Group graduation parties: Less expensive or more fun?

I’ve heard of many high school seniors’ families throwing group parties this year for graduation, and I’m wondering if they are doing it because it’s more fun to be with all their friends or because it makes more sense financially to share the costs for a party, especially in this economy.

The other trend I’m noticing is for the family party to be thrown before the actual graduation night as not to interfere with the graduate going out with his or her friends after graduation.

I can remember from my high school graduation that I couldn’t wait to leave my parents’ party to head out with my friends.

Are you throwing a group graduation party this year? Have you noticed others doing it? Are they throwing it a week or even two before graduation? Why do you think they are doing it?

What do you remember about your graduation party?

68 comments Add your comment

RJ

May 20th, 2010
7:59 am

I would think that it’s more about having a party with friends than sharing the expense. My daughter turned 16 this year and the money that parents have spent to give their kid a Sweet 16 party has blown my mind. They’re having parties at 5 star hotels and restaurants! The sad part is that it’s nothing like My Super Sweet 16 on MTV. Most parties don’t have 50 kids show up. Lots of money wasted.

I didn’t have a graduation party. My friends and I went out to Sizzler lol! Then we drove down the highway screaming out the window, hanging out of the sunroof that we’d just graduated! We probably looked like fools, but I’m smiling now just thinking about it:).

TechMom

May 20th, 2010
8:34 am

A few of the kids in our youth group are having a joint graduation party this weekend (though they don’t graduate until next weekend). These four families have pretty much grown up together and have a lot of the same friends so 4 different parties would be a little much for some people. The interesting thing is that the 4 kids go to 3 different high schools. Our county has a lot of high schools and due to rezoning over the years, they’ve all ended up in different schools but the schools all do their graduations at the same time (Friday night at 7pm). And since the graduation ceremonies won’t end until 9pm, it makes it a little difficult to do a party the same day. Plus, it makes it easier for us not to have to show up at 4 separate parties/Open Houses so I’m definitely not complaining!

Allie

May 20th, 2010
8:58 am

I don’t agree with graduation parties for anything other than college – graduating from school is not an honor; in this day & age, it’s a necessity. Sure it’s nice to acknowledge the work of the teen, but to throw a big party seems a bit over the top to me.

TT

May 20th, 2010
9:16 am

Allie – well said. Besides, what sr. Prom is for?

Michelle

May 20th, 2010
9:16 am

Allie, I think graduating from high school is a MAJOR milestone! It’s the last of “childhood” per se and the beginning of independence!

I think if you have a group of friends having a party, it’s a great idea, and having it before graduation…even better! I remember my graduation day having to hang around the house for the party when all I really wanted to do was go visit my friends! LOL!

JATL

May 20th, 2010
9:25 am

Allie -why wouldn’t you want an excuse to have a party? I say, enjoy life a little and find every reason you can to throw a party and celebrate with friends. You can bet if my boys make it through high school, do well, and there are no arrests, rehabs, pregnancies or STDs by the end of it -we will ALL be celebrating ;-) Plus -the parents probably want to party as much as the kids -I mean -I can only imagine how I’ll feel when we’ve made it through high school, and I’m proud but sad at the same time because I know they’ll be leaving for college and growing up. That right there is reason enough for several bottles of wine…

I would think the group parties probably stem more from several people with kids in the same “group” who want to throw a party, so instead of stepping on everyone’s toes they get together and throw one big one. That also allows for more expense and extravagance -if you have several families pitching in to cover cost.

motherjanegoose

May 20th, 2010
9:31 am

Would have loved to do a combined party but that is not on my radar.

I tried to work something out when my son graduated. One of the moms of the friends he was friends with ( at church) organized a party with several others and did not invite us to join in. I had casually asked another Mom if we should do something together and she meekly told me that **** was planning something for ” the boys”. I told her that I had not hear anything and she replied, ” **** is in charge.” That was a difficult year end for us as my son had been very active in the youth group, but obviously he ( or probably me) was not in the correct social tier. It hurts to see parents play games when their kids are affected.

My daughter told me she wanted her own party and we are doing it a few days after graduation.
I did not want an open drop in: free for all. She and I had our rounds. We are having a dinner for adults/kids who have known her for years and also her closest friends and their parents. She was not happy ( at first) but now ( I think) sees that everyone is basically having a party at the same time and it would be impossible to have something that could be attended by all of her friends with an open door. I will admit that I like a game plan, in order to have enough food and know who might be showing up.

She will have another summer party for her friends later, when things have cooled down or warmed up….lol. They can just all hang out and have fun. I think this will be easier as I cannot imagine the kids having to bring a little graduation gift for everyone ( they know) on the same weekend. Do they? She has already bought gifts for the friends she knows, whose party she is attending. For her summer party, I do not care if they bring a thing….just visit and have fun!

She told me about someone who is having an outdoor party, at a pavilion, and 57 kids had signed up , a month ago. I have no idea if they will all come but I would not want to be the parents in charge of this group. Guess I am just too old and too mean….lol.

We did throw her a Sweet 16 surprise party a few years ago. I took 2 of her friends to dinner ( while she was at work) and we planned it. She was really surprised.

DB

May 20th, 2010
9:51 am

I think that in most cases, the parties are combined simply because there is not enough time in the world for every kid to have their own party — and they’re a little afraid that people will chose to go to someone else’s party instead of theirs if they are at the same time!

My son didn’t want a party three years go — there were 9 other parties carefully planned and scheduled in the week around graduation, so he did not feel “party-less” at all. (He even chose to skip the stupid one where the parents cheerfully took the car keys and let the kids drink. We’re still hearing stories from that epic night – I was really proud he shrugged that one off.) With my daughter last year, we happened to have about 25 people in town (it happened to hit just the right date and didn’t conflict with any of the cousins’ graduation!), so we had a nice family party to which she invited a handful of close friends. People dropped in and out all day long (graduation was at 9 AM), she went to another party that night at a friend’s house for a couple of hours, and then came back and had a “sleepover” with a couple of close friends.

DB

May 20th, 2010
9:54 am

@MJG: That rotten mommy! Grr. That must have hurt.

motherjanegoose

May 20th, 2010
10:07 am

@ DB, oh yes… ( 5 years ago) my son told us he was heading to a HS graduation party and would let us know if he would stay long or come home. He did not tell us it was being held at a hotel near here. He called, an hour later and said he was no longer there. Apparently, the hotel room was filled with kids who had various amounts of clothes on and off with the entertainment being a keg that was provided by an uncle who had rented the room and left.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Our son left with some others who did not want to stay either.

Mattie

May 20th, 2010
10:18 am

My son graduates tomorrow night (weather permitting), and then the kids all go to a lock-in evening up at Stars and Stripes. That’s a huge event that requires a lot of planning, but the parents and the kids like it.

We have multiple party invites for the weekend, and yes, most of them are for groups of kids. The invitations were sent out by an individual family in the group though, which makes it easier to decide who will get a gift. I feel no obligation to buy something for all 6 or all 8 in the group.

No party here, my son opted for a family dinner out, but he will be attending several with his friends.

Peachy

May 20th, 2010
10:20 am

Why does it have to be one or the other? Can’t it be less expensive and more fun? Graduating from high school is a big deal and if you don’t see it as something to celebrate, why did you make your children go to school each day? 3 cheers to the Moms and Dads who get together with 3 or 4 other Moms and Dads and throw a BBQ or whatever and spend this last “right of passage” with their children, friends, family, and childrens friends. Life is to short, celebrate the big things and small things!

motherjanegoose

May 20th, 2010
10:37 am

@ Mattie…I did not know you just buy a present for the child whose parents who are hosting the venue
( at their house) even if there are several who are graduating together and joining in on the party. Is that what your second paragraph means? Guess I am really out of the loop.

JJ

May 20th, 2010
10:49 am

I only give presents to close family friends, and kids I have known since birth.

My best friend’s son is graduating next week, and I will take the day off from work to attend his graduation (it’s at 10:00 a.m). My niece graduates the same day, so we will attend her graduation at 7:30 that night. I will give my friend’s son money, as well as my niece. But that’s it. Oh, and the ones who gave my daughter money, their kids will receive the same amout from me upon their graudation!!!

I think this is a milestone that definately needs celebrating. I was extrememly proud of my child when she graduated last year and I let her know!!!

Congrats to all the graduates!!!!! And to the parents too. I know we ALL worked towards that common goal…..get our kids out of school!!!!

But, then they leave our nests……..they go to college, they get apartments, they step into the new chapter of their lives. Good luck to all!!!!

Allie

May 20th, 2010
10:51 am

Thank you TT.

JATL, I am the first to find an excuse to party! Nothing better than a good shindig, let me tell you. However, I don’t think throwing a graduation party should be on that list; rewarding kids for doing something necessary?! Oh come on! Sure it’s the end of school, but their studying (hopefully) isn’t done yet. It’s not the end of an era or anthing like that – that’s the university/college graduation, a true milestone.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

May 20th, 2010
10:53 am

I think I’m just going to give my kid the choice…..I’ll spend the bucks on a party for him or he can have a 90 Eurail pass instead. Hopefully he’s smart enough to realize which is the better deal!

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

May 20th, 2010
10:55 am

meant “90 day” pass

LM

May 20th, 2010
10:55 am

My daughters graduation is next Friday night. Why in the world would a school schedule it for Memorial Weekend when many families had made plans for travel? We live south of Atlanta and I work north of Atlanta. Just trying to get home in time for the Graduation will be a problem and any of our friends and family who would want to get at the graduation will face the same traffic issues.

As to a party, uh no…. not that I don’t want to have one, but since my husband has returned home last month we have had some adjustments issues and jealousy, so I don’t feel the need to put effort into a party for her. Dinner with family who can make it to the graduation will be an option, but it will depend on when the family can get to our place.

I am very lucky to have a good relationship with my ex-husband. I have asked him if he could bring my Mother down to the graduation so she would not have to drive in the traffic and drive at night.

HB

May 20th, 2010
10:57 am

My mom threw big, mostly family parties for my stepbrother and I (he graduated the year before I did) the day after graduation. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, close family friends — everyone came! We had a pool, so people were spread out all over the place — in the house, hanging around the yard, swimming if they wished (mostly just younger kids and an adult or two watching them). Mom fixed our favorite meals — steaks for his party, enormous amounts of spaghetti and meatballs for mine. We each had a few friends over too, but those in our own class had their own parties going on. It was really fun and my favorite memory of graduation.

At our school, there was a tradition of renting condos and houses on Jekyll during senior week, when we only had to show up at school for grad rehearsals for a few hours each morning, but it usually involved a bunch of keggers, so my tame group of friends skipped it. There was a big senior party, though, on Jekyll one night that was school-sponsored that everyone went to. So all the kid parties seemed to end with the grad ceremony, and everyone went home to celebrate with family.

Uconn

May 20th, 2010
11:11 am

My parents were along the lines of Allie, they just had my grandparents and aunt and uncle over for dinner when I graduated from high school. They also asked me if I wanted a party … I thought about it and said that I would rather go to Florida for a few weeks instead ( I grew up in Connecticut) … Now when I graduated from college that was a whole ‘nother story (mainly because my 1st 2 semesters were less than stellar!)… My mother INSISTED on a party… LOL… I think at that point she just wanted a party…

oh and as for the independance when we graduate HS … ummmm not if you can still be on your parent’s insurance… LOL

Mattie

May 20th, 2010
11:38 am

MJG, yes, I have been told that you only should consider bringing a gift to the child of the parents who had you on their guest list. That child is not necessarily the child of the host. At least in the invitations we have received, the RSVP info is from the family we would be considered closest too.

Another trend we have noticed is that many of these parties are being held early in the day, as a brunch or lunch. Again, I was told by one parent it was to cut down on the
alcohol consumption.

motherjanegoose

May 20th, 2010
11:45 am

@ tiger…good luck on that one. I just told my daughter, that if she gets married I will give her a set a amount and she can do ( with it) whatever she wants. Perhaps your little guy will be way smarter about how things ( for a party) add up and how there are other ways to spend money. ( than my daughter is right now) We have always been frugal. I want to have a nice party but do not want to carry it on my credit cards….LOL.

@ LM, our graduation is next WEDNESDAY at 3:30. I think that trumps your problem. To me, it is harder for out of town family to take T/ W or W/Th ( at least) off of work than to come for the weekend.

There is never a day that will suit everyone. I know this from being on the planning end of lots of things. Those who have not planned do not always know the hoops that have to be jumped through to get a venue on the docket. If you are having graduation at your own HS, it is certainly easier than having it at a the Civic Center.

My son graduated on the Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend and I thought it was perfect.
Wednesday afternoon….not so much!

Here in metro Atlanta ( is that where you live?), we get out of school typically right before Memorial Day and methinks the HS staff do not want to hang around another week to handle graduation. Some could have other plans. They cannot have ( our) graduation this weekend, as some kids are still taking their finals until next week….perhaps that plays into the ceremony date.

@ JJ…I agree about buying gifts for the kids you know. If you know all the kids at the party though, shouldn’t you bring a little something for them? In the past, I have given a small movie or ice cream gift card to all the kids near our block who graduated and was not even invited to a party for any of them. Maybe I am clueless….

motherjanegoose

May 20th, 2010
11:47 am

@ Mattie….got it…you may not know the other kids there…now I see your point.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

May 20th, 2010
11:54 am

@MJG….my parents gave me the option too…I took the 60 day Eurail pass…was a no brainer. I’m hoping my kid is at LEAST as smart as I was at that age…it’s not real hard to do. Hopefully he’ll be smart enough to go see the places in Europe that are worth seeing instead of following in his dad’s footsteps and spending a day and a half on the train from the airport to Amsterdam, then enjoying all that Amsterdam had to offer for 55 days before heading back to the airport!!

JATL

May 20th, 2010
11:57 am

@ Tiger -I’m so hoping my kids take me up on a graduation gift of a Eurail pass and a plane ticket! I longed to do that my 18th summer, and I hope my kids will see it as a golden opportunity. I’ve learned so much from independent overseas travel -I hope my kids do too!

HB

May 20th, 2010
12:08 pm

Re: high school as the end of an era

For a lot of kids (not all), I think it really is the end of an era and the end of childhood. It was for me. For many, graduating high school marks leaving the nest and living as an adult. A lot of kids going off to college won’t be back home much. Some will be working and paying their own way through school. Many will spend their summers working in their college towns, studying abroad, etc, and their high school friends may do the same. In my case, a college graduation party back home would have felt odd as my connection to my parents’ community had diminished quite a bit as I had my own established life and community six hours away. If your kid lives at home or nearby while attending college, a college party may be more appropriate, but for a lot of kids, the high school graduation party is as much about giving the student a fond farewell and a big send-off into adulthood as it is about celebrating the diploma.

motherjanegoose

May 20th, 2010
12:11 pm

@ tiger…reality …my daughter has a job and will have to work this summer to earn her spending money for college and make her car payments. I know that Europe would present an awesome opportunity but it is not in our league…maybe we are in our own league….LOL. My kids have had part time jobs since they were 13 and they know they have to step up to the plate.

Is a 90 day pass $2000? I was trying to see. We will NOT be spending that kind of money on her party.

motherjanegoose

May 20th, 2010
12:12 pm

HB…you reminded me that my daughter is looking to perhaps study abroad and that would be her Europe experience but while she is taking classes. Thanks!

DB

May 20th, 2010
12:15 pm

@Allie — actually, I don’t know too many kids who have parties after college graduation. They’ve tended to drift away from their high school friends at that point, and their other friends are from all over the country. My son doesn’t want a party — although we’ll probably host a nice dinner at the hotel (for which we’ve already made reservations for next year) for everyone who makes the trip to his university for the graduation that will end up having “a few friends” stop by.

I don’t see a problem with a celebration to mark a milestone. To say it’s silly to celebrate something that’s expected is like saying, “Well, why have a birthday party — you’re EXPECTED to get older.”

Different schools and communities do it differently. I don’t think anyone in my kids’ high school considered the prom to be a graduation-type party, simply because it wasn’t just for seniors.

I have to admit that I’m intrigued with the concept of “locking in” 18 year oldshigh school graduates for a party. WTH? I’m sure that some parents love it — but these are kids that are going to be on their own at college in about 12 very short weeks — what’s with the lock-downs?

TechMom

May 20th, 2010
12:30 pm

@MJG it’s about $1300 for a 90 day pass but there are cheaper methods (15 days of travel within a two month period for example is $725). That being said, you still have to have somewhere to stay and have to eat so a couple of thousand dollars is not unreasonable. But what an experience! I’d love to do that- forget about the graduation present for the kid- how about I’d like that as a reward for myself for getting him through HS! LOL

Allie

May 20th, 2010
12:31 pm

HB – well I do think birthday parties are also a waste, unless it’s for a milestone birthday. Throwing a party cos you’re turing 37 or 43 or whatever just makes no sense to me. I also don’t agree with baby/bridal showers – but that’s just me; obviously I’m not from here and it’s just not something we would ever think of doing in my native country. It was explained to me as simply throwing a party to get more gifts, which I thought to be completely off-putting.

When I married my (American born & raised) husband, we didn’t have a shower(much to his mother’s disgust) and we didn’t register for gifts for our wedding. We also refused their offer of a baby shower & didn’t register for gifts either – I don’t agree with demanding items just because I went ahead and got married/pregnant. I also had a friend register for gifts when he bought his home, and sent everyone invited to his housewarming party a link to the site so they could purchase gifts for him.

I digress here but what I mean to say is that I feel that some parties are unnecessary and just a waste of money.

TechMom

May 20th, 2010
12:32 pm

Oh sorry MJG, I forgot to mention that is for the youth pass (25 or younger). You and I would be forking over the big bucks ;)

HB

May 20th, 2010
12:37 pm

Good for her, MJG! One of my colleague’s kids is trekking around the world right now exploring food, mostly from a slow food/sustainability angle. What fun! I loved my summer in Paris as part of an Emory program, and the tremendous improvement I gained in speaking skills plus the two courses I took made it possible to have a second major in French. Without the trip, I think I would have needed to stop with the minor. We had class in Paris M-F mornings, with one 3-day weekend, so we were able to go out on our own for weekend trips. I spent a wonderful weekend in Chamonix in the French Alps (all the beauty of Switzerland at half the price). A lot of students also stayed a couple of weeks after the program ended and trekked around Europe.

TT

May 20th, 2010
12:39 pm

Well, i think celebrating with parents or relatives and a few friends is not equal a party. High school graduation of course warrants a nice family dinner or lunc, whether it is at home or in teh restaurant..

But i do not think a high school graduation warrants a big party (open parties with 20-50 or more kids) that some parents organize. Comon people? Didn’t kids have a sr. prom to celebrate their last year of high school?

Cassie55

May 20th, 2010
12:44 pm

We always do a really informal backyard picnic/bbq for ours.. and last year we did as a group with other families and it was awesome.. we got so many good ideas for fun and DIY favors and decorations and other ideas in the articles here: http://www.celebrationideasonline.com/graduation-party-ideas.html Last year we used the idea there of personalizing water bottles and they were a big hit..

TechMom

May 20th, 2010
12:45 pm

@Allie, I feel the same way about housewarming parties. Let’s see, it was your CHOICE to move/buy a house. I’ll be more than happy to bring a bottle of wine to help in the celebration but don’t even think about doing a gift registry- TACKY! I don’t like Engagement & Wedding showers either, especially since most of those people are also coming to your wedding and are expected to bring gifts then as well. I’m OK with baby showers for first-time moms but not after that. Graduations I don’t feel obligated. If it’s a close family friend, then yes I’ll buy something but only because I want to, not just b/c I got an invite/ announcement.

motherjanegoose

May 20th, 2010
12:52 pm

@ HB, yes she is into food and that will be her major. I think it would be awesome!

Photius

May 20th, 2010
12:56 pm

i agree with Allie. I’ll let my child go have a good time for graduating high school however it was pounded into my kids head (and mine) that graduating high school is as expected as completing the 3rd grade; college we will celebrate.

TT

May 20th, 2010
12:58 pm

Oh, and don’t even start me on the gifts. Industry invented so many “fake” ocasions, like engagement parties, wedding showers, etc. so they can sell and sell and sell. I don’t understand buying a graduation gifts. I always told my kids – the biggest gift is your grades and the fact that we will pay for your college.

But our family is not big on gifts. We buy only 1 christmas gift per person, and only flowers + nice dinner for all other ocasions – b-days (over 18), mother’s day, father’s day, etc.

And i never understood the b-day fashion where 4- 8 year olds have 20 kids over. All you do is get 20 useless plastic things and then have to buy oanother 20 plastic things. And kids are never happy, becaue which 4 yr old can handle 20 guests?

mom2alex&max

May 20th, 2010
1:15 pm

Geez Allie what a wet blanket!!!

I LOVE all parties of all kinds!

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

May 20th, 2010
1:22 pm

just for the record..my parents presented the Eurail idea to me the beginning of my senior year. I had spent 4 years in Europe from 7th to 10th grade as a military brat. I kind of knew the lay of the land and wanted nothing more than to go back. they cut me a deal, I work and earn the money for the plane ticket and hostel and food fees, and they’d sport the train. I killed myself working two jobs my senior year so that I would be able to go. It was an extravagent gift, I’ll admit, but I think they had a lot of guilt over me having to go to 7 different schools from K-12 (6 different ones in the 8 years that I wasn’t overseas 7-10) so I guess they saw this as a way to make up for it a little.

Mattie

May 20th, 2010
1:27 pm

DB, the graduation lock-in is not mandatory, but it is very well organized, and the kids do like it. They can bowl, play laser tag, dance, etc. Lots of food, including a breakfast at dawn. Donations allow for almost every kid to leave with a prize of some sort.

It’s a night of fun with no pressure to drink.

FCM

May 20th, 2010
1:41 pm

Today is 5th grade walk at our school. It is not our family’s turn to have that rite of passage. However the energy in the halls where the kids were was intoxicating…I walked back through the Lobby where the parents were waiting to get back to the ceremonies. The energy there was WAY different. It was meloncholy. This too was powerful.

It had me thinking about next year when it is my turn. Would I throw a party for the child? YOU BET. I will invite friends and family–have something appropriate. Like JATL I think you should find the things to celebrate in life. Before anyones starts on the economy and so forth…you can keep it simple or not all on your own budget terms.

JJ

May 20th, 2010
1:42 pm

I have a friend, and for her 3rd marriage at age 52, they requested funds for their Honeymoon…..

motherjanegoose

May 20th, 2010
1:43 pm

@ tiger…there you go. Around here…many kids have no idea what a job is and we are in the minority of parents whose children have had one. To me, working and saving teachers many lessons!

motherjanegoose

May 20th, 2010
1:44 pm

@JJ…thanks for the good laugh!

JATL

May 20th, 2010
1:48 pm

Wow -Allie, you must be from the Land of Depression and Sadness! Even tribes in the Amazon and Africa have celebrations to mark milestones! Most humans enjoy celebrations and having fun, but evidently you and TT are the Debbie Downer/stick in the mud types.I’ve never “asked” anyone to bring me a present, but I did have showers thrown for me, parties thrown for me and a wedding. I personally enjoy buying people gifts when they get married and have babies or when they graduate from high school or college or have a birthday. It doesn’t have to be expensive -it’s just NICE!

@TT -Birthday parties for 4-8 year olds are because 4-8 year olds REALLY enjoy them and REALLY enjoy plastic crap! It’s called childhood, and it’s not supposed to be a total grind. Sorry that yours evidently was! My kids have fully enjoyed and loved their birthday parties and all the parties they’ve attended. Personally I actually love the fact that on a rainy, cold night in March, I had about 20 3 and 4 year olds racing all over my house, hopped up on sugar and playing their little hearts out. Life is what you make it, and no one is going to give you a medal at the end for being a practical and stuffy killjoy.

FCM

May 20th, 2010
2:18 pm

Thank you JATL now I have Ms. Montana’s “Lifes What You Make It” stuck in my head.

FCM

May 20th, 2010
2:26 pm

Photius of course graduating HS is expected. So is getting out of the 5th grade next year. Still think they are milestones and should be acknowledged.

IF (and I have 8-10 years left to do this) I do my job correctly then I should be celebrating the fact that the “child” is an Adult with all the responsibilities that entails.

JATL

May 20th, 2010
2:27 pm

@FCM -I’m just here to serve ;-)