Congratulations! Grad Celebration Tips

by Zehorit Heilicher, Tastemaker in Residence

This time of year lawns throughout the country are blooming with… balloons and Congratulations! signs. Yes, it is Graduation season. Parents stock up on tissues and check their cameras, students long to be done with finals and assignments and teachers count the days until summer. Anticipation is in the air!

We have been fortunate enough to celebrate our #3’s graduation from college this year, while #4 is only two years away. So, as you can imagine, we’ve had a few graduations under our belt. We created four high school graduation open house parties, ranging from the small and intimate to the large and loud, from Asian buffet to Middle eastern barbecue. We also traveled to the west and east coasts for college graduations and have stayed in a variety of accommodations and celebrated accordingly. 

With some thought and pre-planning, you can make the most of this graduation season, whether your graduate is a high school or college student.

For open house parties:

  1. Nailing down the number of guests is difficult since most teenagers invite their friends on Facebook with no RSVP available. You can’t manage it, accept it and go with the flow! You can send out a digital invite to your own guest list through one of the many sites available or a hard copy if you so choose – affording you with a way to track your numbers. Check out Evite or Paperless Post
  2. Logistics: Decide on whether your party will be indoor, outdoor or a combination of both and make sure that the sections of your home that you wish to remain private are clearly marked that way. Consider which restroom you would designate to accommodate guests and provide signage accordingly. 
  3. Décor: most party stores will have a selection of graduation decoration, though you can check wholesalers in your town that are available to the public as well. Choose high school colors, or if your graduate is heading off to college, using their future school colors is fun as well. We also like to create a memory board (or 2 or 3…) of the graduate’s childhood and their accomplishments. It’s always enjoyable to see how much they have grown and changed over the years.
  4. Food: Whether you plan to cook yourself, or pick up the food, consider finger foods that are easy to eat while holding a drink and that will not spoil while sitting out for a couple of hours. A great wholesale resource is The Restaurant Depot, which is open to the public and has many locations throughout the country. Another great option, depending on your budget is to bring in a food truck or two, or even an ice cream truck. The mess stays in their kitchen, the food is always hot and fresh and the concept is fun!        
  5. Gifts: Provide a box with a slot for gift cards, placed on a card table for gifts as well. You can make your own box, though some are available for purchase in party good stores. An open basket is not recommended – with so many people going through your home, you’d be surprised how easy and tempting it is for some to walk away with your grad’s gift cards.
  6. Cake: If you are a baker, you don’t need my advice… However, if you are not, you can easily (and affordably) rely on wholesale clubs such as Sam’s Club and Costco for beautiful and affordable graduation cupcakes or cake, as well as cookies and bars. If friends offer to help, this is an area where they can always pitch in too.
  7. Thank You Notes: Plenty of beautiful ready-made cards are available, though we opted for a printed card from Shutterfly, creating a picture collage of our graduate. (Costco Photo Center offers several options as well). For some, a digital Thank You note is appropriate as well. Be prepared for a bit of a tug of war with your graduate. (We conditioned the use of the gifts on the completion of the Thank You notes. Just saying… You’re the parent – do what is right for you… )

A few recommendations for celebrating out of town college graduation:

  1. Book your accommodations early! Availability around the time of graduation becomes scarce and more expensive. Same goes for flights!
  2. Consider a rental provider such as Airbnb or Home Away, if you have a group, or tend to desire more space and independence. These often offer more space for a lower cost.
  3. If you are planning a celebratory dinner out, research the local restaurant scene and make reservations early. Restaurants, like hotels in the area, get overbooked and availability becomes an issue.
  4. Now, this last piece of advice is easier said than done: try to have your graduate rested for the day of graduation. They are usually exhausted from finishing finals and celebrating with their friends, as well as anxious about the end of this phase and what the future holds. Some rest, hydration and plenty of love make the long day itself smoother and the whole experience much enjoyable for everyone!

Good Luck and Congratulations!!