Throw An Epic High School Graduation Party & Keep Your Sanity
Updated: May 18
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Graduation season is here, and if you're anything like me, you're in a frenzy trying to plan an unforgettable high school graduation party for your beloved child. But fret not! With a little bit of planning, some strategic outsourcing, and a healthy dose of caffeine (and maybe some wine), you can throw a party that will leave everyone talking.
Let me share the four things we did to ensure a successful high school graduation party for our son last year:
1. Set the stage with a captivating theme
Having a cohesive theme brings everything together seamlessly. Whether you opt for college-inspired decor, a backyard BBQ bash, or our personal favorite, a Gradchella theme, make sure it resonates with your child's interests. A clear theme makes it easier to choose decorations, entertainment, food, and drinks that match the vibe. It also allows guests to dress comfortably and add their own fun flair.
2. Embrace the power of outsourcing
As super moms, we tend to take on everything ourselves, but this is the time to put the cape away and ask for some help. After all, you've been working tirelessly for the past 17-18 years, and this celebration is as much for your child as it is for you!
Let's face it, not all of us are gourmet chefs, and that's perfectly fine. Instead of stressing yourself out trying to prepare a five-course meal for 50 people, consider outsourcing the food to a catering company or your favorite restaurant. We originally considered a food truck, but we didn't want to disrupt the flow of the party. So, we found an awesome gourmet grilled cheese company called Bread & Cheese Eatery in San Diego. They cooked sandwiches on-site, which perfectly complemented our festival theme. For a more budget-friendly option, you can always order platters from your local Costco, Sam's Club, or grocery store or pizza.
To keep the drinks flowing, we hired a bartender through Bartenders on Demand who expertly mixed delicious cocktails for our adult guests. For the minors and non-drinkers, we had the bartender prepare mocktails and also offered soda and water. While a self-serve station is an option, we preferred not to risk any underage drinking or monitor beverage levels throughout the event, plus it added to the theme!
No Gradchella party is complete without great music! We hired a DJ who kept the tunes going, covering various decades and genres. We found our amazing DJ, Javi from Prestige Entertainment, through Yelp. Javi asked for a few song suggestions to curate the perfect playlist for the event. Planning the music together with my son turned out to be one of the best parts of the party preparations. He and I stayed up for hours, bonding over music, and reminiscing and creating memories by the end Javi had a complete playlist (we were overachievers).
We all want something to cherish and remember this milestone by, right? We ended up setting up a photo booth in the backyard and used a company called Lights Props and Smiles, complete with two assistants, props, and onsite printing, so guests could take home their snapshots. Hiring a photographer is also a fantastic option. Thumbtack is a great resource for finding vetted photographers or photo booth vendors. We also set up a ping pong table and cornhole in the backyard for some additional entertainment. On the tables, I placed some conversation starter cards to help facilitate dialog among our guests.
By outsourcing the above, I was able to focus on what I truly enjoy. I created simple floral arrangements for the rented tabletops and decorated the house inside and out. We even enlisted the help of my talented mother-in-law, who runs her own balloon business called Party Quackers. She came over the night before, and together with my daughter and husband, we blew up balloons and let her work her magic.
3. Time it right
Once I realized that several other graduation parties were happening on the same day as my son's, we adjusted our plans. We scheduled our party to start in the late afternoon, allowing guests enough time to attend multiple parties throughout the day. Alternatively, you could consider having a joint party with your child's friends, hosting an open house where guests can come and go, or even organizing a sendoff party later in the summer before your son or daughter heads off to college (if that's their next step).
4. Let your grad have a say
It goes without saying that involving your child in the decision-making process is crucial. Make sure to ask your son or daughter about their preferences for decorations, music, theme, and the guest list. Our son loved the idea of "Gradchella" since Coachella had taken place just the month before in Southern California.
Remember, even if your party is not elaborate, outsourcing as much as you can alleviate stress. Ask friends and family to help with decorations, pick up a platter or two, or assist with taking pictures and capturing precious moments throughout the party (looking back I wish I asked someone to focus on taking pics throughout the evening).
I hope these four tips are helpful, and I would love to hear all about your epic graduation party. Please leave a comment below!