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Fantastic Grad Party Ideas

May 7, 2022

When our child is a senior, we want to throw a fabulous graduation party to show them how proud we are and how much we care. But then the stress sets in. How do we make it special? How do we make it different than all the other grad parties out there? What do we even do?

I’m here for you. Let’s figure this grad party thing out together and walk through it step by step. Let’s look at key parts that make up the event.

WILL YOU DO A GROUP PARTY OR INDIVIDUAL?

Start by deciding if you will do a party just for your graduate, or if you want to do a joint party with a couple of friends. We’ve done both and they each have pros and cons.

Pros to doing a group party

  • more people to share the cost and work
  • the graduates like having a party with their friends
  • it saves others having to attend multiple grad parties
  • more friends prioritize it and come b/c it is for multiple people

Cons

  • more people means more space, more food, more tables, chairs, and supplies
  • multiple schedules need to be aligned
  • people often feel they need to bring gifts for the other grads they don’t know as well (just make it clear they don’t)

FOOD

The food is one of the main considerations of a grad party. Will you provide a full meal plus drinks? Appetizers? A charcuterie board? Dessert? Food is the main cost of the party, so get creative if needed.

For example, you could make BBQ pulled pork yourself ahead of time and freeze it until party time, but cater the dessert and sides. There are ways to cut costs.

We catered the food for our group party, but made homemade Chocolate Sheet Cakes using a tried and true classic recipe from our dear childhood family friend, Geri Rein.


We did a Mexican theme for dinner. Here is what we ordered for four families doing a party together with all their guests. Plan for 100 lbs. of raw meat (50 lbs. cooked) per 100 people.

  • 6 Trays beans
  • 6 Trays rice
  • 700 mini tacos
  • Meat for 250-300 (combo beef and chicken)
  • Guacamole
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Lettuce
  • Tortillas

POPCORN / CANDY BAR

Popcorn and candy bars are popular for graduations. We did this for my older son, Dawson. This is tough to do for a multiple family large party since the candy moves fast and it’s hard to keep up on the refill.

ENTRANCE DECORATIONS

It’s nice to have something in the entry that signals “The party is here!” This could be balloons, signs, cut out pictures of the grads, or banners. Welcome people to the party.

My nephew had a party with two of his friends, and in their cut outs they are pictured with something that represented what they loved in high school (skis, drum sticks, track shoes).

PARTY DECORATIONS – PHOTOS

What’s a party without decorations? This is a great way to bring nostalgia and meaning to the day. It’s a chance to represent your grads journey to graduation. Pictures take center stage.

A WOODEN PALETTE

In this photo display we decided on black and whites since there would be so many pictures of the four boys (and we liked the look). I spray painted a large wooden palette matte black, and rested it against a fence to create a great photo wall. Gold tacks held the pictures up.

We printed five 8×10 photos of each child at various stages of their lives. We then framed some pictures of the boys together around the base.

My sister and her friends created a school picture banner for each year of school. This is a cute idea if you have all of them!

She also had some childhood pictures as table centerpieces.

GIFT BASKETS AND PENNANTS

Right next to our picture area we had a table with gift baskets for each graduate with their senior picture clipped onto it and their college pennant flag. This is festive and it practically gives people a place to put gifts and cards.

Here is my sister’s version:

SPECIAL TOUCHES

We had custom cookies that reflected the boys’ school choices and I loved that detail. We used Cookie Love By Stephanie (tell her I sent you) and she is amazing!

My sister had sparklers that had cute sayings on the jars and at the end of the party everyone lit them.

She also had a map that showed where the grads were headed!

TSHIRT QUILT

My mom makes a Tshirt quilt for every graduate using some of their shirts from their growing up years. This is a very special gift and takes a ton of time. There are also companies you can hire to do this!

PHOTO AREA

It’s nice to have a photo area for people to take pictures at the party. Some find an old sofa on FB Marketplace, cover it with a blanket, and use it for the night. Others use balloons and a backdrop, like I did for my daughter’s party.

Many of these kids will not be together again for a long time so it’s nice to offer the opportunity to get some snaps!

I bought these photo props and also put out a bin with various costumes.

My sister’s photo area that she made with a balloon arch kit and this banner.

Put someone in charge of casual party pics

I did not do this and I regret it. Learn from my mistake and designate a friend to get the casual, organic party shots that you simply cannot get as a host.

Plan when you will get family photos

Try and do this before the party – it’s very hard to coral everyone afterwards.

Consider getting a few pics at the high school (or college) of your graduate

Siblings make this more fun for sure!

GRADUATION GIFTS

I have a whole post on grad gifts with meaningful, useful, and fun ideas for everyone on your list.

DOWNLOAD MY FREE GRADUATION PARTY PLANNING GUIDE TO HELP YOU

I’ve got a worksheet that will help you with your planning. Getting everything out of your head and onto paper matters a lot. Party planning can hold mental weight that leads to big time stress.

Do yourself a favor and get it organized so that you have a plan and can let the weight go.

OK That’s it! What did I miss? Can I answer any questions for you?

Pin this for later!

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