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A graduation party to remember

After spending 12 or more years attending school, graduation can be a momentous event for students who are about to enter the "real world." A graduation party gives students a chance to celebrate the friendships they've made, the memories of the last several years and the opportunities to come.

The choices for graduation parties are virtually endless. One significant consideration is the date of the party. If you want your party to take place on your actual graduation date, then expect to be competing with other students -- some of whom may be your close friends. Unless you want few guests or you prefer to spend the entire day hopping from one party to another, it's best to come up with a date that will be yours and yours alone. Therefore, select a date that is one or two weeks after the big day so more friends will be able to attend.

When it comes to planning the party itself, there are many ways to set your event apart from others. Here are some ideas you can consider.

* Make it a red-carpet event. Think like Hollywood movie premieres and set up a red carpet in your yard or at the party venue, complete with a backdrop of photos, school logos, mascot pictures, and anything else that represents your school. As guests arrive, have them walk the red carpet while others snap photos of them for later use in scrapbooks.

* Recreate a movie-inspired graduation scene. Think about those classic teen movies that you love, and borrow ideas for your party theme from them. For example, if the carnival graduation party scene from "Grease" is your all-time favorite, plan a carnival-themed graduation party. There are many vendors who will rent inflatable moon bounces, amusement park rides and the like. Serve fair food, like corn dogs and funnel cakes.

* Host a club party. It's hard not to have fun at a party that focuses on dancing and snacking. Check with neighborhood dance clubs if they are open to off-hours private parties. Sometimes nontraditional party venues rent their spaces if they're guaranteed a certain amount of revenue. Find out whether they have a DJ on staff or you'll have to find someone to take care of the music and emcee the event.

* Do a classic beach party. While this party is dependent on the weather, there is something special about a beach party that stretches into the evening. Whether you choose to serve barbecue or seafood treats that seem like they were caught that day, a picturesque seaside location is all you need to create the right ambiance. Try to select a beach that has access to changing rooms so that guests can switch out of swimsuits later on if they desire. If you want to create a beach bonfire, be sure to check local ordinances to see if it's legal.

* Plan activities all guests will enjoy. If the party will include a mix of family and friends, select games that can appeal to different age groups. A variation on the newlywed game, in which guests have to answer questions about the grad to see how well they know him or her, can be a fun game.

* Select a meeting place and just have an easy pot luck party with fellow grads. Meet at a theme park, pool club, club, movie theater, or restaurant and employ a pay-your-way party concept. This way everyone will be together, and the party won't involve a lot of elaborate planning or expensive budget busting.