Planning a Graduation Party for Your Teen
Can you believe it? Your son or daughter is about to graduate! Whether your child struggled through school or will speak as Valedictorian, a high school graduation is a huge milestone in your child's life. It's time to pull out all the stops and throw a party they'll not soon forget.
When I started discussing my son's open house plans with him, we determined we wanted to plan something more unique than the standard colored streamers and balloons so popular in my neck of the woods. We want a celebration to reflect his personality, and he also wants a party that is different from what his friends may be having.
Apparently, we're not alone in our endeavor to create a unique party. "The standard open house has taken on some twists and turns to keep up with the popularity of themes and having fun," says Patty Sachs, author of Pick a Party: The Big Book of Party Themes and Occasions (Meadowbrook, 1997). "Often the theme reflects the destination college or education major choice of the graduate. Other times, it takes off on a passion or talent, such as computers, music, sports, etc."
Unique Theme Ideas
What's your major? If your son or daughter has decided on a college major or other type of career, play on this to create a fun and memorable party. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Theater: Create a "stage" as a backdrop for a photo gallery of the graduate in his/her school plays. Purchase a real Hollywood clapper at a novelty store and write in details of the party on it. Place inexpensive masks on the tables as party favors. Hang movie posters or pictures of the graduate's favorite actor in the room. (You can find several movie posters at www.ebay.com.) Serve fancy finger foods and non-alcoholic champagne.
Medical: A visit to your local medical supply store will make your decorating a breeze. Inflate surgical gloves for "balloons." Guests can sign tongue depressors and add words of wisdom for the graduate. Place anatomical posters and models throughout the area. Inexpensive play doctor kits can be used for table centerpieces. Serve food hospital cafeteria style with vending machine munchies in wicker baskets.
Law: Place legal pads near the entry for guests to sign in and add words of wisdom. Velcro "legal briefs" (men's briefs) along the front of the food tables. A brief case can house the graduation cards. Stick legal "red tape" down the center of each table. Construct a makeshift witness stand for guests to sit in and have their picture taken for the graduate to keep. Serve traditional fare or Chinese "take out" for attorneys burning the midnight oil.
Military: Decorate with plenty of flags and a red, white and blue color scheme. Throw in some camouflage napkins or tablecloths. A couple bags of plastic army men, tanks, helicopters and other military toys can be scattered on the tables. Serve the buffet mess hall style.
Business/Financial: Fill inexpensive brief cases with plastic cutlery on the buffet table. Scatter play money on the tables with toy cell phones. Purchase personal business cards (available at www.vistaprint.com) for guests to sign and add words of wisdom. Serve traditional fare with virgin cocktails and candy "Tums," as stressed-out business people have a lot of stomach trouble!
Teaching: Place rulers with quotes about education on the tables for guests to take home. Visit www.quoteland.com for quotes. Be sure to place plenty of shiny apples in bowls for centerpieces. Post educational posters (found at teacher supply stores) in the party area, and have a desk and journal at the entry to serve as a guest sign in. Serve paper sack lunches with a variety of juice boxes, sodas and milk in pint-size cartons.
Journalist: Place an old typewriter with plenty of paper nearby for guests to type their sentiments. These papers can later be placed in a folder for the graduate to keep. Pencils and pads of paper with the graduate's name and graduation date can be inscribed for party favors. A pizza buffet is well suited for the journalist who eats on the run to cover the hot stories.
Sports: Pennants, sports equipment, magazine covers, posters and photos of the graduate playing sports are great for decorating the area. Borrow or rent large grills to cook hot dogs, hamburgers and brats. Offer peanuts in small paper bags. You may also want to rent a popcorn machine or cotton candy maker to further enhance the sports stadium atmosphere.
If your graduate prefers a more traditional party, iParty.com has these ideas:
- Send invitations in the form of diplomas.
- Cover a wall with black construction paper to create a "blackboard." Leave chalk for guests to scribble notes for the graduate to read and treasure later.
- Suspend graduation caps from the ceiling as if they were thrown in the air.
- Serve cafeteria favorites, buffet style, including macaroni and cheese, chicken tenders, PB&J and fresh fruit and vegetable trays.
Open House Extras
Regardless of the theme you choose, there are some generic tips that will make any open house more special. In lieu of the traditional invites, make your own postcards with the graduate's picture on the front and details on the back. This gives the guest a suitable picture to frame instead of a small wallet picture.
Place a blank journal near the entrance so guests may sign in and add their "words of wisdom" for the graduate. Assign a person to distribute name tags to the arriving guests. Use large print when you write the name and include their relationship to the graduate under the name. This helps guests feel comfortable and acts as a good conversation starter.
If you're tech savvy or know a relative who is, create a slide show that shows the graduate's growth and highlights of their school and home life. Don't forget the token naked baby picture!
A Polaroid camera is an excellent way to create an instant photo album for the graduate. Have permanent markers handy so the guests can write a short caption on the picture.
If you are expecting a large crowd and have limited space, try staggering the hours on the invitation. "Family comes early and stays as they please, but the graduate's friends come in midway and perhaps neighbors and peripheral friends even a little later," Sachs says. "This way food can be put out in waves to keep the tables fresh, and certain activities can be scheduled to match the crowd." Just be sure to write the specific time on the invitation, so you are not confusing guests who may compare invites.
Order your party supplies early and reserve rental chairs, tables, canopies, etc., early. Include an R.S.V.P. with your invitation to plan for food and seating.
Outdoor games like volleyball, horse shoes, croquet and activities like piñatas and bingo are fun for all ages. Fun in the sun creates thirsty guests, so have plenty of cold drinks available. Wheel barrows, plastic kiddy pools and large buckets placed in the shade keep drinks accessible for the guests. Purchase extra large garbage cans with clean liners on the inside bottom to keep clean-ups fast and easy.