Trying to help a new graduate celebrate their accomplishment in style? Then you need some great college graduation party ideas.
The concept of a college degree has been around for hundreds of years. Oxford University hosted the first-ever baccalaureate ceremony in 1432. While the tradition of the college graduation party is a little bit newer, it's one of the best parts of a modern-day graduation.
Whether your friend, your child, or someone else in your life is about to graduate, this guide to the best college graduation party ideas is for you. Read on to start planning this once-in-a-lifetime event!
Build a Photo Booth
Your college graduation party ideas should include ways to document the special moment. It’s 2019, and you can be sure that everyone’s going to be snapping pics for Instagram and Snapchat at any graduation party. A photo booth gives people the perfect place to capture their shots.
Of course, school colors make an obvious choice for photo booth decor. It’s also great to include some props, like silly hats or sunglasses, to get people feeling creative. You can also put up a chalkboard backdrop where guests can write their own unique messages to pose next to. Use chalkboard contact paper to transform any space into a photo booth!
Have a Wishing Tree
At graduation time, everyone’s thinking about the future -- the graduate most of all. One of our favorite college graduation party ideas is a wishing tree.
A wishing tree provides a space for guests to leave well-wishes for the future. Put pretty pens and cards on a table, next to a small tree or another structure to hang the wishes on. Punch a hole in each card and tie string or ribbon through it to make it easy to hang up.
3. Upgrade Your Ice
Graduation parties happen in late spring when the weather’s heating up. You’ll want to have ice on hand for sure, and you can class up your beverages with ice in cool shapes.
Look for ice trays in any shape you can imagine -- start simple with spheres, or get more creative with all kinds of novelty shapes to suit your style.
4. Pick up a Polaroid
A Polaroid camera, or a modern photo printer that hooks up to a smartphone, allows guests to print keepsake photos on the spot. We love college graduation party ideas that involve physical keepsakes. It’s infinitely more fun than taking pictures on a phone and posting them online!
Add another layer of fun by setting out empty photo albums where guests can add their favorites.
5. Hand out Polaroid Frames
If you don’t want to buy the actual cameras, you can buy life-sized Polaroid or selfie frames for guests to hold up and pose behind. You can even write a “caption” on the bottom of the frame for perfectly Instagrammable shots.
6. Try a Guest Book Globe
A guest book is a great way to memorialize the day. But a guest book globe is an even more creative way for your guests to leave their mark. Leave the globe out with a few markers, and let people sign it or add messages during the party.
7. Provide Popcorn
Some of the best college graduation party ideas involve feeding the party guests. Popcorn is a tasty, inexpensive way to feed lots of guests at once. Try setting up a popcorn bar where guests can serve themselves popcorn with the toppings of their choice.
8. Gather Memories Beforehand
When planning the party, get in touch with the graduate’s closest college friends and gather some photos of their favorite memories together. You can also have them write a short memory to go with each photo. Post the photos on a memory board or a digital slideshow to display during the party.
9. Build Customized Snack Trays
We love college graduation party ideas that you can customize. Buy snack trays in the shape of letters to spell out the graduate’s name, school, or Greek letters. You can also just spell out the word “grad.” Fill the trays with different snacks of your choice.
10. Serve “Diploma Roll” Apps
You can create the perfect appetizers for the day by designing wraps that look like diploma rolls. Make wraps with veggies, cream cheese, salmon, lunch meats, or whatever fillings the grad likes best, inside tortillas. Tie them with a “ribbon” made of chive.
11. Design a Photo Wreath
Great college graduation party ideas will give the guests things to look at and talk about, providing an easy icebreaker to get things going. The more photos you can post, the better, and a photo wreath gives a great way to display those memories.
You can cut a wreath shape out of cardboard and paint it, then attach photos and decorations. Or make things easier with a pre-made photo frame wreath. Hang one photo wreath at the entrance, or post lots of them all around the venue.
12. Order a Life-Size Cutout
A life-size cutout of the grad gives guests a hilarious place to pose for pics. Make it a surprise for the grad, and let all their friends sign it at the party with metallic markers. It’s sure to get people laughing together, even if they’ve never met before.
13. Give Graduation Awards
Remember high school, when people voted for silly things like who had the “Best Hair” and who was “Most Likely to Succeed?” You can repeat the tradition, but make it even more fun, for a college graduation party. Try letting guests vote on the awards for each other, then announcing the results at the end. Don’t forget to hand out some fun little prizes!
14. Make a DIY Centerpiece
Some of the best college graduation party ideas don’t require much money or time. Build an easy, inexpensive DIY centerpiece by spraypainting four wine bottles with metallic paint. Display the graduation year above the wine bottles by putting numbers (try cake toppers) in each cork. You can use ribbon, confetti, flowers, and other crafty decor to finish the centerpiece.
15. Have a Hashtag
Although parties always happen in person, the best college graduation party ideas don’t forget the online aspect. One of the most fun things is when guests get to go home and relive every party moment online.
Make it easier for them to search for the party photos by creating a unique grad party hashtag. You can just use the graduate’s name and year of graduation, or use a pun or inside joke instead. Frame a sign with the hashtag on it so people will know how to post their photos for later.
16. Theme It by Country
If the graduate studied abroad for a semester, why not add elements to your theme that will remind them of their experience? Try serving that country’s signature dish, or playing music from there.
17. Try a Throwback
Graduation parties are a perfect time to pull out some old, slightly-embarrassing photos of the grad. Create a “then and now” photo display with childhood pictures contrasted with the modern day.
You can build this photo display any way you like. But one fun and easy method involves attaching each photo to a dowel, sticking the end of the dowel in a block of floral foam. Hide the foam in a decorated box or jar, and you have a great centerpiece for any table.
18. Include Icebreakers
If the guests don't all know each other, print out some icebreakers or game ideas and place them on tables around the party. These college graduation party ideas ensure no one's standing around waiting for the party to get started.
These can include fun facts about the grad, or classic icebreaker games like “two truths and a lie.” For this game, each person at the table has to say three things about themselves, and the others have to guess which one isn’t true. A quick game will help people warm up to each other fast.
19. Hand out “Class Rings”
Candy is a great way to treat your guests and get creative without breaking the bank. Make a tray of Ring Pops and label it “Class Rings” for the perfect graduation snack.
20. Offer Cupcakes
A classic graduation cake can become a challenge -- you’ll need people available to cut, plate, and hand out each piece. Keep it simple with a tray of cupcakes instead. You can frost them in the school's colors, and display them on a tiered cupcake stand for a chic look.
21. Leave out a Card Box
Some guests are sure to bring small gifts and cards. The best college graduation party ideas focus on showing your guests a good time, not setting up the expectation of gifts. But for those who do bring something, leave out a decorated box so they’ll be easy to collect and nothing gets lost.
22. Hang a Map
Will your grad’s party be filled with grads from other colleges, or people from other places? If so, hang up a map and put out some pins or stickers so that they can mark their school’s location or their hometown. Even better, let them use markers to leave a note on that location.
23. Serve up Sundaes
Ice cream sundaes are another easy treat to serve that everyone will like. Offer a few different ice cream flavors alongside lots of toppings. Let guests build their sundaes in Mason jars for a rustic-chic touch.
24. Put Drinks in the Pool
A kiddie pool filled with ice is a great way to serve lots of drinks at a big outdoor graduation party. Just make sure to have extra ice stocked in the back if it’s a hot day.
25. Don’t Forget the Bug Spray
If your guests will be outdoors, provide a few bottles of bug spray in a decorated basket as a courtesy. That keeps everyone comfortable, and you can make it fun with a sign that says “Keep party crashers out!”
26. Build a Jenga Guest Book
Jenga is a classic party game that guests can turn into a take-home keepsake. Set out a Jenga set or two along with fine-tipped markers so guests can leave special messages on the blocks.
27. Brighten Up
The future for a new grad is bright, and you can pull that concept into play with your college graduation party ideas. Try decorating in bright colors, and offering a basket of novelty sunglasses as a party favor. Add a sign that says “The future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades!”
28. Print Business Cards
New graduates are thinking about the job search. Celebrate the moment by printing pretty business cards with all the graduate’s contact info for guests to take home. You can even include their graduation photo. That gives guests an easy, fun way to keep in touch even though college is over.
29. Test Guest Knowledge
Hand out a quiz that’s all about the grad, and let guests test their knowledge. You can let them work alone, or in teams by table. Offer a prize to the winning guest or team who knows the most about the new grad!
30. Focus on the Future
No one knows what the future will hold, least of all a new college grad. We love college graduation party ideas that remind everyone the future is a mystery -- but that we shouldn’t take it too seriously. You can hand out fortune cookies, set out “magic 8-ball” toys, or even hire a palm reader for a fun way to think about what might come next.
31. Use Confetti with No Cleanup
Everyone loves confetti and glitter -- until it’s time for the cleanup. Fill transparent balloons with confetti to get all the fun with none of the mess.
32. Class up Your Candy
Plastic champagne flutes are a chic way to hand out individual servings of candy. Place flutes with candy in them on the snack table, or let guests fill their own flutes from an assortment of snacks.
Which College Graduation Party Ideas Will You Try?
These college graduation party ideas sync up with any theme or school colors you choose. If you’ve never planned a graduation party before, don’t worry -- just pick your favorites from this list, and you’re good to go!
Graduation parties are a great way to help a graduate feel supported as they face the next chapter in life. Do you have other college graduation party ideas to share? Tell us your favorites in the comments!