Graduation Party Ideas
Plan the ultimate graduation celebration
Do you know someone who’s graduating this year? Whether it’s from kindergarten, high school or college, your graduate deserves a celebration that honors their achievement. To help you plan the perfect event, we’ve developed some ideas for themes, food and gifts. Choose your favorites to create a night your graduate won’t forget.
Choosing a party theme
Every good party starts with a fun theme idea. Not only does it pave the way for a cohesive look and feel, but it can also express the personality of your graduate. You can go with a traditional party theme, like a luau or fiesta, or you can pick something that’s more graduation-specific, such as their future college mascot and colors.
Once you’ve chosen a theme, incorporate it into the invitations and graduation party decorations. Decor doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult — there are some easy features that can really make an impact. Focus on things like a backdrop for the food table or table centerpieces to pull the look together.
Finding the best graduation party food
No matter what theme you choose, you need delicious food. Have it catered from the graduate’s favorite place or make the food yourself — just don’t forget the cake! If your party is during a meal time, choose something delicious and filling. But if the graduation party is between meals, you can easily do snacks and lighter foods. While making your list, don’t forget to include drinks, ice, cups, plates and napkins.
Making graduation gifts
While many guests may bring individual graduation gifts, a group gift can be memorable and fun. Choose a group gift that's interactive to give guests something to participate in during the party. Gift ideas for high school graduation parties include:
- Educational memory book. Take a dictionary and ask guests to find a word that reminds them of the graduate, and write a memory on that page. For example, a friend who played in the band with the grad might find the word “tempo” and leave a memory from band practice. The grad can take the dictionary and use it at school!
- Laundry money. Take a jar and decorate it, then ask guests to give change and fill the jar.
College graduates may enjoy these group gifts:
- Money Pizza. Prepare your graduate for the future with a “money pizza.” For this, take an empty pizza box and write “You can’t live on pizza alone. Here’s some dough for your future” and let guests put bills and coins inside. The money can help them with setting up an apartment or moving to a new city.
- Office advice. Have each guest write a letter in a notebook giving their best advice for succeeding in a career.
Planning party favors
At the end of the party, you may want to thank guests with a small favor. You could go simple with a cookie or a bag of candy, or choose something that fits with the graduation party theme. No matter what you choose, party favors are a great way to send guests away with a small gift to show how grateful you are they came to celebrate.
Graduation party ideas from start to finish
Not sure how to bring all of those steps together? We’ve curated four different party themes from start to finish. Use one as-is or adapt it to fit your needs:
A bright future
This celebration will feature a neon color palette with accents of sunglasses, suns and lightbulbs. Use neon colors against a black background to make everything pop, and make a fun centerpiece spelling out the graduate’s name in lighted letters. For food, focus on serving a colorful menu. Start with a green cucumber salad, serve red BBQ chicken for the main dish with a side of orange sweet potato fries, and end with a bright lemon cake. Keep guests entertained with a photo booth full of giant, colorful sunglasses and other fun props, and send them home with sunglasses or small bottles of sunscreen.
Now and then
For this party, feature pictures and memories from the graduate’s childhood. You can include old photos on the invites and use some of their favorite childhood toys as decoration. Dig out that old Lite Brite and write the graduation year on it, or use Legos as card holders on the buffet. Use photos as centerpieces by placing them on sticks in jars, like these examples from Kathi’s Creative Therapy, or stringing them up as DIY garland.
To go along with the nostalgic feel, feature foods from childhood like snack cakes, red punch, corn dog nuggets, chicken strips or macaroni and cheese bites. And when the party is over, thank guests for “watching the graduate grow” by giving them seed packets to plant.
Let the adventure begin
This party is great for outdoorsmen or anyone entering a nature-related career. Invitations might feature trees, mountains or a compass, and the celebration will have natural colors and textiles. Use rustic decorations like wooden bowls, metal containers for drinks, and lanterns. If you have a fire bowl, set it up outside to give guests a place to roast marshmallows for s’mores. For the main course, serve hot dogs, grilled corn and watermelon! Party guests can create a snack for the road with a “Make your own trail mix” bar set up like this one from Evermine.
A sweet ending
This graduation party idea is all about sweet treats! Use candy colors and hang candy-inspired garland for a backdrop to the food or gift table. Centerpieces can be oversized lollipops in vases or glass containers full of gum balls. Instead of serving a full meal, have a big dessert buffet. Vary the menu with individual options like cupcakes, cookies and other treats. For a unique dessert, take small jars or cups and make dessert shooters, like these Nutella crunch ones. This is also the perfect party for an extravagant graduation dessert, like this tie-dye cake.
A candy bouquet is a perfect group gift for this theme—have guests add money to the arrangement! Send guests away with individually wrapped cookies in celebration of your “smart cookie” who just graduated.
Celebrate your grad with these fun party ideas!
Take these fun party plans and create a unique celebration to honor your graduate. We would love to see how you make these themes your own — leave us a comment to tell us about your party.