Graduation Party News

Lincoln Journal Star


Graduation party planning 101

By KEVIN ABOUREZK / Lincoln Journal Star

Monday, May 26, 2008 - 12:41:44 am CDT


It’s hard to fault Amber Whitehall for making a typo on her sisters’ graduation party invitations.


As the guardian of her three younger sisters, the 27-year-old is tackling the monumental task of planning a graduation party for three people.


Three young women with three different personalities, three groups of friends and three different expectations.


Journal StarAnd you thought planning a party for one was tough?


“Everything’s got to be bigger and have everyone’s personality in it,” Whitehall said. “It is a lot of work.”


But her sisters — Kaela, Krystle and Shannon Spears — appreciate her effort.


“It’s just nice to know we’re getting something that most seniors get when they graduate,” Shannon Spears said.


Of course, what seniors will see this year at their graduation parties will vary from party to party.


More and more, graduation parties are becoming more personal, more hi-tech affairs, said Ginger Venable, owner of, based in Eden Prairie, Minn.


This year, Venable - whose Web site has been providing graduation party planning advice since 1998 - is seeing several trends.


The first: Parents are wising up and joining forces with other parents to provide graduation parties for multiple graduates.


That’s what Venable did for her son, who graduated recently. She hosted a party at her home for her son and three of his friends.


That allowed her and the other parents to pool their resources and divide responsibilities. She provided a place for the party while the other parents handled food, she said.


And the boys enjoyed it. They got to spend time with each other at one party, Venable said.


“I think they liked knowing their three best friends were going to be there,” she said.


Parents are finding other ways to make the graduation planning process easier, Venable said.


Many have begun posting information about their parties on social networking sites like Facebook. That allows them to send information, such as dates and locations, as well as photos and directions, for free, she said.


Parents also are finding inventive ways to personalize their parties to fit their graduates’ personalities.


For her son’s party, Venable had labels made with their photos and names on them and pasted them to water bottles she gave to guests as keepsakes. She also suggested putting graduates’ photos on candy bar labels or party favors.


“I think it’s really neat to do something that puts their name on something,” Venable said.


And she suggested parents talk to their graduates and find out what they want at their parties.


Why spend so much time and effort planning a party for a graduation?


“It’s an opportunity for the parents to basically welcome the graduates into the adult world.”


Gary Reber planned to give three possible answers to guests of his daughter’s graduation party Sunday if they asked about the flat, rocky patch of ground in his backyard.


* “It’s for the walking-on-hot- coals part of the party. Stick around!”


* “It’s where we buried them.”


* “It’s Pillar 1 of the 2008 Vision Group. Want to join?”


Of course, the truth is nowhere near so humorous, at least not to Reber, who spent two days recently trying to clear a place in his backyard for a plastic shed he wanted to build to fill with junk from his garage.


His hope: To clear his garage to provide an alternate location for his daughter’s party in case of rain.


Ellen Reber, 18, graduates from Lincoln Southwest High School at noon on May 31.


Needless to say, the shed proved too difficult an endeavor for Gary Reber and he realized too late how much work goes into planning a graduation party.


“I am married to a saint; she has not complained once,” he said of his wife, Pam.


But not everything went wrong for Gary and Pam Reber as they prepared for their daughter’s graduation party.


A particularly useful tool they employed was posting information about the party on, which allows users to post blogs for free.


The blog they developed includes party date, time and location details and photos of Ellen.


“It was a good way to provide information without cluttering up the invitation,” he said.


Dale Burrage, whose daughter, Tina, graduates from Northeast High School May 31, is also finding inventive ways to celebrate his daughter’s graduation.


He had T-shirts made with Doane College on them to celebrate Tina’s acceptance into college. He also had a Doane banner made and plans to show a slideshow of photos from his daughter’s life during her May 30 party.


While planning his daughter’s party has been more difficult than he expected, Dale Burrage said it’s more than worth it.


“It means a lot to us,” he said. “It just seems like just a few days ago she came into the world to us. Now we’re sending her off to college.”


At 6 p.m. May 31, sisters Kaela, Krystle and Shannon Spears will graduate from Southeast High School.


For five hours before that, they’ll welcome guests to the white house in southeast Lincoln where they live with their older sister, Amber Whitehall.


Two of the sisters, Kaela and Krystle, both 19, are twins who were held back a year when they were in fourth grade, putting them in the same grade as younger sister Shannon, 18.


Whitehall became her sisters’ guardian about three years ago.


She said she sent out invitations to her sisters’ graduation party two months ago.


But the work isn’t done.


“We’re still deciding on food to order,” she said Thursday.


A critical part of planning the party was agreeing to invite just 50 guests, Whitehall said. Each graduating sister got to invite 10 people. Ten invitations went to family, and the graduates had to agree on 10 additional guests.


Whitehall said agreeing on the last 10 was the hardest part.


“That was a heated Sunday afternoon argument,” she said.


Whitehall has tried to make the party reflect each of her sisters’ personalities.


For Shannon, that meant setting up a table with the commencement speech she plans to give May 31 and her acceptance letter into the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


For fun-loving Krystle and Kaela, it meant adding a Hawaiian luau theme.


The graduates, meanwhile, admit they’ve had little do with planning the party because they’ve been busy with schoolwork.


“It’s a surprise party for us because we didn’t have much to do with planning it,” Shannon said.


Not that Whitehall is mad.


Not at all.


“You want it to be special for everyone,” she said.



Reach Kevin Abourezk at 473-7225 or