They did it! Now it’s time to honor your graduates with a celebration worthy of all they’ve accomplished in the Hudson Valley.
Sprinkling school colors into the décor and serving fun and unfussy food are no brainers, but there are many more ways to inject extra fun into your event. We asked Hudson Valley caterer Agnes Devereux, owner of Agnes Devereux Catering in Staatsburg, to share tips for throwing a memorable fete.
Don’t stress about serving big, impressive entrées. Small bites are not only visually appealing, but they’re much easier for you to prepare and for your guests to nosh on while they socialize. One idea is to set up a crostini station with baguette slices and an assortment of toppings like tomato, apple, or red onion jam, and a variety of cheeses, so guests can build their own bites. (Devereux recommends local cheese mongers McGrath Cheese Company in Hudson, Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, and Chaseholm Farms in Pine Plains.) Or stick with a traditional charcuterie board—but avoid the symmetry of straight lines of cheese and crackers. “It should look like a still life,” says Devereux. She recommends starting with a big chunk of cheese, with some smaller pieces spilling out from it, surrounded by meats and perhaps berries and nuts.
Turn to TikTok.
The social media site has a reputation for curating trendy and fun recipes. So, if grain bowls aren’t your thing, you’re bound to find inspiration on the app. “There are so many recipes on there that anyone can make, and they couldn’t be simpler,” says Devereux, who counts @iamtabithabrown, @poppycooks, @justine_snacks, and @alexandraskitchen among her favorite accounts.
Make the sweets special.
Espresso is having a moment, according to Devereux, who recommends serving tiramisu in individual cups. “And macarons have supplanted cupcakes, thank goodness. They’re so pretty and delicious. You can even find vegan versions that are excellent.” Devereux likes Sweet Maresa’s in Kingston or Trés Bon Macaron in Poughkeepsie. Tip: Customize the cookies with your school colors.
Play super-sized games.
For a backyard bash, level up on the lawn games by spray painting a checkerboard on your turf (use paint that’s formulated for grass so you don’t ruin it) and give guests black and red symbols to wear as they act as pieces. (Or go bold with Twister dots and have a laugh while attendees squirm in awkward positions.) You can also DIY a cornhole board which provides hours of fun with little effort. The board and bean bags are another opportunity to sneak in those school colors.
Set up a table with Polaroid cameras and a memory book. Ask guests to take pics throughout the party and then use clothespins and string to hang the snaps as they develop for a live documentation of your event. Encourage guests to write their favorite high school or college memory or good wishes for the graduate in the book. When the party is over, add the photos to the book and you’ll have a wonderful keepsake for the grad.
Go for bowls.
When you have a party with a wide range of ages, build-your-own entrées work for everyone. Although you can’t go wrong with tacos and fixings, Devereux recommends the trendier option of grain bowls. “Young people will eat anything in a bowl. It’s more interesting that way,” says Devereux. Set up a make-your-own table with different kinds of grain bases (rice, quinoa, bulgur), proteins (chicken, beef, tofu), and plenty of veggies and condiments.
Serve drinks that work with or without alcohol.
Keep the refreshments light (think lemonade with elderflower and raspberries), and easily upgrade them with vodka, tequila, or gin for the over-21 crowd. If you’re serving wine on a warm day, fill ice trays with white and rosé, then use the cubes to keep each pour at the proper temperature.