How to Plan a High School Graduation Party

Graduation party tablescape


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Graduation is an exciting time filled with nostalgia about childhood, reminiscing about the past, and welcoming the future. You can 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. To be sure your graduate has a great time at the big event, invite the guest of honor to help create the party of their dreams.


Sorting out your guest list, party time, and location are just a few things you'll need to consider before the celebration. You'll also want to make sure your child's closest friends are not hosting a party on the same date so they will be able to attend each other's events.


Your party will likely 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.

Since graduations are usually held in the spring, it's tempting to plan an outdoor party. However, be prepared with a tent or alternative backup plan in case of bad weather.

If you plan to serve alcohol, be clear with your high schooler that there will be no underage drinking at the event. You are responsible for any minor 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:

  • Keep It Fancy: Ask the kids and adults to dress to the nines and create formal place settings with linens, china, and elegant floral arrangements.
  • Laid Back Affair: If you want your guests to feel relaxed, invite them to wear what makes them the most comfortable. Use paper goods and plastic serving ware and keep your decor and food simple.
  • Backyard BBQ: As the weather warms, kids and adults will want to spend time outside. Plan a backyard barbecue (with some vegetarian options, too). Be sure to have a space inside for people who need to cool down.

You can also 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 clambake to your guests. If your child is planning to be a veterinarian in the future, you could incorporate an animal theme into your party.

Create a Budget

Potential items that need to be budgeted include:


Invitations and postage








Photography and video


Catering hall


Tent rental

Equipment rental (such as popcorn machine, chafing dishes, karaoke machines, etc.)

Party favors

Thank you notes and postage

Hire Entertainment

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 other forms of entertainment. If you don't have a budget for professional artists, you can make a party playlist featuring some of your graduate's favorite music.

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. That way, the thank yous will be ready to be written and sent as soon as the festivities are over. If your budget is limited, stick with electronic invites and thank yous.

Plan Your Menu

If you're using a caterer, meet with them early to plan the menu, which should match the theme or style of your party and feature some of your graduate's favorite foods. If you plan to cook the food yourself, make a very detailed timetable for your party, including when you will shop and cook.

Choose Your Decorations

If you have a theme, let it guide your selections for festive party details. Keep in mind that graduation is a theme in itself—you can incorporate caps and diplomas into many of your decorations. Your graduate's accomplishments can be celebrated as part of your decor with photos, newspaper clips, and trophies set around the party. Make sure to confirm that anything you choose to put on display will not embarrass your graduate.

Guestbooks and Messages

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