As any parent knows, graduation parties can be an elaborate undertaking! At Gordon Food Service Store, we’re in the business of helping to plan special events and want to help you make your party stress-free!

Start by considering what kind of party you want, and more realistically, can afford to have for your graduate. Our Graduation Party Planning 101 guide asks several questions to help pinpoint the party that’s right for you.

5 Graduation Party Tips

  • Keep It Simple — The top graduation party mistake we see: serving too much food! Focus on only 5-7 menu items, with a few nonperishable backups like nuts on hand. Our Portion Guide or your local Gordon Food Service Store manager can help you figure out how much to buy.
  • Dare To Be Different — Many of your guests will be attending several open houses in one afternoon. Choose a unique menu and ensure yours is the party that is remembered! Have you considered a pizza platter? What about brunch or desserts? Check out Menu Ideas for both traditional and off-the-wall parties.
  • Set Up a Beverage Station — Buy 2-liter bottles instead of canned beverages to stretch your dollars. Make sure you have an area clearly marked for recyclables!
  • Tasty Desserts Are a Must — Sure, cakes are common, but have you considered cupcakes in your school’s colors? What about s’mores or root beer floats? Or ice cream bars to cool off on a hot afternoon outside?
  • Let Us Help You — If you’re able, buy your nonperishable items ahead of time. You can place an order for your perishable items and give it to your Gordon Food Service Store sales associate or store manager, to have ready for pickup with just a few days notice! Remember that our stores offer FREE SLICING of most meats and cheeses. If you’re serving meats and cheeses and need to pick them up the same day, start there so that you have time to get everything sliced!

More Graduation Party Ideas

Click on the tabs below for even more ideas and tips to celebrate your graduate.

Fast Fixings
Creating the Menu
Ask For Help
When to Hire a Caterer

Fast Fixings

Here are some of the quickest, easiest and most practical ideas for throwing a graduation party without the hassles.

For easy cleanup afterwards, stock up on plastic forks, knives, spoons and serving utensils, paper or plastic cups, plates and table clothes.

Easy finger food suggestions

  • veggie tray and dip
  • tortilla roll ups
  • fruit salad
  • shrimp and cocktail sauce
  • deviled eggs

Backyard garden party
A good idea for morning or early afternoon get-togethers, with guests filling up on finger sandwiches, bbqs, bite-sized desserts, soda and coffee.

Taco bar
Prepare the fixings the night before. Include shredded lettuce, cheese and taco shells – set up the meat filling in a large crockpot or on a pan warmer – and let guests serve themselves.

Have a cookout
More work for mom and dad, but several pounds of hamburger and jumbo packages of hot dogs should do the trick. Don’t forget the chips, dip and potato salad.

Have plenty of ice on hand to fill up coolers with soda, water, beer or wine. Hint: label each cooler so guests know exactly where to find their favorite beverage without asking.

Graduation party desserts
We have graduation sheet cakes available for your party needs! Also consider delicious alternatives such as brownies, cupcakes, cookies, and more! Decorate and cut to your liking and make your own signature treat!

Creating the Menu

Party MenuFeeling creative? The menu is definitely the area that lets you express your family’s personality! Keep in mind that if you’re preparing the food yourself, you’ll want to keep things easy so that you have time to mingle with your guests!

An appetizers-only spread makes it easy for your guests to mingle and move around while enjoying great food! Consider meatballs, chicken wings, deli spirals and our pre-made fruit and veggie trays – all are easy for you to put together, and delicious for them to enjoy!

The Sandwich
Consider deli sandwiches, pulled pork, chicken barbecue, or hamburgers: sandwiches are easy to eat and enjoy! Check out our Deli Buffet menu for one option.

Weekend Brunch
Make it simple — offer a variety of fresh baked bagels and a selection of spreads.  Cook pancakes on a big griddle and serve them with different toppings/syrups. You can hire a professional to bring their own griddle!  You can even serve cupcakes with frosting in your school colors. Be sure to have lots of napkins!

Sausages and bacon can be pre-cooked and kept warm in a chafing dish.

You can prepare hard boiled eggs with your graduate’s name and the year on them and place them in a beautiful basket. What about a coffee bar kiosk? You could also serve fresh fruit in a watermelon boat, and cut your school logo out of the watermelon.

Dessert Buffet
It’s very possible that your party is not the only one your guests will attend that day. Schedule your party for late in the afternoon and ensure your guests a sweet way to end their day! Our Sundae Buffet provides one simple way to do this.

The Cake
Yes, Gordon Food Service Store offers graduation cakes in limited quantities. Pick yours up and add special finishing touches to make it your own!

Other Food Theme Ideas

  • Salad bar and fresh fruit for the health nuts
  • Baked Potato Bar
  • Pizzas
  • Swedish or Barbeque Meatballs
  • Tortilla
  • Lasagna

Have non-perishable back up items that you can bring out if you run out of your main menu items. For example: mixed nuts, chips and salsa, frozen mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, pizza, candy, cookies.

Show pride in your new graduate and decorate your party area with their school colors. At Gordon Food Service Store we carry table clothes, napkins, plates, cups, and more in colors to show your school spirit. If you don’t see your colors, ask a Store Manager to order it for you.

Other necessities for the party include chafers, chafing fuel, serving utensils, trays, and food storage bins! Check out the disposables we have on hand at your local Gordon Food Service Store. Once you have your food planned out make a complete list of what each food item will need to be served in.

Ask For Help

HelpDon’t try to do it all!
WARNING! You cannot cook the food, serve drinks, clean up, chase around garbage and recyclables, and still plan to be the congenial host. Don’t have your head in the oven when the door bell rings. A common complaint from parents after a graduation party is “I wish I had more help during the party. I was so busy, I didn’t have time to talk to anyone!”

Do you have a friend who is hosting a graduation party this spring whom you could swap services with? If possible, recruit a friend who may not know a lot of your guests – they’ll work harder.

Do you have friends with children graduating next year? Ask them to help, and then return the favor when their party comes around next year!

Make sure to ask whoever you recruit to come early and give them written instructions. Give them a quick tour of the house and make your expectations clear ahead of time.

Enlist a photographer
In addition to having someone help in the kitchen, ask an outgoing person to take photos. Many parents complain that they forgot to take photographs during their party. Have the photographer take photos of everyone and give them extra memory cards for the camera.

Another idea is to distribute disposable cameras or digital cameras around your party area and let your guests take pictures of each other. You’ll have lots of fun seeing the pictures that were taken later!

Thank You Gifts for the Helpers

If your helpers are friends or family, give them a thank you gift. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just a little something to show that you appreciate their help.

One customer served a Mexican taco bar with the help of two neighbors. She gave them each a red hot chili pepper apron as a thank you.

Some other ideas for “helper gifts” include:

  • a gift certificate to a local restaurant
  • a potted plant or flowering plant
  • a framed picture of the grad party kitchen crew
  • homemade cookies

Don’t forget to let your helpers take home some of the leftover food and beverages.

When to Hire a Caterer

Buffet LineDo you have friends and family on hand to help out so you can mingle with your guests AND make sure the party is running smoothly? If not, you may want to hire a caterer.

Look over these questions you should ask to make sure everything is handled just the way you want and there won’t be any surprises.

More Celebrations

Click on any of the celebrations below for more fantastic party tips.

GraduationWedding ReceptionsShowers
BirthdayFamily Reunions and Picnics