Aah. Graduation. Those who are graduating are holding grad parties so that their relatives can come, be proud of them, and give them money for suffering through at least four years of school, and so that their friends can come party one last time at school and get sentimental about things before going off to party all summer then face the real world (if they don’t have summer jobs that is). But the million dollar question is: how do you navigate a graduation party? This will be a quick and blunt post about how to get in and get out of house parties without looking like the most awkward person there is.
For those who are hosting, you are expected to have senior photos, baby photos, and the best of your poorly taken photos of fun times with your friends. You must have a cake with your face on it, a place for people to write their favorite memories of you, two different places to mingle (so that your friends and family never meet each other), a place for gifts/cards, and enough food to sustain all of the people you invited for the 3-4 hours that your open house will be running.
Invitations: If you’re going to go the nine yards and spend a bunch of money getting the nice invitations with your picture, your name, etc., send those to your relatives. If you have any left over, you can give them to your best friends or teachers- whomever is really special to you. The rest can be invited through Facebook. It’s cheaper, and you have a better clue of who is attending. No one RSVPs to paper invites anymore, but if all you have to do is click a button on the bookface that you’re either coming or not coming, you’re more likely to get an accurate guestimate of your party #. You should keep track of who you sent physical invitations to, because these are the people who are likely to give you gifts. You need to write a Thank You note to anyone who got you a gift. That’s how gifts work.
Decorations: Let’s be honest here. You’re going to be spending a lot of money on your open house whether you like it or not, and you’re going to pray that you break even with what your Grandma and favorite Uncle Fred put in your grad card- so let’s make it as cheap as possible without having it LOOK cheap. How do you do that? The Dollar Store. You can groan or laugh all you want, but I’m not kidding. If you dig deep enough and are willing to go the extra mile to spruce up some cheap stuff, your dollar store buys can turn out amazing. If you’re looking for a cheesy themed grad party, great! Buy the luau stuff! If you’re looking for a more trendy grad party, you can buy the plain banners, tablecloths, etc., and add some imagination (a sparkly center piece, accent balloons, candles, paint champagne glasses and fill them with candy, GET CREATIVE). Pictures. Pictures are a must. I have never gone to a grad party that doesn’t have pictures, and I’ve gone to a lot of grad parties. Pictures, if you want physical copies, should be bought in bulk and are cheapest online though WinkFlash or Snapfish. You could also have a slideshow on a TV or computer- just make sure that the picture shrine is in a more wide open space so that people aren’t crowding one area and causing people to form human roadblocks. Large crowds of people who are blocking people coming to and from food, or another room are annoying and can easily cause spills that suck to clean up.
- The shrine is an important element of your party. Here is where people will put their cards they bought for you (in a box that you decorated (large cardboard ones with lids are good because they’re cute, and it keeps things clean. People are more likely to put your card in a safe space if it is clearly labeled, and less likely to hand it to you if it’s in a box with a lid)), and drop their gifts off (leave space under the shrine for this), and admire your achievements. This is where you will display any scholarships you might have won, hang any pictures (if not digitized), where your yearbooks are, and where you have yet another cute box/jar for people to write cutesy things about you.
Don’t forget to get creative with the theme, or the time of the event. One of my friends had a brunch grad party, another had a pool themed party, etc. So mess around with the time of day and the type of decorations you want to use! There are a lot of great DIY ideas on Pinterest. You also don’t want your grad party at the same time as everyone else’s, so having it at an unusual time will bring in more of your friends.
Food: You want finger food. Don’t make people come in for a 4 course meal. Have a buffet, buy in bulk, and make it yourself. Sams is the party grocery store of America. Here is where you can buy chips, candy, and other assorted party foods. For my graduation party my parents got frozen meatballs from Sams, marinated them the night before, cooked them, and served them with cute toothpicks. We bought and cut the fruit ourselves and put them in our own party bowls making it fresher, taste less like cardboard, and we had some left over because there was so much.
Crowd Control: Many people will be coming to your party, and most of these people are going to want to spend time with you. They are HERE for YOU anyways (and maybe food). Make sure to greet anyone who comes in the door, even if it’s not RIGHT as they walk in the door. Don’t spend 2 of your 3 hours glued to your SO’s side or watching your own picture slide show, it’s rude to the people who came to see and celebrate you. Also know that there will be a wide variety of people in attendance. Your great grandma who is older than dirt, your grandparents who are a little too proud of you, Aunts and Uncles from both sides who are only there because of a familial obligation that brought their kids (ages 5, 10, and 13) because they’re old enough to be left alone, but only for 20 minutes at a time, and let’s not forget your friends. Now, you don’t want any of these people in the same room together, and you especially don’t want them SPEAKING to each other, so the best thing to do is have a bunch of space and distract with food. Your family will be in front of the TV watching your baby pictures roll by, speaking amongst themselves, and trying to keep their kids in line. Your friends will want somewhere to loudly reminisce the thing that happened two weeks ago like it was 3 years ago, and your cousins are going to want to terrorize. These groups will naturally separate into their own habitats, but by keeping the shrine away from the TV and food, you keep your friends away from your family and the road blockage to a minimum. A set up that I prefer to use is shrine visible when you walk into the house, pictures in a side room, food in a wide open space, and have a lot of room outdoors for people to disperse. (That was long winded, I know, but you had to get the point.)
Getting People to LEAVE: By the time your designated party time is over, you’re exhausted. But there’s still people around. The best way to get rid of them is to start cleaning up. Once the host is cleaning up, the message is usually clear: GET OUT. If they aren’t gone by the time you’ve finished cleaning up, and they aren’t helping either- kick them out. They’re a crap friend and you’ll probably never see them again anyway (or make up something about taking a nap, having plans- anything to say ‘I have to go, so you have to leave’ without actually saying ‘Get out of my house I hate you’).
So you’ve been invited to a grad party. GREAT. Are you expected to bring anything? What do you wear? When is the best time to go? What are open houses like? What if I don’t even like the guy? What if my best friend invited me, but I can’t go?!
What to give: Never more than $20, and even then, they should be your BEST FRIEND EVER. Your friends don’t expect you to break the bank, and giving too extravagantly can make them uncomfortable if they cannot reciprocate. You are allowed to make a heartfelt card, or some really lame joke and throw in some coins for their future laundry endeavors. (EX: taping $1 of quarters to a card with the words ‘Don’t spend it all in one place!’ or ‘For your laundry cuz you stank’ or even ‘I’m broke, you’re broke, but now you can afford one load of laundry.’) Those are all trademarked btw. You have to pay to use those.
What to wear: Nothing that makes you standout more than the host. This is THEIR graduation party and they are the center of attention. Don’t upstage, but don’t show up in sweats. Don’t neglect, but respect. (i.e.: don’t neglect your own personal hygiene, but be respectful and don’t outshine the host in their own house).
When to leave: You don’t want to overstay your welcome at a grad party that you just attended out of politeness. If your at the party of a good friend and you want to stay a long time because you know everyone and you’re having a good time? Great! But if it’s someone you’re more acquaintances with and you’re not sure when to leave, here are a few good guidelines:
- Meet and greet the host
- This doesn’t have to be your MISSION. It does not have to be the FIRST thing you do. But why did you go, if you’re not even going to say hi to the person who’s graduating? Be polite, don’t butt in if they are talking to someone, and if you do end up hovering for a while and you have to leave, find a polite pause in their conversation and say something along the lines of ‘Thank you so much for inviting me _________, I’ve had such a great time and it was so good to see you! I have to leave now, but I just wanted to stop in and say ‘Hi’ and ‘Congratulations on graduating”
- Stop by ‘The Table’
- Most everyone that is graduating will have a table that has pictures, memories, a place for gifts, somewhere to write a nice note, and any of their awards/scholarships they got at the award ceremony that you had to sit through last week. If there’s somewhere to write a note, you should write a memory or inside joke that you might have shared with that person, even if it was from 3 years ago and they might not remember the joke. If they think you’re weird, well, you’re going away and won’t see them again, and if they don’t, then they’ll think it’s sweet that you remembered that obscure reference. If you can’t think of anything, THEN AND ONLY THEN should you write *insert generic congrats on graduating here*.
- Eat the food
- You went through all the trouble and awkwardness of getting through the front door and greeting people that never talked to you in school but now are greeting you like you were acquaintances all year. You deserve to treat yourself, and it will keep you from having to make awkward conversation with people.
- Greet friends
- Not acquaintances. That gets awkward fast. If they’re acquaintances, say hi and bye. If there’s no one there at ALL to talk to, make a new friend? Say hello to the house animals? But close friends are usually the best way to feel the least awkward.
- If you have stayed at least 20 minutes, you’re good. Maybe an hour if they’re a close friend and you have more than one grad party to go to. There’s no need to stay longer. If the host is free, let them know you’re leaving, if not, just leave. Unless you waited to talk to the host until last, you’re free. Obviously no one is trying to kick you out of the house, but never stay longer than the time designated on the card, and don’t hold up the host. They should have time to talk to everyone and if you’re Chatty Cathy and talk their ear off for an hour, they will be unable to greet all of their guests. That being said, don’t feel like you’re in a rush to get out of there- just know that there usually isn’t much space because the host has invited all of their friends and family.
Hope this has been helpful!
Enjoy your graduation and Congrats to those of you who are graduating! ❤