Graduation Parties in Lincoln, NE – 2019
Graduation marks the beginning of a new chapter, whether that means moving on to pursue a higher level of education or entering the workforce and embarking on a chosen career path. So, as our soon-to-be high school and college graduates prepare to answer the daunting question of “What’s next?”, we get to start preparing for their celebration.
As the friends and/or family of graduating students, we want to make this day special for them and everyone in attendance. From unique decorations that celebrate your accomplishments to delicious graduation party food, there are tons of fun ways to make your party stand out without breaking your budget! Inez Retnosari, general manager of Koen Japanese BBQ & Sushi, took some time to share a few tips with us for planning a great graduation party.
1. PHOTOS—One way to make your graduation party memorable is to have a photo station! Find a blank wall and grab some hats, feather boas, glasses, and other props from a party store. You can also use items that represent your specific school. Get friends and family together and start snapping!
2. A SOCIAL MEDIA HASHTAG—Make a great #hashtag to share with your guests when they upload pictures to social media. That way, you can find all of the photos from your party later!
3. A LOCAL CATERER OR RESTAURANT WITH GOOD FOOD—Whether it’s a high school or college graduation, choosing delicious graduation party food will help make your event memorable. Keep it local with a Lincoln caterer or restaurant that has cuisine and unique dishes your guests will love.
“Koen Japanese BBQ & Sushi restaurant offers different experience where you can grill your own foods on your own personal table,” Inez noted. “You can reserve a space at Koen Japanese BBQ & Sushi Restaurant! Enjoy your favorite BBQ items and discover authentic Japanese cuisine with our fantastic sushi rolls options. Koen also has many varieties of vegetarian and gluten free menu. We will guarantee to create a memorable experience on your graduation day! Call us to arrange which section you would like to reserve. We have two different sections: the sushi and the grill area. For both grill and sushi options, the grill would best fit. Knowing what section your group prefers helps our team accommodate you better.”
Another expert we heard from was Jayme Lowell with Venue Restaurant & Events. When we asked her what advice she had for someone planning a graduation party, her first response was to start thinking about it early! “May is an extremely busy month for catering and the rooms go very quickly for the dates surrounding the Lincoln high school and college graduations,” Jayme explained. “I would recommend nine months in advance to start looking at possible spaces. If you happen to be someone who calls too late and we are all booked up, we can always offer off-site catering options as well!”
“Venue makes it very easy to have an open house style graduation party in one of our private rooms,” Jayme continued on to say. “We take care of all the setup and tear down of the room. In addition, we also provide the tables, chairs, linens, and staff to serve you. All you have to do is show up and bring some decorations if you choose!”
Jayme also informed us that it has become very popular for people to want platters and light hours d’ oeuvres for graduation parties. “This works great as long as you order enough quantity!” Jayme warned. “We frequently hear that the client will not need much food because it is a come and go type of event. They assume the guests are attending multiple graduation parties that day, so their guests won’t eat very much at each party. Unfortunately, this assumption can result in disappointment when the food runs out quickly. I highly recommend ordering enough food for each person to fill their plate. Our sales staff can help you with ordering the appropriate quantities. A great alternative to light hors d’oeuvres is to serve a lunch buffet with wraps, sandwiches, pork sliders, or tacos. These options are less formal, but they still ensure everyone gets enough to eat! Lastly, don’t forget that you can order your cake or desserts through us too. We have an extremely talented pastry chef that can personalize cookies, cupcakes, or a cake to make your graduate feel special!”
Speaking of desserts and pastries, another local favorite source for sweets is Butterfly Bakery. We had the chance to talk to Katie O’Connor, cake designer and executive decorator for Butterfly Bakery. She talked to us about how people are starting to shift away from large sheet cakes that are intended to feed everyone. Instead, people are picking out really neat centerpiece cakes to display, while serving their guests supplemental desserts like cupcakes, brownies, truffles, cheesecake bites, etc.
“What makes our bakery special is that we can customize anything,” stated Katie. “I’ve worked with a lot of people who want me to create a centerpiece cake that represents the field of study they are graduating in or that illustrates their academic journey. For example, I make cakes for a lot of nursing school students that are 3D and have the white doctor’s coat, a stethoscope, and everything! We can even do the school crest or mascot on the cake. These cakes aren’t meant to feed everyone in attendance. They are more for show. That is why supplemental treats are popular—they are good portion sizes and offering a variety of different little desserts gives people more options. Graduation parties are about celebrating a life achievement so have fun with it!”
Having the option to customize an order is appreciated by almost everyone. People usually like having the flexibility to plan a party based on their specific wants and needs. We were happy to learn that Godfather’s Pizza in Lincoln can customize their product offerings to maximize any budget for the anticipated number of guests. Bruce Cannon, franchise owner of Godfather’s Pizza, noted that they will even delivery orders at the agreed upon time and place.
Bruce’s advice for planning a graduation party is to plan well in advance—establish a budget and stick to what has been pre-approved.
“Believe me, whoever is paying the tab doesn’t want a surprise,” Bruce commented. He also added that some of the more common requests people have for party planning are for very simple things that can make or break an event, such as plates, napkins, and utensils. “Who really wants to go shop for these items when they are included from Godfather’s Pizza?” Bruce questioned.
As we mentioned, there isn’t a “cookie cutter” formula for a graduation party…they come in different shapes and sizes. Your graduation party could even be at a bowling alley! This is not an uncommon route to take. Jennifer Davis-Korn with 48 Bowl, Inc. informed us that she has family rent out their facilities a lot for these type of events.
“If you’re planning a graduation party and want an activity that everyone can participate in and won’t get rained out, bowling is a great option,” Jennifer pointed out. “48 Bowl, Inc. centers, Parkway Lanes and Hollywood Bowl, offer two multi-use venues. Besides the lanes, we have event rooms that can be rent out to handle your displays and food and beverage service on-site. We have rates for groups large and small and can work within your budget to provide your group what it needs to make the celebration a success.”
Raising Cane’s also offers its own unique spin on grad parties. “Graduations are something to celebrate, and nothing says celebration like a tailgate from Raising Cane’s!” exclaimed Jennifer Jones with Raising Cane’s in Lincoln. “Whether you’re hosting a few people or the entire graduating class, Raising Cane’s is the perfect partner when deciding how you’re going to feed your guests. It’s also the best way to ensure you are spending time celebrating instead of being stuck in the kitchen. Our tailgates are a great option for any size graduation party. You can choose between 25, 50, 75, and 100 chicken finger tailgates, and can add on additional items from there. The good news is that each tailgate comes with our famous Cane’s Sauce, and sides such as our lightly buttered Texas Toast and creamy coleslaw. Freshly-squeezed lemonade and freshly-brewed sweet or unsweet tea can also be added to perfect any order.”
“Many people aren’t aware that we have a mobile food trailer that we can bring and set up on site,” Jennifer added. “So, if you’re hosting a party with several other families and you’re expecting hundreds of guests, our mobile food trailer may be the perfect option. It’s equipped with a full kitchen and crew members, and all your food will be cooked hot and fresh on site as needed throughout your event. If you’re not quite expecting hundreds, but want to keep food fresh, we can also divide up your order and set up different pick-up times throughout the day. It’s important to us that your guests have a great experience, and we’re happy to work with you on setting up different pick-up times so your chicken fingers stay hot and fresh for your guests. Outside of our tailgates, our other most popular item is our gift cards. Nothing says love like food, and giving your graduating senior a gift card from Raising Cane’s is the perfect way to show just how proud of them you are.”
There truly is nothing more important than having an adequate amount of good food for your guests. Christina LeFevre with MōMō Pizzeria & Ristorante emphasized this when we spoke to her. Christina is the events coordinator for MōMō and it’s her job to work with you one-on-one to take any stress off your shoulders so that you can relax and enjoy the party with your loved ones.“MōMō is truly unique because our food is made by hand, with love, and catered specifically to our guests’ needs and wants,” Christina remarked. “At MōMō, we honor the heart of the Italian spirit: family. For special parties such as graduations, birthdays, and receptions, we recommend a family-style dinner where guests can enjoy a plate overflowing with our delicious handmade pasta and wood-fired pizza. Appetizer buffets are also a popular option. Chef Jonah King makes stunning charcuterie boards and our crunchy, sweet and sour Brussel sprouts are out of this world! Don’t forget to save room for tiramisu! Plus, our private dining room is an intimate space with a beautiful ambiance…a perfect place to host a celebration with close family and friends.”
Christina brought up a good point…the venue. Where is the best place to hold the graduation party you are envisioning? Matthew Rogge, owner of Talon Room, talked to us about how planning a graduation party is accompanied by many decisions. Besides figuring out where the party should be hosted, Matthew listed off a few other good questions to ask. These included:
- Who is invited?
- What food should we serve?
- Should there be alcohol?
- Do we want to split the cost with another family or even multiple families?
According to Matthew, all of these questions can be solved with one simple strategy: Plan a budget and stick to it! “If you have a budget, the planning process becomes a lot easier,” Matthew noted.
“If your budget is smaller, plan it at your home or another graduate’s home if you are doing a joint party. A larger budget will allow you to host the party at a venue such as the Talon Room. Weekend dates tend to be more expensive and less likely to be available, so plan accordingly. As for the rest of the decisions, those will be made a lot easier if you pick the right venue. Our in-house event coordination and catering can help plan the party from start to finish. Save yourselves a headache and enjoy your happy moment with family and friends! The Talon Room can provide all necessary provisions for any style of party. Whether you host the party at the Talon Room or your home, our staff can provide food and beverage services to host the perfect graduation party.”
We asked Matthew what he finds to be the most common requests or most popular items during graduation season for receptions/parties/etc., and if there is anything that he’d recommend. He told us that questions about discounts are common.
“Unfortunately, graduation is a busy time of year for every business,” addressed Matthew. “If the first request you have is to have a service discounted, you should ask yourself if you are looking for services that over your budget. The best thing to do is to have a spending plan in place. This will help cut through the services that are over your budget. If you request a service without a listed price and say how much you are wanting to spend, the service provider will do a better job of guiding you in the proper direction without ever having to ask for a dreaded discount. Happy hunting!”
On the topic of venues for graduation parties, it wouldn’t feel right not to mention the Graduate Lincoln hotel located in the downtown Haymarket District. Not only is its name fitting, but since it is located near campus, it is an ideal destination for UNL grads to host their graduation party. Named with Husker pride, Graduate Lincoln’s Scarlet Ballroom is designed to host medium to large size groups. Boasting 3,000 square feet of space, this room can accommodate up to 210 people when rented fully and can also be divided into smaller rooms to create a more intimate environment for groups of 90 or less. This isn’t the only event space the hotel has, though. There are many options just like the ballroom, each one offering the perfect balance of cool, classy, and casual. Your guests will have fun just by being inside the Graduate Lincoln—the lively decor around every corner sparks attention and good vibes.
When we talked to Michelle Williams, the SouthPointe store manager for Sartor Hamann, she encouraged people to gear the party towards the graduate’s accomplishments and interests, rather than just doing school colors, mascots, etc. “Just because the person is graduating from a certain high school or college, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything in the school’s colors,” Michelle pointed out. “For example, if your student is big into nature or the outdoors, have an outdoor reception using natural colors and elements for the decorations.”
Michelle also noted that if you start planning months in advance for food, decorations, invitations, etc., you’ll have more time to research and come up with some really creative ideas. “Don’t be afraid to call on your friends and loved ones for help, either!” Michelle added.
Knowing what an impressive collection of jewelry and accessory pieces Sartor Hamann has to offer, we had to ask Michelle what kind of gifts she’d recommend for graduates. “A sentimental gift that will last forever (especially when given by a parent or grandparent) are my favorite,” Michelle told us. “A nice watch that can be engraved with the graduation date is a good gift idea for both men and women too. Or a timeless piece like diamond earrings or a diamond pendant…something that in 20 years from now, the graduate can still enjoy, and every time they wear it, they will remember that they were given it by mom and dad or grandma and grandpa. Sartor Hamann has wide variety of such gifts.”
“I think that part of what makes Sartor Hamann unique is the fact that we are family owned and have been in business for over 114 years,” Michelle concluded. “We take great pride in serving several generations of clients. It is quite possible that your grandmother’s graduation gift was purchased from us and now you are the one coming to our store to buy a graduation gift for your son or daughter. There have even been times when we have taken Grandma’s heirloom stone and custom designed it into a new yet incredibly sentimental piece for the soon-to-be graduate. Our award-winning custom design studio is amazing!”
Day-of style is important to consider, too. “Over the past ten years, we have seen a great deal of graduates (men) dressing up a little more than before,” revealed Gary Novotny with Gary Michaels Clothiers. “Young men have been choosing a nice pair of casual slacks and a sport shirt instead of a polo shirt and pair of walk shorts or denims. There has been an increase of sport coats, dress shirts, and neckwear seen at the commencement and graduation ceremonies. Keep in mind that this is a life time event and the photos taken will be looked at quite frequently, so dress up for the occasion. I have found that the college graduate has more concern about his attire than one graduating from high school. Those extra four years they…get it figured out and realize that job interviews are upon them and they need a suit. This is a way to ‘kill two birds with one stone,’ so too speak. That is also the case for a young man entering a fraternity who needs a suit for Monday night dinners. They purchase a suit early and also wear it for the graduation. We call this cost effective purchasing, buying for multiple events.”
We want to congratulate all our of readers who will be graduating in the year ahead, along with the friends and families of these graduates who have shown their support throughout the years.