Planning a Graduation Party

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Selecting a Date | Choosing a Setting | Party Themes | Invitations
Menu and Serving Ideas | Decorations | More Ideas | Graduation Recipes

Celebrating a graduation should be a day the graduate will always remember, not one of stress that the parents' want to forget. Following the guidelines below is a beginning to hosting a wonderful day for all to remember.

Sit down with the graduate and discuss what he or she would like for their graduation day. Remember, the day is to honor the graduate, so their input is important. Would they like a small family gathering or a party with family and friends? What types of food would they prefer to have served? How about a theme? All of these questions need to be answered in advance with plenty of time to prepare and organize. This leg work takes some time but is worth it in the end when everyone enjoys a calm and stress free celebration. Allow approximately two months to get everything organized.

Selecting a Date:

Choosing a date and time to host the party can be difficult. Working around family schedules and other party times can become cumbersome. Remember that the party does not necessarily need to be held the day of the ceremony. A number of parties are held even two weeks after the actual graduation day. One idea is to have the party the week prior to the graduation. With the party over, just sit back and enjoy the ceremony as well as the parties of other graduates.

Another point to consider would be the time schedule. Think about limiting the amount of time that the guests are there. In some instances, three to four hours is adequate. Putting a time frame on the party frees, not only the graduate so that he or she can attend other parties, but also the hosts', so they can sit down and enjoy out-of-town guests and friends that may be staying longer.

Whatever is chosen, remember to focus on what works for the the graduate and the family.

Choosing a Setting:

A common location for graduation parties is the backyard or garage. With spring in the air and the weather turning nice, what a better time to have an outdoor party? If the party is to be held out doors, make sure there is shelter for the guests in case of bad weather. Tents work great for outdoor entertaining and usually are available at any rental business. Tables and chairs can also be rented; however, churches may make these items available for graduates' families for a small donation. If renting, remember to book ahead of time to ensure that the quantities needed will be available.

Themes:

When is comes to themes, the possibilities are endless. This is an area that can really be fun and creative. Choose a theme that reflects the personality and likes of the graduate. Maybe he or she is a sports fanatic. Planning a party around sports can include the decorations (jerseys, pennants, photos from their favorite team, etc.), food that is served at a ball game (hotdogs, snow cones, nachos, popcorn), music can be playing in the background from their favorite stadium. Below are some ideas to get those creative minds to work;

* Mexican Fiesta
* Hawaiian Luau
* Car Theme
* Dance Studio
* World Travels
* Texas BBQ
* Theme from the college that the graduate will be attending. (Serve foods from that state, etc.)
* Ice Cream Social
* Coffee and Dessert Bar

Invitations:

Most high schools offer a graduation announcement and invitation through a company that is working for them. They are usually generic and offer the school colors, mascot, and other class information. There are also a large number of companies that can be found on the internet that provide a wide variety to choose from. Another option is to design and create an invitation with the graduate in mind. For those up for the challenge, below are some option to consider.

* Use a baby picture of the graduate on the front and list the graduation information beside or below it.

* Use an image of the newspaper from the day the graduate was born. Be creative in what is said, such as "This just in" or "Breaking News" and then give the graduation information.

* Use pictures of the graduate through the years and have them printed lightly on the background with the graduation party information printed on the top.

These ideas can be taken to a local printer to be printed on a paper of choice. Allow approximately two weeks to have them completed but always double check with them on the printing time. In the meanwhile, use this time to get addresses that are needed in order. Make phone calls or e-mail everyone so that all the addresses are up to date and ready to go. The easiest way to do this is in a computer spreadsheet, but writing them the old fashioned way returns the same result.

Whichever is chosen to announce the graduate's big day, make sure that they are in the mail 4-5 weeks before the day of the event. Doing so allows out-of-town guests enough time to make their travel plans. Sending a map with the invitation giving directions to the graduate's home or wherever the party is taking place in also a good idea.

Menu and Serving Ideas

Beverages:

Tea Punch

INGREDIENTS
8 tea bags
7 cups water, more if needed
1 (12 ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 (12 ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate
2 cups sugar
1 lemon, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS
Place 8 tea bags in 7 cups boiling water. Allow to brew. Add remaining ingredients. Pour into one gallon pitcher. Add cold water to fill pitcher, sliced lemons and refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours.

Appetizers

Ham Spread for Appetizers

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups ground baked ham or turkey ham
1/4 cup onion, minced or chopped fine
1/4 cup sweet pickel relish
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise - more if necessary to make it more spreadable.

DIRECTIONS
In a food processor or mini chopper grind ham to desired consistency. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients, place into a covered container to chill. Serve on crackers, mini toasts or use as a filling for small sandwiches. Garnish as desired.

Sandwiches

Baked Filled Sandwich

Servings: 8-10
INGREDIENTS
1 loaf frozen bread dough - thawed
5 ounces ham
5 ounces smokey turkey
5 ounces swiss cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dry onion flakes
1 tablespoon water 1 egg - seperated

DIRECTIONS
Roll out thawed bread dough into a rectangle approximately 12 x 18 inches. Spread mayonnaise down the center of the dough leaving approximately 3 inches on each side. Sprinkle with dry onion and Italian seasoning. Layer with 3 slices of swiss cheese, 6 slices of ham, 6 slices of smoke turkey. Then add an additional 3 slices of swiss cheese, 3 slices of ham and 3 slices of smoked turkey. Slice approximately 3 inch slits into the dough 1 1/2 inches apart on each side. You should cut up to the center where the cheese and meat are layered. Wrap the cut pieces up around the meat and cheese and criss cross them one on top of the other. Continue down the length of the sandwich. Make an egg wash by beating together the egg whites and water. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake appproximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Better if served warm but may be served cold as well. Serve in a large chafing dish to keep warm.

Salads

Strawberry, Mango and Greens

Serving Size:4
INGREDIENTS
1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed
12 large, ripe strawberries, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 head of romaine lettuce
red wine vinaigrette, bottled

DIRECTIONS
Peel and cube mango, wash strawberries and cut into bite sized pieces, set aside. Wash approximately 8-10 large romaine leaves, dry and tear into bite size pieces and place into a salad bowl. Toss in fresh fruit and drizzle enough prepared salad dressing to coat everything - serve immediately.

Desserts

Creamy Strawberry Pie

INGREDIENTS
2 cups frozen strawberries
1/4 cup sugar (use only if strawberries are unsweetened
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons frozen lemonade concentrate
3 egg whites
1 tablespoon orange juice
4 ounces whipped topping (1/2 of an 8 oz. container
Strawberries and mint sprigs for garnish
Crust
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (18 squares)
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup margarine, melted

DIRECTIONS
Place strawberries in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and gelatin. Add the strawberries and frozen lemonade concentrate. Cook over medium heat until the mixture is bubbling and gelatin has dissolved, stir continuely.

Gradually stir about half of the cooked mixture in with the slightly beaten egg whites. Then add the beaten egg white mixture back into the saucepan with the other half of the cooked strawberry mixture.

Stir constantly while cooking over low heat until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Do not allow to boil. Pour into medium bowl and add orange juice and stir. Place the mixture into the refrigerator and chill until it starts to thicken so that it is clumpy when stirred but not firm. (approximately 2 hours)

While mixture is chilling, prepare the graham cracker crust.

When strawberry mixture has thickened, fold in the whipped topping. After evenly blended, pour into the prepared graham cracker crust. Spread evenly. Cover and then return to the refrigerator and chill until set. (approximately 2 hours) Garnish with strawberries and mint (optional)

Crust:

Crush graham crackers. Add sugar and melted margarine. Stir together until well mixed. Pour into pie plate, spread evenly and press firmly to bottom and sides. Bake at 350°F for 7 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before filling.

Serving beverages can be done easily by preparing any sized tub with ice and an assortment of drinks. Makes sure to include something for everyone.

When serving buffet or picnic style, have the napkins and silverware easily accessible for the guests. It can be difficult to carry a plate full of food and try to manage utensils as well. This pocket fold napkin helps to solve the problem.

Step 1:

Begin with a paper or cloth napkin (paper napkin shown) folded in a square. Lay napkin diagonally with open corners at the top.

Step 2:

Roll the first layer, of the 4 layers, to the center of the napkin.

Step 3:

Flip napkin over and fold the left corner to center of napkin.

Step 4:

Repeat fold with the right corner. If napkins will be used to carry silverware for a buffet or picnic situation, place a decorative sticker on the back to hold napkin folds in place.

Step 5:

Turn napkin over.

Step 6:

Insert the fork, knife, and spoon.


Decorations

Deck the walls and table tops with photos and memorabilia of the graduates' life. Try to incorporate "fun photos" not just the typical class picture. Pull out the old jerseys, team photos, dance recital programs, or any other items from their past. Focusing the decorating around the graduates likes and interests throughout their school career creates a fun atmosphere for the guests to enjoy.

Have their favorite sayings and slang written out, laminated, and displayed throughout the party setting. What a fun way for the guests to learn a little more about the graduate.

Decorate clay pots with the high school colors, plant colorful flowers, and use it for centerpieces on the tables.

Set up a table for gifts, making sure to have a container for the cards. A nice basket works well, how about a decorated mailbox, or one of the graduates' old instrument cases adorning the school colors?

Decorating for a party doesn't have to be expensive. Use whatever is available around the house or take a trip to the local discount store. There are a great ideas there from serving trays to food contains and they have ample decorating supplies.


More to Add to the Day

Place a new address book at the card and gift table and have the guests add their names, numbers, and any other information so that the graduate will have their own listings to take to college with them.

Provide a memory book for the guests to tell their favorite memory or story about the graduate. This will make a wonderful keepsake.

Have an activity available for all the graduates attending the party to keep busy with while there. Volleyball, crochet, or bocce ball would be great for this.

Place disposable cameras on the tables to inspire spontaneous picture taking.

Have a video created about the graduate and have it showing throughout the party. There are plenty of companies that offer this service.

Planning a Graduation Party Reviews

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"We have our oldest daughter's graduation this year and I don't know where to begin to plan for it. This article at least gave me some things to start thinking about."
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