High School Graduation Party Ideas

high school graduation party ideas

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Every spring, high schools across the country start working toward that one pivotal day: graduation. At the same time, high school seniors start getting restless and ready to cross that stage. After all those years of hard work, they finally get something to show for it, and the best way to celebrate it is with a party. High school graduation party ideas are plentiful since there are so many graduates each year, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy for you to put together a party. That may be your first time doing it so that you could use some help.

A graduation party does not have to become a stressful event. In fact, it’s a celebration and it should be fun! If you plan some great high school graduation party ideas first, you should find that it makes the whole process much easier. Then, when the big day comes, you can sit back and enjoy your guests and the accomplishments of your graduate.

Setting the Party Details

While you know who you are having the party for and why you are celebrating, there are other details that you have to work out to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. You’ll want to look over high school graduation party ideas and plan out the details as far in advance as possible so you have time to coordinate and ensure you are properly prepared when the party day finally comes.

Open house vs. set party

People laughing in a party

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The first choice to make is whether you want an open house or a set time party. The main difference between the two is the expectations for attendance.

An open house allows people to stop by when it is convenient for them and leave whenever they want. There is no pressure to stay the whole time. That allows for busy people to at least make a stop in. It works great if you are hosting on the same day as other parties. You do want to make it clear on the invites that it is an open house — otherwise, people may feel obligated to stay the whole time or may not come because they do not have the time available. There may be more difficulty planning the food service, since people will be in and out during the party time, but you can make things easier by encouraging guests to RSVP and serving food in a buffet style.

A set time party is more structured, and as the name suggests, it has a set start and end time. It usually has a set time to eat as well. This allows for precise planning, but it may make it harder for some guests to come.

An open house can last all day if you want, as guests will come and go at their convenience. According to My Paper Shop, a graduation party that is not an open house will usually last three to five hours. So, an open house will demand more of your time, but it gives guests a greater chance of working it into their schedule. A set time party is easier on you if you don’t want to hassle with hosting all day, but it is so specific that fewer guests may attend.

Who to invite

Senior graduate

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Determining who to invite can be a struggle regardless of how many great high school graduation party ideas you have. That is a very personal decision, but you should be smart with the guest list and follow your budget. If you can afford to host 200 people, then invite them. Otherwise, make sure you invite only the people you can provide enough food for.

Generally, the guest list involves family and family friends. The graduate may also want to invite his or her friends. You may not want to mix the older and younger crowd, which is a common concern with graduation parties. One option for high school graduation party ideas is to have two parties: one for adults and one for the teens. That is a lot of work, so instead, you may decide to have two times on the same day. For example, family and adult friends can come in the afternoon, and you’ll host the kids in the evening. Most common, though, is hosting one party and inviting everyone.

Where to have it

View of lights for the party

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The location may be the easiest part of the party planning process for some people. Many people hold high school graduation parties at their home. However, if you do not have the space to do so, you may need to take time to find the perfect venue.

You should first determine your guest list, so you ensure the space you choose is large enough. The venue also needs to have all the accommodations you need, such as bathrooms, running water, kitchen space, and tables. You also want to keep the weather in mind. If rain is a possibility based on your climate and weather trends, then make sure there is an indoor space at the venue or, at the least, a covered area where guests can stay dry. Also, if you need to rent a space, do it well in advance as rentals will be snapped up quickly by others also holding graduation parties.

When to have it


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When to hold the party is difficult. You have to remember that all the other graduates are having parties around this same time. You should really work with your teen to find out the best time. Most parties are the weekend of graduation. You may want to steer clear of this time, especially if you have any other family graduating. Some people have it the same day as graduation, which is fine if graduation is earlier in the day, but it creates a lot of work for you to come home and throw a party after attending the ceremony. Consider two weeks after the graduation, as this is a time when you are less likely to have conflict.

Choosing a Theme

You should choose a theme for your party before getting into the details. A theme can make planning food and decorations much easier. Here are a few high school graduation party ideas based on popular themes.

School colors

Using school colors is a classic high school graduation party idea. You simply base all the décor off the school colors. You can do almost any food you want. Hang a banner in these colors that announces congratulations to the graduate. String some streamers up and add in some balloons following the color scheme. If your graduate had a sport or activity in high school, you could also use that with this theme. For example, you can use footballs in your decorations if the graduate was a football player.

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Hollywood glam

If your teen is more sophisticated or wants something a bit more unusual, you can host a Hollywood glam-themed party. The décor should be very rich feeling. Consider a backdrop for taking photos of everyone with the graduate. It could be something as simple as a gold foil fringed curtain or red velvet drapes. You should use gold throughout. You can also use red or silver. Movie-related décor is also great, and don’t forget the red carpet at the entrance to the venue. For food, think gourmet cuisine, such as wonton bites, gourmet sliders, shrimp cocktail, and other appetizer-type foods.

Backyard barbecue

Another popular option in high school graduation party ideas is a backyard barbecue. This theme lets you break out the grill and serve up all your favorite foods, such as hot dogs, chicken, and sliders. You can serve coleslaw, potato salad, and chips on the side, with fruit skewers and s’mores for dessert. Décor can be very rustic. Stick some flowers in mason jars for centerpieces and cover tables with checkered tablecloths.

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Memory lane

Graduation can be a very nostalgic time, so capitalize on that feeling with a memory lane theme. Focus décor on various life events and stages of the graduate. Hang pictures everywhere. Display old school projects and even baby items. You can use any color scheme you want, such as the graduate’s favorite colors. Try playing up the nostalgia with foods from childhood, such as macaroni and cheese, cookies, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

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A luau is always fun. Decorations and food should be tropical. Use grass skirts, umbrellas, sunglasses, leis, and tiki torches to transform the space into a tropical paradise. Use bold colors and flower prints throughout the venue. For food, you could do a pig roast if you have the ability, but an easier and more realistic option is pulled-pork sliders. You can also grill burgers and top them with grilled pineapple. Other items to serve could include fresh fruit, Hawaiian fried rice, and kabobs. You may even try serving drinks with umbrellas in them or serve them in coconut cups.

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Garden party

Garden party

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If you want the party to be a little more formal, consider a garden party theme. The colors should be pastels. You want to use a lot of flowers in the decorating process as well. You could even use [amazon link=”B01220GQ4O” title=”butterfly yard stakes” /] butterfly yard stakes to add a pop of bolder color that fits into the theme or turn food into décor by having [amazon link=”B005NICY5S” title=”flower-shaped cookies” /]flower-shaped cookies on sticks that you put into flower pots. Other food items should be bite-sized, such as finger sandwiches, individual meatballs on toothpicks, and, of course, a selection of tea cakes.

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Feeding the Crowd

While the high school graduation party ideas above give a lot of food options, you’ll want to decide on how you will serve food. Buffet-style is by far the most popular option, but for some parties, such as the Hollywood glam or garden party options, you may consider table service. You also need to plan out how you will prepare the food. There are several different options to consider.



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If you do not want to or do not have the ability to make all the food for the party, you may hire a catering service. It will take a lot of strain off your shoulders since someone else will have to do all the shopping, preparing, and cooking. If you are in a time crunch, this could be the best option. However, catering is also usually the most expensive option, so it may not work for all budgets.


nacho chips beside limes

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Probably one of the most popular options is to make the food yourself. If you keep the menu simple, this should not be a huge undertaking. However, you also have to decorate, attend the graduation, and organize the whole party, so you may not feel like you have enough time also to cook. You do have more control, though, so it is easier to stay on budget.

Pot luck

Food being served

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Perhaps the easiest option is to make the party pot luck. Have guests bring a dish, and you provide the meat. It works best if you have an open house. It is also better if you are having more adults than teens at the party. That can save you a lot of money if your budget is tight, but it also puts a lot of burden on guests. Plus, that makes the food factor become something beyond your control.

High School Graduation Party Ideas: Tips and Advice

Throwing a graduation party should be fun, not stressful. As you begin looking over high school graduation party ideas, it helps to keep some advice in mind to avoid becoming overwhelmed. That begins with the fact that there are no hard rules about what you can and cannot do. Make sure that you involve your teen in the planning and follow his or her lead. For example, if they want to play games or have other activities, then go ahead and do it.

You do want to manage expectations. When it comes to guests, make sure your invitations spell everything out. Guests should know if it is an open house or not. They should also know if they need to RSVP. And you should include directions, especially if the party will not be at your home.

When it comes to gifts, Emily Post explains that they are not required, although etiquette rules say if someone receives an invitation to the graduation or attends the party, he or she should bring a gift. Do make sure your graduate does not open the gifts at the party. They can thank the guests as they come in for attending and any gifts given, along with sending thank you notes afterward.

Get the Party Started

Bringing together all the high school graduation party ideas and planning your own party is a pretty big undertaking. However, it is so worth it in the end when you throw your graduate a nice party to celebrate all of his or her hard work getting through school.

This is one of those milestones in life that your teen will always remember. So, make sure that you go through the high school graduation party ideas to find the one that suits your teen perfectly and will make the best party possible.

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