Seniors throw graduation celebrations to close out their final year of high school

Charlotte Tomlin 

DJs taking selfies with guests, lights illuminating the dance floor, sequins scattered around the venue… one of the biggest celebrations of the year. Parties on a large scale, with a DJ, invitations and large venues tend to happen later in life, with weddings and milestone birthday parties. But for many seniors, their first large-scale celebration comes with a graduation party.

In Texas, on average, it costs around $1,147.61 to throw a graduation party for 60 people, according to However, these costs can become exorbitant at ESD, as groups of students come together to celebrate, often inviting 200 or more people. These parties, with groups of around 15 to 20 students throwing a party together, can total up to $45,000.

“I’m just looking forward to having fun with my friends and being able to celebrate us finally graduating,” senior Lyles Etcheverry said. “It seems like it’s been a long time coming, but now that it’s here, it’s even more exciting. I am just excited to go to other grad parties and have fun with my class.”

Seniors typically invite their whole grade to their grad parties, along with juniors and seniors from other schools. Underclassmen tend to be left off the invite list, save for family members and a few exceptions.

“If it is a sibling or a very close friend then it’s okay,” Etcheverry said. “Other than that, grad parties are very overwhelming and are really for the seniors to celebrate their graduation. With too many underclassmen, I think parents worry more about control and something happening to the younger kids.”

Parents take a large lead in planning their kids’ grad parties. The theme and attire are usually left up to the kids to decide, whereas the parents are left to handle logistics.

“The kids had a meeting one night and debated for about an hour on the theme, title, and things we wanted to have at our grad party,” senior Jack Massey said. “Pretty much all of the logistical work (invites, venue, DJ, decorations, etc.) fell on the parents. They had a parent meeting and created groups responsible for different areas.”

The theme is arguably the most important part of the grad party. It sets the tone for the night and determines what the guests and graduates will wear. Etcheverry’s grad party theme is Masquerade, whereas Massey’s is Disco. Deciding on the theme can be stressful as groups try to please every member, sometimes escalating into arguments.

“The most fun part [of planning] was arguing about the theme,” Massey said. “People were yelling and laughing, and it was really funny. My initial idea was Candyland theme, like the board game, but that was shot down. Most of the guys wanted a James Bond theme and most of the girls wanted a Disco theme, so we had to side with the girls.”

Other headaches of grad planning emerge in deciding venues and picking DJs. Senior JP Casey, whose grad party theme is “Gradsters”— a playful take on the famed golf tournament in Augusta, GA — had difficulty securing a venue during the planning of his party.

“The venue was a massive pain,” Casey said. “I originally wanted to book a club for our venue because we would save money on decorations and lighting. The first club we tried to book said no because we were under 21, so we told the next one that it was a college graduation party, but somehow they found out it was a high school thing and also denied us. We ended up just booking a common wedding venue. Another challenging part was the DJ, [as] we wanted a young EDM DJ but one of the moms decided it wouldn’t be a good idea to spend our entire DJ budget on a DJ without confirming with everyone else first. That was very frustrating because everyone was texting me complaining about it.”

Although lots of students celebrate their graduation with large grad parties with groups of friends, a lot of students will also choose to have a smaller graduation celebration with their closest friends. For lots of girls, their aunts and grandmothers and family friends will throw a grad lunch or dinner in their honor as a way to celebrate their loved one in an intimate setting.

“I am having a grad dinner combined with Marguerite Davis, hosted by some of our close family friends’ moms,” Etcheverry said. “These moms graciously offered to have our friends at Shinsei to celebrate Marguerite and I graduating, so that is essentially why I am having a dinner as well as a party with my friends. At the grad party, more outside of ESD kids are invited as this dinner is mainly for my close friends at ESD.”

Even though large grad parties are not just an ESD phenomenon, the environment of grad parties differs from school to school across the metroplex.

“I think ESD parties are smaller than other schools because we don’t have as many kids,” Etcheverry said. “We don’t need to have a huge venue to fit everyone. I’ve only experienced a few other school grad parties, and they were bigger than the ESD ones I’ve attended in the past.”

Not to mention, despite some groups having a co-ed grad party, the celebrations tend to differ between all girl groups and all guy groups.

“Guys don’t really have grad dinners or lunches; that’s more of a girl thing,” Casey said. “[As for the big grad parties], I’ve noticed that the girl grad parties are always way more boujee than the boy ones.”

All in all, graduates relish the opportunity to be able to celebrate their accomplishments with their friends and family with good music, good costumes and a good time.

“I am excited for everyone to be together and celebrate each other,” Massey said. “This year has been a total blast, and to celebrate this amazing year with a huge party. I’ve also requested ‘Sweet Caroline’ to be played in honor of ESD Baseball’s 6-4 win over St. Marks. It’s the perfect way to combine the best sport with the greatest song ever created. I cannot wait to celebrate.”

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