The Best Graduation Party Ideas

graduates walking in the street wearing white graduation gowns and holding gold balloons
Melanie Acevedo / Getty Images. Photo: Melanie Acevedo / Getty Images

Graduation is a momentous milestone—and nearly everyone will be throwing a party. We're sharing our best graduation party ideas from decor to drinks. Get our budget-friendly tips for creating handmade graduation party decorations including tips for decorating your buffet table.

01 of 19

Host a Joint Graduation Party

two smiling graduates in white graduation gowns outside house
Melanie Acevedo / Getty Images

Guests might need to split time between multiple parties on a single day. Ask your grad to help you plan a joint event with close friends so partygoers will be able to stay and mingle instead of just dropping by for a few minutes.

Editor's Tip: This works well if you have two grads in the family at the same time, too.

02 of 19

Plan a Outdoor Buffet

Family enjoying a meal outside
Con Poulos

A simple buffet (with dishes prepared the night before) will satisfy hungry partygoers after a long graduation ceremony. Set out dishes like pulled pork sandwiches, sloppy joes, taco-in-a-bag, and buffalo chicken sliders. Hosting an outdoor party can mean inviting more guests, and it's great to be outside in the late spring.

03 of 19

Keep Drinks Ice Cold

drinks in a cooler
John Granen

Sturdy metal buckets and window planters stand up to the task of keeping party drinks cold when filled with ice. Provide a variety of drink options for party guests, such as soda, water, and lemonade.

04 of 19

Simple Snacks

outdoor snack display
John Granen

Spend more time focusing on your grad's big day than fussing with the food—graduation party food doesn't have to be complicated or homemade. Assemble a pretty cheese plate with fruit, nuts, and crackers, or serve up trays of fresh fruit and cut veggies—no cooking needed. If your grad wants something more unconventional, have a full bagel spread, a dessert bar (instead of food), or carnival-themed snacks.

05 of 19

Put Memories on Display

A visual of a photo banner for a graduation party.
Courtesy of Etsy

Share fond memories and celebrate your grad's achievements from kindergarten through graduation with a memory timeline. There are many cute ones you can buy or you can DIY. Attach important photos to construction paper and hang them from string or a clothesline using clothespins (if your party is indoors, attach them to twine or ribbon and hang from a mantel or across a wall).

06 of 19

Decorate Your Front Walk

congrats spelled on paper plates on lawn
Colleen Duffley

Let party guests know they have the right house by adding a sign to your front walkway. Cut out letters to spell "congrats" from paper and glue them to paper plates. Attach wooden dowels to the backs of the plates and stick them into the lawn for simple, low-cost graduation party decor.

Editor's Tip: Use your grad's school's colors for extra enthusiasm.

07 of 19

Set Out Grab-and-Go Party Snacks

spicy cinnamon-sugar snack mix
Blaine Moats

Minimize dirty dishes and maximize guest mingling with grab-and-go graduation party snacks. Our spicy cinnamon sugar snack mix fits perfectly in cones fashioned from sturdy, bright paper.

08 of 19

Set Up a Gift Table

gift bags on table
Jacob Fox

To keep the party organized, set up a single place for guests to drop off gifts for your grad. Encourage partygoers to sign a guest book so your grad knows who attended the party and—more importantly— whom to write thank-you notes to.

09 of 19

Make Graduation-Theme Cupcakes

graduation themed cupcakes
Andy Lyons

Graduation party guests will look forward to celebrating with these hat-topped cupcakes. Roll the edges of each frosted cupcake in nonpareils to make a colored rim, then finish the batch by adding hats and tassels made from chocolate-covered cherries, chocolate-covered crackers, small candies, and fruit leather.

10 of 19

Get Creative with Dessert

shaved ice station
Adam Albright

Sure, the classic sheet cake is good, but a DIY snow cone station is a delicious and memorable graduation party dessert. Set out purchased or homemade syrups in fun bottles with a bucket of shaved ice. Let guests craft their own sweet dessert.

11 of 19

Decorate with School Spirit

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Show off your grad's school spirit or initials with homemade pennants crafted from felt. These festive DIY party decorations can be assembled ahead of time and make a sweet keepsake for the grad. Use them to decorate their bedroom or dorm room. To make your own, simply glue felt letters to a felt flag.

12 of 19

Take Pictures!

three graduates smiling and posing for camera while holding their diplomas in the air
PeopleImages / Getty Images

After the ceremony and before the party, set up a time for your grad to take the requisite pictures with immediate family and close relatives. During the party, ask a guest to handle the photography responsibilities, or hire a professional photographer.

Editor's Tip: To encourage impromptu pictures, scatter disposable cameras around the party.

13 of 19

Sweet Notes

good luck notes for graduate
Burcu Avsar

Have party guests leave notes of good luck and best wishes for the grad. Set up a station with scraps of paper, ribbon, and pens. Have each guest write a note and roll up their sweet sentiment. After the party, have the grad open each.

14 of 19

DIY Photo Booth

A visual of a graduation party photo prop.
Courtesy of Etsy

Capture fun memories and festive party moments with a DIY photo backdrop. Create a simple one by stringing cut squares of metallic paper on a plain wall. Have guests strike a pose and compile the pictures into a sweet gift for the grad. For extra fun, buy some photo booth props or make a small sign people can hold up that congratulates the graduate.

15 of 19

Words of Wisdom

graduation quote michael dell green motivational

Share meaningful words of wisdom and advice with the grad. Use inspirational quotes as part of your party decor. Simply print them on oversize paper and hang them around your party space.

16 of 19

Have a Card Box

A visual of a graduation card box.
Courtesy of Amazon

Most party goers will bring a congratulations card, so having a card box is essential! Wrap a shoe box in paper, find a basket, or use decorative organization bin that the graduate can take with them to college. To make it easier to find, label it or put a little sign near it.

17 of 19

Make an Achievement Table

happy kid standing in front of trophies and awards at home
MoMo Productions / Getty Images

Recognize all of your grad's accomplishments. Place things like trophies, letterman's jackets, letters of recognition, and their college acceptance letter for all to see. Guests will love seeing all the ways they've succeed from kindergarten to senior year.

18 of 19

Heartfelt Table Toppers

A visual of graduation table toppers.
Courtesy of Amazon

Find some place card holders and add pictures of the graduate onto each and add them to each table. Use their senior pictures or photos throughout senior year. This will give guests something to talk about while they eat your yummy food.

19 of 19

Pick a Theme

decorated cake on table with brown and blue pennants in background
portishead1 / Getty Images

Stand out and decorate with the graduate's favorite colors, school colors, or future college's colors. Add balloons, banners, flowers, and streamers in the same colors.

Updated by
Savanna Bous
photo of Savanna Bous

Savanna Bous is a digital editorial assistant at Better Homes and Gardens. She graduated from Drake University in the spring of 2022 with degrees in magazine media, advertising, and digital media production.

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