Yes, hosting a chill graduation party is possible

It’s cap and gown time for graduates, and if you’re a proud POG (parent of graduate), you’re likely setting out to celebrate. But if you thought all grad parties equal ragers filled with poor decisions, think again. We have all the tips you need to throw the perfect relaxed graduation barbecue that your teen will actually enjoy. Key word: relaxed.

Don’t try to compete

There are plenty of holidays and occasions in May and June, so don’t worry about getting every friend and family member to your event. Sure, give guests advance notice if you can and keep an eye out for date/time conflicts (don’t schedule your grad party the day of the school’s grad party, obviously) but also don’t stress if a few folks can’t make it.

Defer to your kid

Let them decide on a guest list — whether that’s family, friends or both. Ask your kid how they prefer to celebrate the occasion. Then, let them pick a place for the barbecue, whether that’s in your own yard, at a local park or recreation facility or elsewhere.

Yes, you can text

For an informal party, it’s absolutely fine to invite guests via text or email. But hey, if your kid prefers a snail-mail invite, go for it. Do make sure that the text/email/invitation lets guests know of any dress code — which might end up being formal if the party is right after the graduation ceremony.

Plan for rain

Make a contingency plan in case of inclement weather.  Will the party be held rain or shine or would it be better to set a rain date? Tell guests the plan in advance to avoid last-minute calls on whether or not the party is still on or rescheduled.

Decide if you want to cook or hire someone to prepare food and/or serve. Cooking yourself is more intimate, but hiring people can free up time for the hosts to focus solely on entertaining their guests and enjoying themselves.

Keep food & decor simple…

Keep your graduate’s tastes in mind when choosing food and decor — or better yet, let them choose it themselves entirely. Some fun ideas:

  • String together a timeline of school portrait photos to see how your graduate has changed through the years (and making fun of their first-grade grin is allowed).
  • Decorate with helium balloons in school colors and/or with the graduation year.
  • Serve a custom dessert — most bakeries can scan a photo of the graduate (you choose whether to go pretty or pretty funny) on a cake.
  • Serve cookies made with the school logo or with “Class of 2018” written in icing.
  • Serve food that either reminds the student of their current home or of where they are going off to next (Philly cheese steaks, Boston cream pie, etc.).

…& activities simpler

  • Set up a makeshift photo booth (printable props optional).
  • Make a toast to the graduate; keep it short and sweet.  
  • If it’s a smaller party, you can buy matching token gifts for all the graduates in your child’s friend group. Customized water bottles with their current zip codes, personalized makeup bags or mugs in school colors are all great gifts that will remind them of their adventures together.
  • Ask guests to write a few lines of advice in a journal to the graduate(s).

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