Whether to serve alcohol to anyone is a hot topic among people throwing graduation parties for high school students.

"We decided on no alcohol because the party is not about the adults, it's about the kids," says Bonnie Evans, who planned to celebrate son Will's graduation from Dulaney High School with a party at home catered by Biddle Street Catering.

But for other families, and for college graduates, special drinks or bottles of wine may be a centerpiece.

"When there's a wine geek in the family, sometimes it's important to buy a bottle from the graduate's birth year," says Tony Foreman. "The family might come to Charleston, looking for a bottle from the '90s. That's kind of fun."

Whether it's an intimate dinner, a genteel garden party or a casual backyard bash, parents acknowledge that emotions are front and center during graduation festivities.

"It's important to me to remind Madison where she has been, where she is and where she can go," says Debbie Jacobson. "I just want everything to be memorable and special for her."

Bonnie Evans says her son's party will be one part celebration and one part thank-you to the friends and families her son has met during school. "It's a congratulations to Will and his buddies, and also an appreciation for the families who have played such a role in his life.

"It's a bittersweet time," Evans says. But a great time for a party.

Graduation party trends

Local experts sound off on what's hot for graduation parties this year.

Themes: Graduation parties have a built-in theme, but parents frequently let the guest of honor expand beyond that. Debbie Jacobson's daughter, Madison, chose a pink-and-green garden party theme; Bonnie Evans' son, Will, chose his favorite foods (including sushi and wings) for the menu at his bash, which will incorporate decorations celebrating his decision to attend the University of Miami next year.

Making it intimate: "I've had requests for throwing more of a restaurant dinner party, instead of friends and families invited to the family home," says Jennifer Grove of Sky Blue Events.

Following the food trends: "People are more sophisticated now, thanks to the Food Network," says Ken Upton, owner of Ken's Creative Kitchen in Annapolis. "Everyone knows what's good." This year, sliders, pork barbecue and food trucks are all big hits with graduation party hosts. "It's a cool thing to hire a food truck for your party," says Willy Dely, who handles marketing and events for the restaurant group including Kooper's Chowhound food truck and the Woody's Taco Island truck.

Endless summer: Upton and Larry Levy of Biddle Street Catering both see a trend toward island-themed foods, including roast pig, jerk chicken and conch fritters. Though they're not trendy, summery Maryland favorites — including all things crab — are always popular menu items.

Getting social: Online resources like Pinterest are a source of inspiration. "You can just snap something, send it to us and we'll re-create it," says Levy. "There are a lot of ideas and sometimes it's overwhelming, but it's a great resource."

Planning ahead: Tony Foreman has noticed that in recent years, party hosts are more prepared than ever before. "People are more organized and thoughtful," he says. "They call ahead and give us advance notice, with an idea of what they want."

dave@outdooradvantage.net