How to plan the ultimate graduation party

Wow, the school year is going by SO fast! If your teen is about to graduate from high school (or middle school or college) you might be considering a graduation party. And, this is the perfect time to start planning it.

Our guest blogger today offers parents some help. Jordan Smith is a contributor to The Talkin’ T-Shirts Blog and a mother of two daughters. Smith says she personally is in the planning stages of a high school graduation party for her oldest daughter, Emily,

Here are Jordan’s super-helpful ideas for how to throw the ultimate graduation party:


Okay, you need a budget. Without a budget, there’s a tendency to go overboard, and you don’t want to throw a party without some parameters. Of course, nowadays, you can find all sorts of online calculators to help you with the budgeting process — even for parties.

You should check out this party budget calculator by PartyPOP, it lets you input how many people you’re having and where the party will take place. The calculator will then help you estimate your party costs and will provide you with a handy summary document to print, download or email, so you have it close by!

Pick a Date and Send Your Invitations

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you probably have friends who also have children graduating from high school (or college), and they’re also planning parties. While having the party close to your child’s graduation is a natural instinct, you might choose to have it at a later time — so it doesn’t conflict with other parties. 

Who doesn’t love a summer party out in the warm weather and sunshine? You can always send out some “save-the-date” postcards around graduation time, and then more formal invitations closer to your date. The important thing is to get the date on people’s radar so that you can have maximum attendance for this special occasion.

Choose a Venue

So, where are you going to have this bash? At your house? A restaurant? A pub? Outside at a park?

There are many options available! Of course, a lot will depend on your budget, and while you may think a party at your home might be the least expensive, don’t hesitate to contact some of your favorite venues to see what they might charge. Large pavilions in parks are a great option and often available at little-to-no cost! Here are some possibilities:

  • Your home
  • A restaurant, pub or bar
  • Banquet hall
  • The beach or lake
  • A park
  • Amusement park
  • Sports stadium


Now, a theme is by no means required, but sometimes they can add that extra-something-special to a party. And themes don’t have to be elaborate. It could be as simple as using your child’s school colors or his/her favorite food. If you’re looking to do something more elaborate, just head to Pinterest for ideas!

Decorations and Music

Once you’ve picked your theme, get started on decorations. Balloons, party wear, etc. are essential and they can be picked up at a party supply warehouse or home store.

But, maybe you want something extra special for the big day? How about a photo booth with props? Will you create a video showing your child through the years? These can all be part of the decorations and offer something fun and unique for your guests.

Music is also important to a good party! You can easily create a playlist that includes songs that your son or daughter will love, along with some crowd pleasers that your guests will most certainly enjoy. Or, perhaps you’ll have live entertainment. You could hire an acoustic guitar player or a band to make your party really rock!


Is there anything more important than the food? Yeah, probably not. You want food that not only makes your graduate happy but also will have your guests talking! So, let’s talk about some great graduation party food options based on what time of day your party is.

  • Brunch – Brunch is not often thought of when it comes to throwing a graduation party, but it shouldn’t be overlooked! You can serve some amazing food at brunch since it combines breakfast and lunch offering your guests the best of both worlds!
  • Lunch or dinner – Yes, these are seen as the traditional meals for a graduation party with good reason — there are lots of options! Does your graduate have a favorite casual dining spot that could cater for you? (Think burrito bar or gourmet burgers) Or, maybe they’d just love a good ol’ backyard barbecue.
  • Appetizers A fabulous cocktail party can be a great choice, as the food is bite-sized and allows people to mix and mingle. Plus, appetizers can be very filling when served in proper quantities.
  • Dessert – And don’t forget about throwing a fabulous dessert party. If your graduate has a sweet tooth, this can be a fun party idea with a sundae bar or huge candy display and a gorgeous cake.


Second to your food is drinks. What are you serving your guests to wet their whistle? You should have a good selection of non-alcoholic drinks, of course. But that doesn’t mean the bar selection has to be basic. Maybe plan for a faux-mimosa bar to go with brunch? Will you do a signature mocktail? A fun and creative smoothie bar? A special selection of craft beers for the adults? The possibilities are endless. You just need to be wary of the guest list and make sure that alcohol is under supervision of an adult so the teenagers won’t be tempted.

Final Touches

And here are a few final things to think about when it comes to throwing an amazing high school graduation party:

  • Out-of-town Guests – Book a block of rooms at a convenient hotel for any guests traveling to join in the festivities, so they don’t have to call around to find accommodations.
  • Something Special for the Graduate – Think about creating a fun t-shirt for your graduate to wear at the party! Or, consider providing your guests with tie dye shirts in the colors of your child’s university.
  • Thank You Notes – Purchase some thank you notes for the graduate, so he/she can promptly thank friends and family for any gifts received.
  • Words of Wisdom – Skip the traditional guest book and have your guests impart some words of wisdom to your son or daughter! It’s always great to see what advice people offer.

Don’t let a high school graduation party stress you out. With a little work on the front end, you can be throwing the ultimate party for your son or daughter. Just follow these tips, and you’ll have a celebration no one will ever forget!

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