4 ways to host a graduation party like a pro

Well, parents, the time has officially come. Your baby is graduating from high school and will soon be off to the Big Kahuna, otherwise known as college. With a plethora of graduation announcements flooding your mailbox, how are you able to make your child's party stand out from the crowd?

With our professional party planning skills and a little bit of your time and effort, you can host an unforgettable graduation party. So retrieve all those baby photos from the basement, grab a pen and paper (and perhaps a box of tissue to dry those tears) and follow our guide.

Here are four ways to host a graduation party like a pro:

1. Send an invite
Ordering graduation invitations should be the No. 1 "to do" item on your party planning list. After all, it's kind of hard to host a party without a formal invitation! Sit down with your child so you can create the guest list together. Be sure to include immediate and extended family, too. It's a big milestone to achieve, so everyone will want to be present for the celebration.

To make your child's invitation stand out from the rest, consider going with custom photo greeting cards for the invites. This way, friends are able to immediately put a face to a name, and family members are able to see how grown up your child is. On the invitation, include the name of the high school; also include the date, time and location of the party. You can include an email or phone number for guests to RSVP so you know how much food to order, but if you're already expecting a large turnout due to family, feel free to leave this piece of information off.

Weekends are high in demand for graduation parties, so don't send your invitations out last minute. Snag your desired date before the rest of the class and send your invite out at least a month before the party. This will give guests plenty of time to clear their calendars and give you plenty of time to plan this killer party.

2. Set the scene and the stage
No celebration is complete unless there are decorations, specifically balloons. And it's definitely not a graduation party unless there are baby pictures on display throughout the entire venue. Choose a balloon color scheme with your child. We recommend going with the colors of his or her school. Stick to this palette and save some money by crafting your own centerpieces. Fill a large glass jar with fresh water and add some flowers that fit the color scheme. Tie a couple of balloons, again keeping it in the same color family, around the jar and place them on the center of each table. Depending on how long the tables are, you may need to adorn each table with multiple centerpieces.

Get creative and wrap nearby trees with burlap ribbon and with clothespins, hang photos of your graduate with cap and gown pictures from preschool to high school. You can even make a special poster board with photos of your graduate and have guests sign their names and offer their congratulatory messages.

3. Set up a buffet table
Food should be the least of your worries, so keep it simple and set it up buffet style. Do your best to satisfy everyone's taste buds by having an assortment of different cuisines, like a salad bar, taco and fajita station, or a hamburger and hot dog station. This way, guests can pick and choose what they want and get seconds at their own leisure.

As for dessert, you definitely need a sheet cake (of course, the cake should feature an image of your graduate on it), but one dessert is not enough for all those guests! Just like lunch or dinner, set up a buffet-style table. The easiest way to do this is to set up a sundae station. For this, you'll need all the essentials: a variety of ice cream, whipped cream, caramel and chocolate syrup, and an array of toppings like sprinkles, crumbled Oreo, Heath, Reece's, etc.

4. Hire entertainment or plan an activity
Keep your party-goers entertained and on their feet with some form of entertainment. Whether it's hiring a magician or personally creating a trivia game with questions pertaining to your child, it's important to keep the party going. If you plan a game, reward the winner with a gift card. Set up a photobooth or outdoor activities and have your graduate create a playlist so you can set up a dance floor, too! Dancing is a great way to encourage interaction between the guests and burn off some of those calories from the food!