It’s the day after. The day after our son’s graduation party and I can finally take a breath, sit outside on the porch, and take the time the tell you all about the planning. Unless you host large parties a few times a year, preparing for one can be a huge task – many tasks actually, that take place over the months preceding the actual event. So let’s talk about planning for a large party, and in this particular case, planning for a graduation party.
First we’ll talk about the major home preparation, then we’ll get into the detailed planning which includes the menu and the laying out the space for a smooth, uncluttered party.
When you make the decision to host a large (for us that’s 30+ people)party in your home, it somehow suddenly makes you see your home through a different lens. You start see the knooks and crannies where the dirt has gathered on the white baseboards, the scratches and dust that has baked onto the radiators, the floors that need scrubbing, and the railings and staircase risers that need painting. You notice every scuff scuff mark as if you just put on a pair of magnifying glasses.
You also begin to look at your decor differently too. That old comfy chair that you relax in at the end of a long work day, suddenly looks dingy. You see that the color is now faded and the fabric is worn on the arms. You notice the curtains, that have been perfectly fine for the past 10 years, suddenly seem dull from the multiple wash cycles and the color is now even a little out-of-date.
Yes, when you’re planning to host a large party in your home, you begin to notice everything!
2 Months Prior
Preparation for a large party often begins 2-3 months prior to the actual event. As soon as the weather warmed up back in April, work began on the exterior of the house. Here’s what we worked on in April and into May:
- Power-washed the exterior of the house, the porch stair treads, and the front limestone stairs.
- Stained the porch floor with THIS semi-transparent Cabot Gold stain.
- Stained the porch railings with THIS semi-solid white Olympic stain.
- Stained the wood trim surrounding the garage doors and the back deck stair risers with a semi-solid white Valspar stain
- Cleaned up the woodpile area to remove scattered wood pieces
- Trimmed bushes
- Spread mulch in the flower beds and planted colorful flowers
- Cleaned the garage and walk-out cellar (not that anyone was in there, but it made me feel better).
Here are a few photos of the exterior. You can get all of the details about staining an exterior porch floor and railings HERE.
1 Month Prior
Once the outside of the house was party-ready, I could focus on the inside. My house is always ready for visitors. It’s pretty much clutter-free and always picked up. If I got a call from a friend wanting to stop by spur-of-the-moment, I could have my house in perfect order in 10 minutes.
So why should having a large party be any different? I just needed to dust and vacuum the days before and I was good to go, right? WRONG!
It was like that book… When You Give a Mouse a Cookie. One thing led to another and another.
I began dusting the white baseboard. When I say dusting, I really mean vacuuming them, then wiping them down with spray cleaner, then wiping them with a Magic Eraser. But over time, the dust gets into the crevices and there’s only one way to make it look new again – PAINT.
So I sat on my butt (literally) and scooted around the house and painted every baseboard with a coat of white semi-gloss paint.
On my way around the house, I noticed the baseboard radiators. Radiators take a beating over the winter. The dust settles on them, then seems to bake on when the heat goes on. They get scratched from the dog and furniture banging against them. And don’t even get me started about the ones next to the bathroom toilets! Let’s face it ladies… most of us live with guys, splashes happen, and the metal rusts. They have to be painted.
Would you like to know the perfect color spray paint for baseboard radiators? Well, it’s actually a primer, but it blends so well you don’t have to remove and paint the entire radiator. You can just touch up areas. You can find the Rustoleum paint/primer HERE.
Here’s the full list and a few photos of what I worked on inside the house in May:
- Cleaned & painted wood baseboards
- Cleaned & painted metal radiators with THIS spray paint
- Painted a few of the interior closet doors.
- Washed & put away the winter coats hanging in the laundry room (also our guest bathroom).
- Removed the two old, worn side chairs and replaced them with two brighter, whiter, blue & white slipper chairs
- Made new valances for our kitchen
- Washed curtains, blankets, pillow covers, and the dog bed to make the house smell fresher.
1 Week Prior
The week leading up to the party is when actual party-planning takes place. Now that all of the major cleaning and repairs are done, this is the time to focus on the food, drinks, and the layout. Let’s take them one at a time.
Our guest list consisted of about 45 adults. The 3 main dishes were ordered from a local Italian deli. My mom made the meatballs, shrimp cocktail, and watermelon. And I prepared the other appetizers and garden salad.
- 1 Large tray of Chicken Parmesan (serves 25-30 people)
- 1 Large tray of Chicken, Broccoli, and Ziti in a garlic oil (serves 25-30 people)
- 1 Medium tray of Eggplant Parmisan (serves 15-20 people)
- 4 lbs of meatballs (homemade)
- 2 dozen fresh bakery rolls
- Large garden salad – (homemade)
- Large watermelon – (homemade)
- Caprese Salad (tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, black pepper) (homemade)
- Eggplant Caponata (diced eggplant, onion, cerlery, craisins, tomato sauce, black pepper, sea salt) with pita bread (homemade)
- Shrimp cocktail (homemade)
- Large sheet cheese pizza (cut into appetizer slices)
- Cheese, Pepperoni & Crackers (set on a large wood cutting board & garnished with green grapes) (homemade)
- Large sheet cake – purchased
- Small round chocolate cake
- Apple Pie – homemade
- Chocolate chip cookies
TIP: To save time and your sanity, order the main entre dishes rather than try to cook them all yourself. Instead complement them with homemade appetizers that take far less time to prepare.
TIP: Set cakes and pies on pedestal cake stands to add interest to the dessert station.
Now let’s move on to the layout. The goal is create an even flow throughout the house. Decide where you would like people to congregate and eat and create a plan to make that happen. Lay out your space and create stations so people are spread out and move smoothly throughout the night.
We placed a large cooler outside on the porch that held beer and soda and then placed all other drinks (bottles of water, wine, and a large dispenser of lemon water) on the sideboard just inside the entry door. The placement of the drinks welcomes guests into the house and invites them to help themselves as they enter.
Appetizer & Salad Station
Guests naturally then proceed to the open kitchen area. One of two kitchen islands is where everyone naturally congregates, so we covered it with a tablecloth and set the appetizers and salads here.
Moving even further into the house, we cleared off one kitchen counter where the stove is and placed electric warmer plates all along this counter (even on top of the stove). This is where the four main entres were placed. They were out of the way but readily available throughout the night.
To get people to move into the dining area, we set all desserts on the dining room sideboard at the end of the room.
All papergoods where placed on the dining room table. They were colorful and graduation-themed so they also nicely decorated the table.
TIP: Cover each station with a the same solid-color tablecloths (cloth or paper) to make the entire space feel coordinated and to make cleanup super-easy.
TIP: Have plenty of seating for guests. We had 3 large tables and additional seating available around the rooms and on the outdoor covered porch.
TIP: Create an even flow of food and drink stations throughout the house to welcome guests in and spread them out in the space throughout the house. If you prefer people move into the living room, place appetizers there too.
I hope this helps you make your party planning much easier – especially if you’re in the midst of a graduation celebration.
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