High School Graduation Party Planner and Ideas

African American family celebrating graduation with cake on summer deck
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Graduating from high school is an important milestone that marks the end of childhood. Throwing your teen a graduation party will help them honor the fact that they're about to enter the adult world. Whether it's a small get-together or a large bash, a high school graduation party requires a fair amount of preparation. The more time you invest in planning the event, however, the less time you'll need to spend worrying about all those last-minute details.

Basic Decisions

Involve your teen with as much of the party planning as possible. After all, it's their big day, so you'll want to center the event around their interests and accomplishments. The first thing you'll want to do is decide with your graduate what type of party they'd like. Some options include hosting a catered restaurant affair, a casual backyard barbecue, or a smaller dinner gathering with close friends and family.

Set a Date and Time

Setting a date for your graduation party can difficult since Mother's Day and Memorial Day occur around the same time as most high school graduations. Your teen's close friends will also likely be throwing celebrations of their own, so you'll need to make sure your party times do not conflict. If you're going to host the party in a hall, park, or restaurant, reserve the spot well in advance as the weekends surrounding graduation will be in high demand.

Determine Your Party Budget 

Write down everything you plan to purchase and record how much money you'll need for each item. The cost of food, venue, party favors, invitations, and decorations can add up quickly if you don't plan for the expenses. If you're going to host the party at your home, research the cost of things you might want to rent, such as a tent or sound system. If you have limited funds for the party, consider making your own decorations and sending electronic invitations to help reduce costs.

Choose a Theme

While the overall theme will be the graduation, adding some more festive, personal touches will help to pull the aesthetics of your party together. A theme for a graduation party can be as simple as the school colors or as specific as the graduate's college major. You can also highlight the graduate's interests—for example, if your teen played saxophone in the marching band, you could include some inflatable instruments for guests to play with on the dance floor.

Decide on the Menu 

The biggest decision you'll need to make when it comes to your party food is if you'll be cooking it yourself or having it catered. Either way, you’ll need to decide if you are serving a meal or just finger foods. Feature an assortment of your graduate's favorite treats, and don't forget to place an order with a bakery if you'd like to serve some cake.

Enlist Help 

Don't feel like you have to do everything—if your teen has a lot of demands or requests, insist that they help with the preparation. Asking for help with tasks like set-up and clean-up from a few close friends can make a huge difference, and will give you more of an opportunity to enjoy your teen's party.

Graduation Party Activities

A great party game or activity will help your guests interact and have fun. Here are a few ideas to consider for your celebration:

  • Guest Book: Collecting messages from your guests in a special book will create a meaningful memento from the party. Words of wisdom, heartfelt advice, and encouraging quotes can help your teen feel confident as they begin their next chapter. 
  • Time Capsule: Have each member of the graduating class bring an object (along with a short description) that represents their high school experience. Place the items in a box and then pack it away for safekeeping. For the graduate's 10-year reunion, bring out the box of likely forgotten treasures for the classmates to rediscover and reminisce.
  • Pin the Cap on the Graduate: Blow up a large picture of the guest of honor. Next, cut graduation caps out of black construction paper, and then place tape on the back of each one. The game then proceeds just like pin the tail on the donkey—blindfolded guests can try to fasten the cap to the top of the graduate's head on the picture.
  • Teacher Guessing Game: Place the name of a teacher on a sticky label. When a guest comes in, stick it on their back. Then invite them to ask other partygoers yes-or-no questions about the teacher so they can guess who it is.