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How to throw a great graduation party in your backyard

As any parent knows, the first major step into adulthood for their teenage child is their high school graduation. Parents also know that like any other teenager out there, yours will likely want to celebrate their accomplishment with a party. By having a high school graduation party, your child will:

  • Receive the recognition of completing 12 years of education
  • Have an opportunity to rejoice in their accomplishments with family and friends
  • Get hands-on experience with planning larger events
  • Have a chance to plan and budget right along with you to gain some financial experience
  • Possibly receive monetary gifts to assist in the financial burden of higher education/college

But let’s be honest, hosting large group events of any size more than what would comfortably be seated at your dining room table can be tedious, stressful, and expensive. However, there are several proven ways to cut the cost of hosting an event such as your child’s graduation. What’s the biggest money-saving tip we’re going to talk about? Hosting it in your very own backyard! (Or a family member/friend’s backyard.) But how can you do that successfully? Let’s look at a few graduation-party ideas to help get the creative ball rolling.

Create a clear and concise plan

Like other events and celebrations, a backyard graduation party deserves the same — if not more — attention to detail than other events you have planned in the past. Brainstorming in a designated journal, keeping clear and legible notes, bookmarking websites for supplies, and open communication between yourself and your child helps manage tasks, needs, and expectations. It’s important to keep your child’s wants (within reason) in perspective when planning their graduation party.

We certainly don’t advocate blindly giving your child the party of their dreams, no questions asked. However, finding a balance between their vision for their get-together and your pocketbook doesn’t have to be akin to the Riddle of the Sphinx.

Table set up outside welcoming guests to outdoor graduation party
Ball on a menu budget

When it comes to summer activities outdoors, there’s nothing more quintessential than a backyard, casual-style menu to go along with them. Whether you plan to cater the event or prepare the food yourself, you may want to consider a menu that consists of less-expensive but crowd-pleasing and stomach-filling dishes. This will be a major factor in pinching a few pennies on the food bill while also stretching the food out as much as possible. Along with the traditional barbecued meats, burgers, and hot dogs, here are a few upscale but low-budget ideas for feeding your masses:

  • Mini slider sandwiches: These are essentially a blank canvas. Personalize them to you or your groups’ liking with an array of deli meats and cheese, cooked meatballs or sausage in sauce, or a grilled veggie option for vegetarians.
  • Pasta salads: Again, this dish is a blank canvas, ready to be splashed with color and flavor. Toss different kinds of pasta in with veggies, cheeses, deli meats, and dressings to complement your menu and add a bright pop of color to your party tables.
  • Cupcakes: Forget large cakes that require being strategically cut and don’t store well. Cupcakes are a better option for outdoor events due to their portable and convenient size.

Keepsake memories

Like the saying goes, “All good things come to an end.” Your child’s party will rapidly come to end before you even know it, especially if many hours were spent preparing for it — or at least that’s the way it seems to go. To capture as much fun and excitement in one setting as possible while also providing fun entertainment to your guests, you may want to consider adding some sort of photo booth or photography station to your backyard layout.

Depending on your budget, you may be able to rent a photo-booth setup, hire a photographer (bonus: Find a photography student who will likely work for less than an established photographer in exchange for the experience), or simply set up props and a tripod for guests to mount their own devices to take silly photos. The idea here is to capture as much happiness, pride, excitement, and joy as possible for your child — and their guests — to look back and remember the fun times had during that party.

As you can see, there’s more to a graduation party that just showing up and eating! It’s important to keep in mind that this is your teen’s special day to celebrate a huge achievement, but that doesn’t mean it should cost you an arm and a leg. Backyard graduation parties are thrown frequently. What sets them apart from each other is well they are planned, thought out, and put together.

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Emily Pidgeon
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Emily's work has appeared in the Tube City Almanac, Tube City Online and our Affinity Sites. When she's not writing, she is…
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