Catering & Serving Supplies
While hiring a caterer for your graduation party is often the easiest route to go it can also be the most expensive. As a result, many people choose to cater all or some of their party themselves.
Some people do everything themselves - find tables & chairs from family & friends, set up the party, prepare & cook the food, serve the food, clean up, etc. While this may be the cheapest option it will also be the most work and take the most planning.
Other people do some of the catering work themselves and hire out the rest. For example, they may purchase their food from a local caterer but serve it themselves. Or they may rent tables and chairs but prepare and serve all the food themselves.
Whatever you choose to do is perfectly fine. Your decision, however, should take into account your budget, what you are comfortable doing yourself (if you've never cooked for 100 people this might not be the time to start), the facilities that are available to you (if you prepare the food yourself do you have the space to store it), how much help is available to you (do you have friends or family who will help you prepare, cook, store or serve).
Online party stores and local party stores have lots of catering supplies if you are doing some or all of the catering yourself. Everything from plates & cups to hostess trays to serving spoons to folding chair covers. Shop around for the best prices and, if you plan early enough, you can shop for sales and promotions.
Keeping Hot Food Hot
Keeping hot food hot is very important and can be a challenge unless you have some helpful equipment.
Crock pots, warming trays, electric frying pans and chafing dishes can all be used to keep hot foods hot. But make sure you locate your serving table near outlets so you can plug them in. And make sure the outlet(s) can handle the number of electrical appliances you need. The last thing you want on the day of your party is a blown fuse.
You may be able to borrow enough crock pots, chafing dishes, etc. from friends or family. But if not, consider buying them or renting them from your local rental company.
Disposable chafing dishes can be purchased at your local party store or at online party stores or you can buy more expensive sturdier ones at your local kitchenware store.
When serving hot food, serve small quantities at a time and restock or refresh often. Keep extra food warm in your oven in disposable foil containers. Top up your crock pots and chafing dishes as required.
If you're party is a barbeque theme use two (or more) barbeques. Use one (or more) for cooking and use a separate barbeque to keep the cooked food warm. Some people pre-cook their burgers and hot dogs so all they have to do during the party is heat them up.
Keeping Cold Food & Beverages Cold
Keeping cold food cold is just as important as keeping hot food hot.
The key to this is to not put everything out at the same time. Serve small quantities and keep refreshing platters and bowls often.
To keep food platters and bowls cold, buy kiddie wading pools at your local department or toy store and fill them with ice. Set the bowls and platters on top. Of course, you'll need to be careful that when the ice melts your platters don't slip below the water. If you're serving your food outside, make sure it's placed in the shade and not in the sun.
Instead of using wading pools you can buy buy inflatable themed coolers like the sombrero on the right at online party stores or your local party store. Just make sure they're big enough to hold your serving dishes. Large, sturdy ice tables can also be rented at your local party rental store.
Serving Dishes & Tableware
You may have enough serving dishes already or you may be able to borrow lots from family and friends. But if you can't or if you don't want to worry about breaking Aunt Betty's crystal bowl then you can buy sturdy plastic serving trays, bowls and spoons from your local party store or an online party store.
Use disposable tableware such as plates, utensils and cups. Online party stores or your local party store have lots of choices - many different colors (think high school or college colors), difference sizes and themed tableware. Don't even think about providing non-disposable tableware. It's not worth the time or effort unless you're having a very small, sit-down style celebration.
Table Covers & Skirting and Chair Covers
A quick and inexpensive way to make your party area festive is to use colored table cloths and skirting and to cover your fold up chairs.
For a more personal touch use your grad's high school or college colors.
For the tables guests will be sitting at, most people use table covers only. And for "special" tables like the gift table or the table(s) you use for your tribute to the grad use table covers and/or table skirting.
Plastic colored table covers and skirting can be purchased at your local party store or at an online party store. Most stores have a variety of colors and sizes to choose from.