How to Plan a High School Graduation Party

Celebrate This Special Moment in Your Graduate's Life

Graduation Party
Graduation Party. Hapari

The days of pep rallies, class trips, team practices, and school shows are coming to an end for your graduate. It's time for graduation which is an exciting time, but also one that is filled with nostalgia about childhood memories, letting go of the past and saying hello to the future. Keep all of these feelings in mind, as you plan to celebrate your child's graduation with a special party befitting such a momentous occasion.

Involve your graduate in all of the graduation party decisions, and be sure to make it an event where she has a great time making new memories to take with her into the next stage of her life.

First Things First - What You'll Need to Decide

Who will be on the guest list? Is this a party for only family members? Will classmates be invited? Are you inviting the entire neighborhood?

When will you hold the party? You could host the party directly after the graduation ceremony or you could plan it for a different day. If you are hosting a party for an older child, your party will probably compete with other classmates' parties. Friends will be traveling from party to party, not staying long at any one place. Therefore you should plan for more of an open house type of event. Before finalizing plans, do a little research by talking to other parents. That way you'll know if you're hosting the only party in town or one stop among many.

Where will the party be held? Since graduations are usually held in the spring, it's tempting to plan an outdoor party. But if that's your plan, you should be prepared with a tent or alternative backup plan in case of bad weather. If you have chosen a location other than your home for the party, then one of the first things you should do is reserve the location for the event and book the caterer.

You need to decide and make clear to your older graduating child, your policy regarding alcohol and underage drinkers. Whether teens help themselves to alcohol you're serving to older party attendees or bring along their own, you need to decide how you will handle this in advance. You are responsible for any underage drinkers at your party, and you can be legally prosecuted for permitting it to occur.​

Pick Your Style and Theme

The style and theme you select will help as you plan the other elements of your party. Here are some possible directions you could go:

A formal dress-up party. Ask the kids and adults to come in formal attire and create formal place settings with linens, china, and elegant floral arrangements.

A casual, flip-flop shoes only type of party. Let everyone be themselves in their most casual attire. Use paper goods, plastic serving ware and invite everyone to hang out for as long as they wish. Goodbyes take a long time, and leaving a school requires a long goodbye party.

Host an open-house luncheon with the theme "Hitch Your Wagon to a Star" to celebrate your graduating star.

Hawaiian Luau party themes are very popular for graduation parties. Invite your guests to come dressed in fun, tropical clothing.

Build a theme around the graduate's future plans. For example, if your child will be attending college in New England, you could serve a New England Clam Bake to your guests. Or if your child is planning to be a veterinarian in the future (and this could work as well for a grade school graduation party as for a high school or college party), you could incorporate an animal theme into your party.

Create a Budget

Potential items that need to be budgeted include:

  • invitations and postage
  • decorations
  • centerpieces
  • balloons
  • flowers
  • food
  • beverages
  • tableware
  • photography and video
  • caterer
  • catering hall
  • entertainment
  • tent rental
  • equipment rental (such as popcorn machine, chafing dishes, karaoke machines, etc.)
  • party favors
  • thank you notes and postage

Order and Send Your Invitations

You could send traditional, engraved invitations or go with something more whimsical such as an invite that looks like a diploma.

At the same time as you order party invitations, you should order thank you notes. In that way the thank you's will be ready to be written and sent as soon as possible.

Plan Your Menu

 If you're using a caterer, meet with her early to plan the menu which should match the theme or style of your party. If you plan to cook the food yourself, you should make a very detailed timetable for your party including when you will shop and cook. Accept offers of assistance from friends and relatives for the cooking as well as serving and clean-up. As you plan your menu, consider the age of the graduate and his or her friends. If their tastes are partial to "kid" food, be sure to include some on your menu, whether it's pizza, hot dogs, nachos, etc.

Choose Your Decorations

Balloons, streamers, and flowers are popular party decorations. If you have a theme, plan your decorations based mainly around the theme. And, of course, the graduation is a theme in itself. Graduation caps and diplomas can be incorporated into all of your decorations. Your graduate's accomplishments can be celebrated as part of your decorations with photos, newspaper clips, and trophies set around the party in a tasteful way. Before you do this, make sure that it won't embarrass your graduate.

Let Guests to Add Their Own Personal Touch to the Party

Set up a large poster board in a place where guests can sign it with a message for the grad. You can also invite your guests to contribute to a memorable guest book that includes photos along with a message.

Schedule the Entertainment You Plan to Hire

Will there be a band to entertain your guests? Are you using a DJ for your party? For a grade school graduation, you may want to hire a magician to entertain your guests. High school grads will enjoy the opportunity to dance to their favorite songs played by a DJ or band. Your theme may also lend ideas for entertainment. For example, if you're hosting a Hawaiian luau, see if you can find a local company that can give a hula dancing show.

As with the food, consider the ages of your guests and be sure to have something that will appeal to them all. If nothing else, mix the music between young and older tastes.