Having a high school or college graduate is a years-in-the-making celebration. Don’t lose sight of the fact that as a parent, this celebration is as much for you as it is for the graduate! You mentored an adolescent/young adult through either high school or college – that is a respectable accomplishment. Reward yourself by implementing quick, easy ways to pull off a fun, memorable party that won’t leave you exhausted.
Analyze the landscape of your backyard
Step outside and take a mental snapshot of what you have to work with. Here are a few things to consider:
- Do you have a fence surrounding your backyard? If not, extend an invite to your next-door neighbors. Things are going to get loud with graduates and pets running everywhere. Buy your neighbors’ good grace with an invitation to the festivities.
- What is the tree situation? Mature trees create the perfect home for festive lights and garlands. Decorate trees closest to the house if possible, so you don’t have to run long electric cords everywhere. Trees obviously afford shade and make for great seating areas as well.
- Consider dividing your yard for different groups of guests. Stage adult beverages and seating in one area for the parents and other adults. If your city ordinance allows, leverage a small fire pit for the young adults, with seating and non-alcoholic drinks. Comfortable seating in the shade will be appreciated by the grandparents of the graduate.
- Open spaces are great for yard games. Setting up cornhole or volleyball nets will keep everyone entertained for hours.
- If you have a picnic area with a table, consider using this to display framed photos of the graduate. This is a great place to have a guest book for attendees to share their congratulations and best wishes. Picnic tables can also be used for gifts.
- Decks are the perfect place to stage a buffet area. Guests can fill their plates and find a seat in the yard.
One of the best ways to give yourself a break and truly enjoy the festivities is to have the food brought in. Price out a local barbecue restaurant for pulled pork and burgers. You may be surprised to learn that the price difference between you preparing the food yourself and having it brought in is not that significant. This saves all the dads from being tied to the grill for hours.
Side dishes and desserts can easily be assigned to relatives – green salads, baked beans, cornbread, pasta salad, deviled eggs, cookies, and brownies are all crowd-pleasers. If you want to really enjoy the celebration, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you decide to do the sides yourself, prep them the day before so you can spend as little time as possible preparing food the day of the event.
Large metropolitan areas are riddled with party supply stores, but that is not usually the case in Western and Northwestern Montana. If your local party supply store is wiped out, online shopping is your best bet. Places like Wayfair, Oriental Trading Company, and Michaels are all good options. Save what decorations you can after the party for upcoming grads, or friends or relatives with upcoming graduates. It’s greener, more convenient, and more economical to recycle the decorations if at all possible.
The difference between a truly enjoyable graduation party experience and an event that people are sneaking out of early is in the details. Baskets of sunscreen and bug spray will make the outdoors experience much more pleasant. If you live in a very hot and humid place, a few well-placed face misters will be very appreciated.
If you have a pick-up truck, consider using the tailgate for beverages. If you have an RV, think about staging the adult seating area underneath the RV awning. Adult beverages can be better monitored in a controlled environment, and people can use the RV bathroom if you don’t want people in and out of your house all afternoon.
Host the party somewhere else!
There are pros and cons to this idea, but many neighborhoods have neighborhood pocket parks and city parks. If several of your neighbors are celebrating graduates, this can be an excellent way to minimize your workload and share expenses with other parents. To do this successfully, make sure everyone is clear on what they are expected to bring, who will decorate, and most importantly – who will clean up.
Remember, this celebration is for you too, so don’t fall victim to competing with other graduation parties. You’ve put in years of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication to watch your young adult graduate from high school or college. Pat yourself on the back and keep the graduation party as simple – but as fun and memorable – as possible.