Adding Color to Your Graduation Events

Graduation is an exciting time to celebrate accomplishment. Whether it is a sweet kindergarten event, a middle or high school graduation, or the completion of college, university or trade school, a colorful party and graduation gifts are usually part of the package.

The graduation tradition stretches back to the eleventh century and the medieval universities of Bologna, Italy and Paris, France. Apprentices who had successfully completed their course of study under recognized master tradesmen were officially recognized and given their own teaching status. By the 1300s, caps and gowns were included. The cap may have been an imitation of the hood attached to the capes worn by highly respected Druid priests. Soon the specific color of the cap or scarf and gown was used to identify the particular institution and the accompanying tassel signaled the specific academic achievement. The first baccalaureate service was conducted at Oxford University in England in 1432.

Until the 1950s, the traditional graduation cap and gown outfit in the United States was a somber and serious gray in color. However, after WW II, high schools began matching formal graduation apparel to their individual school colors. While the tradition varies from country to country, American colleges and universities have attached specific colors to recognized degrees and accomplishments. For example, white designates the liberal arts; purple signals law; green is for medicine; daffodil yellow represents the arts and the humanities; and dark blue is associated with philosophy and all doctorates.

Planning a colorful graduation party is a wonderful way to celebrate the accomplishments of a family member. It is also a way to reward years of hard work with monetary and meaningful graduation gifts. Many high school party planners choose to echo the school colors in their decorating scheme. Local party stores are always aware of this and usually stock extra party supplies in those particular combinations. To coordinate two unique colors such as black and red or royal blue and white, simply choose a multicolor, geometric or floral pattern that contains both shades. It can easily be incorporated into tablecloths, napkins or flower arrangements and will make the design appear more complete and integrated.

Another option is to build on the honoree's favorite color or one that reflects his or her personality. With a little quizzing, most parents can identify their graduate's preferred shade. Red dinnerware and decorations will energize a party. Add some blue for a more patriotic theme. While an all-black party could have a morbid feeling, pairing it with yellow, red, green or white suddenly lightens the mood without becoming frivolous. Avoid soft pastels, or you will create a feminine theme that suggests a bridal shower or worse, a baby shower.

To be certain of your color choices, you can always simply ask the graduate for input. Once you have two or three shades to work with, look for coordinating tableware, balloons, wall hangings, favors, candles, flower arrangements and other decorations. Even incorporate your ideas into colorful menu choices. A well-planned, color-coordinated graduation party will be an event to remember for years to come.