I have found that it works best if a parent does the graduation party planning, but seeks out the vision of the party from their teen, giving them leeway into how they want to celebrate. But, while there are many decisions to be made that your teen can help with, there are a few that should be asked right away. Here are some questions you can ask your teenager about how they would like to celebrate their graduation:
Do you want to have a graduation party or a small family dinner?
Depending on your teen’s personality, they may not want to have too much attention given to their graduation. Perhaps a small family dinner out is more what your teen would like. The important point is that you ask them before you start planning.
Another point is there may already be a big class party that your teen wants to attend, one that makes it easy on everyone not to have to 'party-hop' or miss some of the parties because there are too many to go to. If this is the case and your teen wants a small dinner with immediate or close family but you want to invite family friends and have a bigger party, do both. Simply schedule the bigger party sometime during the summer when the graduation party frenzy has died down.
Would you like a big party or a small party?
If your teen has chosen to have a big or a small party, there are many more questions that need answered. Discuss the options, pros and cons. The budget should be a big part of the discussion, but shouldn't put a damper on a bigger party. There are ways to make it less expensive if funds are an issue like making it a potluck.
Who should we invite?
Getting your teen to make a list is important to your planning process and can be very hard to do. This is a busy time and your teen may feel that this can be decided later, then later never comes. Explain to your teen that you need to know who they want to invite before you can make party preparations.
Be cautious about who is getting invited. After your teen has made the list, you'll want to go over it with them. Add family members or close family friends that they may have forgotten. If you teen has any objections, hear them out and compromise. You'll want to check their list to be sure that everyone on it is someone who sill not be causing any problems with bringing alcohol or starting fights - like old boyfriends. Again, talk with your teen and compromise.
Can we combine the party with your friend’s party?
To save money this is a viable option, but your teen should be in on this decision. Share the budget with your teen, think of different options and make this decision together. This question should be asked right away so you have an answer in case the friend's parents ask you.
There are many examples of combined parties. A woman emailed me a couple of years ago to tell me about how her community handled the graduation party by having one at the area park where all of the students, families and community celebrated the graduation of the high school seniors. She loved it and said it made it very easy. I thought it sounded like lots of fun and a great idea.