Graduation from high school or college is a great accomplishment surrounded by ceremonies, celebrations and planning for the future. Parents often choose to host a party to celebrate their sons and daughters during this time, and they invite family, friends, coaches and teachers to join in the festivity. Hosting a party for any occasion can be time consuming and difficult without the right team of businesses helping to plan and execute the party plans. Enlisting the right vendors can free you up to mingle with guests and spend time celebrating with your graduate. After all, a graduation is as much of an accomplishment for a parent as it is for their children.
If your graduate had seniors picture taken (which most graduates these days do during the summer before their senior years), it’s likely that the photographer will help supply the invitations. If you’re inviting people to your child’s party, make sure you do so at least a couple of weeks in advance. Some invitations are sent just to announce the graduation and are not intended for people to attend the party. If this is the case, the invites (or announcements) can be sent before or shortly after the actual graduation.
Hosting at Home
A common venue for graduation parties is the home of the graduate or relative. If parents choose to host a party at home, they may use the opportunity to fix up the home to make it more suitable for guests and celebrating. Papillion’s Mr. Handyman, Dan Johnson, provided some insight on how to best prepare a home for an event. Dan said, “In preparing a home for a graduation party, the biggest mistake families make is waiting too long to get started. The first step is to de-clutter the area the party is going to be held in (garage, back deck/patio, inside etc.). Then prioritize your ‘to-do’ list.” He added, “The most important step is determining what projects you want to tackle prior to the party; then figure out your budget and get them done early. Remember that upgrading the house is not related to the party itself but may be motivation to get it accomplished sooner.” Dan also recommended having a back-up plan for an outdoor party in case the weather is not favorable. He suggested, “Get the garage cleaned out just in case you need to move the party in there. Get the oil stains off the floor and de-clutter the garage. Installing some shelving and hanging a sheet over the front may work in a pinch.”
Updating a home for a party does not have to involve vast or expensive changes. Dan highlighted some areas that can make a big difference without high cost as well as some home-improvement projects that may be prioritized to before a graduation party. He said, “If the weather is projected to be good, most guests will probably hang out on the deck. I would ensure the structure of the deck will handle a large crowd and the deck is well maintained. Getting it pressure-washed and sealed will make it look terrific. Hang some decorative lights and spruce up the surrounding landscaping. You’ll want to make it as festive as possible. Evaluate your home in and around the party area. Is there wood rot on the windows or siding or any other warts you may want to get corrected before the guests arrive? If you have been procrastinating about some of those home-repair projects, this should provide a good source of motivation to get them accomplished.
“On the inside, Old English scratch remover works temporary miracles on worn cabinets and trim work. A fresh coat of paint is inexpensive and adds freshness to your home. The past few years Mr. Handyman has helped many families add laminate flooring, upgrade their kitchen area and remodel their guest baths in preparation for this big event. The list is limitless in what Mr. Handyman can get accomplished for you, but do not wait. There are many families with graduates, chores and upgrades.” Dan Johnson concluded, “Also, keep it real. You want to make a great impression but it’s the time spent with family and friends that are honoring your graduate that matters most.”
Dan stressed the importance of choosing a handyman who is reputable and will make an effort to get your projects finished in time for your party. He said, “As in all home-repair projects, hiring the right contractor who is licensed, bonded and insured is paramount! There are too many ‘cheap’ pretenders out there who can make your experience miserable. Quality costs a bit more, but it is better to pay and expect more than to pay less and ‘settle’ for poor quality or contractors that do not show up on time and extend the completion date beyond the party date. Many contractors chase the larger projects and find excuses why they cannot start your project on time.” Contrarily, Dan explained, “Mr. Handyman is the local expert in helping homeowners maintain and repair their homes. We also complete larger remodeling projects like bathrooms, decks, painting and basements. The value we offer our customers is far superior to any other handyman service in the metro Omaha area. It’s the quality of the experienced service technicians we hire and the stringent guidelines we follow to ensure your project is accomplished professionally.”
Lori Miller with Lincoln Tent adds that renting a tent is a great way to still have the party at your house without having to stress about fitting everyone into your home. “We set up the tent and take it down, so there isn’t the burden of getting it ready,” Miller explains. “We also have lighting and fans as well, so we can make the tent a comfortable place for guests no matter what the weather.”
Outside venues for graduation parties are other popular options, especially for parents who prefer to avoid the hassle of preparing a home for a party. Outside venues may also better help you to realize you and your graduate’s vision for the event. When choosing a venue for your party, consider who and how many people you plan to invite. Once you have a number, you can choose a suitable location. Hotels are convenient options for parties, especially if you are hosting guests from out of town who must find their hotel, the ceremony and the graduation party.
Hilton Garden Inn Lisa Westra, Director of Sale at Hilton Garden Inn, suggested, “Ask the graduate what they have in mind (decorations, food, selections, guest list, etc.). It may be something completely different than what you’re thinking.” Lisa explained that her staff at Hilton Garden Inn works to lessen the party-planning hassle. She said, “If you’re planning an outdoor celebration, and the weather is not cooperating, you won’t have to worry about getting everyone inside your house. Planning a party at the Hilton Garden Inn is easy. Let us do all the set up, serving and clean up to allow you the time to visit with your family and friends and celebrate the accomplishment of your child. ” Lisa also recommended considering whether or not parking is available and accessible for guests at the location. Hilton Garden Inn provides this amenity in addition several others. Lisa said, “We have nearly 2,000 square feet of gathering space with an adjoining patio space. The room can be divided in half to accommodate your party’s size. We offer full on-site catering for your entertainment needs. We have a professional and friendly staff to take care of everything. Tables, chairs, linens and dishes are all included.”
Country Inn and Suites Country Inn and Suites located by the Omaha Airport is a second great option. Director of Sales Chelsie Kennedy said, “The Country Inn and Suites can prove to be a convenient location for upcoming graduations. Our close proximity to graduation venues, shuttle service and free parking make it ideal for out of town guests. Host your recent graduate’s party in our 600 sq ft meeting space. You can set up food, display boards and have family and friends come to celebrate without worrying about clean up after.” Outside venues such as this one can help you to ensure that the details of your party are accounted for and planned. Chelsie said, “Our experienced staff is here to assist you with personal care and attention to detail. You’ll be sure to find this place ideal. We will help with your catering order ensuring all the fine details are taken care of so you can enjoy the day with your grad! We offer great packages for meeting space and hotel reservation needs. We take pride in being a part of your celebration and want to ensure quality customer service by working together as a team. Guests can check out our newly renovated pool or relax outside on our outdoor patio/grill area.” Choosing to host a party at a hotel also keeps guests in a central location and allows you to keep your home clean and freed up for the needs of the event.
Hosting a graduation party in your home or another venue may require you to rent some additional seating to accommodate all of your guests. Chris St. Pierre, General Manager of Party Time Rental Inc., explained that many people must rent additional tables and chairs in order to host graduation party guests. Tents are other popular rental items since many parties are hosted outdoors. Tents can offer a unique venue in every setting and allow guests to enjoy the nice weather outdoors during the graduation season. Chris suggests ordering your materials as soon as possible in order to ensure that you are able to reserve what you need. Try to have your rentals reserved by the middle of April. Last year, the Omaha area was sold out of popular rental materials at the time many graduation parties needed them. Graduation takes place during wedding season, so the sooner the better to make sure you have the equipment you need. Chris also said, “Try to anticipate the number of people you are going to have. If it’s a sit-down dinner, you need one chair for each person. If people are coming and going and mingling around, you get about half the number of chairs for the amount of people you’re inviting.” Chris added that the same rule applies to tent size; plan your tent for half of the people you invited. Party Time Rental provides graduation party planners with a large variety of equipment, so parents will have several choices for their parties. Chris recommends stopping by the showroom to see what they have available. Once you have your tents, tables and chairs reserved, the staff at Party Time Rental can deliver them for you and pick them up after the event, leaving you more time to spend focusing on guests and your graduate.
Entertainment for guests can make any graduation party more unique and fun. Owner of HoppyKidz, Shawna Miller believes that inflatables and carnival games bring an added value to such parties. HoppyKidz supplies obstacle courses, Pony Hops (inflatable racing ponies), carnival games, a ticket booth, drink machine and Party Art (flavored sugar art). Shawna explained, “Carnival games are always a lot of fun to entertain and keep kids busy. The Party Art is also a big hit with all ages 2 to 102.” Like other graduation party vendors, Shawna stressed the importance of reserving equipment as soon as possible. She said, “There are only a handful of reputable bounce companies in the Omaha area, and they are booked up early. Make sure you book your day and time and then get your deposit paid in order to secure your date. Many people are disappointed when they call at the last minute and the units that they wanted have already been rented.” She also suggested that you go with a company that has a good track record. Check with people who have used the company for other events and make sure that they were satisfied with the service. Party planners choose HoppyKidz because they are dependable and show up on time to ensure that the equipment is secured for safe operation. Shawna added, “We train you on safe operation of our equipment and provide three phone numbers for contacting us in case of questions you may have during your rental. We will bend over backwards to help you make your event a success. We truly care about each and every customer and know that our actions will affect the success of your event.”
Many times, you don’t need a lot of entertainment at your party because you want the focus to be on your guests mingling with and talking to the recent graduate. Many graduation parties include family members or friends who your graduate has not seen for some time, so you don’t want too many distractions to keep them from being able to catch up. However, anything you can do to encourage everyone to have fun together is usually welcome entertainment. Avoid anything that is too loud or distracting or that lasts a long time and hinders people from moving around and talking with each other.
Theresa Case with Omaha Trans Video created custom video scrapbooks that are great to show at a child’s grad party. She explained, “We put out hearts into these videos. When we are done there is obvious emotion to them. We will keep an archive DVD here so you can call anytime to get a copy. Average scrapbooks run 10 to 15 minutes, which is approximately 100 to 200 photos. The photos can be of any size, 35mm slides or digital images. We will loop the video so it will play continuously. You can call and we will e-mail the guide to you. If you would like to see a demo you can pick one up or we can e-mail you a link to view on your computer. We can upload your video to share with family members that couldn’t make it.” Theresa advised, “If you plan on doing a video scrapbook get it done early and watch it repeatedly to get through the emotional rollercoaster of your baby leaving. This is a very emotional time for parents. Our scrapbooks are done in a storytelling manner and include photos, awards, newspaper articles, video clips and synchronized to music that is age or activity appropriate. If your child is in sports you may have a sports section that can cover from the start of the sport activity or that covers high school sports only. Each child’s video will be different. You can highlight friends that you child has had since grade school. Some parents will have a combined party with a separate video that highlights the high school friendships and activities. Parents, this video is for your family and friends to relive those precious times. The music you select needs to tell your child’s story. We have a guide to help you pull it all together, then we set an appointment to sit down and go over the planning of your show. We are always available by phone or e-mail to help you along the way. Not everyone has this video in chronological order. That’s up to you. We can help you put the final touches on your video. Some kids have a section in their video that represents the friendships through high school. We can put that section to a DVD to give to friends as a graduation gift keepsake. Most graduation ceremonies are shot by parents or the schools. We can add the graduation video to the end to complete the video.”
After the Party
When the festivities are over, it’s time for clean-up. If the party was at your home, this task often falls to you. It’s likely that you, your graduate and the rest of your family are exhausted and the last thing you want to do is spend the next few hours cleaning up a mess.
This might be the perfect opportunity to hire that cleaning company you’ve always had your eye on as a little ‘graduation gift’ to yourself. Not only will everything from the party be cleaned up, but they can get your home back to sparkling condition and you can rest.
The days after the party are also a good time to remind your graduate that thank-you notes need to be sent to all those who attended the party and who sent gifts or money. You might have to sit down with him or her and help with some of the details, but don’t let the hectic time of graduation and subsequent summer plans distract your graduate from this very important job. Thanking those who are helping usher him or her into the independent life is an extremely important part of the new phase of your child’s life.
From Strictly Business Magazine and the contributors to this story, congratulations to all the graduates!