It is coming – the end of the school year and time to celebrate with your graduate. Whether they are leaving kindergarten, elementary (lower) school, middle school, high school, or college, the experience of graduating is a reason for celebration, which means it is graduation party time. Our graduation party ideas help you plan the perfect celebration.

Before you begin to make major preparations, there are some things you need to consider to make you planning easier.

Consider the Cost of Your Graduation Party

Decide if you are going all out with catered food, purchased favors, and maybe even have a relatively popular local band or keep the celebration small and do much of the preparation yourself. Set up a budget up front. Doing so helps you avoid disappointment when the party is more expensive or less elaborate than you had planned on it being.

Decide on a Time and Place for Your Graduation Party

Cheerful students throwing graduation caps in the Air

The time of day and the place you choose for your graduation celebration both help determine the type of party you will have. For example, an outdoor location is perfect for a barbeque or picnic. If the weather is warm enough, a beach party might be fun. An inside party works well in your home, if the group is small. For a larger party, you may wish to rent a banquet hall or celebrate in the banquet room of a local hotel or restaurant. Consider renting tents if your party is outdoors in case of inclement weather.

With so many graduation parties in May and June, you may opt for a late summer party in July or August. Bill your get-together as a Going-Away-to-College Party. If you choose this option, have guests fill out postcards to send to your graduate’s college after they are settled to provide a link to those at home. This option provides the opportunity to receive gifts of funds and supplies for their college education.

Check with some of those guests you consider most important – close friends and relatives – before carving the date in stone to make sure you choose a date when most of them are available.

Create Your Guest List

So much of your party preparation depends upon who is coming and how many guests you will invite. Orders for food, favors, and so much else are determined by the composition of your guest list. If your child is old enough, they can help you determine who to invite for their special time with friends.

Choose Age-appropriate Activities

Your pre-school graduate and their friends will want to play, while your college graduate may simply want to talk, listen to music, and eat. Our graduation party ideas include fun activities, no matter what the age of your graduate. Remember, be flexible with activities. You don’t want to have too many, but you want to make sure you have enough. Also, be prepared to switch activities if one is not working for your guests.

Now that you have dealt with choosing the parameters of your graduation party, you can begin planning your party’s theme, favors, and food.

Choose Your Graduation Party Theme

A small party with a few friends may not need an overall theme. However, the occasion will be more memorable with special theme. For your kindergarten graduate, use a favorite cartoon or movie character. Older children may wish to use a favorite color or celebrity. School colors work well for high school graduates. Your college graduate may enjoy a theme based on their favorite sports team or the career they have chosen. If you do choose a specific theme, build your decorations, food, and party favors around it.

Send Invitations to Your Graduation Party

The formality and size of your graduation party will affect the type of invitation you send. A small, casual party probably only needs a phone call or e-mail invitations. However, remember that more formal written invitations encourage gift giving. If you need to know how many guests are coming to determine other party arrangements, be sure to include an RSVP. Send out invitations three or four weeks in advance so your guests can mark their calendars and make plans to attend.

You can purchase invitations or make your own. Match the invitations to your party’s theme if you have one. Invitations with a picture of the graduate make a nice memento. Consider using school colors. For a formal party, consider having invitations printed with an enclosed postcard for the guests’ RSVPs. You can also mail the invitations with graduation announcements.

Decide on What Type of Food You Will Serve

Decide on What Type of Food You Will Serve

As with any other party, food is one of the highlights. Will you have a sit-down dinner, snacks, or a catered meal? Once you make a general decision about the food you will serve, consider the following:

  • A candy bar can be set up if there is a bar area at a banquet hall or hotel conference room.
  • Consider sub sandwiches, pizza, or tacos from take-out displayed on colorful trays.
  • Create an easy-to-do buffet with deli purchased pasta, tossed, and potato salad, chicken, and macaroni and cheese displayed in large clear dollar-store plastic bowls.
  • If you are handling the food yourself, opt for finger foods, cupcakes, and serve-yourself punch or a cooler full of canned sodas and bottled water.
  • Remember to match any colors you have chosen for the party or the graduate’s school colors with the icing on the cake or cupcakes.
  • Set out several bowls of nuts, small candies, and dried fruit for munching.
  • Your graduate may express a preference for a specific food either they like or they know will please their friends.

Choose Your Graduation Party Entertainment

Entertainment options for you graduation party vary from a well-known local band to letting the graduates simply mix and mingle. If you are hiring professionals, do so early to assure they are available.

Frequently the best party entertainment is the guests themselves. Given a bit of direction, everyone can have fun and you can turn your party into a memorable one. Try one of the following:

  • Entertain your guests with a Power Point presentation graduate’s life from birth to graduation playing continuously during the party.
  • Have a colorful box available for guests to write notes to the graduate.
  • Have your guests to write down memories about the graduate in a journal to share with the graduate after the party.
  • If you are having a graduation picnic or barbeque, a water balloon relay race is fun.
  • Pass around a notebook or address book so that guests can write down their names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, birthdays, and usernames on social media sites for your graduate so they can stay in touch.
  • Take photos and/or videos during the graduation party and request your guests use their smart phones and provide their pictures to give to the graduate.
  • Research party games on the Internet and choose some that are age appropriate.

Some Graduation Party Suggestions

Some Graduation Party Suggestions

Graduation Open House

If your graduate is from a large class and you have trouble finding a date when all the guests on your list will be available, consider an open house for your graduate. Set a beginning and end time and allow several hours for guests to stop by, congratulate the graduate, and enjoy some food. Stick to finger foods and small disposable plates for convenience.

Graduation Brunch

Most graduation parties occur during the afternoon and evening, so a brunch works well. Choose the banquet room of your graduate’s favorite restaurant or have your celebration at your home. A coffee mug with your graduate’s picture makes an excellent favor. If you have place cards, attach them to the mugs with thin ribbons in your graduate’s school colors. If you have your brunch at home, breakfast casseroles work well. Create a platter of breakfast pastries, muffins, and biscuits and another with fresh fruit. Serve coffee, hot chocolate, and juice as beverages.

Graduation Bar-b-que or Picnic

If the weather is nice, an outdoor party is great for a large group. Your home works well if your guest list is small, but for a larger group, consider a local park. Many have outdoor grills, covered pavilions, and restrooms – everything you need for your graduation picnic or bar-b-que. A water balloon toss with guests divided into teams is always fun with balloons in the graduate’s school colors.

Graduation Sleepover

For a younger graduate, consider holding their first sleepover as a graduation treat. Have celebrants bring bedrolls or sleeping bags and clear a large floor area for sleeping. Rent a favorite movie for entertainment and serve pizza, nachos, and popcorn. Have your child help choose a theme for their graduation sleepover.

Greeting Guests at Your Graduation Party

Greeting Guests at Your Graduation Party

If possible, the graduate should greet every guest as they arrive. Sometimes this is not possible, as with a graduation open house where guests are constantly coming and going. Regardless of the size of the group and the type of celebration, you will want a designated place for graduation gifts. A good place is close to the entrance so guests can easily leave gifts and sign in upon entering.

You will also want a way to note who attends. Try one of the following ideas:

  • Create a graduation sign for guest to leave a message for the graduate. Provide a large poster board and colorful markers. Post a sign asking for first and last names and advise signers they can leave a message if they wish. Frame the poster for the graduate to keep.
  • For a small party, have guests sign a white or light color graduation cap with colorful permanent markers.
  • Purchase a signature frame from a craft store or online. Place a picture of the graduate inside the frame.
  • Use any meaningful item as a guest list – a guitar, skateboard, lampshade, or favorite book. Choose an item with special meaning for the graduate.
  • Search the Internet for guest list pages you can print out. Some have colorful borders and some are more utilitarian with places for addresses and for listing any gift given.

Graduation Party Decoration Ideas

When it comes to decorations, the options seem endless. You can find graduation decorations on-line. Choose themed paper products – napkins, cups, and plates – for attractiveness and easy cleanup. Search discount and dollar stores for clever items to use as centerpieces. For example, if your college graduate has chosen a college near the beach, use shells on tables and put snacks in small metal or plastic beach buckets. Additionally, try one of the following:

  • If your party is at night, line the drive way or walkway with luminary bags – a brown paper bag filled partially with sand and a small votive candle. For a daytime party, consider using high school or college pennants.
  • Balloons are fun and can serve as table centerpieces. Use helium balloons to add color and show where food and drinks are located.
  • Discount stores provide many favor options for your graduation party. Inexpensive glow-in-the-dark bracelets are fun, as are clever keychains.
  • Label plain white or clear plastic cups with guests names so guests do not lose track of their drinks.
  • Provide a variety of prints of the graduate for friends to choose from and take with them.

After the Graduation Party

Put all the pictures from the party along with cards and any other mementos – a napkin, favor, etc. – in a scrapbook for your graduate. Alternatively, create a video of party pictures on a CD.

Have your graduate send thank you notes to everyone who attended. If the guest gave a gift, make sure they mention their appreciation. Send a picture of the graduate at the party if you wish, especially if it includes the guest.

Whether your graduation party is a small get-together or a large party, planning is the key. This article provides everything you need for before, during, and after the party. So go ahead; plan, prepare, and then relax and enjoy the celebration.