Graduation is a big deal: whether it’s high school or college, it will be one of the most meaningful moments of your child’s life. It’s definitely important to plan a big celebration, but that’s hard to do, especially with time and budget restraints. Having multiple kids makes it even more difficult. But party planning doesn’t have to be stressful! If you start early and do a little each week, an amazing soiree will unfold before your eyes. It won’t feel like you dropped a ton of money at once, and you won’t be running around like crazy trying to throw everything together at the last minute.
Check out our Graduation Party Planning Timeline
If you haven’t already ordered your child’s cap and gown and turned all their paperwork in, definitely try to complete those tasks now. The other thing you want to make sure gets done during these two weeks is ordering and sending out graduation announcements.This might not seem like an essential part of the process, but if you have family or friends who live far away and won’t be able to attend the actual commencement, they will cherish a token of this moment in their loved one’s life.
In recent years it’s become more popular to go with booklet-type graduation announcements that have room to describe your child’s interests, journey, and future plans. However, any kind of announcement, even a homemade one, will be a precious memento and make even those far away feel like they’re a part of the big day!
9 Weeks Before Graduation
This week, all you really need to do is have a chat with your graduate. Find out what kind of celebration they’d like, what they’d be comfortable with, and what is realistic. There are so many fun graduation party ideas out there, you’ll want to look into everything now so you don’t get overwhelmed later. You don’t have to draw up any specific plans, but make sure you leave with a good idea of what kind of party you’ll be throwing. Even if it’s a simple backyard BBQ, it’s never too early to start planning. After all, this should be the most special BBQ ever!
8 Weeks Before Graduation
If you are planning on using any sort of customized or pre-booked service (caterer, specialty cake, entertainer, etc.) you’ll want to research your options this week and get it booked. Same goes if you are utilizing a venue that needs to be booked. Graduation season coincides with wedding season, so the sooner the better.
This advice applies even if you are just planning on having a friend or family member help (aunt bakes a cake, pool party at grandma’s, etc.) Even though those closest to you will always be happy to help, it is polite and respectful to ask them and solidify a commitment well in advance. The other reason to book early with everyone is that if you wait, and your loved one has plans that won’t allow them to help even if they want to, you’ll be stuck trying to book something scarce at the last minute.
7 Weeks Before Graduation
Time to think about the fun stuff: decorations, games, activities. Look around at local and online vendors and purchase what you need now. Even if you order online and things are out of stock, you should be set for them to arrive on time. An added bonus for graduates still living at home: seeing party supplies at home will get them excited and maybe even encourage them to study a little harder for those last few weeks!
Pro tip: if you are planning on using paper plates, plastic utensils, or party favors, it might be best to wait on purchasing those until you’ve had some RSVPs and have a better idea of the head count. Scope out your supplier now so you can make sure everything coordinates, but don’t get stuck with too much or too little at the last minute.
6 Weeks Before Graduation
You won’t have to spend a dime on the party this week, so go ahead and grab yourself a treat. Especially since you’ll be doing everyone’s favorite tedious task: coming up with a guest list and collecting for addresses. Whether you’re the organize-it-all-in-a-spreadsheet or scribble-it-down-haphazardly type of person, you’ll just need to get this unpleasant task done.
5 Weeks Before Graduation
Now that you have a guest list, time to get those invitations squared away. Whether you’re purchasing them or spending the time to hand-make something special, you’ll want to get those squared away this week so you’ll have them when it’s time.
4 Weeks Before Graduation
This week’s task is filling out the invitations and mailing them off. One step at a time is the best way to go. The optimum time for graduation invitations to arrive is 3 to 3 ½ weeks before the event. Two weeks may be too short notice for some people to make arrangements, and anything over four weeks may be be forgotten. As long as you get them out by the end of the week, you should hit that deadline perfectly.
3 Weeks Before Graduation
This week’s theme is food. Plan out your party menu, even if it’s just no-cook snacks, and make a shopping list of everything you’ll need. If you do plan on making food, make sure you coordinate some recipes that are simple and/or can be prepared ahead of time, because you want the day of the party to go as smoothly as possible. It’s most likely going to be a hot summer day, so providing some fun, refreshing drinks is always a good idea.
2 Weeks Before Graduation
Time to tie up all those loose ends. If you have any vendors, entertainers, or a venue booked, call and make sure everything is on track. This goes even if you are relying on a close friend or family member for something. Now that at least some people have had a chance to RSVP, you have a close idea of how many people will be there. Close enough that you can snag up any items like serving ware, utensils, and party favors that you postponed purchasing earlier. Last but not least, make sure your little graduate is doing okay. It’s definitely crunch time for them. All the looming tests and papers and projects are stressful, so spend a little quality time with them and ask if they need anything. Look for colored plastic utensils and graduation party supplies.
1 Week Before Graduation
It’s time to go grocery shopping! Unless you’re having the event catered, you’ll want to snag up that grocery list you made earlier and head to the store. Having everything on hand early will really help. You’ll also want to make sure that any other purchases you have to make for the party get done this week, especially if you are DIYing any of the activities or decor. And if you are DIYing anything for the party, it’s time to get all of that done. The earlier the better, especially since things don’t always turn out the way we plan…
2 Days Before Graduation
Prep out as much food as possible and have it set aside to either be served or popped into the oven tomorrow. If you’re hosting, make sure you tidy up a bit. You won’t want to be worrying about that tomorrow.
The Big Day!
The big day is finally here. So kick back, relax, and give yourself some room to take in this momentous occasion (I bet you weren’t expecting to hear that!) You’ve got just about everything done, so you don’t need to worry until a few hours before the party starts. Enlist the help of anyone you can (especially any other little ones you have around the house) to help with decorations, and get the food and activities ready when it’s time. You worked very hard to get your kid to this moment, so don’t work too hard trying to celebrate it.
Graduation Party Planning Timeline
Print out this Graduation Party Time Line-2 to paste on your fridge to keep on track.