The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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Trust Ohio State alumni association event planners to give great advice on throwing a fabulous party.

Jo McCulty

Pro tips for planning a graduation party

Our alumni association’s event planners envision and execute hundreds of gatherings each year — from soirees to shindigs and tailgates to tapas tastings. Here are some tips to pull off a graduation party guests will remember and rave about long after your honoree has moved on to the next great thing.

Our alumni association’s event planners envision and execute hundreds of gatherings each year — from soirees to shindigs and tailgates to tapas tastings. Here are some tips to pull off a graduation party guests will remember and rave about long after your honoree has moved on to the next great thing.

Start early


The more time you have to think and work through details, the smoother things will go and the lower your stress — especially during the busy graduation season, when venues and vendors are in high demand.

2

Remain flexible


No matter how much time you put into planning, things rarely go exactly as you expect. If you go in knowing things will change, you’ll handle it better when they do.

3

Know your budget


Determine what you’re comfortable spending to help guide your decision-making, and consider hidden costs. Weigh cost-saving approaches such as joining forces with others who are celebrating graduations about the same time.

4

Time it right


It’s a busy season, especially for graduates. You’ll maximize attendance if the date of your party is different from others. If the time you choose falls over a meal period, plan your menu accordingly.

5

Get ready for rain


When organizing events for Ohio State, our team never fails to have a Plan B — and often C, D and E! Outdoor events should always take into account the possibility of inclement weather.

6

Communicate clearly


Make your invitation or website as detailed as you can to reduce phone calls, texts and emails in the days leading up to your party. Common questions involve attire, parking, accessibility, food and beverages.

7

Be allergy aware


Allergies are increasingly common. To make all of your guests feel comfortable, build a menu that accommodates vegetarians, vegans and people following gluten-free, dairy-free or nut-free diets.

8

Personalize it


Consider serving the guest of honor’s favorite foods, decorating in school colors and displaying photos and other memorabilia. Custom cookies and other sweets (maybe a candy buffet in school colors?) are always a hit.

9

Liven things up


Games and other interactive experiences promote mingling and keep the energy up. Consider a game revolving around your grad and his or her past or future school. Or how about a photo booth with school-oriented props?

10

Accept help


Graduation parties can take a village. Expand your team to reliable friends and family members, involve them as early as possible and delegate — so you can enjoy the celebration, too. You’ve earned it.


Q&A with alumni association party planners

Name the event scenario, good or bad, and they've probably been there.
What’s your favorite party story?

“Working with Archie Griffin is always a pleasure, but I'll never forget a moment during our welcome reception for the 2014 season’s national championship celebration. I had to pull him away from a line of people waiting to meet him in order to get him to his next event. He whispered to me to get all of the children out of line to come meet him. No matter how little time we have or how rushed we are to get to the next event, Archie always finds time for the kids.”

Samantha Frost


“We hosted an event for a generous family to express thanks for their continued support. When they arrived, they surprised us with a gift of smoked salmon. We worked with our caterer, who was able to create a new dish within 10 minutes, and shared the salmon with everyone at the event!”

Nicole McCoy

What was your biggest party faux pas?

“I once planned a wedding at which the tent collapsed onto the tables (already set up with centerpieces and place settings) just hours before the wedding — and minutes before the bride was to arrive for photos with the tent as a backdrop. Luckily, I got to her bridesmaids in time, and they convinced her to take the photos in a position where she wouldn’t see the tent fiasco. She didn’t find out about the mishap until the end of the evening. Phew!”

Samantha Frost


“Never (ever) bet on weather when planning an outdoor party! Even if you are 99.9 percent sure the weather will be wonderful, always have a backup plan. I once planned a wedding and didn’t rent sides for the tent. The random wind storm was no fun!”

Shannon Camerucci

And a party success?

“For the groundbreaking of a College of Veterinary Medicine building expansion, we wanted a creative approach to a ceremonial dig. We had a K-9 from the Ohio State Police Division that had been treated by the vet med hospital join the shovel-toting participants. People loved it!”

Samantha Frost

What was the worst food you ever served?

“Sausage gravy was accidentally served as the queso on my nacho bar. Oops!”

Michaela Schaefer


“Soggy grilled cheese.”

Lauren Lammers

And the best food?

“Bacon wrapped scallops are a winner for almost any party.”

Shannon Camerucci


“Cake pops! Bite-sized, and they can be decorated in fun ways.”

Michaela Schaefer


“Carbonated fruit, a fun twist on an old classic. Combine dry ice and fruit, and you get fun, fizzy fruit!”

Nicole McCoy