High School Graduation Party Etiquette

Smiling graduate holding diploma
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Celebrating your teen’s graduation from high school can be an exciting event. But the party itself can bring some tough etiquette questions into play. 

Friend and Family-Friendly Graduation Party

Sometimes parents wonder, do we really want Grandma to be attending the same party as the high school football team? To avoid any potential problems, some families then choose to host two separate graduation parties- one for friends only and one for family.

But, there’s really no need to go through all the extra work of hosting two separate parties, unless you really want to. If there’s a chance things could get a little rowdy, establish some rules ahead of time. Make it clear what behavior will be acceptable and what behavior won’t be tolerated.  

Graduation Open House Option

If you choose to schedule the graduation party during a time that is likely too busy for many families, like the day before the graduation ceremony, consider hosting an open house. Send out invitations, but make it clear that people are invited to stop by at any point during the open house hours. Then, there is no obligation that they need to stay for the entire gathering. 

The benefit of throwing an open house is that your teen’s friends and their parents may be more willing to attend because there's no pressure to stay for the entire party.

Even if they can only stop by to offer their well wishes, they'll at least be able to attend. 

On the invitation, make it clear that you don’t expect any gifts and that you don’t mind if people can’t stay long. But instead, you’ll be happy if they can drop by even for just a few brief minutes. But don’t expect people to RSVP ahead of time if it’s an open house.

Instead, offer an open house time frame that spans at least several hours so that the most people will be able to attend whenever they can.

Party Hosting Etiquette

If you decide to throw a graduation party, as opposed to an open house, you can make the party as formal or casual as you like. Just make it clear to the guests ahead of time what to expect.  

There’s no need to serve an expensive meal if you’re planning on a large number of people in attendance. Instead, you can serve simple finger foods and snacks. Request that party attendees RSVP so you can plan how much food to prepare. 

It’s important to make everyone who attends feel welcome at the party. Have a conversation with your teen prior to the event about the importance of visiting with everyone in attendance, not just a select group of friends. 

Some hosts create opportunities for guests to play games or offer advice to a graduate. But, you can keep the party as laid-back as you’d like and you're certainly not obligated to offer any form of entertainment.

Graduation Gift Etiquette

Your teen doesn’t have to open the gifts at the party. In fact, doing so may cause the people who didn’t bring a gift to feel bad. If any guests express regret for not bringing a gift, reassure them that no gift was necessary and that you are just glad they could attend. 

If you host a large party, it’s especially important to save the gift opening for later. But, do thank everyone who brought a gift. Have your teen write thank-you notes for each gift that was received. 

Buying Gifts for Other Graduates 

Your teen may decide to gift his friends who are graduating simple gifts or tokens of appreciation. You may want to honor some of your teen’s close friends as well. However, there’s no need to give expensive gifts or give a gift simply because your child received one from someone else’s parents. A card with heartfelt words of encouragement may be the best gift you could offer. 

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