Miss Manners: A graduation party that’s truly a class act

May 22, 2013

DEAR MISS MANNERS: We have a growing stack of invitations to the high school graduation parties of our friends’ children. As we have children of this age, we are well aware of the practice that has taken over in recent years of nearly every family hosting a graduation party for their child during the early weeks of summer.

The result: dozens of parties per day, at times, for the graduating class of this one school (families at all schools in our area have the same practice), with party-time slots filled many times over.

I have heard many of the students and their parents speak about the amount of money “raised” at these parties, and it seems to be the main driver in having a party, which I find extremely distasteful. It has become an exchange of a hotdog for a check.

None of our children had high school graduation parties for this reason — I don’t want to invite people to my home and have one hand extended with the expectation of receiving a check in exchange for our hospitality. My daughters’ friends are telling her she’s crazy not to have a party, as she’ll miss out on all the cash.

Please note that nearly all of the students are going on to college, so this isn’t the only achievement expected in their lives.

While I’m all for congratulating the students, I don’t know how to handle the “gift” situation. We are of limited means and are already scrambling to help our kids with college tuition.

I’m sure you’ll say to decline the invitations if we don’t want to write dozens of checks, but I feel as if we’ll be slighting some of our closer friends who expect us to come to their parties. Any advice on how to handle what we see as a money-grab by our somewhat misguided friends?

GENTLE READER: Yes, but it requires you to do two things you wanted to avoid: skipping others’ parties and giving one of your own.

The difference will be that your party will not be for your daughter alone, but explicitly for the senior class — the entire class, if that is a reasonable number, or at least for those members who are friends of your daughter’s or children of your friends.

That would be such a show of goodwill that your declining others’ invitations will not be held against you. Besides, your friends will be too busy worrying whether presents for everyone are expected (and if asked, you can reassure them that no, this party is just for fun).

Mindful of your plea of limited means, Miss Manners excuses you from inviting the parents, on the grounds of not subjecting them to a teenage party, which is the nice way of saying that the teenagers will have more fun without them. That means that you won’t be serving liquor and sophisticated food. It should be a lot cheaper than those checks you might have written.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Are great-aunts and great-uncles supposed to respond to high school graduation announcements?

GENTLE READER: Everybody who receives a graduation (or wedding or birth) announcement should respond with congratulations and good wishes. Miss Manners hopes you are not mistaking announcements for bills.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

, by Judith Martin

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