Throwing a graduation party can be an informal affair with relatively low costs or a grand bash that could set you back thousands. It all comes down to knowing what you're going to have to pay for and setting an appropriate budget. If you’re looking to save money, tailor a party to the needs of your guests. Divide your expenses into categories, such as the location, food and beverage, and entertainment. That will help you determine where you’ll need to spend your money and where you can cut corners.
Your guest list will determine if your house and yard are big enough to host everyone. If you have to go to another site, like a hall, you could have to spring for a deposit, tables, chairs, decorations and a cleaning fee. Food could be a factor too. Some halls will let you bring in your own food, while others will require you to use their catering. Find out before you sign a contract.
You can spend money on custom-made, upscale invitations to make the event seem more special, or send less expensive postcards. You could also use an online event invitation and RSVP system, such as Evite, Punchbowl or Anyvite. This will cover all of the invitation issues, and give the invitees an interactive place to post notes and pictures. Best of all, it's free.
If your invitees know each other well, a potluck party can reduce some of the food costs. As the host, you'll have to pay for the main dish, such as hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken. The guests will bring salads, sides and desserts. If you hire a caterer, you can pay per person or per piece, depending on your menu. The former method guarantees you’ll have enough food, while the latter lets you better control food costs.
If your guests are over age 21, you can serve alcohol but you’ll incur legal liabilities if you do this at your home. Check with your insurance company to find out if you need additional insurance. If you bring your own drinks to an off-site commercial venue, you could get charged a fee to compensate for some of their loss of drink sales. If you offer an open bar, you will have no control over your drink costs and won’t know your final expense until after the event.
Entertainment options for graduation parties usually center around music. Your options including playing a mix CD, hiring a DJ, booking a band, or renting a karaoke setup. The cost of any option varies depending on how long you expect the entertainers to perform and their appearance fees.
A full staff can cut down on your workload, even with a home party. You'll need a party planner, cook or caterer, wait staff and a crew to set things up before the bash and clean up afterward. Valet parkers can maximize the parking space and keep guests off your neighbors’ lawns.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.