Phillip finished grad school, after seven years of working full time and taking classes part-time. So we needed to have a party.
We ended up reserving space in a restaurant near where the commencement ceremony was, so friends and family could just go there directly afterward. I wanted to add some festive touches but knew I’d have little to no time to decorate before people got there. (It turned out to be the latter.)
I kept it super simple with a few school-themed items that I could set up in a flash – all using things I had on hand.
How I made the book page pennants:
1. Ripped out several pages of a ridiculous conspiracy theory novel that I had picked up from free bin outside Changing Hands. (I mean, I’m not going to cut up a good book!)
2. Found the center of the page by folding it in half, only creasing the very bottom of it and making a mark. You could also actually measure and/or use a template if you’re into precision.
3. Made a cut from the top right corner of the page to my center mark. Then repeated from the top left.
What I wish I would’ve done: cut from the top right and left margins of the page instead, so that the text would run all the way to the edge.
4. Punched a couple holes near the top of each pennant.
Then I just threaded some bakers’ twine through the holes and added the tassels.
In keeping with the graduation theme, I made paper tassels for each end of the garland, loosely based on instructions I found on A Subtle Revelry.
Here’s how I adapted the project:
- Cut about 4 thin strips of paper. (These don’t need to be the same width – or even cut straight.)
- Folded over 3 of the strips, leaving a loop at the top. I made mine with a smaller loop and longer “tails” than the ones in the tassel tutorial, because I wanted the proportions more like the tassel on a graduation cap.
- Fanned out the strips just a bit.
- Stapled them in place.
- Covered the staple by winding that last paper strip around the tassel and securing it with double stick tape.
- Added a tassel to each side of the garland by threading the baker’s twine through the top loop.
What Didn’t Work…
I thought about adding some color with watercolors. However, my test pages totally curled up, even when I used the smallest amount of water possible or painted just part of the page.
Another thing that could’ve been cool was using a book or notes from Phillip’s classes. But he didn’t have anything like that around – at least nothing that he was willing to sacrifice to the craft gods.
So I went with the conspiracy book, because I liked the page size.
I tried to make sure there wasn’t any murder on the pages I used, but it was hard to avoid. And there were still black helicopters and government officials typing things out on Blackberries – not very festive or on theme.
I hoped people would see it as decor and not try to read it.
No such luck.
One family member said they had been trying to figure out if the pages had some significance or clues. (Nope.) Another one asked me what the garland spelled. (Nothing.) It took me awhile to convince her that what she thought were large letters were actually backwards chapter numbers showing through some of the backlit pages.
I obviously should have come up with more for people to do.
What Worked (Mostly): The Decoration Bag
I loaded up a large ziploc bag with everything I (or whoever) would need to set up the decorations at the restaurant:
- Chalkboard sign with “Phillip’s grad party!” already written on it – with chalk markers, so it wouldn’t smear.
- A jar for markers and pens that had a chalkboard label on the front. I wrote “Please sign the program” on it with a little arrow pointing down.
- Chalk markers in case one of my signs needed a touch-up.
- Regular markers and pens, so people could sign the commencement ceremony program like a yearbook. These were just regular kids’ markers you’d find in the back-to-school aisle.
- A wooden ruler to hold the program open. (Also because it was cute and school-y.)
- The garland, carefully folded and placed between things so it wouldn’t get crunched up.
- Washi tape to hang the garland.
- This Yoobi kit in case we required a tiny stapler or scotch tape for some reason.
I had hoped to hand the bag off to my parents, who were designated to get the party started, since I guessed (correcty) that Phillip and I wouldn’t be able to leave the place where the ceremony was and get over there right away. But they were so focused on their mission that they left before I could give them the Decoration Bag.
So I set things up halfway through the party. Less than ideal, but that’s life.
At least having everything in one bag meant I could get it done in record time. And at least the guests didn’t have to wait on the food.
– More info on DIY party decor –
- DIY pennant banner and template
- Book page garland
- Colorful lampshade and tassel tutorial
- Tassel garland and invitations
- Upcycled decorations from book pages, etc.