Graduation from high school or college is a once in a lifetime event. Our son graduated from high school this year so I really wanted his party to be a memorable event. And, it was not only for him but also for his awesome friends. I am excited to share all of the details of his Black and White Outdoor Graduation Party that we hosted a few weeks ago. Plus, you might get to know a little bit about my son!
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This is one of my larger posts because this was such a big party and I have so many pointers to share. Grab a glass of wine and find a comfy chair! 🙂
One of our son’s passions is exotic cars. He actually started a very successful company where he takes care of exotic cars and some owner’s full collections. His services are very sought after! He has also raced some of our cars in the local area here often. Hence, the racing theme! The idea was that we and our guests were helping “race” him into his future. And, I loved the idea of using black and white since this was a party for a guy and his friends.
Black table cloths and white chairs worked perfectly for the color theme. The racing flags tied it all together. I just laid them flat on the table and it added quite a bit of impact. For the accent color, I chose green to tie in the team colors of CSU where our son will be attending in the fall.
Since this party was for my guy, I steered away from flowers for the centerpieces. These potted faux grasses from Ikea were perfect! Here in Colorado, the afternoons can be quite windy, so I couldn’t have anything that would cause a mess if it blew over.
Since the party would go into the evening, I added these simple cylinder glass vases with white floating candles. The water in the vases helped weight the table cloths and flags down as well…bonus. This was a very cost effect element as I bought the smaller vases from the Dollar Store. Then, the floating candles were the finishing touch. They were easy to buy in bulk through Amazon.
It was important to me to keep the look sleek and clean. To carry the theme throughout the rest of the yard and serving areas, I was sure to incorporate the flags in multiple other areas.
Since our party was in the backyard, I wanted to have our guests come through our back gate rather than the front door. With that being said, I lined the left side of our driveway with shepherd’s hooks filled with simple arrangements and small racing flags. Opposite of those, we placed white stations and rope to help guide our 70 guests into the back yard.
I placed several other arrangements throughout the yard for added flair.
And, how perfect are these white gerber daisies with our theme?!
For the appetizers, I put together a couple of charcuterie boards. This provided our guests with a large variety of snacks to chose from, especially the kids.
For dinner, we did all of the cooking. Crazy…right?! Actually, it is really just as easy to cook for 20 as it is for 70. You just have to make more. Based on that, I made sure to choose menu items that were simple and could be made ahead or prepared earlier in the day of the event.
Considering that we were entertaining such a large group, we decided to smoke and serve pork tenderloins and pre-marinated tri-tip beef sirloins (both from Costco). My husband could start on that process very early in the day and just let them go.
Additionally, we grilled several batches of a variety of sausages. This helped offer our friends and family a smorgasbord of meats. There was something for everyone!
For the sides, I served two fresh and easy recipes. They were not only easy to make in bulk but they were great for making ahead. What goes better with grilled pork and sausage than Coleslaw?! Serving my famous Tangy Garlic Coleslaw was a no-brainer. You can find the recipe and the story of how it came to be HERE.
My mother, who is an epic entertainer/hostess (I learned everything from her!!), helped me with the other side dish. Her Southwest Black Bean and Corn Salad was so fresh and easy to make. Plus, it is a very colorful dish. I will share the recipe very soon!
There was an additional side dish that was requested by our son for him and his friends…Mac & Cheese…go figure! It was a lot of work, but it can be made ahead, and then heated up just prior to the party. There wasn’t even a spoonful left. I prepared my own version of this RECIPE.
A little side note…when serving large groups you need oversized containers for serving food. While it might be tempting to use large foil containers (which is great if you just want to throw it all away after the party), I recommend renting the serving ware for an added touch of elegance.
It certainly helped elevate the appearance of the buffet, especially since we did all of the cooking. If you live in the Denver area, my go-to is Distinctive Tabletop Rentals.
When you have a yard full of teenagers, a dessert table is a must! For ours, I made sure to stay with the black and white theme which was quite easy, actually. Those that know me well know that baking is NOT my thing, so I hired out most of what we served. Fortunately, black and white mini bundts cakes and themed cookies did the trick. Plus, the cookies were a great “take-with” treat for the kids.
My daughter helped build this oreo tower. So much fun! It was a big hit with the kids…
A party is not a party without drinks! Because we were hosting so many people, we decided to feature a hosted bar. This also protected us from any of the teenagers hoping to dip into the alcoholic beverages. 😉
A tip from this hostess…be sure to display the selection of what you are offering on the bar so your guests are clear about you are serving.
These disposable stemless wine glasses helped make clean up a breeze! Another special touch with regard to the drinks you provide is to serve flavored water. For this function, I sliced up one cucumber and then added in a large handful of fresh mint from my garden. So easy and flavorful and you can keep adding water as it gets consumed.
One of the key elements that made hosting such a large group more accommodating was to spread out all of our patio furniture into our yard. Not only did it create lovely sitting areas throughout our yard, but it helped clear the patio for the serving tables. Additionally, it helped facilitate our large number of guests and keep all of the areas uncrowded.
If you are not totally up to speed with these parties for the kids, “photo walls” are becoming an essential element of a party. It is all about the selfies and the backdrop! Our son was adamant that his backdrop should be a fabulous car. So, he asked a great client of his to loan us his Rolls Royce Dawn Black Badge and he was happy to oblige.
Isn’t that the most brilliant backdrop for a son like mine?!? The kids really had a lot of fun with it!
Shew! That was a big post but, hopefully, you got some good ideas if you have a graduation party to host in the future. It is so surreal that our son has wrapped up high school and is moving onto college. He is a kind and gentle soul that I miss beyond words. If you would like to see the details of his 18th birthday dinner party, click HERE.
I would love any advice you have as to how to deal with this difficult but exciting transition. I can use all the help I can get!
All photos are by Jennifer Rettig of Rettig+Co.
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