How to Prepare Your Backyard for an Outdoor Graduation Party

As summer approaches, high school seniors and their parents have a lot on their minds. While seniors are signing yearbooks, cramming for tests, and looking forward to their new futures after graduation, their parents are facing their own daunting challenge…planning the graduation party. A grad party is the perfect time to celebrate your graduate’s accomplishments as well as give them one last chance to celebrate with their classmates. It’s an important event, but throwing a graduation party doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, you can throw an extravagant party in your own backyard. This article will offer a variety of tips and tricks to help you transform your backyard into the party venue of your grad’s dreams.

Clean Up Your Yard

First things first. Before you can begin planning your party, you should do a little bit of yard maintenance. Not only will it make your yard look elegant for the party, it will also free up more space for entertaining.

Tip #1 Mow the Lawn

Man mowing the lawn

A simple way to impress guests is to make sure your lawn is neatly trimmed before the party. For the best look, mow the lawn and apply fertilizer about a week before the party. This will ensure that you have time to get rid of weeds and allow any odors to clear before the party. It will also give you time to get rid of any grass trimmings so they don’t blow into the food or onto guests’ clothing.

Tip #2 Get Rid of Any Standing Water

Nothing puts a damper on an outdoor party like mosquitoes. To help cut down on these uninvited guests, go through your yard and make sure that there is no standing water as this provides a convenient place for mosquitoes to breed. Check and empty your bird baths, rain barrels, or fountains.

For instructions on how to do this, check out our Bright Ideas Blog 6 Simple Tips to Keep Mosquitoes Out of Your Fountain or Bird Bath.

Tip # 3 Clear Any Branches or Sticks

Another task to complete before the party is to go through the yard and clear away any dead branches or sticks. This will be beneficial for several reasons. Most importantly, it will remove any tripping hazards for your guests, but it will also ensure that you have more space to work with and give your yard a neat, polished look.

Prepare for Any Weather

Whenever you throw an outdoor gathering, there is always a chance that Mother Nature will try to make things interesting. This can be avoided by planning for all types of inclement weather.

Tip #1 Provide Shade

Sunnydaze 10' x 10' Steel Gazebo with Weather-Resistant Fabric Top - Gray

If you’re lucky, the day of your party you will get warm temperatures with plenty of sunshine, but even if you do get a nice sunny day you will want to make sure that your guests have plenty of shade. Not only will this help prevent sunburn and keep the sun out of everyone’s eyes, storing food and beverages in a shady area will help keep them cool and covered if the weather should suddenly take a dramatic turn. There are a variety of shade options available. Take advantage of more permanent structures like pergolas or gazebos, and cover dining areas using a patio umbrella with your tables. For a temporary option, use a pop up canopy that can be easily taken down after the party.

Tip #2 Prepare for Wind

A sudden gust of wind can cause mass chaos if you’re in the middle of party planning. However, if you batten down the hatches ahead of time, you won’t need to worry about your decor or shade structures flying away with the wind. Use sandbags and stakes to keep your decorative items and tents firmly in place.

For more tips on how to keep your patio furniture and pop-up canopies secure, check out our blog articles 10 Ways to Keep Patio Furniture Secure When the Wind Blows and 8 Tips To Help Keep Your Pop-Up Canopy from Blowing Away.

Tip #3 Stay Warm 

Sunnydaze 29" Cauldron Outdoor Wood-Burning Fire Pit with Spark Screen

If you get a cold day or plan on extending your party into the evening hours, you will want to have a plan to keep your guests warm. A fun option is setting up a fire pit for your guests to gather around. Not only will your guests stay cozy and warm, but the flames will provide illumination after the sunsets as well as opportunities for fun activities like making s'mores or telling campfire stories.

Another convenient option is a patio heater. Outdoor electric heaters can be used to heat up small gathering areas like a garage. Simply plug the heater into a standard electrical outlet. Propane heaters can also easily heat up a patio simply by turning the dial.

For more tips on how to keep everyone cozy during your party, read our Bright Ideas Blog article, 8 Tips For Keeping Your Guests Warm at an Outdoor Party.

Tip #4 Have a Rain Plan

Whenever planning an outdoor event, it is important to have a backup plan just in case of rain. Keep in mind how many guests you have invited and consider where they will need to go if the clouds get dark. If your home is large enough, you can move the party inside, otherwise a garage is a spacious outdoor area where you can take shelter. It’s also a good idea to keep a few tarps on hand if there is rain in the forecast. These can be easily tossed over the food table or decorations to keep them dry if you need to rush inside.

Food and Beverages

Outdoor Buffet

It wouldn’t be a party without some tasty food and delicious drinks. These tips will ensure that no one goes home hungry.

Tip #1 Set Up Food and Dining Areas

When planning out the layout of your yard for the party, establishing different zones for different purposes can help maximize space and keep your guests comfortable. Naturally, the food station is a very important zone to set up. Keep all of your food, utensils and beverages in a covered area in case of inclement weather. You should establish several dining areas both shaded and unshaded away from the food area so people can easily move through the food station, load up a plate, and find a comfortable place to sit.

Tip #2 Keep Your Beverages Cool

Everyone needs a cold beverage to wash down a tasty meal. Sort your drink options and put them in separate coolers to keep them at the right temperature and make them easy to grab with their meal. Another option is to fill a beverage tub with ice and place it beside your buffet table. Having staked drink holders on hand will also ensure that your guests can enjoy their beverages without spilling.

Tip #3 Serve Up Snacks

Sunnydaze Premium Teak Wood Cutting Board with Hand Grips - 16"

There are a number of options that can be used as stylish serving options for your food. Use colored buckets for snacks like chips, veggies, or candy. Choose your grad’s high school colors to coordinate with the rest of the party's decor. Cutting boards can also be used to create and serve elegant charcuterie boards.

Tip #4 Keep the Bugs at Bay

Your guests aren’t the only ones who want to sample the food at your party. Bugs can be a real pest at the food station. To cut back on these annoying creatures, keep your food covered until it is time for serving (especially sugary foods). You should also establish a garbage area where guests can toss their soda cans or paper plates after they’re done eating. It probably goes without saying, but keep this area FAR away from the dining areas or the food. Lighting a fire pit or burning citronella torches can also help keep the bugs away.

Tip #5 Room For Everyone

Once you have your guest list finalized, you will need to make sure that there is enough space for everyone to sit and eat. Place a few patio tables and multiple chairs in a few locations throughout the yard. It is good to provide a shady location as well as a sunny location so people can choose the place where they will most be comfortable.

Decor Ideas

Girl in graduate robe holding garland

Decorations can help transform a simple backyard into an elegant party venue. Here are a few easy ways to add a touch of flair to the area.

Tip #1 Planter Centerpieces

Container gardens are a simple way to add a pop of color to your patio or garden. Place a few planters around the yard. Plus, these containers can double over as party decor. Look for flowers that match the graduate’s high school or future college colors and use the flowers as centerpieces for tables.

Tip #2 Inflatables

Sunnydaze Sprinkles the Inflatable Celebration Bear with 5 Banners - 6'

The day of the party can be extremely busy. With so much to plan and do, finding time to set up decorations can be challenging. Inflatables are an easy way to add a dramatic centerpiece to your backyard. Look for a fun graduation themed inflatable like Sprinkles the Celebration Bear or our Congrats Star Inflatable. All you need to do is plug them in and the inflatable will automatically fill itself with air in minutes.

Tip #3 Creative Lighting

In addition to keeping your backyard well-lit after the sun sets, lighting can help create a festive mood. Lighting can be used to give your area a unique theme. For example, set out tiki torches to create a tropical luau feel. Plus, torches can be used with citronella oil to help keep mosquitoes and other bugs away from the party.

String lights can also be used in a variety of ways. Look for string lights in school colors and hang them from outdoor shade structures, the roof of a garage, or use net lights to wrap the lights around trees for a magical look.

Seating and Activities

The best part of a party is spending time with your guests. Whether you’re playing games, listening to music, or playing, there’s plenty of fun things you can do during the party.

Tip #1 Provide Comfortable Seating

Sunnydaze Coachford 4-Piece Black Resin Rattan Outdoor Patio Furniture Set - Red Cushions

Your guests will be willing to stay longer if they have a comfy place to sit and chat. There are a number of ways to provide cozy seating. A conversation set provides several comfortable places for your guests to sit. Other seating options can include Adirondack chairs or patio swings.

Tip #2 Have a Bonfire

A fire pit or fire ring provides a convenient place for your guests to gather, especially during the evening hours. Plus, it can also be used for a variety of fun activities like roasting marshmallows, telling stories, playing camp games, or singing songs.

Tip #3 Yard Games

Croquet supplies

Another fun way to entertain your guests is through classic yard games. Placing a few games like croquet, badminton, or ladder ball gives your guests several fun options to play. You can even establish teams for a tournament and give out small prizes to the winners.

Your high school senior has worked very hard and accomplished a lot. Throwing a graduation party is a fun way to celebrate the end of their high school career. Celebrating in your backyard allows you to save money and time. With a little prep beforehand, you, your graduate, and all your guests are sure to have a fun time!


Holiday & seasonalOutdoor living

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