Your Ultimate Graduation Party Planning Timeline

Entertaining: Parties
Your Ultimate Graduation Party Planning Timeline

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April 5 2023


Graduation is one of the biggest moments in a high school or college student's life. Make them feel special with a celebration that rises to the occasion! Use our graduation party planning timeline to stay organized and prepare an A+ bash.

And keep in mind, Hy-Vee can help you pull off an amazing celebration — whether you have 8 weeks to plan or one.

  1. 8 Weeks Before

    Finalize the date. Check your personal calendar and the school calendar to make sure there are no conflicts. Also, check with the neighbors to ensure parties don't overlap — that could make parking tricky!

    Decide on a budget. Hy-Vee's catering team can help you organize a fabulous celebration on any budget.

    Choose a theme. The sky's the limit with your theme! Check out 10 of our favorite unique party themes here; some include luaus, taco fiestas, sports, travel, Hy-Chi, sushi bars or anything that involves a chocolate fountain.

    Reserve party tents, catering, tables, chairs, etc. You'll need a rough estimate of how many guests will attend. Then, decide on where you want to set up. If your party is outdoors, consider reserving a tent in case of rain. Check with neighbors and friends to see what they can lend you for the big day.

    Order invitations. Often, graduation announcements can be purchased with senior portrait packages. However, you can also order invitations from a local printer or online vendor. Your favorite party supply store may also have invitations to choose from. 

  2. 6 Weeks Before

    Mail invites. Give your out-of-town guests plenty of notice so they can attend or send a gift if they'd like.

    Plan your menu. We have more than a few specialty buffets in our catering packages. Consider dessert options. Will you serve a show-stopping cakeGourmet cupcakesGraduation cookie cakes? A custom sheet cake? Remember to provide plenty of plates, cups, napkins and cutlery! Make a grocery list if you're doing some or all of the cooking.

    Plan and prepare decorations. Visit your local Hy-Vee Floral department to see what decor options we offer, such as balloons and photo props (in addition to flowers).

  3. 4 Weeks Before

    Place your catering and bakery orders. We recommend placing large orders as soon as possible to ensure your party goes off without a hitch. But if you find yourself waiting until the last minute, we will always do our best to help! 

    Finalize your floral decor. Remember to ask about delivery options for centerpieces and special arrangements.

    Shop for a party outfit. Take a break from the planning and go on a shopping spree!

    Buy a guestbook. A guestbook is a great way to keep track of everyone who came to support your graduate. You could also do fun twists on a guestbook! For example, have guests sign a poster or photo board that will be a treasured keepsake.

    Hand out invites at school. Specifically for high school grads, start passing out invites to your classmates!

  4. 1 Week Before

    Finalize your guest list based on RSVPs. Let your caterer and baker know your final guest count and if you need to adjust your order size. Plan how many extra tables and chairs you need and where to place them.

    Put final touches on decor. Create photo boards or a slideshow. Ask your grad to help you with a playlist for the big day.

    Get groceries. If you're not going with catering, purchase all your groceries and prepare food that can be easily frozen and reheated.

    Gather last-minute needs. Purchase any additional non-perishable food items, drinks, utensils, plates, or cups not included in your catering plan. Consider if you'll need to borrow coolers for storing drinks or ice.

    Check the weather. If it might be rainy or windy, create a backup plan just in case.

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  5. 1 Day Before

    Prepare your home. If you're partying at home, clean the house and manicure the lawn. Stock bathrooms with extra bath tissue and towels. Tell the neighbors about the party and the potential parking situation.

    Set up. Pick up any rentals and set up tables, chairs, tents, etc. Set out garbage bins with extra liners in the bottom. 

    Stock up on ice. Make sure you have enough cooler space for beverages.

  6. Morning Of

    Place decorations. Tie balloons to the mailbox or set out a party identifier. Set up a table for gifts and cards.

    Charge your phone. You'll need it for the party playlist and to take photos.

  7. Party Time

    Bring out the food. Set it out in a pleasing and practical arrangement half an hour before the party starts. Be sure to include cups, plates, napkins and cutlery! Fill and label coolers.  

    Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate! Hit play on the music and get ready to smile. Take lots of photos, but take some time to enjoy this moment as well. You'll remember it for years to come!


    For more graduation party ideas, check out 8 Recipes and Ideas for an Open House Graduation Party.