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Swing Open the Doors:
Tips for a Great Graduation Open House

While they used to be quiet family gatherings, the idea of a graduation party in many U.S. communities has progressed into a full-scale open house with friends, neighbors and schoolmates invited to offer their congratulations.

If you have a high-school senior at home, and are facing the challenge of arranging a graduation open house, here are a few tips to make it organized, affordable, memorable and fun.

  • The golden rule for any party is to decide on a budget and stick to it!

  • Check with other parents or relatives who have hosted graduation celebrations for tips on what has worked in the past and what hasn't especially in regard to the logistics of an open house.

  • Remember that open house parties are casual affairs with people coming and going throughout the day. Set a limit to schedule guests arriving from, say, 12PM to 4PM so guests know they can arrive anywhere within the timeframe. Once the date and timeframe are set, begin inviting close family members with a phone call, e-mail, or social network contact. It's good etiquette to formally ask teachers or other school faculty members with a written invitation.

  • Create invitations using free downloadable graduation clip art and a word processing program. Because of the open-ended nature of the invite, RSVPs aren't usually necessary but do include the when and where, and use fun headers on your open house graduation invitations with wording like "OPEN HOUSE! Let's Tip Our Hats to Our Graduates!"

  • Consider a buffet-style serving arrangement, as it allows lots of mingling as guests who can help themselves to easy finger foods like chicken wings, hot dogs and mini-pizzas. Just be sure to have plenty of sturdy paper plates and tons of napkins on hand! Although a bit more work is entailed also consider a backyard barbecue party if space is limited inside your house.

  • For a more formal sit-down affair, think about make ahead dishes like baked ziti or lasagna that will free you up on party day and make party preparation easier.

  • Take note of too many cars parked out front, or the teen noise level as the party progresses. In short, be respectful of your neighbors. Better yet, invite them over!

  • To save on costs, consider coordinating with a few other parents to throw a joint open house. If you plan far enough in advance it's easy to pool resources by hosting a multi-family graduation party in a larger home or at a local banquet hall.

  • Congratulations on a job well done! You've finally gotten your teen through the high school years. This party's for you, too.

  • Finally, don't forget to remind your teen to write the necessary thank you notes for all the graduation gifts received. Consider a discussion about gift money being designated for their education fund as your favorite graduate heads off to college.

Have fun!



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