The Graduation Party Game Plan

Host a home-based bash that’ll please both your kid and your wallet


Planning a graduation party at home is a cheaper, more customizable alternative to a venue. The catch? You’re in charge of every detail. Any party can send the calmest of parents into a tailspin, so for this symbolic day, preparation is key. Whether you intend to host an intimate get-together for family and friends or go all out, careful planning is the cornerstone to a stress-free day.

Timing is everything

If the party will be on graduation day, kick off the festivities several hours after the ceremony. You’ll have time to regroup or change clothes. Another option is to plan the party for a different weekend or host a “graduation eve” or “open house” shindig instead.

What’s on the menu?

Unless you have relatives willing to prepare casseroles ahead of time, a catered event will ease the stress, but be sure to order at least a week in advance. Finger desserts served buffet style, rather than a large cake, are a simple alternative. Party-style pizzas are also trendy — they’re easy to make and inexpensive.

Hire helpers

Consider hiring one or two servers, so you can enjoy the celebration. Sometimes caterers can provide servers at a reasonable cost for customers who’ve placed large orders. Or recruit friends of younger siblings who might be willing to work for a “tip.”

Crowd-pleasing party activities

Outdoor options include group sports such as volleyball, badminton, mini-golf or water-balloon toss. If the forecast calls for rain, entertain guests of all ages with party games. Throw a little competition into the mix with “Match of the Year,” which calls on parents to spread out photos of their child from each school year on a table. The guest who offers up the most correct guesses as to which photo belongs to each year wins the game.

For young attendees, the “Spider Web” game is a surefire hit: Instruct kids to link hands — each hand must be joined to a different person — and challenge them to form a spider web. After, give them two minutes to unravel the links and form a circle, without letting go.

Capture the moment

Keep your camera at the ready, and do something creative with all those pictures. Memory books, for instance, are a great gift for the grad and guests. Websites such as MixBook and Blurb let users upload cellphone pics that are used to make an album delivered to your door.  

Thank-you cards are another must. Many stores (think Walgreens or Wal-Mart) offer photo centers, where you can feature your own pictures in a personalized card. Use a shot of the whole group so you’ll only need to order one batch.

Don’t break the bank

Dual hosting is a great way to share costs with another family. Printing your own invitations and borrowing decorations from last year’s graduates will also reduce costs. Use extra tables and chairs from neighbors instead of renting. Bake cupcakes and decorate them with tiny grad hats on toothpicks. And skip the DJ; play party selections from an iPod hooked up to wireless speakers.

Limit stress

It’s important to remember that you want your teen to remember that you were all smiles on her graduation day, so be sure to address potential stress triggers. Focus on staying in the moment and enjoying the day’s events together.

Graduation day garners a lifetime of precious memories if you plan well, accept help when it’s offered and focus on your child. Just don’t forget the tissues!

Myrna Beth Haskell is an award-winning author, columnist and feature writer. Her work has appeared in publications across the U.S. as well as internationally. She is also co-founder and managing editor of SANCTUARY.

Categories: Party Features