We had a pretty busy June here at SmithHouse with Graduation Open Houses. Once the month reserved for only weddings, Graduation parties booked us solid through the most part of June. Here are some tips and tricks for planning your graduation open house.
1) "Open House" events are different from a traditional party in that the guests are suppose to come and go during an allotted time frame. While RSVP are nice...do not count on them. The casualness of the term "open house" implies that guests could skip it or just show up.
2) If you want to keep the "open house" feel, keep the food casual. Remember that most caterers require a head count for their services. if you sent out 50 open house invitations, the odds are about 1/3 won't show. Which means, you will be stuck paying for a lot more food for no show guests. Go the route of veggie trays, chips and dip and cheese and crackers. These items won't break the bank when you have a ton left over.
3) If you want a solid RSVP guest list, call it a "party" or "celebration" rather than an open house. Send out formal invitations rather than a facebook post. This lets guests know that they have been specifically invited to this event. If you want to go a step further, put a line that says "RSVP by a certain date". If you have not heard back from all your guests, feel free to follow up with them asking if they plan to attend.
4) Think outside the box with the decor. While Party City has tons of Graduation decor, it is the same decor that every graduates event will be donned with. Keep decor simple with a color pallet of the school colors of where they are graduating or where they are off too.
Another idea is to theme the party out with the graduates talent. If you have an aspiring artist, theater major, math prodigy or french major, decorate the party in items that represent the student.
5) Pick your date as close to graduation as possible if not before. There is not law that states you have to celebrate the graduate after the ceremony. A graduation party prior to the actual commencement date will allow more of your guests to attend. The weekend of graduation is very busy and the weekends after are filled with every other seniors event as well as the vacation season starting.
6) If you cannot have your graduation open house around or right after graduation, consider having a "send off" party towards the end of the summer for those kids heading to college.
7) Alcohol is risky at these events. While we all love a cocktail (especially during a party with a bunch of teens), keep in mind that your bartender will be very busy checking ID's . If you are in charge of the alcohol at the party, keep it in a secret place that your adult guests only have access.
8) If you are doing an outside event, invest in a tent. June is hot and when it rains...it rains. A tent will allow your guests some much needed relief from the hot sun..plus, they are fun to decorate.
9) Keep your graduate as a greeter at the event. There is nothing more rude then guest coming to an event to honor someone and they cannot be found because they are in a corner on their phone with a group of their friends. The graduate needs to be front and center taking time to talk to every guest and thanking them for coming. At no point, should anyone need to be "looking for them".
10) Thank you notes...hand written...with-in a week...enough said.