Endless hours of studying. Late nights and weekends spent in the engineering lab, troubleshooting, achieving. Someone very special to me just graduated from college. This someone special doesn’t like the limelight. Like, he really doesn’t like it. Don’t get me wrong, he can be totally sociable. He loves hanging out with friends and having a good time. He’s just modest. He’s humble and he’s down to earth and he’s super content flying under the radar. Although this guy deserves to be showered in accolades worthy of a god, he tends to shy away from being the center of attention. So, how the heck do you throw someone so sweetly humble a graduation party when the last thing they want is to be acknowledged for their awesomeness? Especially when the whole point of a graduation party is to, well, celebrate the graduate and all of their successes… How do you even begin to plan a large event like this in the first place?Well, I'm not going to pretend like I’m Martha Stewart incarnate, but here’s how I planned a pretty successful grad “get-together” for my boyfriend that allowed friends and family to celebrate the socks off this amazing man, but left him feeling comfortable, content and completely humble.
Don’t throw them a graduation partyWell, don’t throw them a graduation-themed party. Really. This is probably the number one tip I have for you. While the “congrats grad” theme is totally awesome for most, it can be borderline embarrassing for some. Instead, think of a theme that suites the graduate in question and approach the party as more of a general “get together” or “hangout”. For Matt, I went with an Oktoberfest theme. This was kind of a no-brainer. I mean, beer is his love language and he’s part German, so…
If themes are not your graduate’s cup-of-tea, that’s okay too. A summertime BBQ is sometimes all the “theme” you need. I mean, who doesn’t love some traditional summertime Bar-B-Que fare? For real.
Send an Evite Save paper and money by opting to send out e-vites instead of the more formal snail mail variety. While I will never discount the charm and appeal of receiving a letter or invitation in the mail, if you’re on a budget, e-vites can really be a money saver. And now, with the option to invite people in bulk via certain social media platforms, or even via text message, it makes the whole invitation process a time saver too. I don’t know about you, but, lets be honest, I don’t have everyone’s address memorized, or even written down. Also, pretty sure my mom is getting tired of the phone calls…“Hey, what’s Aunt Rosie’s address again?”
Not only are e-vites a money and time saver, they also help lessen the overall “fancy factor” of the event, helping keep the party vibe casual for your limelight adverse graduate. Evite and Paperless Post both have some great free (and themed) invitation options.
Ask for helpReach out to friends and family to see if they'd be interested in helping you plan and execute such an event. Chances are they want to celebrate the graduate as much as you do, and will be more than willing to lend a hand. By reaching out, you’re not only sharing the long list of responsibilities associated with party-planning, but you're also including loved ones in the fun. Also, by getting others involved in the party planning, you’re essentially pulling together multiple resources. You’d be surprised to find how many awesome, sometimes theme-specific party decorations and props you can get your hands on just by asking around. I ended up borrowing all the table linens, vintage beer steins, galvanized tubs, all plates, utensils and serving ware, as well as folding tables and chairs just by reaching out. Not only can borrowing what people already have lead to some really neat and authentic pieces for your party (those beer steins though), it can also help lessen overall party expenses.
Get organizedMake an excel sheet of your menu, to-dos, decoration ideas, etc. Or better yet, make a Google Sheet. Google Sheet is a type of spreadsheet that allows for real-time sharing of your party check-list with your party planning team. Depending on how you set up your Google Sheet, your helpers can sign up for party responsibilities, ask questions about certain party details, and keep everyone simultaneously updated on to-do statuses—all in real-time. So cool, and so helpful! You can see how I set up my party planning checklist here. Feel free to use this template as is, or just as a reference to create your own totally awesome party spreadsheet.
Keep the menu simple It’s easy to go overboard with the menu planning. Trust me, as a food lover, I know. But planning a grad party, or any party for that matter, doesn’t mean you have to break the bank with food costs. For this Oktoberfest party I kept the menu theme-specific, but did so with budget and preparation ease in mind.
Remember, you’re not in this alone. Is there someone in your group of helpers that is an amazing baker? Someone that makes killer drinks? Let the people that want to help, help with what they’re best at. Let that exceptional baker whip up some decadent desserts. Let that bartending genius craft some killer cocktails. They’ll be happy to take on a to-do that they actually enjoy, and you'll be happy with less on your plate.
Finally, it’s okay to leave some things up to the professionals. I knew that I wanted authentic German pretzels and sauerkraut at the party, but also knew that I would not be able to make these items myself. Budgeting to splurge on a few theme-specific items can really make the party feel authentic. Plus, who doesn't love a good soft pretzel and some kraut?
Side note: the sauerkraut from Farmhouse Culture is to die for. Seriously, so good. You can give them a follow on Instagram @farmhouseculture to see there awesomeness first hand.
Music makes the party go ‘round Make a party playlist. Pandora is great for this. Yes, there may be the sporadic commercial here and there, but the app is free! They also have a great selection of music to fit almost any theme. They even had a Traditional German Folk Dance station that was played throughout the party. My recommendation for Pandora playlists—give the station a listen prior to the event and thumbs up and thumbs down appropriately. This will help ensure a well curated and totally awesome playlist, potentially eliminating any random, out of the blue songs from popping up on your feed mid-party.
DIY babyFor Matt’s party that meant chalkboard signs. I made a menu for the appetizers and main dishes, a dessert menu, a biergarten sign, a welcome sign for the front entry, food markers and more. These affordable touches added a personal quality to the party. Not into DIYing? Fear not! I also purchased a lot of decorations from Party City and Oriental Trading Co. Both of these stores have some great deals and awesome “bulk” pricing.
Don't be afraid to use what you have. I had Matt save some beer bottles for the party—added some sunflowers and voila! Decor.
Have funCliche? Yeah, I know. But I’m serious. Something won’t get set out, or made, or cleaned. It’s the way the party crumbles, it’s inevitable, and it’s OKAY. No party goes off without a hitch. I mean, unless your Martha Stewart’s cyborg clone or something…I often get caught up in the details, the imperfections, the senseless worrying. All of which can lead to a grumpy hostess. No one likes a grumpy hostess. Don’t be a grumpy hostess.
Planning a graduation party, especially for the attention shy graduate, doesn't have to be a daunting task. It can be totally fun and laid back if you plan it that way. I was really surprised at how easily everything came together just by implementing a Google spreadsheet and divvying up party tasks with those willing to help out. (Thanks again wonderful people! You know who you are.)
Pro tip: just make sure the food is yummy, the atmosphere is fun and relaxed, that hardworking college graduate has a beer (or drink of choice) in hand, and everything else will fall into place.
Have some stellar party planning tips and tricks? Love to hear in the comments!
Have some stellar party planning tips and tricks? Love to hear in the comments!
Success! Feel free to
or head to your