June 19, 2017

Hooray! Brandon's Graduation Party

Over the weekend we threw a party in honor of Brandon's recent college graduation. It was such a fun day and big milestone — and today we're rounding up some of our favorite snaps from the occasion if you'd like to come take a look...
It had been some time since we'd opened up the house for a large gathering, and we were so pleased to welcome so many of our family, friends and their kids over to help celebrate and generally let loose a bit. The railroad or row style format of our home is suited well for big gatherings since it can naturally serve different zones that flow into one another — we found folks mainly grouping in the family room, kitchen, back dining room and back patio...and of course the little ones were exploring all over the place!

We used our favorite photo from Brandon's commencement as the starting design for the party invitations. After a quick search for graduation photo invitations on Etsy, I stumbled across the above design by Rock Paper Dove. I liked it because it was a flat card, kept the focus on the photo and allowed for quick customization on the back, which we filled with the details for a casual backyard BBQ.

Just as we did with Stephanie's graduation party, we kept a general decorating theme of purple and gold, signifying the JMU (Go Duuuuukes) colors. From the table decor and cutlery to the fresh loose flowers I picked up that morning from the flower market, everything had a little touches of yellows and purples, which helped tie all the different components together.

We framed Brandon's diploma and displayed it at the front entry paired with flowers — we thought it was a sweet first welcome and guests ended up using this area as a natural place to drop the cards and gifts they'd brought along.

Perhaps you're noticing the "personalized floral stick" from the arrangement above? Call it my sense of humor or a step-mom gone way too far, but I crafted a handful of decorations like these party sticks from the excess invitations we'd ordered and scattered them around in vases, front planters and even a handful in a mason jar for folks to grab from.

When I was making these, I felt like I was running the risk of being a total cheeseball but one I was willing to take (no shame here)! To my delight, they ended up being a big HIT among Brandon, his friends and all the little kids who asked to take them home as party favors.

Another decoration trick I'm loving right now are all the metallic balloon banner kits out right now (tons of great options on both Etsy & Amazon). They make such a big visual statement, are budget-friendly and are so easy to assemble. In the past you may know I've been a fan of the oversized letters and numbers that fill with helium (examples here, here, here), but I'm telling you — these new balloon kits make my heart flutter.

They come in all sorts of pre-made configurations for all types of parties and the best part is they require zero helium, which means no trip to the party store to pay to have them filled (or chance popping them on the car ride home). They literally took minutes to set up and string on the garlands, all using a little straw to fill each balloon with air that is basically foolproof — once you blow the air in through the straw, it doesn't come back out between breaths; once full you just pull the straw out, the balloon self seals and you move onto the next one.

The entire garland is so lightweight, which make them uncomplicated to hang and display anywhere you choose. We bought a multi-pack of these clear miniature Command decorating hooks that simply stick to the wall in a concealed way and can be removed once the party is over, leaving no marks.

...and yes, I went there by making a garland of Brandon's faces to hang between the two banners. Guys, I couldn't help it. Plus, it made for a memorable and personalized backdrop that made everyone smile.

On a side note, you may have noticed we've changed up the paint color and drapes in our back dining space. Things are feeling much lighter and brighter in here since (see the before in this post).

We'd decided on a backyard BBQ for the party menu — in the 2 days leading up to Saturday, Tim slow smoked an entire pork butt, breaking it down into pulled pork, and I made a batch of mac n' cheese using this recipe from Taste of Home built especially for those trying to feed a crowd. We filled in the rest of the table spread with all the other BBQ essentials — coleslaw, Carol's deviled eggs and orzo salad, chips, my favorite watermelon & feta recipe and Tim's homemade BBQ sauce.

For dessert, we'd ordered a sheet cake that I finished with a homemade topper to make it a bit more festive. I snapped a few shots while putting it together, so look for the tutorial here on the blog coming soon.

The best part? Catching up with so many of our friends and family in honor of Brandon's achievements. We couldn't be prouder of him, or happier to see all of his friends in our home enjoying post-grad life.

*This post includes some affiliate links to products we use and love

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