I did not grow up with graduation parties as part of the culture. When I graduated, the only grad party I went to was an all night party at my friend's house, and it was only for the kids...no parents (except hers) were there.
10 years ago, I moved to the midwest. I was soon introduced to the tradition known as the graduation party. This involves an open house for the graduate where everything the child has ever done in school and beyond is out for display so everyone can see it (must have the scrapbooks done by graduation!!) A spread of food and drink is there to feed the guests. Cake is a must. The guests include not only the graduate's friends, but parents' friends & co-workers, everyone from church, and other social events. Guests bring gifts, mostly cash for the graduate's new life.
My first son graduated this year. Up until May, I was unsure if we were going to bow to the pressure to have a party or not. My son is not really the party type, so when I asked him if he wanted a party, I was somewhat suprised when he said yes. O.K., party planning mode in effect. Invites are usually made at a printers. Why do that when I can do them on the computer? Done. Guest list? church, friends, (no family in the area, really), and a stack for John to give to his friends. done. A friend said we could borrow their party tent to set up in the yard. Nice. We rented chairs & tables and got decorations. Ordered cake & sandwiches from Subway. Had fruit, chips & pop to go with it.
Graduation was May 31. It was a Sunday afternoon. 53 kids in the class. The ceremony was over in 1 1/2 hours. (Alisha & Emily played in the band). Very nice, not too long. And I had a graduate for a child.
Our graduation party was held June 6. John's girlfriend had helped me clean the house all week. As I was running around picking up the cake, etc., it starts to rain. AUGH!!! And it does not let up. In fact, it starts raining harder and harder. The tent is abandoned before the guests even arrive. The table with all of the scrapbooks, etc, gets set up on the covered porch. The kitchen chairs get set up in the living room. The guests arrive, and we all commiserate about the rain and eat and enjoy each others' company and everyone enjoys the display tables. By 6, everyone is gone and we breathe a sigh of relief. We did it. We threw a party and people came, and it was a success despite the rain. Everyone was generous for John and he is ready to start his next phase of life.
So, now we've entered the world of the graduation party, because unless we move, we have 5 more to plan and execute! :-)