Graduation costs

by Grace aka costofcollege

This time of year many families are celebrating graduations, whether preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, or college.  The costs can mount up, as discussed in this CollegeConfidential thread.

Cap and gowns, diplomas, yearbooks, photos, rings, invitations, dinners, parties, travel, and gifts are some of the typical expenditures.  If your child is receiving honors of various types, costs for awards dinners can mount up.  One parent with twins complained she would be spending several hundred dollars for those.  Other end-of-year expenditures like recitals and proms can also strain family budgets.

How lavish is your spending for graduation celebrations?  What is common among your friends and relatives?  What about spending for other types of milestones, like First Communions or bat/bar mitzahs?


149 thoughts on “Graduation costs

  1. Graduations (HS): both were backyard events catered by the restaurant(s) of their choice. Both were BBQ places, one was Dinosaur, the other a local place. For the first we had waaaaay too much food, for the second we got it right. And we rented a 20′ x 30′ tent, tables, chairs. I think all in with beverages, decorations, cake, we spent in the $1500-$2000 range each.

    Key learning: we found the kids ate no where as much as we expected them to (we had figured the boys would eat like, well, the teenage boys they were, but no). So you can underorder to some degree. ArnoldPalmer was the drink of choice, or just plain (bottled) water. No one drank diet soda.

  2. When DS graduates from high school, I imagine we will take everyone out to dinner at a nice place–us, kids, and grandparents. Our main expense will be the celebratory vacation that we will take during that summer. The last hurrah before our baby leaves us for college. (sniff)

  3. Graduations are not big in my family. My parents came to my HS graduation, which was held at a large basketball arena. The most interesting part was when someone let loose a whole bunch of white mice on the floor where all the grads were sitting. I didn’t go to my college or grad school graduations. When my DH graduated from his PhD program, his parents planned to go to the graduation, mainly because John Kennedy Junior was also marching – but it was pouring rain (outdoor ceremony) so they bagged it. I have never heard of a graduation party on either side of the family.

  4. This brings back fond memories of attending the graduation open houses of upper classmen, and my happiness as a freshman/sophomore when seniors I admired invited me to their open houses. Parents usually had those little bun-style ham sandwiches, chips, salad, and water/pop so the outlay wasn’t huge. The main hassle was cleaning the house for a big party.

    It was a nice way to say Goodbye to people I’d mostly never see again. My favorite graduation card was, “You’ve graduated from high school and your life will never be the same.. Never again will you need a hall pass to use the restroom.”

  5. We’re doing an extended family dinner after graduation that will probably run $600-$800. Then we’re co-hosting a party with five other families in a few weeks and our share of that will probably run $500 or so (2 families are in the restaurant business so we’re getting wholesale prices on most of the stuff). We have a bunch of other grad parties to go to, so we have gifts for that as well.
    DS’s school doesn’t have award dinners, honor cords, or other c*** that we have to pay for.

  6. I think complaints like this can quickly devolve into ye olde humblebrag — “OMG, those awards banquets are just *so* expensive, and now we have to pay to frame the MVP certificate. . . .”

    I think it comes down to defining as “mandatory” only those expenses you care about, a/k/a, ignore the “shoulds.” I must admit, I wanted the class ring and a big party and all of that stuff. And my mom took me aside and said, “look, I get it, and if this were the height of your academic career, we’d find a way to get you all that stuff. But you have so much more ahead of you, and I can tell you that once you go to college, you’ll never wear your HS class ring again.” I realized she was right, so I think we just had a nice dinner out to celebrate (and I went to my friends’ parties, which, as my mom pointed out, would be much more fun anyway, since I’d be surrounded by friends instead of relatives and my parents’ friends). The only ring I bought was college; the only diplomas I bothered to frame were law school. But I did buy all the yearbooks so I could remember the people (and I do have the HS awards in a box in my mom’s attic that she’s not allowed to throw out :-)). And my family all trudged out to MN for the college graduation.

  7. My family only did high school graduation parties and it was more potluck style at home (not sure if this is because a lot of my cousins didn’t go to college). I still remember my youngest sister graduating from high school the same year I graduated from college and my dad saying, she gets the party, you already had yours and I’m not asking relatives to give to both of you.

  8. “Parents usually had those little bun-style ham sandwiches, chips, salad, and water/pop so the outlay wasn’t huge. ”

    @WCE – No surprise, but this is exactly what graduation open houses were for my HS as well. Everyone had open houses and invited most, if not all, of the class. There were cars roaming around going to all the parties for 3 consecutive weekends. LOTS of mini ham sandwiches were consumed. Often at card tables in someone’s garage in case of rain.

    I missed my own college graduation because I was already working halfway across the country. I don’t regret missing the ceremony, but the senior week activities leading up to it would have been fun. I only had 2 weeks of vacation though, so it wasn’t really practical to go.

    What is a standard graduation gift for a close, but not immediate family member? e.g., a niece or nephew? $50 in a card? $20? I am going to a family graduation party for the first time in over a decade, and I have no idea what to give.

  9. We’re cohosting a post graduation party for DD and two of her friends right after graduation. ive told my DD she can come to it before or after she drops by the other party she wants to go to. We’ll have a going away party before she leaves when people are a little more free. I have a niece graduating at the exact same time 150 miles away, but her party is the next day, so we can go to that.

  10. YMMV in this as in all things. Graduation parties were not a Thing where I grew up – maybe people would have a backyard BBQ with their extended family, but that was it. Here I have seen baby first birthday parties that rival the size of those backyard BBQs; again, I am hopeful that our new town won’t be as into conspicuous consumption as where we are now.

    Both sets of grandparents came up for my and my siblings’ HS graduations, which was nice. After college graduation, we took a break from packing all my stuff and went out to a fancy dinner that night, so that was nice. (I did notice that for people who had less $$, their parents came in and stayed in their dorm room the night before graduation, and then they left in the evening right after graduation – no staying in hotels.) Same things with law school – we took my parents (and then-BF, now-DH) out to eat at a fancy place. At that point my siblings were doing end-of-year stuff in college and HS, so they didn’t come to that graduation.

  11. My mom and my aunt split a family graduation party for my cousins and I. We all graduated HS or college at the same time. Nothing huge.

    We went out to dinner for college and grad school. Nothing big.

    I did get my class rings for HS and college. And I purchased my hood for grad school. I framed my BS, MS, and Ph.D degrees.

    To keep costs I think the only thing you can do is go with what you need to. Or if you’re spending lots of money on gifts for family and friends get creative. You know these events are coming so plan the best you can.

  12. Rhett – me neither.

    Ivy – I couldn’t go to any of the off-campus senior week activities because they were all 21+ and my fake ID had been stolen. :( Sniff!

  13. Fred – you described HS graduations I’m familiar with perfectly. Chiavetta’s chicken?

    College – hmm, mom was recovering from chemo so just my Dad and sis came to my Dec. graduation ceremony. Mom and Dad came when I walked in the May ceremony. Law school – my whole immediate family came (quite a distance) and we went out to a really nice restaurant. That was a nice surprise for me. The whole immediate family attended my brother’s police academy graduation.

    I try/will try to fly in for nephews and nieces graduations mostly to please my mom, but the kids prefer the hard cash. Only one nephew graduated college so far – and it as a close call, and far, so only immediate family attended. I sent cash.

  14. Graduation Open House = party is scheduled for a 2-3 hour block. Graduate and family are there the whole time with food & drinks. People drop by, eat a few chips, maybe drop off a card (not required), say congrats & leave. No expectation to stay beyond 15-30 minutes tops as they have lots of other open houses to go to.

    The key was knowing who would have the best mini ham sandwiches & eating there.

    I’m thinking that this is more of a small town thing.

  15. I did not get HS or college class rings. I don’t wear much jewelry and see those more as a guy thing. I don’t recall HS rings being big with girls. Is this just me or a regional thing?

  16. “I try/will try to fly in for nephews and nieces graduations”

    That is not common among anyone I know, and I found it surprising when I heard of people doing that. A wedding yes, but graduation no.

    There are many HS graduation house parties here, so they are treated a bit like open houses where guests drop in for an hour or less.

    When I graduated high school class rings were very important, but neither of my kids had any interest in getting them.

  17. I’ve never heard of graduation open house either. Now we had a high school graduation party that night at someone’s house. I think the parents may have been home but there was definitely alcohol. Ah, the 90s…

  18. Shun Lee was a hit last night. Thanks for the suggestion, ATM or whoever suggested it! ( I stopped by the new Turnstyle underground mall yesterday, and I was thinking if it were just me I would have grabbed something from there and dined in Columbus Circle. The Bolivian Llama Party restaurant looked particularly enticing. But we were a group and it was much easier to coordinate at a restaurant like Shun Lee.)

  19. The 90s are alive and well around here if it means liquor served at teen parties with parental supervision.

  20. High school graduations were not a big deal in our family. The grandparents and all the sibs traveled to the first two far away college graduations, the eldest didn’t march at the age of 28 and wanted no party, and for the last one just the two parents flew across country. There were meals out, of course, but travel used up the budget. I don’t think there is an Emily post guidebook with a sliding income scale for monetary gifts. I have two local nieces and I am close to their mother. The one going to Skidmore will get a substantial check from me, as will her sister next year. The amount is based on affection and my current prosperity. It also is intended to remove an obligation from my kids to make a cash gift. The other two nieces are older, grew up in Arkansas, and I was not part of their life. It would have been weird for me to send them anything out of the blue without even being notified of the event, even a token amount.

  21. CoC – glad you liked Shun Lee.

    Mooshi – flying in for graduation could just be my family. My mom has never quite adjusted to the fact that some of her children live far from her. She’d like all of her kids to attend all family gatherings.

  22. CoC, not the parties my HSer goes to! The parties he goes to tend to be in the afternoon, and involve swimming, sometimes fishing if the party is over at that lake, nerf gun battles, and parents manning a grill. There is always heavy parental presence – we often are invited in to hang out for a bit.

    He does the cross country pasta parties too, but there are always teachers present, and a meet the next day so I doubt there is much alcohol.

  23. It just dawned on me that not only have I never thrown a graduation party, but I have never BEEN to one either. They weren’t a thing when I was in HS

  24. When my DH graduated from his PhD program, his parents planned to go to the graduation, mainly because John Kennedy Junior was also marching

    Is that what you think or did they actually say that?

  25. High school graduation open houses were common where I grew up. I probably attended 40 the year that I graduated. Food, alcohol and cake provided over a 4-5 hour window. Come and go as you please. Parents rent tables/chair and maybe a tent. I probably had 200 people at mine. Nothing for college or law school beyond my immediate family attendance (and for law school, another sibling also had a graduation, so the parents split up).

  26. His parents daid it over and over, although there was probably some element of joking around there.

  27. Ivy, I’ll bet the only thing that has changed is that people no longer put margarine on the mini ham sandwich buns.

    When the senior I had a crush on during my freshman year invited me to his graduation party, I accepted and spent no less than an hour selecting his graduation card. Evidence that he knew I existed!

  28. graduation parties – only attended one that I remember for an upperclassmen graduating , yes the open house style is big here

    also only attended one college grad party for a friend

    there was a big HS graduation party for my class – overnight with booze

  29. HS graduation wasn’t a big deal in my immediate family, college was expected for everyone
    mom’s extended family sent a bunch of cards with money (prob $20 average) so prob ended up with $300-$400 that I mostly spent on new clothes

    Mom & Dad gave me $100 for college graduation

  30. it seems like all of the HS girls had class rings here, my sister and I both did

  31. Open houses are still much as WCE describes in my area. Families spend time and money sprucing up the house and yard prior to the party.

  32. Glad to see this topic as I need to buy 4 high school graduation gifts for kids of my friends. Some kids I know more than others. Thinking of engraved pewter picture frames. Also open to cash; $100 ok? Do kids these days use picture frames? (That makes me sound ancient.)

    The only thing I remember about any of my graduations is that Justice Scalia spoke at my law school graduation. Hadn’t thought of that in a long time but was reminded when he died earlier this year.

  33. When my grandma graduated from 8th grade, that was “the big deal” because only about half of kids went on to high school.

  34. Thinking of engraved pewter picture frames. Also open to cash; $100 ok?

    I say go with cash and $100 is perfectly fine.

  35. My MIL flew to Hawaii for her nephews high school graduation, but I think a big reason was she loves to go to Hawaii :)

  36. @WCE – I’m smiling in recognition! I also remember selecting the perfect card for a crush. You’re right – the butter/mayo/margarine ratio has probably changed since the 90’s too.

  37. Junior innocently asked me whether we were having a party for his middle-school graduation.

    “What?!!!,” I exploded.

    “You know a party at a restaurant or somewhere for all my friends and teachers and their friends.”

    All my normally straight hair leapt to its feet.

    “Not a damn chance, I replied. “You are graduating from 8th grade, for God’s sake! Of course, you are graduating! Do you know anyone who HAS NOT graduated from 8th grade?!! Good Lord, Junior! You HAVE to graduate from 8th grade. Even in Florida you are too young to drop out of school. And I would be put in jail if I didn’t send you. Give me a break!”

    That seemed to put an end to it until this week when we started getting invitations to all his classmates’ graduations.

    Can someone just shoot me? Please?

  38. My recent college grads loved getting cash.

    Talk of graduation money always makes me smile thinking of my grandmother. She gave each grandchild cash for college graduation, adjusted for inflation so that each grandchild had the same buying power with her gift relative to the even numbered gift given to the first grandchild in 1965. So my gift was something like $213.47.

    At the time, we grandkids just thought it was weird. Now we realize this was a woman who, if she’d been born in 1950 instead of 1900, would likely have been a CFO instead of a homemaker.

  39. Graduations are a point of conflict with inlaws. In my family of origin, no one would be expected to travel from out of town, and we don’t have parties. Maybe just dinner out with parents and in-town grandparents. In DH’s family, people are expected to fly in from across the country. I think that is a horrible use of limited vacation time and money. The graduate can’t really tell who is in the audience anyway. DH has come around to my side, finally. We sent his sister some lovely things themed with the college she chose as a graduation gift and will skype. We’re not going to spend 4 figures to attend.

  40. Graduation parties were a big deal at my totebaggy HS. All Open House events with big tents and catering. I received a lot of money from my party. No parties for college graduation. I wonder if it is a Midwest thing? I’ve moved around a bit in flyover country and the Open House parties have been a constant May/June event regardless of economic status.

    Speaking of which…I received an invite to my cousin’s daughter’s graduation party…a 12 hour drive away. Obviously I am not going. My brother also got invivted, he only lives 4 hours away from the cousin. He isn’t going either but is sending a card and $25. I don’t want to send any money. I’m not close to the cousin and last saw the daughter in person 12 years ago. I feel the invite was sent just to solicit money. Am I’m too cheap?

  41. PTM- I laughed so hard I almost woke the baby sleeping on me. My parents told me the same thing when I complained about not getting an 8th grade graduation ceremony like some of my friends’ schools had.

  42. ATM that made me laugh.

    I guess I should find out what the norms are in Seattle for graduation parties as DD graduates high school in two years. I wouldn’t expect any of my family to fly to Seattle. My mom passed away several years ago and my dad’s partner can’t travel due to very poor health. I wouldn’t expect my brothers to travel here either. My MIL will come assuming her health is ok.

    I was a little surprised to receive an invitation to a high school graduation party from a friend of mine as I’ve never met her daughter. I know this friend through a workout group we both attend and we have some friends in common. Haven’t decided what to do.

  43. PTM, my daughter asked if we were going to give her a graduation present and noted that her friends were getting graduation presents. I said that finishing 8th grade is not actually a graduation and that’s why they call it a promotion ceremony (during or just after the school day, no tickets or invitations issued).

    We’re still discussing the present thing.

  44. Lemon- no you’re not cheap and you shouldn’t feel the need to send anything. But please don’t assume they were soliciting gifts. There are lots of people who get offended if they DON’T receive invitations/announcements for this sort of thing, and then on the flip side those who are offended if they do. Sending birth announcements was so stressful for us in this regard because it felt like we were breaching etiquette either way.

  45. When DS1 did his 8th grade “moving up” ceremony 2 years ago, he was not invited to any graduation parties, and I haven’t heard about any coming up this year (DS2 has his 8th grade moving up this year). The 8th grade moving up ceremony is very low key – a boring speech by the principal, everyone marches up and gets a piece of paper, and then they all mill around in the gym with brownies and potato chips for about 20 minutes

  46. “Parents usually had those little bun-style ham sandwiches, chips, salad, and water/pop so the outlay wasn’t huge.”

    Jello salad, perhaps? And of course the sheet cake with inedible icing. You’ve just described the menu at most of the graduation/First Communion parties in my and DH’s extended family, always including the laundry tub filled with no-name-brand glass bottles of brightly colored sodas.

  47. I feel the invite was sent just to solicit money.

    Or because the invitations she had to buy only come in increments of 50 and she figured she might as well use the extras to let family know that daughter was graduating this year.

  48. PTM – you missed out on Kindergarten step-up parties? Count yourself lucky. They usually involved family only, but yes there was a celebration of that important milestone.

  49. The 8th grade moving up ceremony is very low key – a boring speech by the principal, everyone marches up and gets a piece of paper, and then they all mill around in the gym with brownies and potato chips for about 20 minutes

    My daughter’s class also had the 8th grade banquet a couple of weeks before the promotion ceremony; banquet lunch at a Waikiki hotel and then dancing until time to get in the buses to return to school. Aunty Evil (security guard; that’s the kids’ nickname for her) did not ding her for a dress code violation based on her one-shouldered dress with a sheer barely-one-inch ribbon tacked across the other shoulder as a “strap”, and a good time was had by all according to her account.

  50. +1 to Rio on the graduation, Lemon. Don’t feel obligated to send anything, but I wouldn’t assume it was expected/solicited either unless you know this person to have that type of attitude.

    DS’s school does an end of the year assembly and then classroom party, but thankfully no big ceremonies or caps & gowns for the kids moving up a level. (Montessori – so kids only move classes every 3 years.) Last year at the end of year party, the teacher said something very nice about each individual child who was moving up to the next classroom and said why she was going to miss them. It was heartfelt and very nice. I have not yet been subjected to a “graduation” and won’t be until 8th grade. I feel like the 8th grade celebration is well-warranted after spending 11 years at one school. (Preschool – 8th)

  51. DS had his preschool graduation this week, it was the cutest thing ever seeing them all in caps/gowns

  52. I would say that here, a graduation party with just light refreshments such as ham rolls would seem odd. However, doing it as a potluck would be acceptable. Whether potluck or paid for by parents, we’d be talking about big foil trays of noodles, fried chicken, maybe gau gee or other fried tidbits, sushi platters, salads, fruit tray, all that good stuff. If potluck, add in a bunch of homemade specialties.

    Here you have to get the graduate a lei so s/he can look like this:

  53. Huh, that picture showed and then disappeared. I’ll try a different one:

  54. I consider myself pretty cheap and I sent a $25 gift card to my cousin’s daughter in Iowa upon high school graduation, in part because I wanted her to have stuff like “cool scrubs” in her community college medical program. She probably didn’t expect anything from me, but I’m proud of her for getting admitted to and succeeding in a (locally) competitive program.

  55. Winemama – my kids’ afterschool program does a year end show with all the kids. My favorite part – even though my kids are older now – is the when the K, 1st and 2nd graders sing and dance. So darned cute!

  56. Is it just me or is the picture-posting going out of its way to thwart me? One last try:

  57. The house is under contract and I just bought tickets to Europe. I do feel like I am tempting fate a bit, but am super excited. On the first leg, West Coast to Europe hub, it was $400/pp – I looked at going Business, but it was more than a few hundred extra – $4,000/pp. And that doesn’t even get us home. It’s our first trip alone since the surprising addition to the family after the last trip alone.

  58. ATM yep, his class sang some songs and played ABC’s on the hand bells

  59. I realize that the above was totally unrelated to graduation (I tried to find a way to tie it together), but we’re blessedly far from graduating from anything. And I can’t really post on Facebook without the humblebrag – “Oh! We couldn’t afford premium tickets to Europe this year. I can’t believe I’ll be in coach over the Atlantic AGAIN.”

  60. We’re invited to my cousin’s daughter’s graduation and she’s let me know that she can get us actual tickets. We see her daughter probably less than once a year. I don’t mind springing for a card-with-cash and a lei, but really don’t want to brave the scrum that is graduation — same school as Finn’s and it’s BIG — especially not just as our schedule is finally clearing up after a couple of months of constant events and obligations.

    I doubt our presence would be meaningful to the graduate, but it’s possible my cousin wants to have a good family showing.

    Enh, I’ll ask the kids if this is something they’d want to do.

  61. Finn, before you jump in, I just googled and it’s not as big as I thought, smaller than the nearby public school on the hill in fact. Of course I wouldn’t want to go to that graduation this year either.

  62. Strike that, still a bit larger than the school on the hill. Maybe I should look everything up before I post next time.

  63. Skidmore bound niece plans. Actual ceremony limited seating. Dinner following just grandparents and immediate family. House is currently being renovated. Extended family BBQ in August after reno completed as college send off. Great idea.

    Vacation note. I am at the computer history museum in Mountain view. Spent an hour and a half in the first room up to 1960. The video commentary to Vannevar Bush’s differential analyzer made me want momentarily to dive back into calculus and approach it from an engineering viewpoint.

    Geek heaven, and I am not even that species of geek. And I won’t have time for all the cool stuff on this visit like the electric car. Do not miss this if you are even remotely so inclined.

  64. I heard the guy from Black-ish talking on NPR the other day about all of the kids having bat/bar mitzahs and his son (on the show) was going to have some kind of African coming of age party instead

    I didn’t know any one who had bat/bar mitzahs but I know from here those can cost quite a bit

  65. Ada – congrats on selling the house!

    HM – I see all photos, but I enjoyed them all. It reminds me a little of those gigantic mums that the girls in Texas have for Homecoming(?). Is it Homecoming? I should google to see if there is a photo of Obama with leis stacked to his eyeballs. Also – I would rather gouge my eyes out than sit through an actual graduation ceremony that wasn’t for my own kid. Luckily, it seems like getting tickets is a problem most places.

  66. Ivy, I was kind of surprised that she was offering tickets, but she may be in a position to get more tickets than the usual parent can. Either that or more closely related family isn’t making it for whatever reason, in which case we probably should go so the graduate has a full cheering section.

  67. Also, it looks like there is but he didn’t have a truly impressive haul:

  68. Sitting through graduation in not my idea of a good time. And, here it is outdoors, generally with temps in 90s-100s. At least it is a dry heat. I’ve told you guys a gazillion times that DD is valedictorian and is giving a speech….she is complaining bitterly than no one wants to here another speech, they just want to see their kids walk. I want to hear her as does her dad, maybe her grandma, well grandma is deaf so maybe not relevant. Aside from that, I kind of agree with her.

  69. Oh, Ada, congrats — so happy for you!!

    ITA that sitting through graduations is slow torture. Even when it’s your kid.

  70. If she says in her speech that no one wants to hear another speech so she’ll keep it short, and then she does in fact keep it short, she’ll be a hit! Even more so if the speech itself focused on the class as a whole more than on her own experience.

    I spoke at my HS graduation but I can’t remember at all what I said and I very much doubt anyone else remembered even so long as 30 seconds after I’d finished.

  71. Cordelia – your daughter could take a page from Alex from Modern Family and simply quote Journey’s Don’t stop believin’. It’s short and sounds uplifting.

  72. Meme – where are you? I think I missed it, but what you are describing sounds like something this family would be interested in…

  73. We tend to be over-celebrators here, with much travel to see various kiddos in various events, ‘graduations’, etc. Doesn’t take much for grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to hit the road to attend something. But, we all live within driving distance.

  74. We had a class song, lyrics by my friend and music by me. We all sang it at graduation. So that I do mostly remember.

  75. On this same subject: I swear that this subject is going to kill me today. It just bugs me because it is so stupid! Come on people! What have your kids achieved? These things are just ridiculous! When I am invited to a college or high school graduation, it takes all my soul to not point out that the special child has accomplished remarkable stuff. He/she has achieved what each NBA and NFL player was able to do! It is truly remarkable that he or she was able to do it too!!

    This afternoon as I was still hot from what I wrote earlier, one of the few Mothers I actually like greeted me at pick-up and announced that the parents had decided to give each graduating middle school student a special present that would remind them of [their special needs school].

    I wish I could copy the note that was addressed to “8th Grade Parents.” I can’t. Way, way too much revealing and private information there. But in essence it said, “Our kids have accomplished a lot. They have worked hard.

    We are planning to give each graduate a special gift reminding him or her of this special day. Of course, we can still give individual gifts to the graduates, but this will be something special from all the proud parents..” Then the note said that they wanted to raise $X to buy the gifts and the recommended contribution was… and it varied starting at $100 and went up.

    No, it wasn’t enough for BMWs. Not even the new Tesla. But it was too much.

    I see no way to avoid this. Of course, I am a lawyer. The way it was worded I have an out. I am NOT a proud parent!

  76. PTM,

    We are have had a party for each 8th grade graduate, and we will for the youngest. I view it as a chance to see people nearby, who we are always to busy to visit, to eat and drink and talk. Oh yes, the kids are invited too. And there’s cake and beer and wine and treats.

    I think I just like to have an excuse for a party.

  77. PTM – I feel ya. My nephew is very bright and qualified for a number of awards at graduation. However, he apparently was going to get too many awards, so the school decided to give one of his awards to another student, basically the runner up. This award included a monetary amount. The school thought this was only fair.


  78. PTM – I think of it as more celebrating a milestone rather than a major accomplishment. And I think that’s fine. I like parties & I like celebrating milestones. BUT I would be irate at the forced gift. I would be irate that I was being asked to give $100+ to something that can in no way please all the kids and is likely more about the organizers than the kids. Humbug!

  79. @PTM — I feel your pain. I spent the whole 5th and 8th grade “graduations” rolling my eyes.

    It reminds me of the excessive touchdown celebrations: when you make it into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before. Makes me disproportionately grumpy.

  80. “I was kind of surprised that she was offering tickets, but she may be in a position to get more tickets than the usual parent can.”

    Is she a member of the faculty?

  81. “We are planning to give each graduate a special gift reminding him or her of this special day. Of course, we can still give individual gifts to the graduates, but this will be something special from all the proud parents..” Then the note said that they wanted to raise $X to buy the gifts and the recommended contribution was… and it varied starting at $100 and went up.”

    Ok, this is ridiculous. Why do people do things like this? And, even in my rural, isolatopia, I could see some parents thinking this would be a good idea.

  82. “I feel your pain. I spent the whole 5th and 8th grade “graduations” rolling my eyes.”

    One advantage of having kids in a k-12 school is that there are no such “graduation” ceremonies or parties.

  83. “Meme – where are you?”

    She just posted that she’s at the Computer History Museum? That would be in Silicon Valley, CA.

  84. OK, I just read the WaPo article, and all I can say is: hahahahahahahahahahaha. “The rise of multiple valedictorians is not a product of the “everyone gets a trophy” era.” Really? Of course it is, you twit — you just think that having 20% get trophies is fairer/better than limiting it to one kid per school.

    Of course, the other option is that Ohio has come up with a clever way to make its students look better to college admissions officers (as compared to those from other states that limit such awards to the top kid), without actually having to invest more in education. So enjoy that advantage — until either the colleges figure it out or the other states follow suit. At which point the honor will truly become meaningless. So, umm, congrats?

  85. “I’m not close to the cousin and last saw the daughter in person 12 years ago. I feel the invite was sent just to solicit money. Am I’m too cheap?”

    I’d be inclined to send something like $20. That amount isn’t going to break my budget, but it could make for better family relations somewhere in the future. And you can send that cousin invitations to your kids’ graduations.

  86. ATM– loved that grammar story. But I don’t think the NPR copy chief should’ve offered any corrections– it is fine as it is.

  87. LfB – I love that after becoming one of the valedictorians the WaPo article author then competed to give the graduation speech, and then got an advantage out of giving the speech (someone noticing him and helping him transfer to a better school) but throughout the rest of the article he pooh-poohs competition. What?!

  88. Ivy, you just posted essentially that we aren’t really celebrating the “accomplishments” per se, but the milestones. I suppose that’s right, and then I think about it. I guess we do celebrate the mere passage of time. Birthdays, anniversaries (if any), years on the job.

    How stupid are we? Time passes, doesn’t it? I guess we need moments to take stock, but really! I I do like parties and I guess these milestones are reasons for them. I don’t like parties I am “forced” or pressured to attend, or parties with arrogant people, but parties in general. For example, today is Friday!!! How special! I fully intend to get my party on. (Actually, it is special. Junior is off for the weekend with the boy scouts and I’m alone. I’m either going to throw a blow out or fly to Vegas and marry a show girl (or boy, I guess).

    Naw, I’m just going to feed the cat and pack for our move to North Warehouseville Beach.

  89. “I’ve never heard of graduation open house either. Now we had a high school graduation party that night at someone’s house.”

    I think we have a case of semantic differences.

    When I graduated from HS, it was pretty common for graduates’ families to have parties at their homes, often in the garages. The graduates, and often some family, would go to multiple parties. Even though nobody called them open houses, it sounds very similar to the open houses described here, but without the ham sandwiches. Stuff like sushi,lumpia, and fried noodles were much more common.

    “there was a big HS graduation party for my class – overnight with booze”

    Looking back, I’m very thankful that someone– I don’t know who– had this idea that a bunch of grads would, after going to multiple open house parties, head to the beach to imbibe, then sleep it off. As a result, none of us drove drunk. I definitely wasn’t responsible enough then to come up with an idea like that.

  90. Ada– Woo hoo! Congrats!

    I’m glad to be part of this community with whom you can share happy things.

  91. Lemon — I would send a card and some money. It doesn’t have to be much. I have done this a few times with somewhat-distant relatives (e.g. my cousins’ kids) whom I have met only a couple of times in my life. It’s a big deal for them to be graduating, and not a big deal for me to send a congratulations card and a modest check. Note, though, that I grew up in an immigrant culture where extended-family ties are important. I know this isn’t necessarily the norm in our country.

    Honolulu — My best friend in college was from Hawaii. I remember vividly how cool I thought it was that each relative of hers who flew in for graduation brought her a lei. The leis were a little wilted come graduation day (we were on the east coast, so the leis had a long trip from Honolulu), but they still looked really nice.

  92. Ada, which airline did you find Europe tickets for 400? Did you just book them?

  93. PTM: I just kind of roll my eyes at these things. That said, nobody ever asked me for $100 for a “special gift”. That’s crazy.

  94. DS has his 8th grade graduation next Saturday. I’ve always been of the mind that having a graduation ceremony for 8th grade is totally ridiculous, even when it was mine. However, they are having a bbq after at the school and I think that a party is very warranted given that it’s a small K-8 school so a lot of these kids have been there for 9 years.

    As was mentioned, finishing 8th grade isn’t an achievement, everyone does. But it is a significant milestone for the kids to be leaving a school they’ve been going to for 2/3 of their lives.

  95. As for parties, my nephew is graduating HS next month and my nieces are graduating 8th grade, so my brother thought it would be a good opportunity to have a family reunion. We would not fly across the country just for a nephew’s graduation, but obviously we will be attending this gathering.

  96. My immediate family did not have relatives on either side anywhere near us, so there was no big party. It was a tradition during May to have a “luncheon” where you invited 8 or 10 of your friends over and had a “fancy” lunch. That was fun. No grownups, except my mom, who was probably hovering around in the background.

    Fast forward a few decades, and DH and I are in the same boat. We are the children who moved away from the states in which our families reside, so DD and DS had no relatives to celebrate with and no parties. We took them out for lunch, I think after the ceremonies, and then they went out with their friends – I guess to their parties!

    DD’s high school had their graduation at AT&T park – just that one year, I think – and it was really neat to get to walk around the stadium when it was practically empty.

  97. The museum is in Mountain view CA. I am at this moment in the town where RMS just purchased a home. I am having a cuppa in a cafe where a bird just flew in and helped with floor clean up. The other marvel is that I rented a car that has no key. I had to ask the attendant how to start it. Also first time at the wheel of a car with a back up camera.

  98. Ada, congrats.

    I’m always learning about new things from the Totebag. I never knew about about open house graduation parties since my friends lived all over NYC in apartments.

    I don’t think this is common in my burb. There seem to be a lot of dinners after 8th grade or HS graduations in local restaurants. Some family/friend parties are held within the same week in backyards, but they don’t seem to be open houses.

    We are invited to a large graduation party at the end of June for two cousins that just graduated from college. We will be generous with gifts because they are great kids, and we really care about them. Their parents have been so generous with their support, time and advice during this in law health crisis.

    I can’t even talk about the plans for the bat mitzvah. I am getting sucked into a mountain of wasteful spending. DH and DD agree on the plan, and I just think it is a waste of money. Most of my friends with older kids keep telling me that it is worth it, will be the best day of our lives, yada yada. I just don’t believe it.

  99. We had an open house for each of my kids when they graduated from high school. It was really a party for us, to mark a rite of passage. We invited long-time family friends, who had watched our kids grow up, and a few people special to each of the kids (tennis coach, best friends parents, etc.)
    Honey baked ham, salads, fruit, cheese tray. Beer/wine for adults only. Kids could invite friends if they wanted, but we would have the party even if they didn’t invite anyone because as I said, it was for us more than them. Each kid had maybe 15 of their friends, tops. This was held maybe 2-3 weeks after the ceremony, at a time convenient for us. It was low-key, and we found it really relaxing and enjoyable.

    No to pewter picture frames, yes to cash. In our town kids generally get $20, a little more if it’s a really good friend. $100 would be exhorbitant — low cost of living in flyover country!

  100. First Communion for my kids had uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents in attendance. We all attended the ceremony and went out to lunch at a nice restaurant. This is very different from First Communions in the home country which are similar party wise to bar/bat mitzvah’s – dinner, DJ etc. big affairs like a wedding almost. I know of some relatives who had a big party for First Communion here in the U.S.
    Since kid attends a religious school fifth grade graduation (called bridging) meant mass attendance first, a few awards, followed by a small reception for parents and kids. After that a few parents organized a pool party for the kids at their neighborhood pool. It was a good balance. I have a feeling that 8th grade will be similar. Not sure what people do for high school. I would want to invite a bunch of my neighbors and their families, my kids have a whole bunch of neighbor friends. A couple of our neighbors put out Home of XX High School Senior lawn signs. Just let’s us know that a kid is moving on.
    I found out today that next year there is Math tracking based on this year’s grades and test score. But no mention was made of a test, so I emailed the teacher. I have forgotten the road to calculus…..sigh.

  101. Thanks for all the congrats. So happy to be under contract. I won’t feel like I can take a deep breath until the ink is dry. However, I can distract myself with hotel shopping.

    The tix were $400ish each way, to Munich on United. Not a great deal, but better than I expected for summertime. Yet again, violating my promise to avoid United. Damn their low fares!

  102. Very happy for you, Ada! And I can relate to not feeling total relief until the house deal is completely done.

    BTW, I was completely blindsided yesterday by my ignorance in not knowing that prescriptions for some medical screening/tests expire at 6 months. I was so annoyed upon showing up at the radiologist for some important tests that I had procrastinated about and learning that my prescriptions had expired the day before! Now I know.

  103. This is one of my stories….so read if you must.
    My cousin and I received our First Communion at the same time. My grandfather decreed that we have a joint party. My Mom insisted on a knee length shorter dress, I wanted a long one. That was a battle my Mom won. So, come day of the communion, when I get to church, I see my cousin in a Cinderella type dress with purse. I was so upset at my mother. I was seven at the time….all I could think about was my bad bad dress….So, when my DD’s turn came she got a dress she was happy with.

  104. CoC, they should have been able to call your doc’s office a d get a new order so you could the tests done.

  105. Louise – I did not have a cousin to contend with, but I had a very short, straight dress for my first communion, and the other girls all had big pouffy dresses that I was dying to wear! DD got to have the dress she wanted (I liked it too, so that was nice).

  106. Mémé! You could have stayed at our house! We’re actively soliciting houseguests so that the house isn’t left unoccupied for too long. Seriously, people, email me.

  107. We had to force DSS at gunpoint to go to his high school graduation and he skipped both B.S. graduation and Ph.D. The things I remember about DSS’s high school graduation are that a) It was hot b) it went on forever c) DH told me my outfit made me look fat. I just posted on Facebook to ask my high school friends if we even had class rings. I have no memory of such. There was some huge party for my high school graduation at some local country club that all the rich kids belonged to but my friends and I didn’t. None of my group went to that party. I’m a little sour about how expensive it was. I didn’t go to any of my graduations after high school, but I got the gown and hood for my PhD because Goddamn.

  108. Party dresses: My grandmother always gave me super-fancy white chiffon party dresses from I. Magnin when I was a kid. I looooved them. Mom rolled her eyes because the classy Totebag moms had their girls wear simple, tasteful cotton dresses to birthday parties. I was ridiculously overdressed and didn’t care a whit. I give Mom credit for suffering through the condescending smiles of the tasteful moms.

  109. We did not do big graduation parties, and I do not know anyone who did. (Or maybe I just didn’t have many friends….). My immediate family, godparents and grandparents came to my college and law school ceremonies and we ate out at a nice restaurant afterwards.

    Next week is preschool graduation and there is a 15 minute ceremony followed by a pot luck dinner in the church hall, which seems about right to me. DS will get a lavish gift: 3 Lego mini figures. Mostly because we did not find out he wanted the Legos until after his birthday, so we are using it as an excuse not to wait until Christmas.

    First communions are modest here, but bar/bat mitzvahs are as expensive as weddings. It’s cheaper to go to Israel and do it there.

  110. RMS. It was only one night and just me. I usually fly in to see a friday night performance, hang out on sat and take the red eye home. At the time I made the arrangements, your sale was not yet final. I go at least once a year, so I will definitely take you up on that in the future and stay a few days.

  111. DS will get a lavish gift: 3 Lego mini figures. Mostly because we did not find out he wanted the Legos until after his birthday, so we are using it as an excuse not to wait until Christmas.

    The totebag ethos that you you can’t give a kid a toy “just because.”

  112. And going on with snippets from that day – just before the guests were to arrive there was a very unseasonal thundershower. We were having the party out in the open, so all the chairs were wet. It was like the song November Rain. My cousin and I prayed for the rain to go away which it did and the party was fine. Also, my cousin came up with a short thank you speech, I had no speech prepared. So, two strikes against me – straight dress, no speech.
    One of my parent’s friends offered to take pictures in color film, so my parents never bothered to get a professional photographer to take the standard black and white portrait picture. We found out that the color film was no good (new to us technology at the time), so I have no pictures of the day. My cousin has black and white pictures. Now, I always have at least one professional portrait taken for important occasions (my SIL had a photo shoot done for my nephew’s communion which turned out well and colleagues have spent around $300 or so on graduation photo shoots). Years have passed, my memory and faith remains.

  113. DD, the lab insisted that they needed the prescription. Meanwhile my doctor encountered mysterious glitches when she tried to fax them. It was a mess, and in hindsight maybe I should have pressed the lab more to take the doctor’s phone instructions while waiting for the written prescription. I could easily have let tears flow because I was quite upset. Anyway, it’s water under the bridge and I’ll try again to get these nagging tests done.

    ‘The totebag ethos that you you can’t give a kid a toy “just because.”’

    I noticed our local super market carries cute mini-cakes that would make small celebrations (good grade, made the team, helped out a friend, or ‘just because’) a bit more special.

  114. I am missing my university’s graduation right now. Yay. One of the nice things about tenure is not having to go. They do all the graduates in one large ceremony so it takes hours, and we all have to just sit there. Since it is so huge, I never see the students I actually know and care about, and they can’t see which professors have shown up either. I do the honors society end of year banquet instead because the students bring their parents – it is so nice to meet the moms and dads.

  115. Do you think it is too hot (I hate humid) to visit Savannah or Charleston in July? I haven’t been to either place and they’re both on the bucket list. I need a short trip, but I am afraid that I will be miserable even though I really want to eventually visit both places.

  116. CoC, I know they needed a valid prescription/order, I’m just really surprised they couldn’t work it out over the phone.

  117. DH fell for a your computer is infected call this number pop up scam while I was away. He was so proud of himself for taking care of it. Only $250!! In case you wondered why I only went away for two days….

  118. “They do all the graduates in one large ceremony so it takes hours, and we all have to just sit there. Since it is so huge, I never see the students I actually know and care about, and they can’t see which professors have shown up either.”

    That’s how my undergrad ceremony was.

    For grad school (DW’s was the same), there was a huge ceremony in the football stadium in the morning with the U president and a celebrity speaker. After that, we dispersed by college for a light lunch (provided by the U), then each college had its own ceremony where grads were recognized individually, and profs showed up. I was impressed that a couple of my profs, both IEEE fellows, remembered me by name.

  119. Do you think it is too hot (I hate humid) to visit Savannah or Charleston in July?

    Yes. Sorry, but yes.

  120. @ Lauren – if you do not like humidity, you should not visit either in July. Try again in November or March.

  121. Just got back from DSs graduation. Nice ceremony, well-behaved crowd, nice to see the parents and all the teachers one last time.

  122. Lark, I know it probably wouldn’t be a good idea, so I might have to postpone until the timing works better with the weather.

  123. Lauren, I second Lark. October is usually delightful. I consider March to be iffy if you want to walk on the beach, but we always see families from Minnesota or New York in the water in March, so everything is relative. April is great in Charleston.

  124. Lauren, I nearly died of the heat/humidity in Charleston in the first week of June, so IME it’s too hot from May-September at least!

  125. April in Charleston was lovely. We had a cool spell, so we even needed light jackets for the evenings.

    I’ve noticed about every week another local school announces it has detected high levels of lead. Apparently after Flint, more people are aware of this problem.

    Until last week I was unaware that Colombia University has a special program for non-traditional students, typically older students who previously dropped out of college or veterans or similar. Their graduating class had several hundred this year. The admission rate for this program is around 35%, much higher than Colombia’s regular rate.

  126. “The totebag ethos that you you can’t give a kid a toy “just because.”

    This seems to be a thing. But then piles and piles of presents for birthdays & Christmas (or your winter holiday of choice). I don’t get it, personally. There is much more joy of getting one thing here and there then piles of things twice a year.

    Lauren – do NOT go in the summer. I can barely take DC in the summer! When we were in Savannah around Thanksgiving, it was still nice enough to sit outside and eat at lunchtime. October or November will be perfect.

  127. Rocky- I can’t remember, did you end up buying in half moon bay? or somewhere else close

  128. “We’re actively soliciting houseguests so that the house isn’t left unoccupied for too long. Seriously, people, email me.”

    what is the nightly rate? would love to go back to Cali soon

  129. It’s free to you, babe! We’re precluded from short-term rentals by the HOA.

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