All-night graduation parties are most successful when graduates have plenty to do. In addition to food, drinks and professional photography opportunities, you'll need activities that let students mingle, laugh and visit, and the chance to win prizes always helps boost participation. Keep your theme gender- and ethnicity-neutral, avoiding prom-like romantic themes that might make some students feel excluded.
New Orleans Glamour
Add a little glamour to the night with a New Orleans theme. Decorate the room with tablecloths, streamers and balloons in traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold. Pass out blank white carnival masks (sturdy paper versions are available at craft stores) and set up a mask-decorating station where grads can paint masks and glue on feathers, beads or sequins. Make big cardboard street signs with New Orleans boulevard names: Bourbon Street, Conti Street and Bienville Street. Make sure any New Orleans theme is accompanied by a little Southern cooking: set up tasting stations where grads can sample dishes like fried chicken, jambalaya, fried okra or beignets. Start festivities with Dixieland jazz to set the mood, then transition into musical requests.
Rock Around the Clock
Make the night a blast from the past with a 1950s theme. Decorations might include a rented jukebox, cardboard cutouts of records and blown-up photos of popular movie stars like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. You could even bring in a TV and DVD player and play classic '50s movies all night: "Roman Holiday," "On the Waterfront," "Singin' in the Rain" or "Rebel Without a Cause." Hand out hula-hoops and set up a drink station that looks like a '50s soda shop, with milkshake-style glasses (inexpensive plastic versions are available at discount stores). Have a dance contest to see who can master classics like the Twist or the Loco-Motion. If local businesses or parents donate prizes, even shy grads will be tempted to get on the dance floor.
Turn a gymnasium or community center into a cruise ship getaway. Grab a roll of butcher paper and cut out faux portholes. Paint each one with a tropical scene and hang them at eye level all the way around the room. Scatter inexpensive plastic deck chairs for grads to lounge on. As grads enter, pass out plastic leis and gift bags stuffed with cruise-worthy goodies like zinc oxide and plastic sunglasses. Decorate food and drink tables with grass skirt tablecloths and serve up drinks decorated with a cocktail umbrella and a wedge of pineapple. Have traditional deck games arranged throughout the space: plastic horseshoes, ring toss and easy games like dominoes, chess or checkers. You could even turn one corner of the room into a "beach" by bringing in a children's inflatable pool and filling it with sand. Let the grads jump in and have a photographer stationed nearby to capture the fun.
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