So far in this series I have covered the overall planning of the party, the food plan and the drinks. In this post I am going to talk about tables, chairs and tents. The goal here is to make your guests comfortable, and give them all places to sit so they can eat, talk and visit.
Chances are you do not have enough tables and chairs for all of your party guests to sit and eat. If you want to save money, you can call around to friends who may have some to loan. You will be buying yourself a lot of work to gather, track, clean and return them. A better way to go is to rent them. Ask around to others who have hosted parties to find the best alternative in your area. We found an outfit that would drop off the number of tables and chairs we needed, neatly stacked in the yard. When the party was done, we simply stacked them back up and a truck came the next day to retrieve them.
Typically the tables you rent will have seen better days. You will most definitely want to invest in a few rolls of table cover to make them look more presentable. Our four children all graduated from the same High School, so we went with their school colors (we also used those colors for balloons in the decorations as well).
We found tents to be an essential part of our yard layout for the party. Tents provide shade in the sunshine, and coverage if it should rain. Once again, you can rent tents, just as you do chairs. What you will get will be large, circus-looking tents. They are affordable, and effective. If there is an option for sides on the tent that you can put on or take down yourself, you will want them. If things should get windy, adding panels along one side of the tent will break the wind without raising the temperature too high.
In our case, we owned two 10-foot by 20-foot free standing tents. We originally purchased them when we were Scout leaders. Today you can find them at many discount stores where they are sold as car ports, or protective canopies. I did a quick comparison of pricing for both rented, and purchased tents. For the 10’ X 20’ size, the prices are very similar. The rental tents are a bit more fancy, and they come with the advantage of someone else doing the set up. But, if you plan to have several parties (if this is your oldest of several children for instance), and you have a place to store them, buying a couple of tents for this purpose can save money in the long run.
We have owned ours for over 10 years, and we get usage out of them every summer either for ourselves, or friends who are having parties. As I said, it might not be what you want to do, but it is worth a look.
Another tent option which has become popular in recent years is the pop up, or EZ-Up brand of tents. These are usually 10’ x 10’ in size. Two advantages of these are that they are very easy to put up, and store in a relatively small space. A disadvantage is the cost. My experience is that they cost about four times as much per square foot as the car port style. If you know someone who has a couple of them available, or if you have a lot of usage in mind, they are an option as well.
Games and Activities . As I have said in previous parts of this series, some of your guests will be sticking around for a long portion of your party. While sitting under the tent having some food, drink, and conversation is fun, your guests will likely get bored if that’s all you have to offer. Here are some ideas for games that stand the test of time, and can appeal to a wide range of guests
Baggo or Corn Hole. When I was a child, every outdoor party I attended included a game of Jarts. If you aren’t familiar with this outlawed game of the 1970s, imagine having a set of giant, weighted, sharpened darts that are thrown 20 feet through the air to stick in the ground in or near a plastic ring, behind which are your partner, and opponent’s partner. These deadly airborn missiles were a staple of parties in those days, that has thankfully (mostly) been eradicated.
Today baggo or corn hole has replaced Jarts as the tossing game of choice. If you don’t own a set, you can probably borrow one. They are inexpensive, so buying one isn’t out of the question either. One thing about this game is that there are as many ways to play it as there are people who own a set. At our last party, I actually printed up the “house rules” and posted them near the game. In addition to feeding my control-freak nature, this also served to eliminate arguments about the rules.
Bocce or Lawn Bowling If you have the space, and have the balls to do it, these can be fun games that anyone can enjoy. If your family enjoys this game, chances are there are sets to be borrowed.
Volley ball. This is another staple of graduation parties. If you have the space, setting up a court is a lot of fun. Some of the best memories of our parties centered around playing a spirited game of volleyball.
Cards. We had a few decks of cards around for people to enjoy. Here in Michigan (and other places), euchre is a popular game. Having decks of cards out encourages people to enjoy the day
Activities for Children. I have seen many things here from ring toss games, to bubble blowing. There is a very high likelihood that the under-ten crowd will be at your party. Make sure you have things for them to do that will keep them occupied and let them have a lot of fun.
Covering your guests and providing them a place to sit means that they will be comfortable while they eat drink and have fun at your party. Having some games for them to enjoy means they will maximize their fun. In the next installment we will talk about how to have a killer play list of music to entertain them while they are at your party.