Planning a After Grad Party (Senior All Nighter)
(Updated January, 2023) For about 3 weeks in May and into June every year, ACP Entertainment services over 20 post-graduation parties, or was we call them “Senior All Nighters.” We see the process of planning these all night parties usually take anywhere from 10 to 13 months in total with parents from the incoming senior class usually attending the previous class’ party. Sometimes those incoming senior parents are heavily involved with setting up the event on the day of so the current senior parents enjoy the graduation ceremony.
As you begin to plan your event, there is no doubt that there are many things to think about! Some of the biggest things to consider is 1) Where your event is going to be held, 2) What your budget will be, 3) What food offerings you plan to have and 4) What entertainment do you plan to bring in? We’re going to breakdown some explanations and suggestions for those consideration points.
The very first question we will ask you is “What is your venue?” Most of the time that question is met with hesitation since the venue location is a secret. Trust us, we know it’s a secret and it goes without saying. However, we really need to know your venue because the space that each venue has for entertainment and activities varies. For example, we know that the YMCA downtown Grand Rapids has their gyms on the 3rd floor and the only way to get to them is via stairs or a regular elevator. This limits what we can bring to that venue because everything must fit into an elevator or be light enough to carry up the stairs. In the same matter, GVSUs fieldhouse has a large garage door that we can load everything into. We can even set up our adventure or carnival rides in the fieldhouse.
You’ll also want to take into consideration what the venue itself has to offer in terms of activities. For example, Davenport University has an indoor rock climbing wall that can be used but no pool, while the SpartanNash YMCA has a pool but no rock climbing. Also, does the venue offer a kitchen that you can use? Do they require you to use their food services? Do they allow food to be brought in at all? Also, what will the venue allow in terms of games and attractions? For example, some venues will not allow casino games.
Searching for a venue can be difficult and daunting, so we’ve compiled a list of venues that have previously hosted grad bash parties. To see the list, scroll to the bottom of this blog post.
The second question we will most likely ask you when calling to book your senior all-nighter is, “what’s your budget?” We aren’t asking this to get every last dollar in your budget, we’re asking to get an idea as to what you are working with. Is your budget $3,000 where you’d be looking for a couple/few attractions or is it $10,000 where may want to bring in a dozen or more attractions and entertainers? Come to us with your vision of what you’d like to do but make sure to have your budget numbers in mind. This helps us determine what we can do within those guidelines.
Another thing to take into consideration with budgeting is the different areas in which you plan to spend your budget dollars. Budget line items to consider would be venue, food, prizes, entertainment, decorations and miscellaneous. Always put a little flex room in your budget for the little things that are easily forgotten!
The number one thing that your graduates are thinking about after graduation is, “WHERE’S THE FOOD?!” So what should you do? You definitely want to have a main meal at the beginning of the evening and then snacks throughout the night. Some events will opt to have a breakfast at the end of the night, however that’s not often recommended. They just want to go home after a long fun night, plus they will be full on snacks and sugar!
The big deal for food is the main dinner and there’s many different ways to provide food to the graduates after their graduation ceremony. One option is to go to a restaurant after graduation and before the entertainment venue. If you decide to go this route, you must pre-arrange this with the specific restaurant to make sure they have the seating for your group. Most of the time you can work out a special deal for the group to eat at the restaurant as well. Another option is to have a buffet line (or just pizza and sides) at your venue. A somewhat wide selection is recommended because even graduated high school seniors can be picky eaters.
Attractions & Entertainment
Ahhh our favorite part, and what we’re the best at-the fun stuff! There are three main categories for the entertainment; activities, novelty and live entertainment.
Activities include inflatables, rides and games. Our most popular inflatables for post grad parties are in our inflatable interactive and obstacle course categories. Here’s what we most recommend: J-Course, Zap a Mole, Human Foosball, Speed of Light, Hippo Chow Down, Leaps and Bounds, Shooting Stars, Inflatable Axe Throwing and Bobbing for Apples.
While most venues can’t fit them inside, carnival and adventure rides can easily be placed just outside of the venue and make a big impact on your event! Some of our favorite rides for all-nighters are mechanical bulls, the mechanical unicorn, Ballistic, Mind Winder, Hypnotic and the Velocity Super Slide. The mechanical bull takes the cake-by far-for the most popular ride at all night parties!
The last activity category is games which is non-inflatable and non-take away (meaning they can’t take something from the experience). Our top games for all-nighters are our Wacky Trikes, Strike a Light, Chaos!, Bounce-a-Ball, 4 in a Row, and casino games like Blackjack and Poker. Regarding casino games, they are for recreational play only and no prizes or money can be given away at the table or in result of game play.
Novelty Entertainment consists of something that results in a take away for the grads. Our most popular novelty options include our Photo Booth, Wax Hands, Caricature Artist, Glitter Tattoos and make your own Flip Books. Most of these options are staples for senior all night parties, however they commonly have a lower throughput per hour than other attractions.
Live Entertainment is often performers like a Magician, Hypnotist, Stilt Walkers and Jugglers. The most common live entertainment at a grad bash party is a hypnotist. Hypnotists are usually the finale of the evening but it doesn’t have to be that way! A common misconception is that the kids have to be tired in order for hypnosis to work-not true! It’s good to have the hypnotist show either before or after the main activities but not right in the middle.
A couple other considerations for your senior all-nighter event:
- The entertainment part of the night should be no more than 4 hours. Any more than 4 hours will be a waste of your fundraising dollars. After 4 hours of playing in the middle of the night, the grads are exhausted and are more interested in sleeping than playing games.
- Give them lots of options and have a loose schedule! Your graduating class will be very diverse in their interests. When planning your event, provide a wide variety of activities for them to do and know that not everyone will want to partake in each activity. Also, keep a limited schedule. This is their party and they just want to have fun, not be managed by a strict agenda. Now obviously there has to be some sort of schedule, but keep the time slots down as much as possible.
- Lately it’s been a common trend to have food trucks provide all of the food for post grad events. While this is a neat idea, you have to have a lot of food trucks in order to make this work efficiently. For an attendance of around 200, you need at least 4 food trucks in order for them to keep up with the demand of hungry teenagers. We highly recommend having a buffet line of some sort for your main food and then bring in food trucks as a source for snacks or as a secondary source of main food. We promise, we aren’t hating on food trucks, we love them too!
We hope that helps a little bit with your planning! If you have any questions or would like to start planning your all night party, give our team a call and we’d be more than happy to help. As promised, here is a list of (some not all) venues in the West Michigan area in which all-nighters can be, and have been in the past, held. Check them out!
- 3 Mile Project
- Davenport University
- Grand Valley State University Fieldhouse
- Grand Rapids YMCA
- Mary Free Bed YMCA
- SpartanNash YMCA
- Wolverine Worldwide YMCA
- MVP Rockford
- MVP Sportsplex Burton
- MVP Crahen
- Calvin College Fieldhouse
- AJ’s Family Fun Center
- The Pinnacle Center
- The Dome Sports Center
- Battle GR