“Graduation parties are an important celebration. Students have worked incredibly hard to succeed at all that’s been required of them, and that should be celebrated.” According to Karen Bland, owner of KDB Events, not only should a graduation be celebrated, but it should be celebrated in a way that will be memorable to the guest of honor.
“The theme, location, activities, and food should all be catered specifically to the guest of honor and their desires. You’d think this goes without saying, but that’s not always the case,” Bland explained. Sometimes parents think a good party is measured in dollars spent rather than memories made.
Choose a Theme
Bland coaches parents to talk to their graduate about what type of party they would enjoy. Besides “Class of 2019,” many teens like to choose a theme as their starting point. The theme will set the tone and determine what type of venue, food, and activities are appropriate.
The theme may also be the starting point for the budget. Some of the common themes Bland sees are dance parties with a musical genre or decade theme, cookouts with a tropical or western theme, and formal meals with prom-type themes or masquerade elements.
Other theme ideas for graduates include book references (“Oh, The Places You Will Go”), plays on words (You’re One Smart “Cookie”), and school color themes (Purple and Gold). Decorations should help carry the theme, but Bland suggests that otherwise, families use simple decor. “Photos of the graduate are a great way to keep the focus on them and a great way to help your wallet.”
Venues can easily become a significant expense. If families are trying to stay on a budget, Bland has this recommendation. “Host the event in your home or back yard to save on venue costs. Parks also rent out their shelters and buildings for a small fee. If your neighborhood has a clubhouse, check in with them to get their rates.”
Another option is to use the party room at a local restaurant. This is an especially good choice if the restaurant is the graduate’s favorite place to eat. And hosting at a restaurant means the family doesn’t have to cook or cater.
Dedicated party venues also exist, but many of them specialize in weddings and upscale adult events. However, if you have a specific site in mind, it never hurts to ask if they offer graduation packages. Both The Carriage House in Indian Trail and Swan Manor in Monroe are flexible in hosting birthdays and graduations.
Food, like the venue, can be as elaborate or simple as a family wants. Some graduates enjoy tying their food into their theme. Whether a family member or caterer is preparing the food, they can find plenty of themed food ideas on Pinterest.
Bland said, “Between catering and venue rentals, you can end up spending upwards of $2,000. If you have a lower budget, I recommend you cater the party yourself. If the location allows, pick up some rotisserie chicken and sides for your guests. Or order from a local restaurant. Your options are endless and will cost a lot less than event catering.”
Of course, some people find cooking or even arranging to pick up meals to be a stressor. That’s why many local restaurants also offer formal catering and delivery. This is an excellent option if the graduate wants to dine on their favorite restaurant food, but doesn’t want to party in the restaurant space.
Formal caterers are also available, if restaurant food doesn’t strike the right mood. The Catering Place is a locally owned catering business based out of Waxhaw. They serve all event types and group sizes. And for a combination of food and decor, Edible Arrangements offers a fun alternative to standard desserts.
Ask for Help
Bland said, “Don’t get too caught up in the details. No party will be perfect. Things will go wrong-they always do. The most important thing that needs to happen is honoring the graduate. That’s what it should all be about.”
Party planning can be overwhelming. Asking friends and family for help will spread out the responsibilities. If things still get too hectic, Bland pointed out that “Hiring an event planner to focus on the details can give you the freedom to focus on celebrating with your graduate.”
Families that are interested in Bland’s graduation party coordination can contact her at email@example.com or call 704.989.8468.