How to throw the best graduation party ever

There are a few details about graduation parties anyone thinking of throwing one should know.

Graduation PartyEverything seems to be going fine for the best graduation party this side of the river, whichever river you’re talking about and whichever side you’re on. You are actually graduating, you are actually having a party. But despite popular opinion, graduation parties are not just like other parties.

A major difference between a graduation party and just any other kind of party are the guests. The guests really make any party, and many grad party guests (graduating students) are likely to be in delicate emotional states due to major life changes. These are people who have been attending school full-time since at least age six, but many of whom are going to attempt to adapt school-free lives. They’re also probably being separated from their major support system — their best friends. And on top of all this, many grad party guests are sleep-deprived from studying for finals (or hard partying), scared to death because they don’t have a job offer yet (or, in some cases, scared to death because they do), cranky from spending too much time with relatives during graduation festivities and already feeling the first waves of oversentimental nostalgia for their college years.

With a group of guests in such a potentially volatile state, the “just add beer, chips and music” philosophy can lead to an overemotional drunken outburst. At the very least, a good grad party host or hostess should be ready to deal with the likely delicate emotional states of her/his beer-drinking, chip-eating guests.

Which is the most critical graduation party element?

Packing and moving help
To avoid seeing even your most composed guest dissolve into a sobbing, screaming, heaving freakazoid, it’s imperative that you know what to expect and how to handle it. Here’re some emotional states common to graduation party guests:

“Weeping Willow”: Okay, this is a problem. “It’s all right to cry”, but shedding enough tears to form a new ocean isn’t. Have tissues, an anecdote and a hug handy if a person starts crying. Be sensitive but save a tree, try and cheer them up before everyone there has a waterworks going.

“Butterflies the Size of Rodan”: While not as drastic as “Weeping Willow,” butterflies in the stomach, if left untreated, can escalate into a major problem. Let any afflicted guest know this may be one of the few times in college where it’s okay to remember high school. Remember how excited and nervous everyone was? Remind anyone dealing with butterflies that things turned out all right: they survived school and the move away from home. And the cops haven’t shown up at this party — yet.

“Moving”: Don’t rent “The Money Pit” or “Moving,” unless you want to play on your guests’ fears and end up nursing their anxiety attacks all night. Unless you’re planning to use cardboard boxes as tables and chairs, have them out of the way by the party. Friends are usually good for this, especially if money or free food is involved.

In addition to being ready to prevent or circumvent any possible guest catastrophes, you should also be prepared to deal with the inevitable “job conversation,” unless, of course, you’re just headed for grad school.

“Jobless Blues”: So, you’re actually graduating and receiving a degree … only you don’t actually have a job. How the hell can you survive talking to Business Major Phil who’s starting at $40,000 two weeks from now when the only thing you’re starting is your new life as one of the unemployed? You have two options. You can 1) feign interest or 2) describe your own creative scenario when the almost-inevitable question comes up:

“I’ve been authorized to conduct a study on the effect of unemployment on recent college graduates.”

“I meant to take a year off but I had to finish school first, so now I’m finally doing it.”

“I’m going to use this season of my life as a time for philosophical reflection and personal discovery.”

“I’m going on sabbatical.”

“Lifestyles of the Employed”: There’s a fine line between sharing the joy of your future and bragging like a jerk. Tread carefully, but don’t tear yourself down. Don’t share your salary or talk about the prestige of your position. And above all keep your cell phone, sport utility vehicle and personal trainer out of the conversation.

Name That Theme
The graduation party theme is another major difference between a grad party and just any other. No party is a party without one, and if “graduation” cuts it for you, you might as well just buy some Dixie cups, make some punch and give up on creativity. In case you don’t already have your own theme, we’ve got some ideas to jump-start your thinking:

Why not have a major occasion? Throw a party somehow related to your major. Did you study Psychology? Tell guests to come dressed up as rats or sporting Mickey Mouse ears. Education? Host preschool-type games and eat milk and cookies. Political science? Dress up as a famous political figure , whether or not Monica Lewinsky counts is up to you. Use your imagination, this is your last chance to act like a total idiot with virtually no consequences.

Or get a head start out of the city limits. Take advantage of the early wave of college town nostalgia your guests will be experiencing by throwing a party related to the area your college is in. Say you’re at Baylor University in Waco. Have everyone elect a man and a woman to be David Koresh and Janet Reno, respectively. Out in the cornfields surrounding Indiana University at Bloomington? Hold a square dance or bonfire. Or maybe you’re in a small Southern town like the University of Georgia students in Athens, Georgia. In this case, guests could come as characters from “Gone With The Wind.” The only limit besides the city limits is your creativity.

It’s All Fun and Games
The purpose of a party is to have fun. But you can only play charades or poker so many times. How about a little variety?

“Guess Who”: No, not that annoying face game your baby cousin drags you into playing every time you’re on break. Capitalizing on recent memories soon to become distant fond “college days” memories, have a person tell a story about someone at the party without using the victim’s name. Then see if anybody can guess who it is without looking at the woman with an incredibly red face who is hiding her head in her arms.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to throw a grad party worthy of all the sleep deprivation of your school years … and live to tell about it.