Summer is getting in gear, which means school is getting out and graduation season begins. Whether your kids, friends or family members are graduating from high school or college, there are some great ways to keep the atmosphere fun and feastive. From setting the ambiance and decor to providing foods and desserts for all ages, there are some simple and cost effective tips to celebrate your favorite graduate. Graduations are a time to celebrate. There are some great ways to plan ahead of the party so you can celebrate with your friends and family. Hosting parties can be stressful, but there are a few ways to reduce the burden and enhance the celebratory spirit. For starters, consider hosting a joint graduation party. For high school graduates, then there may be some neighbors that plan to host a party as well. If the neighbors aren’t very neighborly, then discuss a joint party for the graduate and their friends. There are only so many free weekends, so with a little coordination, this is a great way to split some costs and ensure all the friends can attend each other’s graduation parties. If the graduate and friends prefer the joint graduation party, then consider a destination graduation party for more space (depending on the size of backyards). As Praise and Coffee suggest, renting local parks is an option, especially if any of the hosts are worried about getting the house in order for friends and family. Decorations Once the date is set and the invitations are mailed, then consider some of these decoration tips to create some nostalgia and really celebrate the graduate. Decorate the Walkway: When guests arrive at your house for the party, then the first thing they will see is the walkway. For those backyard parties, then some guests may be uncertain whether to head around back or ring the doorbell. Better Homes and Gardens provides a simple solution. Decorate the walkwaywith some arts and crafts. Either take dessert sized paper plates and write “Congrats” or a similar message and affix to some paint stirrers. The end result is a nice path to the party.

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To really get into the spirit, then pick the same colors as the graduate's alma matter. If it is a high school graduation, then pick the high school colors or the graduate’s new college colors. Memories on Display: A nice way to congratulate (or embarrass) the graduate is very similar to the decorating the walkway. Instead of congratulatory messages, then find some photos of the graduate as they have grown through the years. There are only so many uses to show off baby pictures in front of family and friends, and this is a great time. Graduates are a big accomplishment. The pictures from childhood to adulthood are a simple way to show all of the people that helped the graduate succeed. Most pictures are now digital, so parties can include pictures from the actual graduation. Hanging Memories: Another way to showcase memories of the graduate (with some more privacy) is simply hang some pictures on a clothesline in the backyard. If you don’t have a clothesline, then a makeshift option is to tie some rope or string between a few trees and affix the pictures. Chalkboard Messages: Most people associate the chalkboard with school, so a simple way to keep the academic theme is to hang a chalkboard in the backyard as a message board. There are some simple chalkboard paint and/or boards that can be added to fences (which can also transform your lawn!). Either save or take pictures of the message board to keep the memories alive for the next graduation. Find the nearest artist and ask them to draw a few pictures of the school mascot as well. This is a cool way to include the school colors in the celebration. Or look over some free printable signs designed for chalkboards from Printabelle. graduation_printables Messages on the Gift Table: The gift table is a simple solution and unobtrusive way to let guests leave gifts. Put the table away from the food and beverages to keep the flow of traffic moving throughout the party. Many graduation parties include a message book, so the gift table is a perfect place to leave the book and make sure people check out that spot of the party. The Frugal Girls have a unique variation where guests write pieces of advice on index cards. Instead of the standard “congrats” these messages can be read a little later in the party as everyone can learn from the wisdom of some older family members. Or it may just provide some laughs and entertainment. Food and Dessert Depending on the time of the party, then people may be coming and going throughout the day. If you plan ahead and keep the food simple, then there are some great tricks to look like you spent more time than needed. Grab and Go Snacks: Hosts will want to ensure guests do not go hungry. Filling some small dixie cups with snack mix is a great way to allow guests to grab some food and go. Guests often linger around the food table, so transportable snacks will encourage guests to check out other party activities (like the memories on display!). School Spirit Snacks: Candies and other sweets come in a variety of colors, so find some candies that match the school colors. These can be part of the grab and go snacks or left in bowls to help compliment the decorations. As Coldwell Banker shows, the school spirit candiescan leave the right impression.

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Candy suggestions primarily include M&Ms and Skittles, but anything colorful works. Again, for high school graduates, high school or college colors can be selected. BBQ Buffet: Typically, graduation parties serve hot dogs and hamburgers, which is always a safe option. However, since graduation parties tend to have guests arriving at various times, than buffet style food may work best. The crockpot makes BBQ buffets an efficient way to serve high quality food that can be prepared ahead of the party. bbq-pork-sandwich Eat at Home Cooks has some other great insights into main courses and side dishes for graduation parties. Sides, such as potato salad are hearty and either easy to prepare or cost effective to serve guests some substance. Depending on the weather, it is important to not serve all of the food at once. As the dishes are served, then simply add some more BBQ and sides to the food table to make sure food is not left outside for extensive amounts of time. More Make-Ahead Dishes: If the BBQ concept does not fit the tastes of the graduate, then consider other fan favorite dishes that are easy to prepare before the party. From simple slaws to wonderful wraps, there are great menu options that are quick to prepare. Taste of Home provides some great recipes that will surely satisfy your friends and family. Dishes like avocado salad are light and a delicious way to add some variety to the typical party cousine. Simply combine some sliced and diced avocado, corn and other summer vegetables. The salad can be used as a side or served like a salsa as well. avocado_salad Potluck Dinner: A graduation party may seem like an odd choice to have guests bring dishes, but it is a way to offset some party costs. The one potluck rule is everyone brings dishes that remind them of the graduate. It is a potluck theme that will spur stories about the graduate as people explain why green bean casserole is on the menu. Graduate Cupcakes: It might take a baker in the family to produce these, but Better Homes and Gardens has a sweet congratulations.

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From the NAMCO family, we want to simply say congratulations. Graduations are a great part of summer because they bring family and friends together to celebrate milestone accomplishments. They truly represent the #RelaxPlaySwim mindset. What are your favorite graduation party tips and tricks? Please join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook to find out more graduation party ideas!