FinALLY Graduated

If you’ve been following along for awhile, you might remember a special Pink Kindergarten Graduation Party for an adorable little 5 year old girl back in 2012. I blinked, 12 years passed, and we now have a beautiful 18 year old high school graduate.

I’ve loved so many parts about raising my kids and watching them grow up. With Ally specifically, highlights have been cheering her on during endless years of school and club volleyball, annual family vacations, holidays, and too many shopping trips to count, but celebrating each and every big (and little) accomplishment has for sure been my favorite. From special early morning back-to-school breakfasts to the most over the top birthday parties, celebrating my kids in a big way is something I’ve always looked forward to doing.

As Ally wrapped up her senior year of High School, I knew this celebration might be a “last”…for awhile at least. Next up would be her 21st, a bridal shower, a WEDDING(!!!), and someday, a baby shower. But I’m not getting ahead of myself. For the time being, I decided to go big for her graduation party. It’s what I do!

With any party or event, I start planning as early as possible. Spacing out the to-do list alleviates stress and makes the work seem far less. First thing on the to do list is party theme and color palette. The first color that comes to mind when I think of Ally is pink, and I knew I wanted Dick’s Drive In to bring their food truck (which is orange) so it was an easy choice to do a combo of pinks and corals to tie in with the orange truck.

Graduation was the “theme” or reason for the party, but I wanted something a little more personalized that could be turned into party details like napkins, cups, signage etc, so I leaned into a fun play on words with FinALLY Graduated. Chelcea Creative helped me bring the signage/tags/stickers to life with digital files.

Once I have my theme, the rest of the party always seems to easily fall into place. The venue was our home, which I did spent months of praying there would be no rain (Thank you Jesus!), and decor wise, there wasn’t much needed as the food trucks took up a lot of the space doubling as decor. For seating, I gathered our outdoor furniture and made a few different sitting areas for guests to hang out. I found pillows and pillow covers on amazon, and a few others at Target that coordinated the theme.

I had an idea to make a big party centerpiece made up of photos of Ally her entire life. If you asked what took the longest in the party prep, it was digging through 18 years of digital files to download, save and print for the project. I ordered probably 150 photos in a combo of sizes from 8×10-4×4’s, so it would have a collage look rather than all perfectly sized. My friend Cindy of The Disco Edit let me use one of her party backdrops, which was perfect for the photo wall.

I envisioned a big neon “Ally” sign over the photos, and thought it was a fun investment piece that she could hang in her room after the party. Once the photos arrived, I spent about an hour cutting and glueing the photos and believe it or not, I had JUST the right amount of photos to fill the arch! It turned out exactly how I pictured it, and Ally LOVED it!

It felt a little weird to designate a table for gifts, though of course after going to a million grad parties all month, I realized it was going to be needed. I found this acrylic card box, added a polaroid and lots of flowers. I pulled out the Dr Seuss Oh The Places You’ll Go book I’ve been collecting teacher signatures in since Ally was in preschool and used it as a guest book.

The most gorgeous flowers were grown extra special from my favorite local farm, Pretty Flower Farm. The owner sells buckets of loose assorted flowers, so I ordered a couple buckets and arranged flowers the day before the party. I reused pink vases and vessels I had from previous bday parties of Ally, and ordered a few more to add to the bunch. We had flowers everywhere!

The best food to serve at parties is food the guests and guest of honor love. Think about who you are hosting, and what they’d be excited about. I knew every kid would be thrilled to see the Dick’s Drive In truck at our house, so that’s exactly what we did. Dick’s is a beloved Seattle family owned favorite since the 1950’s. They serve the most delicious burgers, hand-whipped shakes and fresh cut fries, exactly what every teenager loves to eat!

The Dick’s truck is a fun orange, with the cutest marquee signage at the top of the truck. To take the cuteness a step further, I branded it for the event with a gigantic poster of Ally, which happened to be the invite image from Ally’s Kindergarten graduation party. It was my favorite party detail!

No party is complete without Jenny Cookies Bake Shop, so the #JennyCookiesMetro made a special appearance stocked full of personalized treats for guests. Ally chose her favorite SMASH cookie, cake cup, classic cookie and crispy cube flavors, and I personalized each with FinALLy graduated stickers and labels.

The Disco Edit covered the truck in balloons, and I got another use out of Ally’s Big Head (cardboard) from her Volleyball Senior Night last November.

Party activities are a must, but with the amount of guests invited, I couldn’t do anything major beyond yard games, so I thought it would be fun to have an interactive candy bar that guests could fill themselves, and doubled as a take home favor.

I raided our local Lolli and Pops store for gummy bears, cotton candy, rock candy, and their famous bear jars. The Disco Edit helped me bring the candy shop idea to life with simple white shelving, a party cart, lots of balloons, flowers, cookies, and scoops to sugar up our guests! To give the bear jars a graduation look, I hot glued little felt grad hats I found on amazon to the tops of the jars. The candy was a hit with guests young and old.

With the food trucks up in the courtyard at the entrance of the event, down to the bar being at the beach, I spaced everything in a triangle, providing a good flow to the event. We used Wandering Taps to serve our guests and they exceeded any expectations we had by a mile. Family owned and locally operated, they were a joy to have at this event.

Instead of bringing out your entire liquor cabinet or every soda, juice and beverage available, I always choose a signature drink and build the bar menu around it. For Ally’s party, I decided on a Mule bar with Rachel’s Ginger Beer, because one: it’s a local business with the most delicious ginger beer, two: the colors matched the party perfectly, and three: it’s nice to offer a mocktail/non-alcoholic version for kids and those who want it, so no one feels left out!

If there was any room left for dessert, we filled it with ice cream from Aha Sugar Co. Aha is another local vendor with the cutest ice cream cart and most charming son Gus, who we personally request every time we have them. He is so sweet and their ice cream is delicious!

As guests arrived, they immediately ate, found spots to cozy up around our ourdoor fire pits. It didn’t rain but it was typical June in Seattle weather. Music is a big party must, and we were lucky to get Seattle’s Best DJ, B Two Times. He kept the party groovin with lots of Taylor (my request), Drake (Ally’s request) and plenty of feel good music.

The night before the party the next door neighbor had an idea to make a pickleball court for the party. They pulled out a measuring tape, painters tape, and their pickleball net. It was so fun to have for the kids, and even a few adults! The kids also love playing cornhole, so I ordered a basic cornhole set and asked The Disco Edit to put a vinyl on it that matched the party. Vinyls are easy to take off after, in the event we want to customize it for something else in the future.

It was a perfect day filled with tons of love for Ally, and memories for years to come! If I missed any party details or you have questions, please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to respond!

Check out this video below!

Photos by Brit Solie

Video by First Drop Media

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