Graduation season is a time of celebration and joy for many. Families gather, meals are shared, and a new phase of life begins. With so many great graduation party ideas there are endless opportunities. There are ideas for every budget and style.
It’s a time to mark the accomplishments of the last few years, and for those going on to college or moving away, a time to wish them well on their next chapter.
Whether your graduation party is for college graduates of high school graduates, read on for the best ideas to finish off their graduation year with a bang!
Fun Graduation Party Ideas
Photo Wall of Memories
Share your favorite memories of the graduate by making a wall of photos. Ask guests to send in their favorite pictures of the grad or them with the grad. Place each on a corkboard or other. This can be a great focus and conversation starter plus makes an interesting photo backdrop.
Shared Party with a Friend
If your grad has a best friend sharing parties can add to the enjoyment. Shared memories and friends create lasting memories.
Decorate the Front Door and Walk
One of the most popular graduation party ideas, make the party easy to find by decorating the front door! Set up flags or signs made from paper plates or frisbees for easy visibility. These can guide people to the location and brighten the area. Streamers, balloons, garlands, tassels and pictures can add interest and color. Decorations in school colors and shaped as graduation caps are also fun.
Window Planter Ice Box
Keep drinks cold by filling a window planter with ice. This creates a unique appearance and allows easy access to water, soda, and more. Well suited to a rustic theme, it is affordable, accessible, and fun.
Keep food simple with a buffet lunch. This makes it simple to provide food for everyone and meet all special food requirements. Ensure vegetarians, vegans, and those with allergies can choose foods that fit their needs.
Another of our fun graduation party ideas, is a photo booth. Create lasting memories for your grad with a photo both. Rent a commercial one or create your own. A backdrop with fun colors or designs, a few props, and a camera can create endless photo opportunities.
Food trucks are a wildly popular way to grab a fast lunch or experience a new food. If you are hosting a backyard graduation, inviting a food truck is a fun and stress free way to offer a variety of foods cooked professionally. Choose one local favorite or bring in a few for variety.
Easy Party Snacks
For easy snacks set up stations with grab and go packaged snacks. Alternatively use glass jars and metal scoops for a more sustainable choice. Bulk snacks such as chips, pretzels, candies, and much more can be served this way easily.
For those who are bringing graduation gifts, set up a gift table. A simple table, folding table, or tray can be covered with a table cloth for a quick solution. Guests can place their gifts here for opening later.
Use School Colours
When choosing decorations look for school colors. It’s a great way to acknowledge the school at the event. This personal touch is well suited to the event.
Selecting an activity for an event can offer time for people to relax. Take your backyard graduation to the next level by setting up a backyard movie with a white sheet screen and projector. Lawn chairs, blankets, or cushions are perfect for seating. Bring people together in a relaxed way to celebrate the hard work to graduate.
Rent a Room at a Restaurant
If you prefer stress free planning and easy execution, rent a room at a restaurant. Many restaurants have a separate room for family or work functions. Often a menu can be selected or appetizers shared. Save yourself the clean up and just enjoy the party.
Release Paper Lanterns
One of my favorite graduation party ideas and a sweet way to say goodbye to the school and the last few years is releasing paper lanterns. They are less harmful to the environment than balloons. This signifies a new start. Write something that they want to leave behind on them for added effect.
Backyard Graduation Party
Most grad parties are held in the summertime so why not make the most of the season and host a backyard graduation party.
For a fun and active graduation party idea, try a pool party. If you have your own pool you can pass around snacks and set up drink stations then enjoy the day. People can come and go or be there for a set time. People can choose to swim, have water fights, or just relax by the pool.
Theme Gifts like Books, Gift Cards, etc.
Create a theme to make your graduate feel special. Choose something they love, an activity, movie, time, or even food. Build the decorations, gifts, food, and dress to fit around that theme. This will build not only a great experience but wonderful memories.
Re-live their graduation
Ask guests to arrive in their cap and gown for a fun photo opportunity and to re-live their graduation one last time!
Click here for our best Graduation Party Games.
Enjoy the last minutes of childhood and the transition to an adult with a slushie machine. People can serve themselves or someone can run the machine. Creating colors and flavors to match the theme or school colors will bring it all together.
Add a flare of sophistication with a charcuterie board packed with meats, cheese, breads and savories. It allows easy self serving. Order a premade board or create one in advance.
Share your favorites by holding a potluck. This graduation party idea keeps cost down and helps people learn about each other. Have everyone bring their favorite food from the last few years. Your potluck can have any theme.
Graduation Guest Book
Help your graduate collect and treasure those special memories with a graduation guest book that guests can write messages and good wishes in.
Vintage Popcorn Popper
Vintage items are a great way to add interest. Old movie or carnival popcorn poppers are a huge hit. As it fills people can help themselves or bags of popcorn can be handed out. A small table of toppers can add extra flavor.
Include Yard Games
No one is ever too old for yard games. Lay out some croquette or yard Yahtzee for affordable entertainment. Or play some giant outdoor games or water games for summer fun. As games bring people together this can be a bonding experience as people move on to different phases of life.
Advice Jars or Book
Send your graduate into the world with a jar or book of the best advice guests can offer. Keep out a book and pen or jars, paper, and pens. People can write their best advice to build a happy life.
Custom Banner and Balloons
Decorations can make the whole day! Put up a congratulations banner or balloons to show your pride. Any color can be used and they can be made at home or sourced locally. Fill the space with color for an exciting space.
Theme Foods with Same Initial as Grad
Pick foods that start with the same first letter as your grad. This creates a personal meal. It’s also sure to be a wide variety of foods. Have fun by picking unusual or new foods.
“Smart Cookie” Cookie Bar
Set up a “Smart Cookie” cookie bar for your grads to enjoy, with a variety of flavored cookies and biscuits.
Set up a karaoke station for hours of entertainment. Add the graduation song, their class song, and the top songs from their years at school. Karaoke is a fun way to relieve memories.
Create Video Messages
For your technology advanced grad make a video message. Pass a camera around or assign a videographer. Each person can leave a story, a memory, or best wishes for the future. Your grad can keep this forever and watch it over and over.
Name Drinks and Snacks after Grads
When choosing drinks and snacks, name them after the grad. Include their likes and jokes for added fun. Creativity is needed, but the results are sure to be talked about in the future.
Rent or buy a bounce house to ensure that everyone has fun. Kids and adults alike can enjoy a few moments of pure fun. It’s sure to spark some childhood memories amongst the guests.
Everyone loves a taco, so treat your graduates to a fun taco bar where they can create their own tacos.
Choose a destination for the grad and build a party around that. Beach theme, the country they most want to visit, or somewhere they are going or moved from. Decorate to that theme and have people dress to match.
If your high school graduate is moving on to college, or your college graduate is launching a career, a college theme is fitting. Roll menus like diplomas. Use colors from the college of their choice. Name foods after classes and courses.
Share Favorite Childhood Pastimes
Bring out all the things they loved as a child. Drop that pogo stick or skateboard on the sidewalk. Add a table of their most played board games. Play the movie they watched most. Each person will learn something new about your guest of honor.
Make it a Formal Event
Another of the best graduation party ideas is to have a formal. Have everyone dress up for a formal event, host a sit down meal and have dancing. What a great excuse to dress up and feel your best!
If you live near a beach it is sure to hold some wonderful memories. Choose a section of the beach and set up a bonfire. Bring a grill for campfire or BBQ foods.
Throwback to Year of Birth
Make the theme a throwback to the year your grad was born. This is a fun way to acknowledge all the years that have passed. Dress in the fashions of the year and play the top songs. Select foods that were popular then as well.
Throwback Theme to Year of Kindergarten
Celebrate finishing years of school with a throwback to the year they started kindergarten. Set a dress code to that year’s styles. Decorate in their favorite things from then. Set games they liked to play in kindergarten.
Use a Top Playlist
Make a playlist with their top songs and let it play the whole party. Alternatively have each guest send a song to add. Engaging guests in the planning helps ensure they enjoy the experience too.
Have a Car Parade
If you are low contact or do not have the space for a party this is a great option. Have people drive by in their cars at a set time. They can play music and wave, share best wishes, and even drop off cards or gifts. Your grad can spend the time outside interacting as they all go by.
Avoid serving time and paper plates by having cupcakes instead of cake. A large cupcake tower can be a beautiful centerpiece. Or have them formed into a cake shaped like a grad hat to match the theme. Or even lay them out to write the gradation year, eg 2023. Anything is possible with imagination and a great baker.
If you have a smaller space an open house may be the solution. Set out snacks that won’t go stale. Let people come and go as they wish. Small groups will form and each person can fit it into their own schedule. This is ideal for busy grad weeks when people are celebrating multiple people.
Pack up for the day and meet at the theme park for no set up or cleaning. People can mingle and play their favorite games, enjoy the great rides, and even win prizes. There is sure to be something for everyone.
Rekindle some of the best parts of school with a pizza party. This graduation party idea includes only ordering several pizzas and putting out drinks. Decorate to taste. Play music in the background or even set up a movie.
Centerpieces with Photos Over the Years
Choose your favorite photos and memories from the past few years and use them for centerpieces. Pictures in picture frames, crafts they made, and toys they loved all work great as a center piece. This is sure to cause conversation and make them feel appreciated.
One Station for Each Year of School
You can create a tour of their school life with stations. Set up a table or a space for each year of school. Include their best artwork, pictures of them, and include their best friends. Adding the games they liked or toys can help spark long lost memories for everyone.
To make the space special, skip lawn chairs and be creative. Move couches and cushy chairs to the location. Set up coffee tables for drinks and snacks. Put bean bags out or add meditation cushions. This can make almost any space comfortable and original.
Gather all the records of their achievements and put them on a table for all to see. Trophies, ribbons, images, and more can be shared.
Make or gather a box to decorate. Create a slot in the lid or the front of the box. Guests can place their card in the box where they are safe for the party. Your grad can read them throughout the party or after everyone has gone home.
On a table place notecards or shaped paper, a pen, and string. Add a small hole to each piece of paper. Guests can write a note to the grad and hand it on a nearby tree. If you are inside a Christmas tree works well. Your grad can keep them and reread whenever they need.
Italian Soda Drink Station
Bring in a different drink and create an experience all at once with an Italian Soda drink station. Ingredients are affordable and easy to locate. Let people choose their own flavors and mix and match.
Favorite Snacks from the Past
Whether your grad loved prepackaged wagon wheels or homemade trail mix, leave them out for guests to try. Food is strongly tied to memories creating a table full of great memories. It also share more about the grad with their guests.
Set up a Dessert Table
Create a special grad themed dessert table with cupcakes, desserts and treats. Your party guests will love it.
Rent a Café
If you are looking for a space that is original and ready to go rent a café. These spaces are small enough to be intimate but large enough for several guests. People can order their own drinks and stay as long as they want.
Polaroid Instant Pictures Album
Set up polaroid cameras and film on a table or around the room. Any instant camera will do! People can take pictures and add them to the album provided throughout the night. This is sure to bring up old memories while recording new ones.
Graduation Party Ideas FAQ
What is a reasonable budget for a graduation party?
It really depends on how formal an event you are planning. The average cost of a graduation party in the US is $1000, working out at around $18 per guest, according to Financebuzz.com.
Of course, many parents spend way more than that, and many spend way under. If you are happy to DIY things like decorations and food, you can save a lot!
Do you give party favors at a graduation party?
What gifts do you give to a graduate?
Many people like to give a graduate a special gift for graduation. Ideas include money, a gift card, jewlery or something bespoke like a graduation scrap book.
How do you throw an inexpensive graduation party?
One of the biggest costs of any party is venue hire. So first off, you can save a lot of money by hosting your graduation party at home or at a free venue.
Another big cost is food. One idea to help with this is to have a “potluck” party where guests bring a dish. Another idea is to ask fellow parents of your graduate guests to help with the food preparation and share it between you as a kind of joint party.
Graduation Party Ideas Final Note
Great graduation party ideas will focus on the grad. If they are having fun and their personality is on display guests will enjoy it too. Select a location, food, and activities they have shared over the years. Any great party will create lasting memories.