Last year I hosted a small graduation luncheon for my high school graduate, Mary, and her friends. I thought I would share some photos of our luncheon and pass on some inexpensive ways you can make a memorable event without breaking the bank.
Graduation is a time to celebrate but it also is a time to reflect.
As parents, we take on the responsibility of this tiny little creature that brings us such happiness but also scares us to death. What do we know about raising children? We were once children ourselves and we learned so much from how our parents raised us but things are so much different now. Words that were not heard of when I was in school include texting, cyber bullying, laptops, cell phones, Instagram, Facebook, body shaming, etc. You see where I’m going with this? I know it’s cliche, but times were simpler back when I was a kid. Growing up, a treat for me was waking up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons, being allowed to talk to a boy on the phone for a few minutes after school, taking a drive down dirt roads on a Sunday afternoon. I was born in the 70’s and spent my teenage years in the 80’s. My biggest influence besides my parents was my Memaw and Papaw. They grew up during the depression, my Papaw fought overseas in World War II, worked in the local mill, raised a family in a small town and appreciated the little things. My Papaw knew how to pinch a penny. (I definitely learned that from him.) Growing up, afternoons were spent at their house with some of my cousins playing outside, making mud forts and playing dress up with Memaw’s scarves. I don’t recall sitting for hours on end watching television.
My kids had the advantage of having my mom keep them while I was working. She would come to my house with my brother’s kids in tow and ran what may have appeared as a small daycare. Most days when I got home, my sink was full of dishes, the kids mattress was pulled off of the bed as a makeshift slide and most of the children were half-dressed if not buck-naked. My mom is a free spirit when it comes to children…let them explore, let them use their imaginations and just let them be kids. I appreciate her methods more now—but coming home from an 8-hour day with three kids waiting to be taken care of and a messy house to boot—it was tiring and sometimes frustrating. These are the best memories my children have of their childhood. It’s kind-of similar to what I remember from my own childhood.
Today, times are not just different for our children, it’s very different to be a parent. This past weekend was Mother’s Day and our pastor at church spoke on Bad Moms. He didn’t focus on actual “bad moms” but how we as mothers beat ourselves up because we can’t do enough, clean enough, be there enough…we focus on our shortcomings and sometimes lose what is most important-which is our job to raise a human being and prepare it for adulthood. We overcomplicate the process and place stress on ourselves to try to be the best. He actually urged us to take a break from social media because we tend to compare ourselves to one staged and edited snapshot of someone else and feel that we’re not good enough. Do you do that? I do.
Mary and Trevor graduated last year and I wanted to celebrate with her by hosting a luncheon for her and her friends. Mary struggled in high school with many issues and we home schooled her during her 10th and 11th grade years. She eventually was diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety and depression but the journey during these high school years was one I never thought I would take. It wasn’t easy for any of us. Mary was (and still is) a fighter and has come through this dark time so much stronger. I know some days she doesn’t feel stronger, but she is. This luncheon was a celebration for her and a special thank you to those tried and true friends who stuck with her and supported her when she needed it the most.
I saw on Pinterest where people had made numbers and covered them with tissue paper and knew they would make a cool focal point on the buffet table. These were cute but one of the most time consuming projects I have taken on.
Here’s where the Dollar Tree comes in…I found these 2017 graduation poster decorations and bought them to use as the template.
I traced the numbers onto foam board and cut them out. As you can see in this photo, the ends were not perfect. It doesn’t matter because everything gets covered with tissue paper.
I chose the colors for the luncheon to be black, white, gold and pink. I purchased tissue paper in these four colors and cut them into small squares. A large plop of craft glue went on a styrofoam plate and I was off…grab a square, crunch the tissue paper together, dip in glue and put it on the foam. I think I worked on this for weeks…
Below is one of the finished numbers. Once the glue had dried, I glued a stick on the back. I found the sticks at Walmart in the area where yard sale and for sale signs are sold. You could use a paint stirrer and paint it, if you prefer. I had a bunch of flower vases left over from a retirement party I organized years ago and used them to display the numbers. I filled them with gold candy for support (and a little more bling) and stuck the sticks in. **These numbers can be reused for New Year’s by just changing out the last number. I worked so hard on these that I will definitely reuse them one way or the other. How about using them for a birthday party?** This is a very inexpensive craft but they will take a lot of your time to make. (OK–I’ve said that like 4 times…you’ve been warned!)
I did a lot of things to save money but my one splurge was renting the tables, chairs and tablecloths. We have a local rental company, Life’s A Party, who delivered the tables and chairs and set them up for me in my living room. They also provided the tablecloths. I purchased the black satin cloth at Hobby Lobby and cut it into a square to place over the white tablecloth.
I purchased the mirrored squares at Hobby Lobby for the center of the table and placed a low flower arrangement of white hydrangeas, white mums, baby’s breath and pink miniature roses. There were two different kinds of candle holders that were both purchased at the Dollar Tree. The short, gold candle holders held real candles. The glass votives that came in three different heights were also set on the table with battery operated candles. The glasses were a mix of my wedding crystal and my neighbor’s stash of glasses that I borrowed. I had a tea glass for the meal and either a champagne or wine glass at each setting for sparkling grape juice (we had to have a toast!). Decorative confetti was placed on the table, too. I found graduation bubbles at the Dollar Tree and put one at each place setting.
The cute gold chargers came from Hobby Lobby. The white plates…Dollar Tree! (I bought these plates for Mary’s luncheon but have used them for so many other occasions because they’re white and can be mixed with anything.) Because Mary thinks she’s a princess, I purchased small tiaras at Party City and sat them on the corner of the plates. I used my own white cloth napkins. The gold forks were ordered from Walmart.com. I tied the fork and napkin together with black ribbon and a graduation tassel I also got at Dollar Tree.
The sign hanging on my mantle came from Dollar Tree, too. There were colored hats on either side and I just removed them to leave the black and gold letters.
So, what’s a luncheon without the food?
I am a fan of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. She always shows low-stress ways of entertaining on her show and urges her viewers to keep it simple. One piece of advice she always gives is when you are entertaining purchase some pre-made food. Advice taken!
For lunch, I had pre-made chicken salad sandwiches and ham and cheese sandwiches on croissant rolls. The chicken salad came from a great little store in Jefferson, Georgia called The Pantry. The owner, Kay, is well known for her chicken salad and it did not disappoint our guests! I did not take a good photo of the lunch table but you can see glimpses of the food from my photo of the 2017 sign. I made a pasta salad and had plain potato chips. I also made a grape salad and had it pre-scooped into clear plastic individual bowls.
For dessert, I surprised Mary with a chocolate fountain. I purchased this one online from Walmart.com and also bought the chocolate discs that are used with it. Fountain sticks (they have a tip on them like bamboo skewers but are specifically sized for fondue and chocolate fountains) sit in a homemade dish I made with a candlestick and glass vase from Dollar Tree. These homemade dishes are all over the internet and I just had to try one. You glue them together with clear E6000 craft glue.
The foods I chose to dip in the chocolate fountain were marshmallows, pretzels, strawberries and cut up Rice Krispies Treats. I could have stood at that table all day…it was good!
The graduation picks for the Rice Krispies Treats came from Party City.
After the meal, we went out to Donnie’s man cave. Donnie has a two-car garage that has been converted into his private getaway with a rustic bar, pool table and a large projector and screen for movies. I made the girls a video of photos of them as they were growing up together and put it to music. I had reached out to their moms a few weeks earlier for the photos and it was a surprise for them to see the video. The video took a lot of time to make because I couldn’t edit down the photos I had. I tried to use as many photos as possible (they were all so good) and I had a lot of downtime while editing because my eyes would fill up with tears and I couldn’t see what I was doing!
I searched the internet for the best songs to use and I chose the following:
- Just the Way You Are, Bruno Mars (with photos of the girls as babies)
- The Climb, Miley Cyrus
- Shake it Off, Taylor Swift
- Gold, Britt Nicole
- I’ll Be There For You, The Rembrandts
- Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), Green Day
A few that made my short list but wasn’t included in the video were:
- Lean On Me, (I was going to use the version from Glee)
- Never Forget You, Zara Larsson
- Good Life, One Republic
- Firework, Katy Perry
- Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper
- Adventure of a Lifetime, Cold Play
- The Edge of Glory, Lady Gaga
- End of the Road, Boyz to Men
I made the video on my Mac computer using iMovie. When I returned the original photos back to the moms I gave each of them a CD of the video so they could have a copy to keep. If you make a video you could also load it directly to YouTube.
Here’s a photo of me and Mary taken at the luncheon. **On the mantle I had these cute little graduation picture frames from Walmart with photos of the girls.**
I enjoyed my time at the luncheon and especially loved the video. Watching these girls grow up before my very eyes has been wonderful.
Graduation is a very special time because you do get that opportunity to look back and appreciate all of those little moments that has gotten you to where you are but you can also look forward to the hopes, dreams and adventures of tomorrow. Take the time to savor each moment and celebrate what you’ve accomplished.
Until next time, thank you for stopping by!