5 Mistakes Not to Make Hosting Your Son’s/Daughter’s Graduation Party

By: Stefanie Rose Miles


Every parent of a high school senior has surely wondered where in the world time has gone.  If you’re currently that parent and you feel like the years have flown by, this last one at home will seem like it's ending nearly as soon as it's begun. The biggest mistake any party host can make is deciding to have one at the last minute.  With all the extra events to attend throughout these months, preparing for summer and your young adult’s next steps, there’s truly no time to waste. By avoiding these mistakes and considering our alternative suggestions, you can stay on track to make this occasion one of the most special and memorable for family and friends.


…forget to ask the guest of honor. You may want or be willing to, but neither means that you must or will.  Broach the subject casually (and early) with your child first.  If you feel strongly about hosting, let it be known that is something you’d really like to do (with his/her approval) or simply start the conversation by conveying that you’d be willing to host a graduation party.  Keep an open mind and really listen to your son/daughter and what his/her preferences may be.  If your guest of honor isn’t involved or included in the planning, you’re already off on the wrong foot. 

Your senior can be a tremendous help in so many ways, but particularly in the initial planning phase.  It’s always best to try to find out what others may be planning and when.  Sure, you can get a consensus from your friends, but your insider can get the scoop—what others’ parents may be thinking, as well as the students, themselves. 

…plan a party that doesn’t reflect your graduate’s personality/social preference.  If your son tends to be introverted and more comfortable with a small group of friends or just family, you shouldn’t expect that an open house (open to more than 30 guests, for example) with numerous people coming and going, would be ideal.  Conversely, if your daughter has never met a stranger, is friends with everyone, and/or involved in sports and numerous clubs, you don’t want to assume or your place is destined to be graduation party central.  Then again, she may have notions of some outrageous soiree that would be terribly fun and lovely, but would also be entirely over-the-top and unaffordable.

…go it alone.  Graduation is a busy and emotional time for not only the graduate but also the parents.  And this time in life is one of the more expensive.  Don’t lose sight of being reasonable and practical in the midst of all the activities, extended family, upcoming moving expenses, college, etc.  This is a time when asking and/or paying for some help is most acceptable and a worthy investment. 

Is your senior part of a close-knit group of other classmates in the same grade? Maybe he/she is one of a couple or more graduating neighbors who are friendly enough, that may make joining forces with a few other parents make really good sense.  By and large, it seems that there are either a number of parties and open houses (which can have students AND parents trying to drop into more than a dozen celebrations in one weekend) or there are one or two all-encompassing bashes.  Co-hosting with other parents can be a terrific solution, particularly in regard to saving each time and money and cutting down on the stress of trying to make the rounds and spending no real quality time at any. 

Another area of help many parent party hosts neglect or greatly underestimate is the food to be served.  Resigning to take this on yourself, as cook, set-up person, server (even if it’s self-serve, you have to replenish and do at least a bit of cleaning and clearing during the party), break-down and clean-up crew, is not the way to go.  If you plan to be a gracious and guest-involved host as well, you’re setting yourself up to fail, at least, at one of these roles.  Caterers are far more affordable than most people realize.  The vast number of extras or “unrealized” services they provide can be overlooked and greatly underestimated.  They shop for ingredients, prepare, deliver, set-up, serve, clean up, and pack up, saving you hours of time, work, and stress, enabling you to enjoy being both parent and host. If you just love to cook or bake and really want to contribute in this way, consider making one of your crowd's and/or graduate’s favorites.

…send party invitations too early or too late.  There is absolutely no harm in sharing your party plans as early as you like, especially with those you plan to invite.  It’s not necessary, or recommended, that you send save-the-dates, however.  Between graduation ceremony invitations, graduation announcements, party invitations, thank-you notes, and cards you and/or your graduate will be sending, you have plenty of communication to manage.  Three weeks prior to the occasions is sufficient to send the party invitations.  All information and directions should be as briefly and concisely included as possible.  The verbiage and style should reflect the spirit of the party—fun and casual or formal and sophisticated.  Request an RSVP date with enough time to follow-up with those from whom you’ve not heard by that time (if you must).  Unfortunately, the favor of a response to an invitation is not reliable. You will need to give your caterer a final count or close estimate at least one week prior to the event.

…miss the opportunity to express gratitude and share the importance of doing so with your son/daughter.  Nothing equates to or surpasses the sentiment of thanks like a hand-written note from the recipient.  It shows respect for someone who’s shown you generosity in some way, it’s a best practice in etiquette, and your words and effort will not soon be forgotten.  But an ungrateful receiver or a gift, gone unacknowledged, is far more likely to be remembered. Need some incentive for your grad?  Collect all gifts/money he/she receives and hand them over whenever the corresponding note is written and mailed. 

Now, dry your tears, celebrate, and also congratulate yourself on a job well done!

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