UNITED STATES—Its June and you know what that means: its graduation season. Yep, the summer season is upon us and it’s time to get prepped for those big graduation parties you will be attending or the graduation parties that you will be planning. Oh, has the times changed so much since I was a graduate.

It seems now; the big craze is prom parties. No, I’m not referring to the after-party; I’m referring to the family get together to see the kids off to the prom. Back when I was in high-school it was just an event where everyone would come see you off. Now, things have transpired to the point, where it’s an actual party. How would I know? My sister just threw an epic bash for my niece who graduates from high school in less than a week.  I mean it was grand. She had a red carpet, a feast of food and a ton and I mean a ton of people who I never expected to see to be in attendance. There was even a professional photographer.

The event was so big I asked my sister, “If this is what you did for prom, I can only imagine what you have in store for graduation.” Yeah, I think the event will be big, but just like the prom; it can be exhausting, especially if you’re the one in the background preparing dishes, organizing and getting decorations in place. Hosting ANYTHING can be tiring. So many people fail to understand that, but if you are indeed prepping for a college graduation, ask for help.

Don’t be that control freak that wants everything to be perfect, so much to the point that you begin to lash out at people because things are not going the way that you expect them to. Hello, its life, things don’t always go as we expect them; you simply roll with the punches and do the best you can. This isn’t life or death and you have to remember that. So many people get that perception into their mind: life or death. It’s a graduation party it’s supposed to be fun, happy times.

Next, don’t overdo it on the cooking. The biggest mistake people make is thinking it won’t be enough and they end up cooking so much, there’s tons left over and then we have no idea what to do with all the extra side dishes, meat and seafood that hasn’t been eaten or taken home. I’m an advocate for the small dishes, things that are simple and quick to make. Labor tends to tire out many of the attendees at the graduation bashes, so think of small, quick, yet fun dishes that can be crafted that don’t require that much prep work in the kitchen.

Don’t be afraid to make it clear to your party guests that there are no leftovers or the ability to take a plate home. Some people look forward to that time and time again (especially) in my family. Why can this be a problem? Cause it causes people to think they can come into the kitchen anytime they’d like to pack a plate before everyone has eaten. Yes, it’s quite annoying and I’ve seen plenty of people do. If they have an attitude about it so be it. This is an event to celebrate a milestone for most parents, not for someone to simply pig out or expect to have a ton of freebies to take home.

Host your event at an appropriate time during the day. Its summer, it’s going to be hot, don’t plan a party at a time that is inconvenient for you, and make sure it best fits your schedule. The peak of the day is not great because of the scorching temps, so any time after 3 p.m. tends to be a perfect slot. However, the most important rule of all is plan for things to be outdoors. Get a tent, have plenty of tables and chairs, try to keep the foot traffic in your house to a minimum. Why? Do you want to be cleaning up a ton of mess indoors or outdoors? Yeah, I think we all would agree the outdoor mess is a lot easier than what could transpire indoors.

Now, that the party planning has taken place, it’s time to think about those GIFTS. Preferably, money is always a go to choice in my book. The level of education completed dictates how much is given in my book. For those smaller kids, a toy or small monetary gift is sufficient. Now, when you get to those eighth grade graduates, high school graduates and college graduates, things shift. I mean I did get money for eighth grade graduation, but not as much as I expected. So I’d say anywhere between twenty to fifty dollars is sufficient.

High school you have to amp the level a bit to; anywhere from $35 to $100, I think is reasonable. When you reach college that is a bit bigger in my book, as I’ve explained to my nieces and nephews, you graduate from college you can expect a few hundred. I mean I probably walked away easily with $3k-$5k from college after all the gifts I got. And that’s just talking immediate family.

Remember, graduation parties/celebrations are supposed to be fun. It’s all about family, friends and celebrating those milestones!