Entertaining Boston Style: Graduation Party Ideas

The great thing about a graduation party is that it is all about the individual who is being celebrated. Everything from their favorite foods, to their favorite colors, games, ice cream flavors are used to come up with a theme. Over the years I’ve probably catered a few hundred graduation parties and the one underlying theme they all share is a sense of fun; that obscure thing that not a lot of 50 something’s think enough about in their daily life. OK, maybe just me then. All jesting aside, whether it’s a middle school, high-school, college or grad school celebration, a sense of fun is a must. Centerpieces don’t have to be typical floral vases. You could collect the graduate’s favorite things, (books, cd’s, movies, games, sports) and make a montage of all of these items for the buffet centerpiece or individually on guest tables.

Depending on where the graduate is now heading, (art school, law school, nursing school) you could make invitations or party favors that are “tongue n’ cheek”, like prescription bottles filled with m&m’s for someone going to nursing school, or a map invitation for the graduate heading overseas for some travel. Or printable flags noting the next school they are headed to; graduation caps on cupcakes. So many ideas come to mind.

All accomplished by thinking out of the box especially with your food choices- think a brunch hour Boston College graduation starting off with a Crepes station (ham & gruyere; asparagus & brie; artichokes & goat cheese); a frisee aux lardons salad; along with fruit smoothies at the bar(tropical mango, passion fruit, pineapple, coconut; strawberry, banana) and ending with dessert crepes (berries and mascarpone) and a giant strawberry shortcake.

Or a casual pool party for a middle school graduation we did last year- serving a Kebab Station of Chicken satays with peanut sauce, teriyaki beef skewers with spicy mustard, coconut shrimp with pineapple mango sauce tortellini pesto skewers with roasted peppers and grilled veggie skewers with roasted garlic aioli.

Other stationary items served were mini beef sliders with cheddar and caramelized onions, California Maki, Quesadillas and a make your own bruschetta with crostini’s, and tomato, mozzarella and basil. Colorful linens, balloons and a candy station made this a FUN party for a group of girls graduating from Ten Acre Country Day School in Wellesley.

One of my favorite graduation parties was for a teenage foodie and his large group of international friends. We had a Fiesta station with black bean and chicken empanadas, vegetarian enchiladas, chipotle rubbed pulled pork with warm flour tortillas, mango, peppers and tomatillo salsa, seasoned Mexican rice, Tomato, avocado and corn Salad with a cilantro lime vinaigrette, chips and salsa.

Passed hors d’oeuvres of Chilled Gazpacho Soup Sips with Tostones, Chile crusted Jumbo Shrimp with Avocado Mango salsa, grilled flatbread with chorizo, mushrooms and queso blanco.

We served Virgin Mojito’s which consisted of a sweetened lemon, lime beverage with sprigs of mint, club soda and sugar cane skewers and Guava coolers combining cranberry, guava juices with sprigs of mint.

A Harvard graduation was more formal; tented yard, luminaria’s lining the path to it, crimson and white linens, cocktail and high-top tables. We served mini Kobe beef burgers, asparagus “soup sips” with creme fraiche; jumbo shrimp with preserved lemon wrapped in phyllo. Stations included a Seafood Station with Lobster rolls, jumbo shrimp cocktail, clams casino and a big pot of our delicious clam chowder.

A New England station showcased sliced sirloin with rolls, caramelized onions and horseradish cream; BBQ Chicken wings, Boston baked beans, ole’ fashioned potato and egg salad, corn on the cobb and coleslaw.

A Napa Picnic display featured a huge wheel of triple creme cheese, surrounded by artisan breads, flavored dipping oils, marinated artichokes, olives, mushrooms and roasted peppers. Skewers of grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil, whole heads of roasted garlic for spreading on toasts, a white bean dip and sliced soppressata.

A large carrot cake, (the graduate’s favorite!) displayed the school’s coat of arms and colors.
Another graduate wanted her favorite foods- burgers and dogs with all the fixins’, barbecued chicken (on the bone of course), homemade potato chips, cole slaw, ceasar calad and a graduation cake.

A graduate from the Winsor School took it way out and we served passed hors d’oeuvres and several stations- a Mexican station, Mediterranean station, a Kebab station, a Picnic Station complete with braised pork bbq, cucumber slaw, tiny rolls, fried chicken and coleslaw rolls, mini lobster rolls, potato salad, four bean salad and grilled corn salad. Just when I thought they would say, “and a graduation cake”, they added to all this an Ice Cream Sundae Bar, assorted mini pastries, a bowl of fresh berries with creme anglaise and A GRADUATION CAKE!
All in all, your graduation celebration can be as simple as burgers and dogs or all out with ethnic stations or maybe even a dessert party. Now that is something I haven’t done in a while. Just serve dessert- luscious cakes, cupcakes, sundaes, pie and ice cream in pint bakers jars. Whatever your graduate wants, within reason.
If you want to brainstorm some ideas with me, feel free to call my office anytime. Susan @ 617-244-4324.


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