Oh, graduation party season. Is it just me, or are grad parties awkward? You will likely run into a few people you know, but for the most part, it’s the grad’s family and friends that you’ve never seen before and will never see again. And we all sit really close to one another at a table avoiding eye contact.

If I’ve learned anything from the number of parties I’ve attended, I know you’ve got to walk in with a good attitude about enjoying yourself and being a great guest. Here are a few strategies I’ve deployed to make these parties less awkward, and more awesome.

Class of 2019 Banner

Plan your visits.

Do NOT take all 11 of those postcard-size invitations and just “wing it.” You will get stressed. You will miss a party. It will be an unpleasant day. Instead, take the time a few days before to make a plan: what party will you go to first? (Hint: the one that starts first.) How long will you stay? Where will you eat appetizers vs. a meal vs. dessert? Do NOT eat cake at every party. You will feel sick later. And regret.

Bring a gift.

Don’t show up to a party and eat their food without bringing a gift. And what do grads want?

Cash.

They’re getting ready for the real world! Help them out! If your wallet is short on cash, at least write a thoughtful note that includes a memory of you and the grad.

Travel with a friend.

Going to parties alone is no fun. And I’ve been at several where I didn’t know anyone. Take a buddy to make this day of adventure a memory for you two as well! Even if you do end up going alone…

Be ready to socialize.

Be in the mood to smile and have small talk. You are the keeper of your mood, so make the party a bit happier when you walk in. A great way to do this is make others feel welcome and at ease. Prepare for this by having conversation starters ready. Consider the following:

  • How do you know (grad name)?
  • (follow-up) What’s a favorite memory you have with (the grad)?
  • What was your (high school/college) graduation party like?

Do the things.

Leave a message in their guestbook. Peruse their photos of the last 18 years of their life. This is their time to be noticed for the amazing human being they are! Most importantly, say “hi” to the grad! Congratulate them and thank them for inviting you.

You can do this. Just remember: today is not about you. But do still enjoy your day by being intentional – and awesome, not awkward.