Big thanks to Gretchen at Three Little Monkeys Studio for this amazing post!
It happens to the best of us. You have an event coming up and think you’re OK on time, but then you get busy with work and kid activities, so party planning takes a back seat. And then one day you look at the calendar and realize you have no time and need to throw together a party fast. The stress sets in. But, there’s no need to fret. You can pull together a graduation party (or any event) with a few tricks, and your guest will think you planned for weeks!
1. Think about your menu. To make things less stressful and save yourself some valuable time,outsource as much of the food as possible. And keep it simple. Cannot stress that enough. Sometimes I think we feel pressured to wow guests with our homemade Pinterest-worthy meals and forget just how nice it can be to let someone else do the work for once. Order a sandwich platter from Costco or food from your favorite caterer, and pies and cookies from your favorite bakery too. Take them out of their packaging and serve them on your own platters and cake stands.
I found an adorable pie shop nearby and ordered two pies and cookies to complete the dessert offerings. I spiced up the pies with DIY toppers and free printables (links below). Oh, the apple pie and that meringue pie. Yum.
Large take out style gift containers from U.S. Toy were lined with parchment paper and stuffed with sub sandwiches and bags of chips making an easy, portable meal and a pretty presentation.
Then a “Class of 2014″ sticker was added to the top to make it a little more special. It’s all in the details.
For beverages, a Glass Jar Dispenser was filled with lemonade and a tin tub was filled with ice andJones Soda Co. cream sodas found in my local grocery store. I liked this brand because the labels were black and white and didn’t contrast with the colors.
2. Party decor can sometimes be intimidating, especially if you don’t have a clear plan in place or know where to begin. I like to pick one statement piece, which is usually my backdrop, and then fill in with a few fun items to add interest.
Here I hung a large map from Hobby Lobby (purchased for 50% off!) and added a tassel from U.S. Toy for our graduate (they carry other colors as well). If your graduate is going to college out of state, you could add another tassel for the location. Or even pictures of the student and campus. Lots of way you could personalize an inexpensive map with where they were born, graduated, and other milestones. Don’t have a Hobby Lobby? A paper map would be just as awesome here and inexpensive too.
Extra tassels were added here and there, and a child-size Graduation Cap was placed on top of the beverage dispenser for fun.
Sometimes the party supplies can add the perfect punch of color. The bright gold of these plates and napkins (in school colors) from U.S. Toy pop against the black and white of the table and serving pieces.
3. Get crafty. If you don’t consider yourself creative, this part may be intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. Adding your own personal touches makes your event unique and can give the guest of honor some awesome keepsakes like this pie topper I made.
This craft was so easy using some wood numbers from the craft store, gold paint, a dowel and a hot glue gun.
Or maybe printables are more your speed. You can download the free printables at the bottom of this post and assemble them using wooden lollipop sticks, card stock and some double-sided tape from the craft store. Printables are perfect, because they personalize your event and are easy to put together.
4. Styling is the fun part! There is no right or wrong here. Move items around and arrange until you achieve a look you love. Bring in props, mementos and such to make it personal, like the family’s hobnail serving piece.
I like to arrange small groupings of similar items together, as I did these desserts and the beverages. I also placed the plates, cups and napkins at the same level making them easy to grab.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when you style. For example, I put those take out containers on the shelves below instead of on the top, which would have made the table look cluttered had I done so. Splitting it up works here and keeps the design light.
And don’t forget to use items from around the house. I use a lot of ordinary mason jars to hold utensils (no need to go fancy) and re-purpose old furniture to set up my displays (the table is an old desk turned into a bar). You don’t need to put everything on a kitchen table or counter. Think outside of the box and have fun when you style.
Hopefully some of these ideas inspire you and take a bit of the stress out of last minute graduation party prep!
1. Lemonade in a Glass Jar Dispenser – World Market
2. Large Take Out Container filled with sandwiches and chips – U.S. Toy
3. Graduation Tassels (in any color) – U.S. Toy | 4. Cake Stands – Shop Sweet LuLu
5. Cream Soda from the grocery store in a tub | 6. Napkins - U.S. Toy
7. Map – Hobby Lobby | 8. Plates - U.S. Toy | 9. Polka Dot Cups – Susty Party
10. Pies and Cookies – The Upper Crust Bakery | 11. Paper Straws – Susty Party
12. Graduation Cap – U.S. Toy