Bringing Down the <i>Open</i> House: Tips for a Successful Graduation Party

One of the most exciting experiences for high school graduates is hosting a graduation party to celebrate their success and journey into adulthood. While these festive bashes are tons of fun, few understand how much hard work must go into proper planning.
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One of the most exciting experiences for high school graduates is hosting a graduation party or open house to celebrate their success and forward journey into adulthood. While these festive bashes are tons of fun, few understand how much hard work must go into proper planning to insure an enjoyable and stress-free experience for guests and graduates alike. But do not fear: the Southfield Jay is here to break down the graduation party planning process and insure that your graduation gathering, whether big or small, will go down in history as one of the greatest!

Before you begin planning your party, remember: plan a budget. Costs will quickly get out of hand if you don't plan in advance and are unsure of how many guests to expect. When you write a guest list in the very beginning you will not only have an idea of how much food and space you will need but you'll also be that much closer to having all your invitations done!

One of the first things to consider is what type of gathering you want to have. If you're expecting no more than 10 people, you may want to consider a dinner at a nearby restaurant such as the upscale steakhouse Texas de Brazil or the Italian restaurant Andiamos Detroit Riverfront, both found in Downtown Detroit. If you expect more guests, be prepared to host the event somewhere that provides ample space for all of them. Inside your home is preferred, because you won't have to worry about the bipolar Michigan weather or being rained out. If you don't want to have it in your home, consider renting a hall or even better, a VFW or church meeting space, which tend to be available for lower prices. You can even add a barbecue pit to the mix and host your event outside in your backyard or at a local park!

The most convenient time for most guests to attend is during the weekend between noon and 6 p.m., but be considerate: many of your friends will be planning their parties on these same days at the same time. While you will not please everyone with your choice of date or time, try to avoid competing for a coveted slot. Scheduling your event during the week and in the afternoon may be better option and make sure that your party is at least a week or two the after graduation ceremony, as some people go on vacation immediately after. June and July are the best months for hosting a graduation party since many students start the move to campus in August. The open house style graduation party works best, because it gives guests an opportunity to stroll through at a time convenient for them and gives you, the graduate, time to enjoy their presence and thank them for coming. Avoid planning a party for less than three hours.

If you want to save money, you may even want to consider co-sponsoring the party with a best friend or family member, lowering your cost and sharing resources and responsibilities. writer Alexander Diedrick shares another great piece of advice: "It's a good idea to break your high school grad party into two parts: the family and the friends. Fun you have with your high school gang is a little bit different from the fun you have with your great-aunt." For example, invite family from 12-3 p.m. and friends from 3-6 p.m. or even later.

Great and thoughtful decorations add flair to any graduation party. It's important to first and foremost have a theme, which could be super simple ("I'm a 2013 Graduate, Hooray") or college specific ("This is SPARTAN territory!") -- the choice is yours. Just remember to incorporate your journey throughout high school -- before and beyond. While having a table or wall full of awards or mementos from your past is great, take the personal touch a step even further. Get streamers, tablecloths, and party hats in your favorite color or the color pattern of the school you'll be attending in the fall! Position a table for gifts out of the way of the entrance but close enough for guests to be able to drop off their offering and get partying!

Invite With Class:
While creating an event on Facebook and sharing the link online is easy, be formal and send invitations in the mail at least a month prior to your shindig as well (if you have no idea what the postal service is, ask an adult to help you). Be sure to clearly print your full name along with the date, time, and address of your party. Avoid using e-invites, as most people (especially young people) rarely check their email. It's important to have a guest list so you can prepare for how many people to expect, but don't ask for guests to RSVP -- you won't want to keep track of this information and it's likely that people who don't come will be supplemented by family and friends you forgot to invite that show up magically. Don't write "gifts or money welcome" on the invitation either; it's rude and unnecessary!

Grad-style Grub:
The number one thing to keep in mind when deciding what delicious goodies you'll be dishing out to your graduation party guests is convenience. All your food, or most of it, should be something fresh and fast that they can eat while sitting down, walking around your party or on the move to another grad's get-together. Purchase a good amount of small finger food, such as mini-sandwiches and shrimp or steak skewers. Antipasto platters of crackers and cheese and olives, vegetable platters, potato and fruit salads make great additions to any party. Be sure to have refreshing summer drinks on hand, like lemonade, fruit juice and soda. As far as cake is concerned, have fun with it, just remember: plan on cutting it during the first hour of your party so that everyone gets a taste a slice!

Farewell Fun:
Since most of your guests won't be staying for over an hour or two, it's best to keep the entertainment permanent of pick-up, meaning something continuously happening, like a slideshow or good music or, something that can begin immediately, like a pick-up game of basketball, Twister or Dance Dance Revolution. Karaoke is a great option, too, especially if you're expecting a lot of friends! If you want to have a slideshow but are worried about space, the folks at party-planning website have a suggestion: "If you like the idea but you're not sure it will work for your graduation party, another idea is to purchase a few digital picture frames and display them throughout the party space. Upload different photos and let them rotate throughout the party!

Thanks for Coming!
A great touch that can be as inexpensive as it is thankful is making small goody bags to give to your guests when they depart. While it won't be expected, it will certainly be appreciated, especially by those who have other open house stops in their schedule that day. Think of including a bottle of water, some candy, mints, or even a small thank-you note, that way you won't have to send another round of notes out after your party.

No matter what, relax and remember that planning before your party leads to stress-free fun during! This is your time, and everyone is proud of you. Take pride in your amazing party and cheers to the future!


Shopping for a Fellow Grad?
The best gifts to give college-bound graduates come from the heart and help ease their transition to college life. Consider what they might need for their dorm to make it feel like home, such as bedding, rugs, posters and picture frames. If you have a stuffed animal that you and the graduate won at the circus or a picture from middle school, give it to them so they can remember you while away. Wrap your gift with colorful paper and be sure to write your name on it so they recall who gave it to them.

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