Not Throwing Your Senior a Big, Expensive Graduation Party? You’re Not Alone

Don't feel guilty if you decide not to throw a graduation party.
Here’s why you DO NOT need to throw an expensive graduation party.

If you have a high school senior, right about now you’re probably experiencing two kinds of thoughts. The first is, “How did high school go by so fast?” And the second is, “Why did nobody tell me how EXPENSIVE having a senior is?”

Although we all knew graduation day was inevitable (and we’ve been preparing emotionally for it all year long), it goes unspoken how much expense is involved in graduating a high schooler, and most of us are unprepared for it. In addition to all the college prep costs like SAT/ACT tests, test prep services if needed, college tours, application fees, and college housing, orientation, and admission deposits, there are a bevy of “senior year” costs.

Who knew I’d also be paying for the actual cap and gown and honor society sashes, special events like senior lunch, senior breakfast, grad night, senior pictures, athletic banquets, graduation announcements,  and the list goes on and on and on. HASHTAG BROKE.

And then when the end of the school year eventually rolls around (and you’re totally out of money), you have to throw a graduation party? 

Just for kicks, I recently took a little tour of all the graduation party ideas that Pinterest has to offer. Did you know there is an entire subcategory of graduation party ideas that are centered solely around a “rustic theme for girls?”  If by rustic, they mean the party takes place in an abandoned barn because it’s the only place that doesn’t require a giant security deposit and private catering, then yes, I will be throwing a rustic graduation party.

Unfortunately, it meant something totally different, and I soon found myself spiraling down an endless plethora of ways to decorate with mason jars, chalkboards, large glass pitchers of melon infused sparkling water, and detailed instructions for setting up a photo booth with hay barrels. WHAT!?!?

I don’t know about you, but by the end of my son’s senior year, my entire family was exhausted emotionally, mentally, and even physically. It felt like the arduous climb up the K-12 mountain had thankfully (and finally!) been summited, and as thrilling as that was, none of us had anything left in our festive (and financial) tanks to even think about throwing a graduation party.

My son didn’t mind, my spouse didn’t mind (and even my extended family didn’t mind), that I wasn’t throwing him a party. As a matter of fact, the only person that really had an issue with it was me. And my issue was borne out of something that every mother deals with- the dreaded guilt factor.  

You see, as my mailbox grew flooded with specially ordered, senior picture covered, heavy-weighted card stock (and very pricey) grad party invitations, my heart began to sink. Thoughts like,

What kind of mother doesn’t throw her child a high school graduation party? Put on your big girl panties and whip something together lady! Doesn’t your kid deserve at least that?

weighed heavily on my chest.  And even though I knew deep down that not throwing my son a grad bash wouldn’t necessitate future psychotherapy on his part, I still inherently felt like a world class “failing mom of a high school senior.”

But hasn’t that been the case for the last 18 years? Don’t we all as mothers beat ourselves up enough about being anything less than perfect? Throughout childhood, didn’t we all feel lacking and lazy in some way if we didn’t throw our kids a Pinterest worthy birthday party every year?

And how ironic is it that even with all our failures and imperfections for 18 years, our kid successfully graduated high school, and we’re still unable to accept that we’ve done enough? That we’re doing enough? That the kids are gonna be just fine in the end even without a perfect everything surrounding them along the way?

I didn’t throw my first son a graduation party, and two years later, I didn’t throw my second son a party either. Nobody is emotionally bruised over it, and nobody is rubbing it in my face that they missed out on a “rustic themed grad party for boys.” (In a barn of course, adorned with twinkling lights and a three tiered cake covered in fondant the colors of their future college.)

Instead, right after their graduation ceremony we all headed out to dinner together, just immediate family. It was there we laughed and lingered over dessert, and talked of all the amazing adventures yet to come for our new college freshman. We may have even talked of throwing a “graduate school” graduation party some day down the road.

Because that kind of accomplishment? 

Well, that is something even I wouldn’t mind making mason jar centerpieces for. 

Does the thought of throwing a graduation party for your high school senior overwhelm you? You aren't alone. Here are some alternative ideas to an inexpensive party. #seniorparty #graduation #gradpartyideas

Related:

Graduation Party Ideas: How to Celebrate Your Senior’s Big Day

High School Graduation Gifts for Boys: They Will Love These!

21 Absolutely Fabulous Grad Gifts for Girls

About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

Read more posts by Melissa

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