Graduation Party Ideas for a Safe, Successful Event

Lucy is a licensed property & casualty agent who has been working in the insurance industry for more than 30 years. She has recently earned her CISR designation.

graduation party ideasYour son or daughter has just completed a major chapter in his/her academic career. Congratulations! No doubt your head is swirling with graduation party ideas: the cake, the decorations, school photos of your student from pre-K through today… There’s definitely a lot to plan.

Unfortunately, too many social hosts forget to plan for the risks. And in the case of graduation parties or after-prom parties, the biggest risks stem from alcohol. The combination of underage guests and available alcohol is often a recipe for danger—especially in homes where parents knowingly permit minors to drink…

Consider these sobering facts:

  • Thirty-three percent of teenage drunk driving deaths occur between April and June: graduation/prom season.
  • According to a 2005 study conducted by the American Medical Association, 25% of teens say they’ve attended a party where underage drinking occurred in the presence of a parent.
  • Per Massachusetts law, furnishing alcohol to a person under 21 is punishable by up to one year in prison, fines up to $2,000, or both.
  • Some home insurance carriers list host liquor liability as an exclusion, meaning they will not cover you for damages resulting from alcohol served at your home.

So, if you want the spotlight on your grad this season (and not on any after-party controversies—or something worse), follow these safe graduation party ideas:

1. Consider hosting a dry party.

Let’s face it: party hosts are constantly dividing their attention. From greeting guests, to passing hors d’oeuvres, to cleaning up spills, there’s not a lot of bandwidth left to police the beer cooler. The surest way to prevent underage guests from getting their hands on alcohol is to ban booze from your party entirely. In addition to peace of mind, the upside may be a community of grateful parents, who are happy to let their kids party late at your house.

2. Hire a professional.

If offering drinks to adult guests is important to you, control guests’ access by hiring a certified bartender who can offer proof of insurance. Not only will a hired professional act as the designated gatekeeper to the alcohol, he or she will also have the training needed to determine when legal-age guests have consumed too much. Remember: teens aren’t the only ones at risk for alcohol poisoning, accidents, or assaults after a social event.

3. Collect car keys.

If a licensed bartender isn’t in the party budget, you may want to collect guests’ keys as they arrive. This is not a failsafe method for preventing liquor liability issues, and it can be a tricky strategy to pull off with a large crowd. But it’s a good way to set the expectation that you’re going to be monitoring consumption levels as best you can. By taking on the role of enforcer (or assigning it to a trusted, designated person), you’ll also take the pressure off guests who may be too embarrassed to call a cab or ride-share service on their own.

4. Review your home insurance coverage with your agent.

MA home insurance policies are designed to cover you in the event of accidents or injuries that occur on your property. So if a party guest breaks an arm in your hammock, or trips over a displaced paving stone, the liability section of your homeowner’s policy would probably kick in.

But when alcohol is involved, “liability” gets more complicated. Host liquor liability means that you can be held responsible for car accidents or injuries to third parties even after an intoxicated guest leaves your home. And yet, some home insurance carriers exclude host liquor liability claims. What’s more, most home policy limits are low compared to the costs of defending a civil lawsuit after a death or catastrophic injury. For this reason, it’s a good idea to research umbrella insurance and/or special event insurance, which can supplement your home insurance coverage with millions in added protection (for a surprisingly affordable rate).

Keep in mind, though: insurance policies do not cover loss events wherein criminal conduct is involved. And if you allow underage guests to drink on your property (even if you don’t personally serve them or purchase the alcohol for them), you are breaking the law.

5. Explore special event insurance.

Usually associated with weddings, special event insurance can be purchased to secure host liquor liability coverage and other party protection. After all, some graduation parties are pretty sizeable affairs—complete with lawn tents, rented dance floors, and a list of party vendors (caterers, DJs, etc.). If your party gets rained out, special event insurance can help you recoup the costs.

Got more questions about host liquor liability or your home insurance coverage? Call us any time: 508.339.2951! And congratulations to your graduate!