Now that I’ve had two kids graduate from high school, I feel like I’m getting a handle on the whole graduation party thing. My second son graduated last year, so we attended a bunch of graduation parties, which exposed me to even more fun and creative graduation party ideas. Given that we’re in February already, and senior year has a tendency to fly by, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of the ideas that I saw that you might want to incorporate if you’re celebrating a grad in 2020. And yes, I know graduation parties can be super stressful, so hopefully you’ll find some things that will make planning a little bit easier. You need to be able to sit back and enjoy the party! This post contains some affiliate links.
We’ve opted to have our graduation parties at our home (because nothing motivates us to get our house looking good than a party). We have gone to parties at parks, at local restaurants, etc… The options are endless and there are pros and cons to every one. Having it at an outside venue takes the pressure off of you to whip your house into shape AND host a party. Sometimes you have to pay for the venue, but in many cases, it may be worth it. One of the parties I went to last year was at a park for several kids (a shared graduation party) and they had a food truck. What a fun idea!
We opted to have it at home again and rented a tent (because if you don’t, it will rain).
The setup was a little different this time. Our front yard is a lot bigger (and flatter) than our backyard, so we set up the tent in the driveway, photos and some food and drinks in the garage, and set up games in the front yard.
TIP: If you’re going to use your garage, and it’s a hot mess (like mine), I have three words for you. Pipe and Drape. It is transformational and hides all of the stuff that you don’t want your guests to see. Game changer. A little peek at what I’m talking about here. We won’t even discuss the stuff that was going on behind the curtain. No one needs to know. It just automatically cleans up the space and makes it look like a room in and of itself.
Share Your Photos
Sharing photos of your senior at your graduation party is a foregone conclusion around here, but what varies, is the amount of photos that you share. Some parents (ok, moms), share everything from birth onward. Some focus on just the high school years. Or you can do a mix of everything. It’s all up to you. I tend to keep things on the simple side, but one thing that I love doing is sharing their school photos from start to finish. It’s so fun to see how they’ve grown and changed, and it’s always fun for guests and friends to see the transformation from kindergartener to senior. And for whatever reason, there is always one year where I’m missing the right sized photo for my collage.
We had another board of photos from sports, dances, and friends (see above), but again, we kept it pretty simple.
My friend Hollie (who should be an event planner), did this cute display of her son as you walked up to their house.
Another friend of mine (who actually was an event planner), did this cool display of photos with her daughter’s name as a feature.
It’s up to you. It’s a great opportunity to look back over the years, and marvel at how much your kiddo has grown up, and how quickly the time has passed!
Graduation Party Food and Drinks
Food is obviously a huge part of the graduation party experience, and it’s nearly impossible to come up with a headcount for people who will 1) come to the party and 2) eat food at the party. Usually there are lots of graduation parties going on at the same time, so people are party hopping from place to place. My suggestion is to make your best guess and just go with it. If you run out of food, so be it. It’s not the end of the world. We ended up having plenty of food leftover with both of our boys’ graduation parties.
As for what to have – that can run the gamut. This past year we did a pig roast with yummy sides and desserts, and it was easy and delicious. Many of the parties around here are catered to some extent. It just makes it easier as the hostess, because the last thing you want to do is cook when you have lots of people coming and going.
My photographer friend had a delicious spread (doing work in trade for a local caterer).
And you have to have a drink station.
One thing that we invested in for our graduation party was a cooler on wheels. This thing is fantastic for parties. It holds a lot of drinks, is easily movable, and drains in a snap. We’ve used it for parties since graduation, and it’s a great way to put the drinks wherever you want them to be.
I’m also a fan of lots of galvanized tubs for drinks. Fill them up and spread them around. I am amazed at how many options there are out there nowadays! Look at all of the selection I found at Walmart. But there are plenty of options for galvanized tubs online as well.
Not to mention having your utensils all organized, and I still love adding the little chalkboard picks to the flowers.
You can go wild with a huge charcuterie tray…
And then there’s The Dessert Table
I’m jumping right to desserts, I know. But they’re important. I loved the parties that had a lot of options for desserts – better yet, bite sized options so you can have a couple of tastes. Cupcakes are always a hit – we went with a similar idea with the Nothing Bundt Cakes “bundtinis” – which are basically mini bundt cakes. They’re delicious, and look really cute on a galvanized tiered stand like this one – they were a big hit!
I can’t remember where I saw this idea online, but I love it. How fun to put your cupcakes to work as a decoration as well as a dessert.
Dessert bars are a big trend right now too. Whether it’s cookies, candy or a mix of treats – what’s not to like?
A cookie bar.
Cute graduate cake pops.
My friend made cookies with the University of Cincinnati logo on them for our son’s party. And yes, they taste as good as they look!
If you’re having a party with a bunch of kids (whether they’re in high school or grade school), games are always a good idea. We had a few – corn hole (is this a midwestern thing?) is always popular. Kan Jam and Spikeball were two other popular options. Keep them busy and out of trouble.
One more thing to share – if you’re really looking to go above and beyond, you can always add an ice sculpture to your graduation party decor… (No, it’s not mine).
If you’d like to see my oldest son’s graduation party, you can check out that post here.
- If you’re having an outdoor party, rent a tent. Otherwise it will rain on you.
- Consider going in on a group graduation party to mitigate some of the planning, stress and expense.
- Hire out or barter for catering/food. The last thing you want to worry about is cooking at your kid’s graduation party.
- Start planning now. The more you can do now, the less stressed you’ll be come party time.
- Try to embrace and enjoy the experience. It’s a celebration – enjoy the moment and don’t get too focused on the fact that your child is moving on to a new chapter in life.
Do you have a senior graduating this year? What are your plans? Are you keeping yourself together? I know it’s an emotional, exciting and stressful time. Hang in there mama!
CarmenFebruary 17, 2020 at 9:42 am
Thank you for this! I just sent out the save the dates for my daughter’s party in June and I’m a little overwhelmed with where to start. We have reserved the hall (our house and yard are too small for that amount of people.) I need to get started on organizing photos for the collages. I love the school picture board. The big question mark for me right now is the catering. I need to get started on that. I also need to put together a spreadsheet of invitees and get addresses nailed down. So much to do. I don’t know if four months will be enough, lol!
CarmenFebruary 17, 2020 at 5:13 pm
P.S. Did you rent the pipe and drape?
JennyFebruary 17, 2020 at 7:25 pm
I did! Best investment I made for my son’s grad party last year! Same place that we rented the tent and tables. Transformational!
KellyFebruary 17, 2020 at 9:38 pm
Hey I recognize some of those parties 🎓 Great tips!!!
JennyFebruary 18, 2020 at 7:59 am
They were some good ones, weren’t they? 😉
SaraMarch 17, 2021 at 5:44 pm
I love the idea of pipe and drape for the garage!! Perfect unused area that I never would have though could be “entertainment ready.” Just now planning our 2021 grad party!
JennyMarch 23, 2021 at 3:16 pm
Pipe and drape was one of the best investments we made for our son’s grad party! Highly recommend it, as it makes everything look so much more finished.
LisaMay 21, 2021 at 2:04 pm
How did you do the 2019 cutout for your cupcakes? Super cute idea!
JennyMay 23, 2021 at 3:44 pm
I can’t take credit for that idea – not sure how they did it!