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Celebrating Your Graduate!

Congratulations to all the graduates out there for all your hard work!  You deserve a pat on the back and a well-earned break.

A graduation party is not only a time to celebrate the wonderful accomplishments of your favorite scholar.  In many parts of the country it’s also sometimes the first opportunity you have to host an outdoor gathering, now that Spring has sprung.

This morning I spent some time with my friends at Martha Stewart Morning Living Radio on Sirius XM and we talked about some fun inspirations for creating a festive graduation fete worthy of the Honor Roll!

School’s Out–and the Party is too!

If the weather is nice, take the party outside, and serve light, mingle-friendly foods that are easy to eat.  When you’re putting together your menu and decor for this fun event, think about your graduate and infuse the whole party with details they’ll love.


For young graduates and their friends, create activities and interactive elements to keep them entertained.

Make a ConGRADuations Wish Board:

Decorate a big bulletin board in your grad’s school colors.  Then set out a selection of pretty, fun blank note cards, with markers, stickers, and other fun embellishments, and invite guests to share their good wishes for the honoree.  Use colorful pushpins to tack the notes to the bulletin board, creating an ever-growing display.  At the party’s end, your graduate will have a fabulous collage to decorate her room, and a souvenir from this happy occasion to treasure forever.

Create a “Cupcake Workshop.” This is one workshop where everyone gets an A+ for Appetite!

Bake plain vanilla and chocolate cupcakes in pretty paper or foil cups.  Arrange the cupcakes on platters or trays, then display them with small bowls of icing, sprinkles, and other delicious toppings.  Guests design their own treats using their favorite ingredients–and it’s a piece of cake for the hostess, because you don’t have to spend hours icing them before the party!

For older grads:

Is your college graduate a beer drinker? Take them to a new, chic level with a festive beer cocktail.  The “Shandy” is popular in the UK and catching on here in varying forms.  All you do is mix equal parts light- to medium-bodied beer (Pilsners and Ales work well) and your choice of refreshing mixer, such as carbonated lemonade or Ginger beer.

Serve your Shandies in Mason jars

Because of the carbonated nature of this fabulous Summer libation, the Shandies should be mixed “a la minute” as they’re being served, so this idea offers another great interactive possibility.  Set up a “Shandy Bar” with copper tubs of a few good microbrews, and pitchers of tasty mixers (think: fresh lemon or limeade, spicy ginger beer, or lighter  ginger ale).  Even Pellegrino’s sparkling Aranciata or Limonata would be delish!  Nestle in a few bowls of citrus wedges (lemon, lime, and orange all work well), and let folks mix their pleasure!  You might even rim some glasses with a mix of sugar salt for an extra layer of flavor…

Give guests a “Pop Quiz” on trivia facts about the honoree.

Divide guests into groups and ask questions about your graduate.  What’s their favorite class?  Where did they go to elementary school?  Then tally up the results and give out small prizes –and gold stars, of course!–to the winners.

Infuse the whole celebration with the spirit of your graduate.

Decor-wise, if he’s an artist, use paint cans to hold silverware roll ups, and arrange brushes in glass vases instead of flowers.  If she’s studying to be a teacher, use miniature blackboards to label foods on your buffet.  If you’re looking for ideas for your color palette, use school colors, or just their favorite colors.

When it comes to food, make sure to include at least one or two of the grad’s favorite foods on your menu.  That might be a casual meal of BBQ Chicken and Ribs and my Grilled Southwestern Corn on the Cob, or a more Farmer’s Market Inspired Picnic with light dishes such as my Cavatappi Pasta Salad with Fresh Summer Peas, Ricotta, and Mint

And don’t forget about music–create a custom playlist of your graduate’s favorite songs and artists, and put it on shuffle when the party begins.  As a special gift, burn a CD of the playlist and gift it to your grad as a souvenir of good times shared by all.

Lastly, if you plan on serving a celebratory cake, you might want to click here for some hilariously sweet inspiration, in a slideshow compiled by my friend Allison Beck at The Daily Meal.

And for more recipes and ideas for all your home entertaining, check out my book,



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