Graduation Party for 100
Graduation is an exciting time. And it is also a time when friends and family mass together to celebrate a major milestone for that special someone. Large parties can be intimidating. Even terrifyingly chaotic. However, careful planning can save your sanity!
At minimum, you want to take 4 weeks to plan the event, preferably more! With a graduation, you have the advantage of knowing the exact date. However, every single one of those classmates are having graduation parties that same day. Likely hundreds or thousands from surrounding schools too. If you do not plan to have the event at home, snagging the perfect venue for that date should be done as early as possible.
Traditionally, you want the invitation to be delivered no less than two weeks from the date. You need to allow the guests time to ask time off work, hire sitters, make travel plans, and a host of other things on their end.
Traditionally this is the black and mortarboards. Diplomas. Etc. While the generic congrats theme is lower stress, some people crave something more unique. There is always room to add in a twist. Is the graduate going to school on a sports scholarship? Are they going to study abroad in Italy? Do they plan to join the navy? Incorporate their past and their future into the theme or the decorations.
Home is a traditional choice, though it may be cramped for a large party. Consider reserving an event hall, or booking an art gallery for the open floor space. Do any youth-friendly clubs have private party packages? Is it a good time of year to snag a park or beach?
If you book a venue, do not rely on their max occupancy to guide you. Is that max for sitting, or standing, or packed to the point of no personal space? Instead make sure the venue has open floor space of 5 sq. ft/person for a standing party, and 8 sq. ft/person for tables. Plus the needed extra for the specific events (dance floor, stage, etc). In the case of 100 people, you would want at least 500 square feet just for the guests to not feel crowded. And 800 square feet to allow comfortable room for tables.
E-vites (Digital invitations sent by email) are becoming popular lately due to their special effects, free delivery, and RSVP programs. But make sure special members like parents and mentors get a physical invitation as well as a keepsake. Physical invitations are also important for when there is limited seating at the graduation party, as the invite is their ticket in!
If there are ground rules, also make sure they are stated in an insert with the invite. For example, some venues do not allow alcohol or smoking on their grounds. Some also forbid outside food, so a well meaning auntie might be vastly disappointed she can’t share her special dish she took the trouble to make. Make sure these are spelled out from start.
The graduate’s favorite foods can make a good main course, along with an assortment of finger foods. Consider any foods that can be made or bought in bulk at a reasonable price. A buffet style meal is ideal, to allow variety on a budget. If you plan to cook yourself, take care to choose foods that will allow you time for the graduation. Do not forget the time it takes to prepare yourself and the grad to go!
Note: If you are using a restaurant as a venue (or the event is a catered formal meal), you can speed up serving time by limiting the event menu to a chosen appetizer, 1-3 choices for the main course, and one fairly universal dessert. Too many choices will risk the cooks scrambling, meals delayed, and the dreaded stock shortages.
After the official graduation event, everyone will likely want to just mingle, relax and talk to the guest of honor. And games or events should be quick, casual, and optional. Especially with a very large crowd.
A gift table is recommended near the entrance so that guests can drop off their presents to the graduate. That way gift wrap and trinkets won’t be scattered all over the venue as the graduate mingles. A box, jar or book to collect words of wisdom and congratulations from the guests can make for a wonderful keepsake.
Games should be simple and have minimal equipment. And if you hire a dj, rent a dance floor, etc, you should followup the week of the event, and the morning of the event to reduce any surprises.
Even if you go straight from the graduation to the venue, there will be fashionably late guests. Allow at least 30 minutes after the start of the party before going into any major events, like the grad’s thank you speech and the meal. More if there is a big gap between the ceremony and the party, with some finger foods to nibble on as they mingle.
Make sure the grad thanks everyone for coming before the meal, and you or the grad thanks everyone when it is time for guests to start leaving.
If budget allows, hiring a cleaning crew or a reliable acquaintance to clean up for you is recommended. You will have a long day of prepping, emotional roller coasters, tear filled moments, hosting, and many other activities on your plate as it is. If you do plan to clean for yourself, make sure to have thick 30 gallon lawn bags for quick removal of cups, cans, torn paper centerpieces, etc.
Within the week, have the grad sign and send out thank you notes to everyone who attended his or her graduation, party, or sent well wishes long distance. Again, physical keepsakes are preferred to e-vites, but can be acceptable with acquaintances.
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