Commence to Celebrate

Graduation Party Season Means Planning, Planning, Planning

By Sara Gavin | Posted on 05.25.13 – Lifestyles

HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION SEASON IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER AND THE PRESSURE IS MOUNTING—NOT JUST FOR THE GRADUATES, BUT FOR PARENTS TASKED WITH PLANNING the perfect party to mark this major milestone.

“There’s definitely an expectation,” says Cynthia Kleutz, who has had three children graduate from Linganore High School in the past five years. “The bottom line is, you’ve got to do something or, gee, it just doesn’t look good.”

For rookie graduation party parents, it can be an intimidating and nerve-wracking process: Where and when will the party be? How many people? What kind of food to serve? How much will it cost?

Fortunately, plenty of Frederick County parents who have survived this stressful season were more than willing to share their secrets to success and tricks of the trade.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

Some parents admit that planning and hosting this all-important event can simply feel too big to face alone and recommend joining forces with other families when possible. Festivities honoring multiple graduates at the same time have become quite commonplace in many communities. When her son Keith graduated from Linganore in 2012, Kleutz cohosted a party at Kemptown Park with two other families. All the honorees had been football players and shared the same circle of friends so it was a natural fit for their celebrations to be shared.

“I was very close to all the parents and we’re such good friends so it really worked out well,” says Kleutz.

Sharing hosting responsibilities can certainly help cut down on expenses as well as the time and effort it takes to plan and prepare. However, parents who have used this joint approach say it’s key to keep the lines of communication open and to be vocal about expectations. “It’s just really important to divide everything up equally so you feel like it’s even,” says Kathleen Lucian, who shared the hostess role with Kleutz when her twin sons Nick and Anthony graduated from Linganore in 2012. “And then make it really clear that everybody helps set up and everybody stays to clean up.”

Cutting down on scheduling conflicts is another big reason many families opt to party together. With so many graduates, packing in parties in a short time period makes overlapping celebrations inevitable. That’s why Leslie Whitestone decided to host her daughter Amanda’s party during the week before her actual commencement from Urbana High in 2012. “That worked out really well for us,” says Whitestone, whose son Brian also graduated from Urbana, in 2010.

HIRING HELP

For both children, Whitestone decided to host parties at her home but turned to the professionals for some assistance. “I thought it would be nice to have a tent out in the back yard and that way we wouldn’t have everybody in our house and I thought it would be more fun to be outdoors anyway,” she says.

Whitestone reached out to Grand Rental Events, a company based in Odenton with a regional sales office on North Market Street in Frederick. According to regional director Dwain Remsberg, graduation parties keep his business pretty busy throughout June. Aside from tents, Grand Rental also offers chairs, tables, décor, lighting, linens to match school colors and other specialty items like snow cone machines. “You can take it to any level,” Remsberg says. “It can be casual or a little more over the top.”

Premier Event Rentals located on Industry Lane in Frederick enjoys a similar boom in early June from graduation festivities. “Every year (around that time) we sell out of just about every tent, table and chair we own,” says Loretta Saba, a managing partner at Premier. “It’s a great time of year to sweep our warehouse because it’s empty and bare.”

Of course, renting equipment can take a big chunk out of any budget. A tent, table and chairs for roughly 30 people will cost around $1,000, according to Remsberg. Larger set-ups can cost upwards of $3,000. “The tent was a big expense but I just thought it was worth it to me because I liked (the guests) being outside and not being in the house. I didn’t mind spending a little extra money on that,” says Whitestone.

DEVILISH DETAILS

Whether joining with others or going solo, parents who’ve hosted graduation parties in the past say it’s best to start the planning process early and that setting a budget should be the first step. Other details like the guest list, food, decorations and entertainment can then fall into place. “You have to make a plan and stick to it,” says Donna Peach, whose son Clifton graduated from Linganore in 2012.

Peach and two other families hosted a party at Libertytown Park and had the event catered. She says not having to spend time cooking was worth the expense of paying a catering company but advises party planners to do their homework and to go over contracts with a finetoothed comb. “Make sure you get in writing what you’re agreeing to and are 100 percent sure what services they’re offering, what they’re responsible for,” says Peach.

FINDING FOCUS

With the whirlwind surrounding graduation party season, parents who’ve made it through to the other side say it can be easy to get caught up and carried away, so it’s important to find focus. “For me, it was making sure my child, my graduate is happy about it. Why put them through something they don’t really want to be a part of?” says Kleutz. Whitestone agrees: “Get your children involved and listen to their ideas, keep them involved in the process.”

And after 18 long years, high school graduations are just as much of a milestone for parents as for the graduates themselves. “You’ve been with them all these years and you helped them out at school, transported them all around, made sure they did their homework, took them to all their sporting events, and now you’re taking them into the next stage of life,” says Peach.