This post reveals high school graduation party planning tips and tools that probably haven’t crossed your mind BUT YOU NEED TO KNOW. Using the FREE tools available, your party will be the one everyone talks about for years and won’t give you P.T.S.D.!
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High school graduation is an enormous milestone for the entire family. In many cases, the high school senior is about to leave the nest for some unchartered exploration. That sounds like the perfect reason to have a celebration!
What might be a surprise to you is the amount of preparation that goes into high school graduation party planning. Not only is there a lot of preparation and creativity, but it also has to be orchestrated with the precision and organization of a Kardashian publicity stunt.
There are so many other graduates throwing their own parties in the same community so you need to get a jump on the graduation party season before all the dates, venues, and vendors are booked. In the world of prom-posals and off-the-chart elaborate Sweet 16 parties, the competition for the “Best of Season” graduation party is a real thing.
Fortunately, this post keeps the overwhelm of high school graduation party planning in check. When you have a big picture view, as it’s broken down here, you’ll be able to handle all the details without stressing like crazy.
Makers’ Group resource page
For those of you who want a little (a lot actually) extra help, in the Makers’ Group Resource Page there are two tools designed specifically for high school graduation party planning.
Click HERE to jump down to the Makers’ Group sign-up form. There’s also a button to
The first is a printable checklist that goes through all of the minutiae along with a timeline.
The second is arguably a better way to go. We’ve created a Trello board that you can personalize for your own needs.
Party planning with technology
Never used Trello? Don’t be scared because the learning curve is minimal. If you can use post-it notes, then you can handle Trello. Anyway, you have a soon-to-be high school graduate helping with this project and they are certainly able to use this sure-fire app. To sign up for the FREE account visit Trello.
For a brief overview of the Trello app click HERE.
Trello is a desktop and mobile app that helps to plan and organize projects. It’s great for business but also for personal projects, such as planning a party. Once you’ve experienced planning with a Trello board, it’s hard not to use it for everything (to-do list, grocery shopping, home projects, volunteer work, etc.) The variety of uses
This is a snap shot of why Trello is so great:
- A team (aka, your party planning members) can all share the same board.
- Tasks can be assigned with comments added for every team member to see.
- Due dates can be added, which can be synced with your online calendar.
- Images and files can be attached to each card.
- It’s accessible from a computer, tablet or iPhone so you can update your plans or make notes from anywhere.
- It’s super easy to learn!
Now let’s get into how you can get your high school graduation party planning mojo on!
The timeline has already begun
No kidding, in the ideal world, your high school graduation party planning is starting at least four months before graduation.
That might sound crazy but there are a few KEY items to lock into place while the rest of the high school graduating class have the prom and spring break on
Is the party going to be for one or more graduates?
Doing a joint party makes sense for so many reasons. With so many of the guests being the same for high school friends it’s a great way to save money and resources. If you happen to have siblings or cousins in the same graduating class, then the extended family only needs to make one trip into town. More are likely to make the trip when two graduates are being honored vs. one.
Whether you decide joint or individual party, it’s now time to gather all of the primary party planners together, like right away!
Before any time goes by, you need to lock in the date, venue, caterer and any other vendors or suppliers that may be in high demand (e.g., DJ and photographer). To do all of that, you first need to get through the next hard question.
What is the budget for this shindig?
This might be a tough conversation but it is WAY better to tackle it right at the first meeting. Then all the other choices and selections can fit in the metaphorical (or literal) cash box. Spending can be stressful but not as much when the limit is agreed upon up front.
The budget for each family does NOT have to be equal. If one family plans to have a lot more guests, then they will carry more of the cost. OR, if one family is in a different financial bracket and they want to go more elaborate with their contribution then that’s their call. Just have the discussion up front so everyone is in the know.
Keep in mind that joint parties are usually held by families who’ve known each other for years. The financial resources of each are pretty well established. Be clear, however, just because one family has decided (on their own) to spend more, that doesn’t mean that they get to dominate the planning. It’s still a joint party.
If this is going to be an issue then re-think the entire JOINT PARTY concept.
To give you an overall perspective, from experience, you can expect to spend between $500-$1,000 per family easily on a joint graduation party. That’s a big range. Your selections will dictate how your party fits into this range (or if it busts the curve).
Taking stock of the big picture
If you’re going to go through the time and expense of high school graduation party planning then you want it to be a huge success. A day that is a life-long highlight for the entire family and their guests.
That’s where the big picture is important. Like a wedding, it’s easy to get caught up in the details when there’s really just three components to a great party.
Get the right people together sharing a unique experience in an environment that’s special for the honorees.
That’s it! Get that handled and you’re golden.
The hardest part of planning, depending on your child’s view of your reality,
This is logical for parents but not always the case for high school students (who may also think they have a firm grasp on real life). Make a point to have this discussion before all the planning gets into high gear.
The rest of the post will focus on the areas of high school graduation party planning that aren’t obvious. Lessons learned from real experience. Both obvious and not-so-obvious tasks are included in the FREE High School Graduation Party Planning resources so make sure to sign-up for the Makers’ Group so you can get those in your hands.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It goes without saying that the people make or break an event. Not just the guests, but ALL the hands involved in the planning, execution, participation, and aftermath. Here we’ll touch on a few areas to think about as you get your tribe together.
There is a lot to do so you need several people who are on-the-ball and motivated to get the job done to make this party incredible. The graduates and at least one parent will be the leads in most cases unless you hire a party planner.
Hiring a Party Planner is a great idea if your planning members have really full schedules. This DOESN’T
It’s also a HUGE advantage to have an Event Supervisor on the payroll. This can be the Party Planner or simply someone who is responsible and authoritative. The Event Supervisor doesn’t necessarily need to be one of the planning members. Their role is to be on-site the day of the party to receive all deliveries and to supervise all of the environment and experience installations.
Look for a person who ISN’T part of the guest list for the Event Supervisor. A friend of a friend who works in a restaurant or coffee shop is a great idea. Or a backstage manager for the local high school drama department is used to taking charge and getting things done. This takes a ton of pressure off of the family hosts so you can enjoy your own party.
Within the planning members, tasks need to be assigned. A few of the key areas of oversight include are budget, Facebook Event Page, Trello board, as well as one point person for each of the three focus areas: people, environment, and experience.
Everyone can help and add input to these areas. Yet having one person who is the keeping a specific area in check helps to make sure that nothing is overlooked. Making the assumption that between the entire group, “everything” will get done without a point-person is a sure fire way to forget or miss a detail.
The Behind-the-Scenes Crew
Hire EVENT STAFF. Period. Again, these can be high school or college kids but preferably NOT people who are on the invitation list. Some of the tasks that the staff will help with include: pick-up and delivery, pre-party set-up, bartending, parking cars, maintaining food and beverage, clearing tables, and clean up after the party. Don’t assume your venue will provide these services!
It’s a total buzz kill to have a great night and then realize that you need to spend two hours cleaning up the venue, removing all the garbage, packing up the gifts, and clearing out all of the decor and food. Let the Event Supervisor organize all of this and you can simply go home and relax at the end of the party.
There are additional details for the PEOPLE area in the High School Graduation Party Planning Trello Board and printable Checklist in our Makers’ Group FREE Resource Page.
beyond the table and chairs
High School Graduation Party Planning isn’t as simple as setting up a few tables and chairs on the back lawn. OR at least the parties that your graduate will want won’t be. As a reader of this blog, you’re certainly a fan of Pinterest. Just search “High School Graduation Party” and you’ll find more pins than you can ever see of ideas to make an incredible scene for your event.
What is your party theme and colors?
This is the first set of questions that need to be determined right away at the
Set up Pinterest Boards and invite all of the planning members to add pins to the boards. The Pinterest Boards will correspond to your Trello board lists. These include: party theme, focal points, food and beverage tables, guest tables, gift/envelope/sentiment tables, and photo displays. For the latter two there needs to be one for each graduate.
The photo displays have no limits to creativity. Foam board with snapshots is the baseline. From there just check Pinterest to see the variety of photo montages that you can create.
Take a few weeks to add to the boards all before the 3-month planning meeting. For your Trello board, there’s a power-up that allows voting if you choose to use it. That can be a fun way to see what are the favorites.
It ALWAYS takes longer than it looks!
Don’t hesitate to get help arranged for the building of the DIY sets for the party. This part of the process ALWAYS takes longer than anticipated. Look around for help. There are crafters and artists everywhere who are willing (and excited) to help with event staging. Again, college students and high schoolers are an amazing talent base.
Prepare for the post-party hangovers!
One of the biggest MISSED tasks is the clearing out and disposal of all the DIY projects. The props used to make your party look Pinterest perfect become hangover props as soon as the last guest leaves. Yes, hangover as in you’ll have a HUGE headache!!
Many of them are big and nobody will want to store them. Get this settled BEFORE building anything!
What to do with
For the rest, decide ahead of time how you will dismantle and dispose of all the decorations.
the high school graduation party of legend
Even the most beautifully staged party will be forgotten if the experience is a big FAIL. To have the party that people say, “Remember when …” then you have to make the experience the most memorable part of the high school graduation party planning.
What makes a great experience for the guests? Hitting the five senses!
While smell might be tricky, the rest are easily hit with creativity. Again, use Pinterest to get some great ideas.
Know your audience!
Food doesn’t need to be complicated. An assortment of pizzas with amazing toppings all set in a beautiful display is just as enticing as gourmet french food when you’re talking about a high school graduation party.
Make desserts a visual enticement as much as it is a sweet tooth sensation.
Keep it fun and youthful!
Activities that get (and keep) the guests up and out of their seats is the goal.
You might have games that are enjoyed by all ages. An example is
Karaoke is another that everyone knows and mocks but secretly enjoys. Just make sure it doesn’t go on too long since it will interrupt the playlist. 30-minutes is a good duration. If it’s a huge hit then you can come back to it later in the party.
Throwback to years gone by that everyone can remember. How about “Pin the Tail on the Graduate!”
Characteristics the activities should posses are almost no skill required, easy to install and take down, short duration, have very few (mental or physical) restrictions, and no mess (since the guests will most likely be dressed nice). If your party is an outside afternoon BBQ then the options exponentially multiply!
This isn’t just for teenagers!
Finally, so often high school graduation party planning is focused on what the high school students would enjoy. That’s definitely a BIG component but let’s not forget that the majority of parties invite entire families and relatives.
The experience needs to be suitable to the variety of guests invited, both young and old alike. That means your playlist needs to be diverse. Be creative with the activities to keep everyone up and moving.
If the kids are up but all the adults are sitting down looking bored, it brings the entire energy of the party DOWN. Try to keep everyone involved with stimulation appropriate for your circle’s interests.
use the free resources!!
Seriously, take advantage of the free high school graduation planning tools made available through the Makers’ Group. You can even unsubscribe if you don’t find them of value.
So many details