Celebrating Your Grad at HOME... an Elegant Family Party
It’s graduation time! Are you ready to celebrate your favorite grad! This was my first time having a grad at home as my oldest daughter just graduated high school! It has been such a wonderful and joyous occasion celebrating this milestone! So, today I’m sharing with you some ideas from our at home celebration, the decor, the dinner, a simple grad game & even a graduation photo backdrop that I repurposed at home as part of the decor! Although our at home celebration was only a couple hours, we made precious memories that warmed this mama’s heart and I hope my daughter I will treasure and always fondly remember. That’s what it’s all about, right?
Check out these other great blog posts for more on celebrating your grad…
- Creating a Grad Money Cake (coming soon!)
- 5 Simple table settings to celebrate your grad & a mini Grad Hat DIY
It's not just about the party...
Now, the majority of this post focuses on the celebration details, but celebrating at home isn't just about a party. It's the little touches, the things your do to make the day or event meaningful that set the stage for your celebrating to touch hearts, be memorable and create connection.
Long before the party, make efforts to start the day with intention. Something I like to do on the day of a significant happening is find a way to make the first waking moments of the day start off with the child recognizing I know how special today is. Sometimes it's beginning the day with a fancy or fun breakfast. On birthdays, it might be balloons and streamers across the entrance to their room.
Today, for celebrating a grad, I got a, "Let the Adventure Begin" helium balloon, tied it to a personal note telling my daughter (the graduate) how proud of her I was and that I was excited for this day. I put it at the bottom of the stairway coming from her room. When she awoke on grad day, it was the first thing she saw, even before any of the family members. These kind of small touches matter in making home a place our children remember fondly with love and joy.
Deciding What Kind of Party...
Now, onto the party... Graduating high school is one of those once in a lifetime moments, a milestone, so I really wanted to make it special. It’s a chance to show your child how proud you are of all they’ve accomplished in high school and how excited your are for the bright future you see for them.
We talked about the big friend grad party, but in the end, we elected for a small pre-graduation at home dinner party for three reasons… 1- the graduating class already had a grad night party for everyone planned. 2- My daughter is really an introvert, so a small family event was just perfect… she could save her social energy for the school celebration later that night! 3- We wanted a special moment as a family to celebrate and not be competing with friends.
So, ideas were simplified and it became what I would call an an Elegant Homebody Grad Celebration! If you want to celebrate with something that feels really personal, or have a child that isn’t into big social gatherings, this small gathering with special moments might be just the right blend! You can create a meaningful and memorable special moment that they will fondly remember.
Planning the party...
Anytime I start party planning, I start with a theme. It makes planning simpler and increases the overall quality of the event. I think about the feeling I’m trying to create and what theme will help me get there. For graduation, I wanted it to be a peaceful, joyous, but a bit grand evening. Yes, graduation itself is obviously the overall theme, but I chose to make our at home celebration really feel elegant. So, an elegant graduation party was my focus.
There were three key parts to the night, decor, festivities (games/entertainment) and food.
When planning the decor, start with a color scheme. I chose her school colors of navy and gold and added in white. These colors were not only perfect because they are her school colors, but they are also colors that have a rich, elegant feel to them, perfect for my theme. I chose a mix of materials with sheen and matte to also give the elegant feel.
When I decorate for something special like this, think about how you can spread the look throughout. I wanted something outside to tell the whole neighborhood what special day it was and welcome guests in a fun way.
I wanted to create a grand entrance for my daughter when she got home from her grad rehearsal that day as well as to welcome family for the celebration that night. These “Congrats Grad” hanging signs from Amazon were perfect. I liked that they were blue (even if a slightly different blue) so they were similar to her school colors and the size was perfect for shouting (quietly of course) to the neighborhood that cool things were happening today. If you get much wind, like we do here, be sure to anchor the bottom of them to keep them from flying away. The grommets at the bottom are perfect for tying too and adding a heavy rock or balloon weights. To accent the doors, I added a simple balloon garland just to top the doors (I split the balloon kit).
Inside I focused on the dining area and spread a bit of the look into our connected family room. I created one simple decor focal area in the family room. As you enter our home, the wall most in front of you is our fireplace/mantel wall. So it was perfect for creating a photo display of pictures from Kindergarten through graduation. This was so simple to create. I already had the framed wood background. You could use a wood piece, large picture frame with fabric or paper, or even a foam board. I added thick cotton cording to hang the photos from (just fastened with packing tape on the back) and a mix of regular and mini clothespins to hang the photos. I liked the variety of the two sizes.
Graduation time is typically perfect for moving the party outdoors. Originally, this would have been the only inside decor because I planned to do the main decor, the eating area, outside on our back porch. However the weather had different plans, so I had to pivot and move things indoors. It was a little tighter for the tablescape, but it worked. Rather you choose inside or outside though, these ideas will make any tablescape lovely!
For an elegant table, I chose a floor length tablecloth in white. Be sure to measure your table length and width and add the height to get the right size table cover for your needs. My mother was a wedding decorator, so she educated me well on this… choose a wrinkle free fabric that doesn’t need much if any ironing and you’ll love using it for other holidays and events as well. Buy the wrong fabric and you will likely never use it again.
For the center of the table, I used a two navy satin runners and bunched them loosely to create a flowing and organic look. My favorite addition was a fresh garland; it made the look! Because I planned for a larger table originally, there really is a ton of fresh garland here, use what feels right for you if you don’t want such a full look. I made this garland literally from stems from two of the bushes in my yard. I cut 6-18 inch stems and wired them together. Keep in mind, a fresh garland won’t keep well overnight, so I would suggest making it the same day as your event.
After the runners and garlands were set, I added this standing 2021 cut out. I loved that it was notable at 12 inches high. Everything else I found was too small and would not have created the grand and elegant look I was going for. I finished the centerpiece by adding two gold and 3 glass candle holders. The candle holders were all things I had, but I linked some similar ones from Amazon below. A few nice pieces like this will be an investment you won’t regret and will love having anytime you want to dress up a dinner.
For setting the table, I definitely wanted to use gold to make it stand out. I started with this scalloped gold charger. I used white ceramic plates to keep with the elegant feel and layered in a textured navy napkin. The texture was one more way to give the elegant feel. I used goblets I already had, but topped them with these fun mini grad hats that I made myself. I created a couple larger ones and accented the center of the table with them. Click here to link to the the quick tutorial to see how to make them!
To make the grad’s setting just a little more special, I purchased this cake topper, removed the stick and set it at her setting. I love how it sets apart the grad seat and felt like the combo of all these pieces totally created the elegant look I was going for!
The backdrop was actually part of a photo spot I created for her school grad party, but I decided to use part of it for the decor as well. It was a nice touch to cover the window and make the space itself feel more elegant. I added a balloon garland over the top and accented it with this wood cutout I painted gold.
Click here to grab the updated 2022 Wood Cut Out in the Shoppe! It's perfect for your backdrop, part of your table centerpiece or even a photo prop!
I think it’s important your food choices match the theme of your party, so I tried to do that here. Of course you must also consider what your crowd likes. For me, it didn’t make sense for our “elegant meal” to include a bunch of fancy things that my kids wouldn’t eat, afterall, this event is to honor my daughter! So, we went with fettuccine alfredo, French bread rolls and Caesar salad. These foods have an elegant feel to them, but are also favorites of my daughter’s. I definitely wanted something that wouldn’t stress this mama out prepping for days before because I knew I would be busy too… this food choice was just a win-win.
For dessert, again, match the theme of your party but consider your crowd. We went with a brownie sundae bar with ice cream and topping choices. To dress it up we used these glass sundae cups. A paper bowl would not have given the elegant feeling I wanted. These glass cups are an item that I think is totally worth the investment. We’ve used them for a few different occasions and they always make the occasion feel extra special.
I had thought I would do a fancy table for the food, but in the end I decided to let that one go. Okay, let’s be honest, I really just ran out of time, so it got let go. My kitchen counter was as fancy as it got. It certainly didn't ruin the evening. My plan though was to feature her graduation gift, a cake made of money as the centerpiece on the food table, but instead I almost forgot to give it to her! Good thing my hubby reminded me... real life here! If you have extra time though, fancying up your food table is another fun way to stretch your decor.
FESTIVITIES: THE ACTIVITY / ENTERTAINMENT...
We needed to keep this grad party to under 2 hours, so we didn’t opt for a lot of activities. Instead I created one simple “How Well do you know the Grad Quiz.” It was set up in a “This or That” format so no one had to overthink their answers. There were choices like “Musical Theater OR Movies” or “Jeans or Sweats”. After dinner, but before dessert, we passed out copies and had everyone make their choices. The grad completed it at the same time and then we went over each answer, voting before on which we thought it was. We all had fun participating and it was so fun seeing what we really knew or didn’t know about her.
If you don’t want to make your own grad quiz you can use the one linked above or find one on Etsy. I went with making my own so I could personalize it more. I think it was a simple way to make my daughter feel special, but not have to worry about any elaborate games.
If you want to do more with game at your party, I really liked some of the ideas I found on the Shutterfly blog, Click here to see.
The Photo Spot...
This Polaroid grad photo spot was actually created for her high school grad party, but I thought I’d share it here. As mentioned before, I used the fabric backdrop as part of the decor during the celebration. We put the fabric backdrop, the large balloon garland and the Polaroid cutout together for the actual High School Party that night. If you are looking to add a photo booth to your celebration, we loved this one!
The backdrop was made from fabric strips tied onto a pipe painted gold. I used a satin blue, a matte blue, a satin gold and cut up a shiny textured gold fringe type backdrop that I cut into pieces.
The Polaroid is cut from an ⅛” melamine hardboard (also known as white wall panel). We cut it 48”x58” with a 41” square cutout, leaving 3.5” on the three sides and 13.5” on the bottom. My amazing husband built a 8” high x 7” wide wood frame to hang the backdrop from. The frame for the Polaroid was slightly smaller and made from ¾” conduit pipe that we spray painted gold.
The vinyl and grad hat photo prop were designed by my sweet friend, Brenna at craftingoverload.com. She is sharing the cut file for both the grad hat prop and the vinyl with you for FREE, so be sure to hop over and grab it! It should be available after 5/24/21. I will link it as soon as it's available.
Warm & Fuzzy…
This at home graduate celebration just left my heart warm and fuzzy! It was a day that felt complete. We loved the time together as a family to celebrate this wonderful moment. I hope these ideas inspire you for creating your own special celebration in your home! Have questions or like these ideas? Be sure to comment below and let me know!
PS - Want more GRAD Table Setting Inspiration? Click to our post, 5 Table Settings for the Graduate & Grad Hat DIY
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