Get the Party Started: How to Throw the Ultimate Graduation Open House

By Lauren Caggiano on May, 2 2018
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Lauren Caggiano

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based copywriter and editor with a nerdy passion for AP Style. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering, thrift shopping, fitness and travel. Learn more on her website:

Congratulations to the Class of 2018! Whether high school or college, an open-house style format lends itself well to graduation parties. Here’s how you can ensure your event is the talk of the neighborhood:

4-6 Weeks Before

Pick a date and time. The summer is high time for graduations, confirmations, weddings and family vacations, so it can be difficult to cater to everyone’s schedules. If there are multiple graduates in your family, you might consider throwing a joint open house graduation party to simplify things and curb costs. As for timing, between noon and 6 p.m. is usually the best window to accommodate the most number of guests.

Pick a theme. It can be as broad or as zeroed-in as you like. For example, you could host a luau, BBQ or sports themed event. The theme will set the tone for the occasion. The food and decorations will follow the vibe. Whatever you choose, it should reflect the personality and preferences of the graduate. He or she is the star of the show, after all!

Plan the entertainment. Whether corn hole, karaoke, euchre, Twister or some other activity, you want a way to keep guests engaged. A photo booth with silly props always brings out the best in people. For a low-cost option, you can even make your own with cardboard cutouts and a selfie stick. A close-up magician can add an element of mystery to your event.


Send invitations and manage the guest list. Will you do snail mail or e-vites? Either way, requiring an RSVP can help you figure out exactly how many guests you can expect. While an "open house" allows guests to come and go at any time during the event, it is still acceptable to ask for RSVPs. Include a deadline for RSVPs a few weeks before the event so you can call in in accurate food orders. Just remember the 20 percent rule—that is, 20 percent of your guests list will likely not show the day of, so you need to account for that when making arrangements.

A Few Days Before

Finalize the food and drink menu. Once you have a rough idea for the number of guests, you can nail down the food counts. What’s a party without food, after all? A buffet style set up is the best option for an open house. For starters, opt for a wide variety of options. Take into account guests who follow special diets, like gluten-free to vegetarian

Finger food allows for mingling and milling about. You can’t go wrong with a veggie platter or fruit tray. Cold cuts, a cheese platter and chips and dip also do well and can be left out for a few hours. Cupcakes make a great dessert option and alternative to a traditional sheet cake. You can find these items at your local grocery store or order through a caterer. Just make sure you give enough notice, as this is a busy time of year.


Will your party have alcohol? If minors are in attendance, know that you can be liable for any underage drinking that might occur. Regardless, you should have plenty of cold refreshments on hand. Soda and water should do the job.

Secure the supplies. Plates, cups, napkins and plastic cutlery are all essentials. Disposable is the way to go, as to cut down on dishes and prevent a guest from accidentally cracking your favorite glass. Don’t forget about other supplies, like balloons, banners, signs, etc. Party favors are a nice touch, too. Many online retailers allow you to customize these items to add a special touch. You can even match the colors according to your theme.


Put on the finishing touches. A guestbook is a great way to track attendees so you won’t miss anyone when sending thank you cards. You also might consider using a card box or something else so that you won’t lose track of cards (and potential checks).

Get your house in order-literally. Do a deep clean. Don’t forget about those hard-to-reach spaces you have neglected. If the job is beyond your skills, you might call in a cleaning service to alleviate some of that stress. Don’t forget about your yard. Do you need to do any weeding or maintenance? How about pest control? If you have a patio or deck, you might consider taking your party outside if the weather permits. Outdoor tents provide some cover if the weather turns bad.

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Day Of

Relax! You’ve done all the hard work. Now it’s time for guests to arrive and the fun to begin.


Wrap things up. Take down decorations. Return anything you’ve rented from vendors. Send thank you notes to guests when appropriate. Relax and pat yourself on the back for throwing a great party!