Graduation Party Ideas 2020: How to Celebrate [step-by-step]

Are you the parent of a soon-to-be high school graduate? High School graduation is so much more than a ceremonial walk across a stage. This is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime event that deserves a celebration. Grown and Flown’s Parents Facebook Group is full of generous and creative parents who helped us crowdsource amazing high school graduation party ideas. 

Graduation Party Ideas

Do This First!

Before making a single decision, there is one thing you must do first. Ask your senior how they want to celebrate this milestone event. Do they want to have a small gathering? Perhaps just family and close friends? Or do they prefer to have a huge bash? Childhood buddies and fellow classmates? Beloved Grandmas and Grandpas? Close neighbors and far-flung cousins?

Graduation Party Invitations and Announcement 

The invitation is a place to set the tone for the party and we love the incredible variety and unique artwork that you can get at Minted, a San Francisco-based online marketplace with some of the most gorgeous invitations, party decor, and whimsical gifts we have ever seen. 

graduation invitation

Pro tip for your party: Ask for “Regrets Only” on your 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.

If your teen is opting out of a big bash but you would like to let friends and family know that you are celebrating a milestone, consider sending a graduation announcement like one of these:

graduation invitation

Graduation Party Ideas: Who and How Many to Invite?

Here are some creative recommendations and different ways to organize a graduation party depending on budget, flexibility, and size preference.

Graduation party ideas and invitations

  • An outdoor cookout is a classic, comfortable, low-stress way to celebrate.
  • *Some families host a backyard brunch on the Sunday morning after graduation.
  • If graduation is in May, consider having the party over Memorial Day weekend. This makes it easier for plane-flight-out-of-town family members to attend.
  • 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.)
  • *Have a joint party that is shared with a few grads. This works well when there’s lots of guest list overlap and each family is able to invite a few other friends, as well.
  • If you need a venue larger than your own backyard, consider going to a park or renting a space.
  • Plan two distinct events. On graduation weekend, have a low-key gathering. Plan a bigger Going Away party for later in the summer when college-bound friends are getting ready to disperse for school. This is a popular option. (Bring Kleenex.)
  • *Throw an “open house” with a broad time frame to offer guests maximum flexibility to attend your party as well as other events on crowded grad weekends. These can be simple drop-in affairs with cake, snacks, and drinks – all non-perishables that can be easily replenished.
  • Take your graduate out to dinner or lunch with their BFF and both families. Enjoy this quiet time to observe these beautiful young adults and reflect on all their shared experiences.
  • 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.
  • Does your school host a Graduation Night for seniors? After the ceremony, buses take all the seniors to a surprise location for dinner, DJ, swimming, and activities. Grads load back on buses for the ride home at 3AM. Rest of the weekend, sleep.

*Note: 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.

Family Only: When a Small Graduation Party is Best

Your senior may have little interest in entertaining a huge crowd. A home-cooked meal featuring a lineup of favorite foods may be their preferred celebration. Or, they may want to go out for a special dinner and invite the grandparents or other particularly close members of the extended family.

  • Taking a trip together the summer after graduation offers one more chance at shared experiences before it becomes very difficult to coordinate everyone’s schedules.
  • 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 while there.
  • Another mom took her grad to Europe with backpacks for a mom-daughter adventure of a lifetime.
  • Is there a sporting event, concert or play that your grad has longed to see or been a little too young for in the past? Tickets to a major event are always a great idea.
  • Involving grandparents at high school graduation is meaningful but can be challenging for older adults with more limited mobility. Planning a lunch or dinner that can accommodate any family members is worth the extra effort.

Popular Graduation Party Activities and Games 

  • Standing around and chit-chatting may be fine for the adults at the party but kids prefer to have something more active than conversation.
  • Photo booths are very popular ideas and props with Class of 2019 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 photos on a flash drive to share and post on social media.
  • Start collecting favorite childhood photos and videos. iPhoto makes it easy to create a video montage of your grad that can be playing during the party.
  • Outdoor games can be real crowd-pleasers for this age group.  Here’s where to find a college logo designed cornhole set.

Stress Free Tips for Planning a 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.

  • A luxury option is to hire a chef to cook at the graduation party. While expensive, the payoff of quality time with family and friends can’t be quantified. 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.
  • 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.
  • Consider having the party partially catered or hire a server to come before the party, replenish trays, wash dishes, and empty the garbage.
  • Two grads in the family? Combine the guests and have one event for friends and family.
  • 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 own party. Then, when they have their kids’ parties, return the favor.
  • Some schools have a tradition where parents of a juniors assist with some party hosting duties for the senior parents.

Want expert tips about college, including what to buy, how to move in and…how to say goodbye? Get the Grown and Flown book! 

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You Might Also Enjoy Reading: 

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A fun graduation party is a big deal for your teen. Make sure your high school graduate has a memorable graduation party with these simple, easy, and fun graduation party ideas. You can use this as your checklist so you don't forget a thing! #graduation #partyideas #grad #gradparty #partyideasforteens #teens #highschool #highschoolparty #highschoolteen #graduationparty

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