High school graduation is much more than a ceremonial walk across a stage. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event that deserves a celebration of your son or daughter’s accomplishments.
High school graduation party ideas
Before making a single decision about a party, there’s one thing you must do first. Ask your seniors how they want to celebrate this milestone event. Do they want a small gathering with family and close friends? Or would they love a huge bash? Bring your teenager into the conversation early on and share budget constraints so they know how much you are willing to spend for this special occasion.
The Grown and Flown community of generous and creative parents helped us crowdsource these fantastic ideas for the upcoming graduation season.
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Graduation party invitations
The invitation sets the party’s tone. We love the incredible variety and unique artwork at Minted, a San Francisco-based site with gorgeous invitations and unique gifts designed by independent artists.
They offer free custom envelopes and free recipient addresses.
Use promo code CELEBRATE 2023 between 4/18/23-4/24/23 to receive 15% off grad cards and gifts at Minted.
Pro-tip for your party: Ask for “Regrets Only” on the invitation and have your grad monitor attendance through a Facebook group they can create for the event for their friends. Compare lists as you get closer to the big day.
Who and how many to invite to a grad party
Here are some creative recommendations and different ways to organize a graduation party depending on budget, flexibility, and size preference.
1. An outdoor graduation party is a traditional concept and can be a more casual celebration.
2. Consider hosting a backyard brunch on the Sunday morning after graduation.
3. If graduation is in May, have the party over Memorial Day weekend to make it easier for out-of-town family members to attend.
4. Celebrate the dads AND grads in your life by combining a Father’s Day celebration with a graduation party. This can be a good option when there is more than one Dad (multi-generations and/or blended families.)
5. Have a joint party shared with a few grads and their families. This works well when there is a large guest list overlap. Typically, each family will also invite other friends and family as well.
6. If you want a backyard graduation party but need a larger venue than your home, consider going to a park. Bring a canopy-type tent to cover the refreshments and a few guests at a time. This could be perfect for tailgating when you visit your student for game day this fall.
7. Throw an open house with a broad time frame to offer guests maximum flexibility to attend your party and other events on crowded grad weekends. These can be simple drop-in affairs with cake, snacks, and drinks — all non-perishables that can be quickly replenished.
8. Take your graduate to dinner or lunch with their BFF and families. Enjoy this quiet time to observe these beautiful young adults and reflect on all their shared experiences.
9. Is your grad part of a close-knit friend group? Organize a dinner in a private room at a restaurant and invite all the grads and parents to attend.
10. Have two events. On graduation weekend, plan a low-key gathering. Throw a larger going-away party for later in the summer before friends disperse for college. Use high school colors for the first party and college colors for the second. (Bring Kleenex.)
Pro Tip: if there are a series of parties in one day, the first party is where most of the eating will happen. People tend to graze at the events that follow.
School-hosted Graduation Night for seniors
11. After the ceremony, buses take all the seniors to a surprise location where honorees can be treated to dinner, a DJ, and a few indoor games and activities. Consider easy DIY graduation parties decorations like balloons in school colors, Class of 2023 banners, or streamers. Choose a party theme with centerpieces and party favors to match for a more elaborate celebration.
12. Popular options include a candy bar or dessert table with cookies, cupcakes, and other sweet treats.
13. A photo backdrop with fun Class of 2023 props will give friends and classmates a perfect spot to take pics to remember the night.
Load the grads back on buses for the ride home at 3 AM. Rest of the weekend, sleep.
Activities and games
14. Standing around and chit-chatting may be acceptable for the adults at the party, but teens prefer something more active than conversation.
15. A Photobooth is a trendy idea, and props with Class of 2023 themes add to the entertainment. Not only will your guests leave with a photo strip, but you can explore the possibility of ordering a duplicate set of all the photos to put into a book. If possible, get the images on a flash drive for sharing later.
16. Start collecting favorite childhood photos and videos. iPhoto makes it easy to create a video montage of your grad that can be played during the party.
17. Outdoor games can be real crowd-pleasers for this age group. A cornhole game would be fun to play. Here’s where you can find collegiate cornhole game sets.
Stress-free tips for a high school graduation party
High School graduation is one often of life’s proudest moments. Not many people feel bored or unmoved as the principal nears the letter of your grad’s name in the roll call. Focus on enjoying the moment at the ceremony and your party, too.
18. While expensive, hiring a chef to cook for the party offers quality time with family and friends. If you’re hosting a houseful of out-of-town guests, this alternative is a life-saver if you are determined to truly enjoy the event without worrying about shopping, prep, cooking, and cleanup.
19. House guests sometimes feel in the way or at loose ends. If you have a tight budget and effective delegation skills, choose a couple of reliable guests willing to be put to work.
20. Consider having the party partially catered or hire a server before the party to replenish trays, wash dishes, and empty the garbage.
21. Do you have a high school and college graduate in your family? Combine the guests and have one event for friends and family.
22. Use the buddy system and trade-off host duties. Ask one or two of your besties to replenish food trays and beverage containers, take pictures and clean up so you can enjoy your party. Then, when they have their teen parties, they return the favor.
23. Some schools have a tradition where parents of juniors assist with some party-hosting duties for the senior parents.
Your senior may have little interest in entertaining a vast crowd. A home-cooked meal with their favorite foods may be their preferred celebration, or they may want to go out for a special dinner and invite their grandparents.
Here are other ways to celebrate your grad besides a party:
24. Plan a trip that will give your family one more chance for a shared experience before it becomes more difficult to coordinate everyone’s schedules.
25. One family paid for a grad and older sibling to travel together in the US but required them to make the airline and hotel reservations and plan the activities there.
26. Another mom took her grad to Europe with backpacks for a mom-daughter adventure of a lifetime.
27. Is there a sporting event, concert, or play your grad has longed to see? Giving them the gift of an experience is a wonderful way to celebrate their milestone.
28. Involving grandparents at high school graduation is meaningful but challenging for older adults with limited mobility. Planning a lunch or dinner that can accommodate all family members may be a better option than asking them to walk long distances or stand for extended periods.
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