The Dos and Don’ts of Throwing a Graduation Party

Planning a Graduation PartyThrowing a graduation party is often easier said than done. There are tons of logistical issues that you need to figure out and so many things that can go wrong. But, when planned the right way, a graduation party can be one of the most beautiful moments in a young student’s life. Here are some of the major do’s and don’ts when throwing a graduation party.

Budget
Do set a budget so you don’t spend so much on a graduation party that you could have paid for a semester of college instead. However, don’t spend a fortune on mementos no one will keep very long except for older relatives.
Whether you give the graduate cash at the party or not depends on how much you trust the young adult with it and if there are concerns about theft. Do look at ways to save money, such as renting a VFW post or church for a large party instead of the standard hotel room or rental hall. And also, consider asking family to chip in for the cost of the party in lieu of a gift, but be certain to demonstrate gratitude to them for paying for the larger location, the DJ or catering.

Scheduling
Do plan the party so that those the graduate most wants to attend can attend, but don’t set an official date and time for the party without consulting with friends and family.

Don’t plan a party that could interfere with the formal graduation ceremony or cause problems for guests like saying you have to be at our house half an hour after the last kid walks across the stage. However, do tell people when cake and gifts are given, so that others can decide if they can attend even if they arrive late or leave early.

Do think about how the party fits around the official graduation ceremony, but don’t hold the party before grades come out, because nothing is more embarrassing than having a party and then finding out you didn’t really graduate.

Food
Do plan to provide more than enough food, since it is worse to have hungry guests than leftovers. You’re also likely to have friends of the graduate not formally invited show up and neighbors may drop by, and all of them will help themselves to the finger foods.

Don’t serve alcohol unless most attendees are old enough to drink it, and do keep alcohol tightly controlled if served to avoid criminal charges if an 18 year old friend has a beer at a college graduation party. Do plan on a variety of food to accommodate everyone’s dietary preferences and limitations.

Also, don’t let the food run out. This is why having backup vegetable and fruit trays is a good idea. Do plan on setting food out that is perishable only right before it is consumed to minimize the risk of food poisoning. Don’t expect to rush to the store and buy large trays of food without prior planning, especially if the graduation party is held on a major party weekend like Memorial Day weekend. Do hire a caterer if you can’t buy or cook what you need in a reasonable timeframe before the event.

Invitations
Don’t discuss the schedule options using a formal invitation that ends up being revised a few times. However, do use a formal invitation, whether printed or digital, to invite those who you have chosen to invite once the time is set.

Do make clear limits on attendance such as “only the invited” or “attendee is allowed plus one”. Don’t leave it open to say “bring all your friends” or you’ll risk far too many people showing up. Don’t rely entirely on Facebook or other digital invitations, since some of the friends and particularly family that got you this far may not be on those platforms. Don’t wait until the last minute to send out invitations, and do follow up with “must have” attendees if they don’t respond to the invitation since they may not have received it. Do send reminders of the party to invitees.

Venue
Do pick a venue large enough to hold everyone. Crowding kills the mood. Don’t pick a location that lacks enough parking unless you’re willing to annoy your neighbors. Do select a venue that is in easy commuting distance of all expected attendees.

If you will be holding the party at your home, do as much setup as possible well ahead of the party like setting up chairs and tables. Do let neighbors know if you’re holding the party so they know that there will be noisy guests and traffic. Don’t forget to get a permit if your jurisdiction requires it; if you need an outdoor tent or have more than 100 people, the odds of this go up.

Don’t forget ways to keep cool, especially if the party is held outside. Iced drinks are a minimum, while rented portable air conditioners may be necessary.

Do plan on how you’ll clean up after the event if the venue isn’t rented. If alcohol is served, do have plans on how to handle anyone who gets drunk. Assign designated drivers or have hotel room rentals available for those who should not drive.

Activities
Do plan activities for the guests in advance such as dancing, photo booths, games and contests. Don’t leave guests wondering what there is to do aside from eat and drink. And don’t have a schedule of activities so strict that people don’t have fun.

Gifts
It is customary to provide small gifts to those who attend the party as a thank you for coming. This doesn’t have to be a big item, which is why pictures of the graduate with friends is a good “party favor” for graduation parties.

After the Party
After the party, the graduate will likely want to show gratitude. Fortunately, technology makes this easy. You can send personalized thank you cards by using a thank you card template and plugging in the names of attendees before sending them.

Conclusion
If you’re going to throw a graduation celebration, do plan the party in advance, but don’t be so rigid that no one has fun. Don’t try to cram everyone in your house and do all the cooking yourself. Do take the needs of your guests into account, but don’t spend so much money on the party the graduate is left wondering how to pay for the next steps in life. Don’t assume they got your message, and do provide more than enough food and notice of events. Do show appreciation for attendance and demonstrate gratitude after the event.