Graduation Party Ideas

So I am almost a year away from having had my first child’s graduation party, a party that I had planned for a couple of years. You see, I have been going to graduation parties that my friends are having for their kids and I am seeing what I love and seeing what short cuts would work to make my event that much more simpler. His scrap book for elementary school has been done for two years. I knew who I am hiring to make a video… husband. I knew who I was hiring to cater the meal.

The best decision I made was to relieve myself of the stress of not having the party in my garage. Yes the garage… that is where I thought we would hold the party. It is a place where my organizing skills will shine. The garage is the last part of our home that needs to be organized. I have left it up until now as we have been busy with home and yard projects. I am sure people drive by my open garage and say to themselves, I can’t believe she is an organizer, look at that mess. Well guess what folks….I am a real person with three kids and a dog….oh and a husband. I love to keep it real as it shows that I am human. I have been dreaming of my garage being organized for the last 5 years and I cannot wait for the transformation to begin. I am still waiting for my super organized garage so in order to save my marriage I went to plan B….hold the party somewhere else.

I have been seeing trends from the traditional party in the garage to holding parties elsewhere such as parks, restaurants, churches, community centers, theaters, etc. Another great idea I have seen is several families having their parties together. Chances are your child has a close group of friends that you could all work together and share in the party expenses.

  Tips for planning a graduation party:
• Keep it simple. Keep it simple. Keep it simple. I want to know why we don’t have these big parties for our children when they become employed full time and have health insurance. That is the time that parents should celebrate! My party may look like it was really expensive and took a lot of planning and time. But compared to what I was seeing out there, mine was on the conservative side of things.

• Focus on what you enjoy. For example if you hate to cook, enlist some friends and family to help or if the budget allows, hire a caterer.

• If you are stressed about your house not being “picture perfect” focus on these areas; the kitchen, entry way, guest bathroom and whatever room the party is going to be held. Now is not a time to clean out your closets and organize your medicine cabinet. If you are having the party in the garage sweep the garage and hang up sheets to hide the messy areas.

• Keep the beverages simple, bottled water and maybe 2 soda choices, one diet and one caffeine free.

• Don’t have your party be weather dependent, have a backup plan!

• Ask for friends to serve as hosts at the party for you. Put a friend in charge of food, one in charge of drinks and one in charge of garbage. You need to enjoy the party too!

• I have seen a lot of graduation open house invitations on Facebook this year, what a great and easy way to send out the invites to friends. Most family still want a paper invitation.

Memorabilia Tips:

• The pressure is always on to have the perfect combination of photos of the kids at the graduation parties, but to not make it look like a shrine to the child….we have to keep those egos in check!  Have a framed and matted 8 x 10 of the graduate and have a pen available for the guests to sign the mat. This is a great keepsake for the graduate. I have seen these in Target in the frame aisle (they usually have a wedding couple in the picture). I used the Dr. Seuss book “Oh The Places You Will Go” as my guestbook. It is a keepsake and something practical as it is a book my son can read to his children someday. {We used the Dr. Seuss theme as a saying on a chalkboard that was on his display table, see photo at the top of article}

• Poster board with fun pictures of the graduate through their life are fun to look at. Once again, keep it simple and find a friend who loves to scrap book, they could finish this project for you in a couple of hours. Tip, scan the pictures into a computer or make copies before cropping as some of the photos may be one of a kind. I like the photo boards that have a theme to them. Try to group them together into areas like their interests in school. Group the sports ones…..special friends……if they are in drama or music… get the idea. Instead of poster boards, I did albums by theme that took my husband and I about 4 hours to create. We found our favorite pictures and had them blown up into 8 x8 and placed in an album, one picture per page and our album could not have pages added. We had limits and we had to pick our favorites. This also is something that my son can keep forever as opposed to a poster board that is hard to display.

• Take all of the grade school pictures and display them in chronological order. It is fun to see the progression of the graduate. I am sure you have a family member that has been collecting these for years for you all jammed into one frame! I created one board with all of his photos from school on. It was a super cute way to see the progression through the years. {See photo above}

• A graduation party I attended two years ago had a book that was assembled on line by the dad with the child’s quotes and pictures throughout his life. You do not need to tell the life story, just a few humorous stories here and there. For example, maybe they had a favorite shirt that they wore all through 3rd grade, or maybe the graduate hated math in elementary school and now they want to be a math teacher. Make it personal.

Food Tips:

1.     People are not looking to be fed a meal. Many have already been to several graduation parties during the day already. The only ones that are looking at being fed are your out of town family and guests. The majority of the guests are just there to stop in and say hi, drop off a card and leave.

2.     Don’t serve alcohol. It is just asking for trouble. First, alcohol gets expensive and can add hundreds of dollars to an already stretched budget. Second, alcohol could get into the hands of minors or the relative that really should not have anything to drink because they get even more loud and more obnoxious.

3.     Have plenty of bottled water. If it is hot out, people will need the water to stay hydrated. My green tip is to have recycling bins placed so that it encourages people to recycle the plastic water bottles.

Trendy graduation food:

  • Anything that is a finger food and easy to eat.
  • Most people come already full to a graduation party. Why not serve just desserts or have a make your own ice cream sundae bar?
  • Cotton candy machine rental? Yes, it can be done. But please remember it is a sticky mess and if you are the one making the cotton candy, you will be covered in that sugary floss for the day.
  • Pick a theme with the food, such as Mexican and stick with it. For example, have a salsa bar with different kind of chips and salsa. And a walking taco is always a good choice. What is the graduate’s favorite type of food? Maybe Italian, then you could have a pasta bar with garlic bread and different pastas and sauces for a heavy meal if you have a lot of those out of town guests coming. We did brunch, super easy and most people didn’t schedule graduation parties in the mornings. So we had crème brule French toast and mini fruit pizzas.
  • Anything on a stick is always fun to eat. Think fruit kabobs with dip.
  • Cupcakes instead of cake. Cupcakes are easier to eat, no cutting required and no utensils. Have the cupcakes in different flavors…what is the graduate’s favorite cake flavor? Instead of a traditional cake, we had cake bites, bits of cake covered in frosting!



  1. I like the idea of candy in the school colors as centerpieces. M and M’s come in so many colors, place the school color M and M’s in candy dishes, or simply scatter them down the table on a white tablecloth. Take it to the extreme and order M and M’s with the graduates face on it. Nothing says we love you like candy with your face on it.
  2. I was at one graduation party last year that had a “candy buffet”. A table full of every kind of candy imaginable. My 12 year old loved it as he picked up enough bubblegum to get him through the summer!
  3. I found templates for Hershey kisses and mini candy bar covers that I customized with his school colors and his name. It was cheap and easy to do while I watched a movie one night. {See picture above}
  4. The best option, keep it simple and skip this part all together.

Please keep in mind, don’t stress and have fun! I have another child that is graduating next spring…..maybe I will get my garage organized by then. Or most likely I will throw the same party as it worked so well the first time, why try to reinvent the wheel!


To Joyful, Simplified Living,

MS. Simplicity


MS. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger operates her business as I Did it with MS. Simplicity. She is a Professional Organizer based out of Fargo, ND and her website can be found at


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9 Responses

  1. Katherine Grandstrand

    When I graduated from high school I wanted root beer float punch — which was really just ice cream and root beer served in a punch bowl, it was easy and went over great!

  2. pat sevigny

    wow! Thanks. These few tips helped me a lot in planning a fun and simple graduation party for my son. Thank you so much for your tips.(especially the cleaning one!) You know me!!!!

  3. Great guide and a well written! Melissa gets a high five from me! =P Every parent, even if their child isn’t graduating yet, should take time to read this. Graduations at any level are memorable accomplishments that should be recognized. And the biggest thing to take out of this, in order to really personalize the party and save yourself money, is to plan ahead. Your child will appreciate! Keep up the great work!

  4. Mrs. Margie Smith

    Your ideas are helpful and inspirational: I appreciate the time and effort you took in sharing such useful information, you are a thoughtful person. Keep it Simple and Enjoy.

  5. Debbie

    Your advice was very helpful. I was feeling like I needed to go big, but with a tight budget, was struggling with what to do. My oldest of 4 graduates next week and we pray for sunshine, but will move into the house if needed. Thank you!!

  6. Bonita Wiechman

    Thank you! This was very helpful. We are expecting more people than I originally anticipated and I feel on the verge of panicking. I keep reminding myself to keep it simple!

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