, then think about making as much food ahead of time as possible. This trick helps you spend more time enjoying the party with the graduate and friends than in the kitchen.
Popular ideas for make ahead party food include:
A taco bar. An easy feast to prepare and service. The veggies and dips can be prepared and stored to simply pull out of the refrigerator on party day. Take advantage of make-ahead taco meat recipes like this from Make Dinner Easy.
Pulled Pork sandwiches. Simple, but delicious. If you have a crock pot, then you can make enough of these popular sandwiches for a roomful of party guests.
Finger foods. Serve a variety of finger foods instead of one main meal. Try this make-ahead meatball appetizer as one of your options.
Stuffed Meatball Appetizer~tasty, make ahead party food to please everyone! #SundaySupper https://t.co/e7PPIiKQRD pic.twitter.com/sZ6su1Praj
— thefreshmancook (@thefreshmancook) March 13, 2016
Don’t forget the vegetarians. There are some fabulous vegetarian options to make in advance of a party including salads, crostinis, soups and more. Food Story shares a number of its favorite recipes on Twitter.
A Make-Ahead Vegetarian Dinner Party from Ina Garten Menus from The Kitchn #Winter http://t.co/nVVAb0Xeuw pic.twitter.com/A3FvNja8nA
— Food Story (@_Food_Story) April 26, 2015
Creating a celebratory space
If you’re looking for something beyond the traditional balloons and streamers, then check out these ideas to make the party a little more personal.
Make a memory board/wall. You can use poster board, a tri-fold display board or even a long piece of paper on a wall to create a memory board or wall. Print out pictures of the graduate throughout the years and create a collage filled with memories.
Have a selfie station. Teens love taking selfies with friends and it’s a perfect way to capture party memories. Have a table ready with a few, inexpensive selfie sticks and some props and you’re ready to go! Need some inspiration for props, try these suggestions (for purchase or to make on your own)
Make memories for the graduate
Selfies are fine, but how about something a little more creative for the graduate to hold onto after the party? Try these inexpensive, but sentimental keepsakes.
Take advantage of social media. Between the selfie station and the hundreds of other pictures taken at the party, make sure everyone can enjoy them later on by creating a hashtag on social media (i.e. Instagram) such as #sallytgradparty. Simply put a few framed signs with the assigned hashtag around the party to remind people to feel free to post and share.
Build memories a piece at a time. Catch My Party shared a post about a party game that doubles as a keepsake for the graduate: repurposing a Jenga game as a memory sharing activity. Guests write a short memory or inspiration message on each piece.