This post may contain affiliate links. See my disclosure for more information.
I made a huge mistake with my son’s graduation party. I forgot to take pictures! This shames me, not only as a mother, but as a blogger. Before the party started, I took a few. The weirdest thing is, that at one point during the party, I looked out the back window and thought, “I love seeing all of these people enjoying each other’s company.” And I actually went out and took a few pictures.
But did it cross my mind at that point to take other pics? Noooooo. No standard picture of my son with his cake (doughnuts, in this case). No pictures of my son at all.
Here’s what I attribute it to: I lost my mind temporarily due to outlets.
But the party was great! Let me tell you about it.
My son had asked months ago if we could serve jambalaya at his grad party. It turns out that we would’ve been just fine using only the oven (baking it in large foil pans). But not knowing that, I had decided to borrow the electric roasters from our church. And they are -we’re pretty sure- what caused all of the outlets in my kitchen to stop working…with the exception (thankfully) of my oven and refrigerator.
Several extension cords later, we were back in business.
But let’s back up a bit.
When my son requested the jambalaya, I realized that although super easy, there would be a lot of prep work involved. Because of that, I decided to plan a super simple menu around the jambalaya. Here’s what we had:
- Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya
- Baby Carrots and Cucumbers with Dip
- Sodas and water
I did as much prep for the jambalaya as I could, packaging everything in Ziploc bags portioned for each batch:
- Shredded rotisserie chicken (I got these at Costco…such a great deal!)
- Chopped the sausage
- Chopped all of the veg–onions, peppers, celery– cooked them in butter, then added the seasoning sauces to the mix
- Pureed tomatoes
- Measured rice
So when I was ready to mix a batch, all I had to do was dump each ingredient (already pre-measured) into the pan and add the chicken broth.
Related Reading: Hot Dogs for a Crowd <== Son #2 picked a much simpler menu!
My parents offered to cut all of the watermelon (and my dad even carved a super cool 2017 in one of the watermelons for serving…but of course I didn’t take a picture of it).
I love baking bread, but decided to go easy and pick up bags of dinner rolls at Costco. Also from Costco, I got huge bags of baby carrots and packages of English cucumbers. These are nice, because they have a thinner peel. So all we had to do was slice them up. Add some dip and we were all set there.
I served all of the food from our kitchen. I used our island and an additional table. The doughnuts were in the dining room.
A few food tips:
- If you’re serving hot food (like jambalaya) get the thicker plates, not the cheap, flimsy ones.
- Get lunch-size plates instead of dinner plates.
- Also, don’t get the Dollar Store forks… they are just not sturdy enough.
- Where the Dollar Store was GREAT was for napkins, serving plates/bowls, and table cloths.
The doughuts we ordered from a local bakery. We got lots of glazed doughnuts, a variety of doughnut holes, and a specialty of this bakery, Texas-sized doughnuts which they will personalize for you.
These doughnuts are stacked up on paper towel holders from the Dollar Store. That’s also where we got all of the red, plastic plates.
I wasn’t allowed to do anything too ‘cute’ but was allowed to slip in a couple of “donut” puns. (The kid loves a good pun).
Decorations and Set Up
I picked up some small, graduation themed, bubble blowers at the Dollar Store that I put on some of the tables. (I thought the littles that would be coming would enjoy them.) Also from the Dollar Store were a number of small, black & gold picture frames that I put snapshots of the graduate in and placed on guest tables, food tables, and just around.
I knew not many people would sit in the garage, but we set up the tables just in case we needed the space. We were right, pretty much everyone hung out in the house or in the back yard.
We also had the beverages and trash collection in the garage. It was a good decision to spread things out to avoid traffic jams for food, beverages, or dessert.
Besides the small, framed photographs, I had put together a board that we hung in the garage near the entrance to our house. It had a quote on it, one of several I had printed out and hung around the house.
Here were the quotes we used:
- Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different … C.S. Lewis
- Whatever you do, do it well … Walt Disney
- You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take -Wayne Gretsky … Michael Scott
- You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step … Martin Luther King Jr.
- Look to the LORD and His strength, seek His face always … Psalm 105:4
- Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men … Colossians 3:23
One thing I really, really wanted to do…and didn’t, because of my son’s wishes… was to hang up a bunch of these super large photo prints. You can get them done at your local office store, and they are really inexpensive (like $5-6). They are called “engineer prints” or “architectural prints”. The quality of the print is not great, and can look kind of pixelated, but they still look SO COOL. This one is 24″ x 36″.
I did several of these for my parents’ 50th Annniversary party and they were a big hit. My son agreed to let me do one print of a shot of him in a cap and gown when he was 5. (I was teaching GED classes at that time, and used the cap and gown we had on hand for students).
It really was a lovely day of watching friends and family enjoy themselves together. We had several games set up in our back yard: spike ball, ladder ball, and bocce ball. There were also chairs set up for visiting.
My husband and son did a LOT of landscaping around the front of our house in preparation for the party. And they also tore down an overgrown, icky garden set up and put in this lovely little garden. I’m an awful gardener, but I would like to try to grow some of my own medicinal herbs (since most of them are classified as ‘weeds’, I might have a chance!). And, since my son works at a greenhouse, he frequently brings home free plants–including veggie and herb plants in the summer.
So even though I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I’d have liked…we have some lovely memories. My final advice to moms out there planning grad parties:
- Don’t stress. I know that sounds trite, but seriously…make an effort to relax about the party.
- Plan easy foods to just put out, so you don’t have to spend the day cooking.
- Enlist help.
- Planning the party early in the summer was great for a couple of reasons–it’s less likely to be super hot, and you get it over sooner (I don’t mean that in a negative way, what I mean is that it’s nice to have it done instead of worrying about it the whole summer). The only negative about this was a shorter time to get landscaping done once the weather warmed up enough to begin it.
- Be sure to visit with guests.
- Remember to take pictures. (Or assign someone else this task)
What are your best graduation party ideas?