Grad Party

Earlier this summer, we had Grace’s graduation party. It was a lot of work, but oh so worth it! We were grateful for everyone that came, and had a wonderful time!

We had settled on the date several months before. Grace wanted to wait until after Nationals, so we did it the weekend after. Unfortunately, that meant many of the dance families were unable to come, as they had vacations planned for that time. Another one of the graduating dancers had hers the same day, and we missed being able to go to hers too.

Once we had the date chosen, it was time to create the facebook invite, and later, physical invitations. We used Walgreens to print our invitations to mail out, as well as the photos we printed for photo boards. I had several formatting issues with the website this time around, and was frustrated to find that close to 200 invitations went out with her school’s name cut off in the middle. Of course, I didn’t realize this until after most of them were mailed out. Oh well. We also had issues with some of the photos being cropped by their system, unbeknownst to me.  Walgreens did let us reprint them at no cost to us, I just had to turn in all the ones that were cut off. I have used this site many times in the past with no issues, and probably will continue to, now that I know what to watch for.

Leading up to Grace’s grad party, I spent a lot of time working on her scrapbooks. They were only previously completed up to about age 3, so I had a long ways to go. I decided I would start with her dance years, get as much of those done as I could, get her graduation day done, and then work backwards as much as I had time for. I knew there was no way I could do it all on time, but was ok with doing as much as I could, and calling it good. I didn’t make nearly as much progress as I had hoped, but it was ok.  I knew we’d have photo boards too. While I spent hours picking out photos for those, Grace did all the work of putting the photos on the boards. It was fun to watch people looking at the pictures, scrapbooks, etc.


Deciding on food was tricky. Grace originally wanted her party to be held for a shorter time span, in the morning/early afternoon, and to serve brunch foods. She wanted a coffee bar, too. She had been to a grad party like that the year before, and really liked it.  For various reasons, including other people’s schedules, cost and effort to make all that happen, we settled for 11-4 as the time span. It seemed like it would be too long, but with the number of people we had come, I’m glad we ended up spreading it over most of the day. As it was, I was not able to spend time talking to most of the people here, other than a quick hello.

After realizing we couldn’t quite make her original food plan work, she said,  “How about a taco bar?” I was thrilled, because that would be relatively easy to pull together. Then, she changed her mind to a pasta bar. After talking to a friend who had done that for her daughter’s party, about the logistics, I said no. In the end, we settled on pasta, but not a “build-your-own”. We had all pasta dishes that were pre-mixed. I made spaghetti, a chicken pasta salad, tortellini alfredo, homemade mac and cheese, and we had meatballs with and without sauce. I asked the grandmas who would be willing to help with food, and they all offered to bring a pasta hotdish, or pasta salad. My mother-in-law also brought pickle roll-ups, a staple at our family gatherings. 🙂 Needless to say, we had plenty of food!

We did have coffee, but not where we paid a barista to come make espressos, cappuccinos, etc. That was way to expensive for my budget. We borrowed a large coffee carafe from the White Bear Lake Lions’ Club, ordered flavor syrups, stir sticks, and marshmallows from Amazon, and disposable cups from Costco. We got several flavors of Coffee Mate Creamers, and set up our own coffee bar. It turned out really cute – wish I’d have gotten a picture of it!

Another thing we did a bit different, is that Grace did not want a cake. She didn’t really care for cupcakes either. She asked if we could just have bars. I ordered three trays from Cub Foods. My mother-in-law also brought brownies. Her grandma on her dad’s side had special cookies made at Cub Foods with the theater masks on them, since Grace wants a future in the performing arts. They were so cute! My friend makes amazing Oreo Balls, and Grace had asked if she would be willing to make some of those for the party as well. She wasn’t sure she’d be at the party, since she was about to have a baby, and I felt bad even asking her. That said, Jenny was very willing to make them, and dropped them off a couple days before. Another friend brought chocolate covered strawberries. We had a great spread of desserts!

Set Up

We just built our house this past year, so we didn’t have grass yet. Our driveway was recently put in, so couldn’t have chairs or anything on the driveway. We knew the party would mostly be held in the garage, and decided to have the food in the house due to the heat of the day, and space. We ended up also having some of the pictures, scrapbooks, and other memorabilia inside too.

We borrowed several tables and plenty of chairs from Grace’s dance studio (Lake Area Dance Center). We also borrowed a couple of tables and chairs from a friend of ours. Most of the table covers, centerpieces, etc. came from Party City or Walmart.

Planning Your Own

When planning an event like a grad party, it’s smart to start early. I had good intentions of working on scrapbooks, organizing photos on my computer, etc. over the past year, but life kept me busy, and I was scrambling towards the end. We did pick up supplies over time, so as not to spend so much all at once. I watched for sales, and picked things up as I saw them. Even at the last minute, we ended up spending quite a bit on food, last minute items, plates, etc. Having some of the details such as color scheme (her school doesn’t really have a specific color), food, etc. picked out ahead of time could have helped us watch for sales on things like pasta, table coverings, etc.

Borrow where you can. We saved a lot of money by borrowing tables, chairs, and the coffee pot.

We also reused a few of the decorations from our past graduates. We had more decorations for Grace’s, but are saving the new items we got, for the two future graduates in our house. Getting generic graduation items, and not year or school specific can be a way to save money, so they can be used again if you have multiple children. We did have a couple things that said “Class of 2019”, but most just said “Graduate”, or “Congratulations”.




Have help! Our friend was in town from Michigan. She was amazingly helpful during the entire party. Every time I came to check on the plates of bars or cookies, she would have just refilled them. We had plain meatballs, and meatballs in sauce. As the ones in sauce went, she would move some of the plain over. She monitored the pastas in crock pots, stirring them as needed, etc. Though I was still very busy through the day – giving tours, attempting to chat with people, etc, I would have been much more so, had it not been for all her help. She also helped me the next morning, as I took everything down in the garage.

In the end, we could have done without some of the things we did, because it’s really all about the graduate. As long as they feel loved, and feel special, that’s what really matters. I can say for certain that Grace did! 🙂

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