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You did it! Graduating from high school and college is a big deal. Now it’s time to celebrate. If you’ve never planned a party, we have some tips to help you get started. The good news is you make the rules! This is your day, so let your personality shine.

It’s a date.

First thing first. Set the date and time for your party. Some people prefer to fit the graduation ceremony and their party into the same day. Others want to space things out a bit so they aren’t overwhelmed. Think about what works best for you and your family – especially anyone who must travel to attend.

What time again?

Consider the time frame for your party. Many graduation parties are presented in a “open house” format. If your graduation ceremony is at 2 p.m., a 10 a.m. to noon or a 4-7 p.m. open house may work best. The time of day you select will also help determine the type of food and beverage you serve. If your party begins at 10 a.m. you may want to serve breakfast or brunch items. An evening party lends itself well to heavy hors devours or a full meal.

Make a list and check it twice.

You’ve set the date, now it’s time to formulate an invite list. Pro tip: create a spreadsheet with names and addresses. It will come in super handy when you send thank you notes later and for parties you may host in the future. Work smarter, not harder!

Timing is everything.

Thanks to social media you have options for issuing invitations. Creating a Facebook invite is a quick, easy, and free option. If that’s not your style you can always send a more traditional invite via mail. Schools often offer formal invitation options that can be ordered. There are also a variety of online invitation vendors that allow for personalization, incorporating your own photos and themes. Regardless of format, be sure the invite includes your name, location of the party, and timeframe. Invites should be sent three to four weeks in advance of the event.

Who is up to you.

Your family and friends will undoubtedly make your guest list, but also think about inviting teachers/professors, mentors, coaches, community members, or others who mean a lot to you or have played a significant role in your life. Review your list with your parents or guardians to ensure you haven’t left anyone out. When planning for food and drink, a good rule of thumb is to expect around 75 percent of your invite list to attend.

Roll with a theme.

This is your day to shine! What are you into? What’s your vibe? Maybe you’re a traditionalist who wants to pay homage to your school colors. Maybe a rustic chic vibe with mason jars and lace table cloths is right for you. Perhaps a Hawaiian luau theme with leis, grass skirted tablecloths, and pineapple centerpieces is your jam. Or maybe you’re into cats in space. Your décor should reflect your personality. Have fun with it! There are thousands of great ideas for every budget on sites like Pinterest.

Prep scrapbooks and photo boards.

This is a great opportunity to showcase your accomplishments. Take some time to go through old photographs. Gather your awards, certificates, trophies, and other memorabilia to create a fun, personalized display. Your guests will love the trip down memory lane. 

Let them eat cake.

Here’s the part everyone actually cares about – the food. This is also where your theme can really shine. If you settled on a Hawaiian luau theme, consider serving pulled pork, fruit kabobs, and chips with pineapple salsa…you get the idea. And don’t forget dessert. Cake is a traditional way to go, but this is your party so you can do whatever you want. Donuts, cotton candy, snow-cones, a chocolate fountain, cookies, parfaits…the options are endless…and delicious.

Have fun!

This is the most important part! Graduation is a huge milestone. Be sure to take some time the day of your party to soak it all in. Enjoy being surrounded by those who love and support you. You made it! Your future awaits.