I apologize for the radio silence last week, but with my son’s graduation and graduation party falling on back to back weekends, things got a little crazy around here. I am still exhausted from all of it, quite honestly. A lot of build-up, planning and work took place in the months prior to the party, and it’s taking a little while to unwind now that the party is over. We opted for an outdoor graduation party at our home, and thankfully, the weather cooperated, even though rain had been in the forecast earlier in the week, we had nothing but sunshine. I thought it would be fun to look at how the party was put together in case you have a kiddo who will be a senior soon. This was our first graduation party, so I think by the time my younger ones graduate, I’ll have this down to a finely tuned machine. This post contains some affiliate links.
Outdoor Graduation Party – Plan for the Worst
While I always hope for the best when it comes to weather, you have to be realistic and plan for the worst. That’s where having a tent comes into the equation. When we hosted fish fry parties in the past, the tent has been a great insurance policy. We decided to put the backyard to good use and use the patio as the tent location. The only think I would consider doing differently here, is not having the “barrels” that you see in the center pole location. Those are filled with water to weigh the tent down in case of wind, but we could have gotten by without them, and it would have been more aesthetically pleasing.
My daughter was a huge help in pulling the last minute details together (and I have a feeling she will have me working for her when she graduates). She helped me with the outdoor chalkboard sign so that people knew where to go – she even suggested using a large planter to prop it up, since it had to be “pretty”.
Now, while my graduate is my oldest son, the nice thing about planning this party, is that he really left the details to me. So, having flowers may not be a “boy” thing for a graduation party, but they’re still pretty and festive, and the arrangements we had weren’t girly by any means. I have a friend who took this over for me, based on a few ideas I threw her way, and she pulled together some arrangements that were absolutely perfect.
The colors for his college (Ohio University) are green, black and white, so these arrangements fit the bill. I added the little chalkboard details and some raffia to finish the look. The arrangements are in varying sized mason-style jars, and they looked great in groups of three. They also make great party favors for your guests to take home.
We had a few pub tables, and had larger, single arrangements for them.
Graduation Photo Displays
One of the fun things to see at graduation parties is how the photos of the kids are displayed. I decided to keep mine simple, and went with photos primarily from the high school years, with the exception of the yearly school photos. This is my own personal opinion, but I felt like sharing photos from his entire life to date was kind of funeral-ish. But again, I love seeing photos of the kids when they’re little, I just opted to keep things simple.
Since the photos I had were varying sizes, I mounted all of them on scrapbook paper so that they looked uniform and symmetrical. I used some large black foam core board and attached the mounted photos with small craft clothes pins that I attached with my glue gun. Then I used some die cut chalk tags and wrote the school year on each one, attaching it to the corresponding photo. And yes, somehow I’m missing kindergarten. But, it’s all evenly laid out this way, so I’m good with it. 🙂
Then I did another board for baseball, since that’s his sport of choice, along with another board that has photos of friends over the course of the high school years (didn’t get a photo of it though).
This is the part of the party that I struggled with the most – what food to get, and how much, since I really had no idea how many people to expect. We had a lot of kids come and go (the part was from 4-8), but as you know, not all kids eat. I wanted to have things that were easy to pick up and eat, but I also wanted the food to be tasty, since there were a lot of adults there too. I had plenty of food, and we had leftovers, and the pulled pork sliders were a crowd favorite.
The donut holes are from a favorite local donut shop (Bill’s Donuts if you’re ever in the Dayton, Ohio area), and the kids love Chic-Fil-A, so I threw that in as a last minute addition.
My friend is a master cookie maker, and made these adorable cookies for the party – Ohio University Bobcat paws. 🙂
While we only set up a couple of games of corn hole in the backyard, in the past, we’ve done a volleyball net (with a blow up beach ball), and that works for people of all ages, including little kids. But the older kids really enjoy corn hole. Now I just need to get better at taking photos during the party. I swear, once people show up, my camera goes away and I get too busy to think about pictures. But games are a must for an outdoor graduation party – otherwise, kids will be inside your house.
In organizing this graduation party, I feel like I put on a small wedding! I joked to the kids that we could host their wedding rehearsal dinners at our house after doing a party like this one. 🙂 It was a lot of fun, but it’s definitely a relief to have it behind me. Now all I have to get through is dropping him off at school, right? That event will deserve a post all its own I have a feeling.
What are some things that you’ve seen at graduation parties that you’ve loved? Anything that you don’t like or that you would do differently if you’ve put on a graduation party?
Missy BJune 6, 2017 at 11:39 am
Hi Jenny! Your party turned out great. We live in Texas so for my oldest daughter we went with a Texas theme. Red and white checked Tablecloths, mason jars with flowers, catered BBQ, and we rented a mechanical bull. It was a hit. My other daughter this year wanted a much smaller party. We went with an Italian theme. We recycled the red and white checked tablecloths, used empty Italian tomato cans for breadsticks, sunflowers on the tables and potted lavender, catered pastas, and I set up a make your own Italian Soda Bar. The kids really loved the Italian sodas.
JennyJune 6, 2017 at 11:41 am
What a fun idea! Sounds like a great party – it’s going to be interesting to see how the other ones want when it’s their turn!
DebiJune 6, 2017 at 1:19 pm
Loved it! I especially like your photo displays. Well done!
FrankieJune 6, 2017 at 1:50 pm
You did a fabulous job!! Congratulations to your son.
LisaJune 8, 2017 at 1:05 pm
Your family is extremely Blessed to live such an idyllic life! I just wish the rest of America could live like you perhaps we’d be a more Peaceful and Civilized Union! Our life’s do parallel though, my son also plays baseball and yes Cooperstown was the awesome! Congratulations to your son and job well done to his parents!
LindaJune 9, 2017 at 10:29 pm
Yes you could do their wedding parties there. It looks great, and I like the idea of clothes pinning the pics on. I didn’t do that and now have scrapbooking tape on the backs of our “baby’s” pics. She went off to college last year, so I’m done with our grad parties, but still get invited to plenty.
Dropping your oldest off to college is almost like seeing them off to war – there was crying starting in church that am. By the 2nd and 3rd, you realize that you will see them again, that is where they are meant to be (you wouldn’t be half as proud if they weren’t leaving), and that it’s not all that bad.
Good Luck in the fall.
LindaJune 12, 2017 at 2:21 pm
Hey Jenny. I left a previous comment on what an awesome party you pulled off and how hard it is to take your 1st off to college. I’m done with graduation parties myself, but went to another couple this weekend and saw an idea you might use for the next 2. The graduate is a soccer player, going on to play in college so of course she had lots of souvenirs, and her mom used all the soccer ball ornaments, soccer player ornaments, ornaments that had special meaning for her on a small “Christmas” tree, lights and all, and tissue paper around the base in the color theme of the party. It’s probably all over pinterest, but had never seen it myself. Then, for those who save EVERYTHING, the outdoor tent had all the soccer shoes from tiny on up (said they had febreezed them) hanging along the interior edges! So cute, but that’s a lot of hoarding!
RachelMarch 2, 2018 at 12:18 pm
Lovely! Thank you for all the ideas. I’m planning our first graduation/graduation party (we homeschool so it’s 2-in1) this year. I love the cookies as a nod toward the future. And of course I’m looking for picture-display ideas! I’m thinking of a Taco Bar…
I hope you son has had a strong first year in college. Thanks again!!
KeryMay 7, 2019 at 10:40 pm
Hi Jenny!! I love your ideas. Where do you buy the foam board?? Thanks!
JennyMay 8, 2019 at 5:34 pm
I think I got it at Hobby Lobby! I need to go get some more for this year’s grad party!
Stacey BeanMarch 7, 2022 at 6:29 pm
Love your ideas. This party has me stressed and it’s only March
Vincenza MaklaJuly 22, 2022 at 9:53 pm
Love the photos ideas. Are they just Frames connected together
JennyAugust 11, 2022 at 12:39 pm
The photos are mounted to a large piece of poster board and then I added the little clothespins with the year.