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The Cost of Graduation Open Houses: Then and Now

April 30, 2015

Here comes graduation season! The weather is warmer and students are almost done with school for the summer. Some are even done for good. You might be hoping to throw a simple backyard bash to celebrate your high school or college grad, but your graduate may say you are mistaken because graduation parties are not what they used to be.


Graduation Parties Then

The graduation parties you might remember are becoming as obsolete as a cell phone without a touch screen. Back in the day, grad parties were usually held at the parent’s house or backyard. Family members pitched in to make and serve the food, and someone manned the grill. Expenses likely consisted of the price of food and disposable utensils, plates, and tablecloths if you didn’t want to deal with dishes. Guests would come and go as they pleased, and the conversation usually centered around the graduate’s future plans.

Simple and easy, the parties weren’t anything to stress over. The host family may have mowed the lawn or cleaned up the yard in preparation for visitors, but that’s nothing compared to the extremes that parents today sometimes choose to take.

Graduation Parties Now

Get the lights and sound systems ready! Many of today’s graduates expect a little more “pizazz” at their parties. Today’s graduation parties often take place in rented spaces, similar to what is reserved for wedding receptions. Many parents feel that a party hosted away from home can help with cleanup and prevent damages.

Some parents still choose to have grad parties at their homes, but they go to great lengths to make updates and remodels before the big day. Updates can range from planting new flowers, to updating decks or driveways, to completely redoing a living room or entry way.

Today’s parties often include elaborate, themed decorations and pictures, catered food, and bands and/or DJs to provide music. In recent years, grad parties have become very competitive. Both graduates and parents want to out-do other parties. These over-the-top additions can often include rented vendor food stands, photo booths, and specialty entertainment like a comedian or exotic animals. Some graduates also want custom-printed items like napkins, M&Ms, soda pop bottles, koozies, and cookies.

Don’t forget about a special theme! Just like when your graduate had a princess- or superhero-themed birthday party as a child, themes are becoming very hip and cool. Some of these themes can be as simple as a color scheme while others can be as extravagant as a 1980s or sports team theme.

Planning a Graduation Party

All of the “new and improved” graduation party expectations might seem overwhelming, but there are plenty of ways to stay within a budget and still throw a party that your graduate will love!

Ways to plan a graduation party without breaking the budget:

  • Send electronic invitations via email or Facebook
  • Host the party in your home to avoid venue costs
  • Use a garage instead of renting a tent
  • Turn your party into a potluck
  • Ask family members to help out with food/decorations as a graduation present
  • Make your party BYOB
  • Throw a graduation party with another graduate (or two)
  • Create a digital slideshow of pictures set to music
  • Get creative with themed DIY decorations
  • Find items like candy, napkins, utensils, etc. on clearance
  • Make your own cake, cupcakes, or cookies
  • Make your own music playlist for the party or ask a friend to be the DJ
  • Create your own photo booth and ask guests to tag their images with a hashtag to track the pictures

You don’t have to break the bank this graduation season! But if you do decide to make some upgrades to your house or remodel a bit before the big day, remember you might want to have those improvements insured. Throw a party to remember without a bill that sticks around.