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Graduation Party Guide: Everything You Need to Know

It’s natural to want to celebrate your loved one’s high school or college graduation by bringing friends and family together to honor the accomplishment. Yet, if you have never thrown a graduation party before or aren’t the best event planner, hosting a celebration can be stressful. You probably have a lot of questions concerning guests, gifts, and locations, so we’ll do our best to make sure you know what the common expectations are and how you should best navigate them so your son or daughter can enjoy the party.

Whom should I invite?

For a high school graduation, it’s common to invite your child’s friends alongside your own friends and co-workers. If your child is particularly close to a teacher or coach, it is also acceptable to invite him or her to the party.

For a college graduation party, you should mostly invite your child’s friends and favorite professors. You can still invite your own friends as well if you wish, but it is not common to throw as large of a party for a college graduation.

How should I invite them?

Official school-licensed graduation invitations are still the norm for high school graduates, so you should purchase those and keep one or two for memorabilia.

College graduation parties are usually less formal, so if you simply want to create a Facebook event to invite people, go for it! Or you can design and print your own invites on some cardstock paper.

What kind of party should I have?

If your budget allows, you can throw a fairly large party for your child’s high school graduation since it is his or her first big milestone. A backyard barbecue is a perfect idea since the weather is warming up, and it will keep your house from becoming too crowded. A budget-friendly option is to grill up some hamburgers and hot dogs, or if you wish, you can have the party catered by your grad’s favorite restaurant.

Your college graduate will probably enjoy a more low-key affair, so lunch or dinner at a nice restaurant may be a good option. Or, you can rent an inexpensive pavilion at your local park and have a picnic-style get-together with sandwiches and soft drinks.

When should I have the party?

If possible, having the party on the same day as graduation is ideal since most high school and college graduations take place on weekends. If the graduation ceremony is in the morning/afternoon, feel free to have a lunch party or you can wait until the evening to have a dinner party.

Should I serve alcohol?

Unless you are keeping a close eye on the beer cooler, you should probably not serve alcohol at a high school graduation party, even for your adult friends. Your child and his or her friends will be underage, so its best to not even give them the temptation to drink.

For a college graduation party, it depends on you and your child’s preferences. If your child is of age and wants some alcohol at the party, feel free to provide some beer and wine. Make sure everyone has a designated driver, though!

Should there be a dress code?

You do not have to have a strict dress code, especially if you have a pool at your home, but if your co-workers and your child’s teachers will be there, it is probably a good idea to provide some loose attire guidelines. The dress code can definitely be casual, such as, “Jeans, khakis and dresses are appropriate.”

Should I expect my friends to give gifts?

It is fairly accepted that for a high school graduation, if you attend the ceremony or the party, you should bring a gift for the graduate. If you don’t want your guests to feel obligated to bring one, you can always write on the invitations that gifts are not expected.

Gift-giving is not as prominent with college graduations, so you should definitely take the pressure off your guests by letting them know that their presence at the party is more than enough.

Should we open gifts at the party?

If you have a big, surprise gift for your child, like a new car, it can be exciting to give it to him or her in front of the guests. You don’t have to feel obligated to give your child the gift, no matter how big or small, at the party, though. Most grads don’t open gifts until guests have left, so presents don’t have to feature at your party if you do not want them to.

Last Updated: May 14, 2015