Bringing down the OPEN house


“Photo by Jonathan Moore” Cake time: Need a graduation cake? Gordon Food Service sells graduation cakes for $24 in yellow or chocolate cake batter flavors.

“Photo by Jonathan Moore” Cake time: Need a graduation cake? Gordon Food Service sells graduation cakes for $24 in yellow or chocolate cake batter flavors.

By Jonathan Moore

and Krista Wilson

Staff Writers


One of the most exciting experiences for high school graduates is hosting a graduation party or open house to celebrate success and the forward journey into adulthood. While these festive bashes can be tons of fun, many underestimate how much hard work goes into proper planning for an enjoyable and stress-free experience for guests and graduates alike.
But do not fear: Party planner Delonna Stinson of Glamorous Elegance in Southfield is sharing her complete cheat sheet for a memorable graduation gathering.
Before beginning to planning your party, Stinson says to plan a budget. “Setting a budget is always best so money won’t get wasted,” Stinson says.
Costs will quickly get out of hand if you don’t plan in advance and are unsure of how many guests to expect. When you write a guest list in the very beginning you will not only have an idea of how much food and space you will need, but you’ll also be that much closer to having all your invitations done, she says.

The next factor to consider is what type of gathering you want to have, Stinson says. “It’s important to consider what type of gathering you’re having because it tells you how much money to spend and what venue to rent.”
If you’re expecting no more than 10 people, you may want to consider a dinner at a nearby restaurant, such as the upscale steakhouse Texas de Brazil or the Italian restaurant Andiamos Detroit Riverfront, both found in downtown Detroit.
If you expect more guests, be prepared to host the event somewhere that provides ample space for all of them. Inside your home is preferred, because you won’t have to worry about the bipolar Michigan weather or being rained out.
If you don’t want to have it in your home, consider renting a hall or even better, a VFW or church meeting space, which tend to be available for lower prices. You can even add a barbecue pit to the mix and host your event outside in your backyard or at a local park. If you choose a park, be sure to call ahead and reserve your party site.

The most convenient time for most guests to attend is during the weekend between noon and 6 p.m., but be considerate, Stinson says. “The weekend is the best time to have an open house because guests are off from work,” Stinson says. It should start at 2 p.m. and continue into the evening to ensure family and friends can stop by, Stinson says.
Many fellow grads will be planning their parties on these same days at the same time. While you will not please everyone with your choice of date or time, try to avoid competing for a coveted slot. Scheduling your event during a week night could be a better option in some cases.
June and July are the most popular months for hosting a graduation party because many students start the move to campus in August. The open house style graduation party works best for most because it gives guests an opportunity to stroll through at a time convenient for them and gives you, the graduate, time to enjoy their presence and thank them for coming. Avoid planning an open house party for less than three hours.

Take note: If you want to save money, you may even want to consider co-sponsoring the party with a best friend or family member, lowering your cost and sharing resources and responsibilities. writer Alexander Dierdick shares another great piece of advice: “It’s a good idea to break your high school grad party into two parts: the family and the friends. Why? The fun you have with your high school gang is a little bit different from the fun you have with your great-aunt.” For example, invite family from 12-3 p.m. and friends from 3-6 p.m., or even later.

Great and thoughtful decorations add flair to any graduation party. It’s important to first and foremost have a theme, Stinson says, which could be super simple (“I’m a 2013 Graduate, Hooray”) or college specific (“This is SPARTAN territory!”)– the choice is yours.
Just remember to incorporate your journey throughout high school, before, and beyond. While having a table or wall full of awards or mementos from your past is great, take the personal touch a step even further. Get streamers, tablecloths in your favorite color or the color scheme of the school you’ll be attending in the fall.
Position a table for gifts out of the way of the entrance but close enough for guests to be able to drop off their offering and get partying.

While creating an event on Facebook and sharing the link online is easy, be formal and send invitations in the mail at least a month prior to your shindig as well. (If you have no idea what the postal service is, ask an adult to help you.) Be sure to clearly print your full name along with the date, time and address of your party.
Avoid using e-invites, as most people (especially young people) rarely check their e-mail. It’s important to have a guest list so you can prepare for how many people to expect, but don’t ask for guests to RSVP—you won’t want to keep track of this information and it’s likely that people who don’t come will be supplemented by family and friends you forgot to invite that show up magically.
Don’t write “gifts or money welcome” on the invitation either; it’s rude and unnecessary.

The number one thing to keep in mind when deciding what delicious goodies you’ll be dishing out to your graduation party guests is convenience. All your food, or most of it, should be something fresh and fast that they can eat while sitting down, walking around your party or being on the move to another grad’s get-together.
Purchase a good amount of small finger food, such as mini-sandwiches and shrimp or steak skewers. Antipasto platters of crackers and cheese and olives, vegetable platters, potato and fruit salads all make great additions to any party.
Be sure to have refreshing summer drinks on hand, like lemonade, fruit juice and soda.
As far as cake is concerned, have fun with it, just remember: plan on cutting it during the first hour of your party so that everyone gets a slice.

Because most of your guests won’t be staying long, it’s best to keep the entertainment going at all times. Consider having a slideshow or good music or, something that can begin immediately, such as a pick-up game of basketball, Twister or Dance Dance Revolution.
Karaoke is a great option, too, especially if you’re expecting a lot of friends.

If you want to have a slideshow but are worried about space, the folks at party-planning website have a suggestion: “If you like the idea but you’re not sure it will work for your graduation party, another idea is to purchase a few digital picture frames and display them throughout the party space.” Upload different photos and let them rotate throughout the party.

A great touch that can be as inexpensive as it is thankful is making small goody bags to give to your guests when they depart. While it won’t be expected, it will certainly be appreciated, especially by those who have other open house stops in their schedule that day. Think of including a bottle of water, some candy, mints or even a small thank-you note. That way you won’t have to send another round of notes out after your party.
No matter what, relax and remember that planning before your party leads to stress-free fun during.