Friday Favorites {04} – Graduation Party Ideas and Tips

40th birthday party directional chalkboard sign
Paper Crush

Spring has sprung, and soon the graduation parties will begin! I’ve started receiving invitations already, so I’m assuming that most of you have already started party planning, if you have graduates.

I thought it would be fun to post some graduation party ideas, but I’ll admit that, even though I’ve been to my share, I’ve never actually planned one.

So I did what any good blogger would do – enlisted the help of my friends and co-workers for this Friday Favorites! Thank you Nicole, Audra, Bre, Reese, Holly, Lorri, Paula, Penny, and Tarryn. :-)

Candy Cup Caps
Candy Cup Caps – Bakerella

Here we go…

General Tips and Ideas:

1. Ask for help — Enlist the help of a few friends to keep things running smoothly. Having someone else keep food stocked and organized, or bathrooms nice (toilet paper full, sink wiped, clean hand towels), will give you time to visit with guests.

2. Seating — The graduates and friends won’t mind standing, for the most part, but make sure you have at least enough seating for other guests, especially the elderly. Those normally overlooked and unused nooks and crannies can be great places to sneak in extra tables and chairs.

3. Go light? And you probably won’t need as much food as you think you will.  Many times people will be attending more than one party that day, and they can only eat so much.

Jan's shower
Individual sugar cookie fruit pizzas – Less Ordinary Designs

4. Plan B. If you’re planning on hosting a party outdoors, have an alternate plan thoroughly thought out as well so, if you have to use Plan B, it will be a smooth transition rather than a last minute panic.

5. To clean, or not to clean. Rather than turning the whole house upside down cleaning every nook and cranny. Or deciding on a remodel a month prior to the party (bad idea). Give special attention to sprucing and cleaning the most obvious areas that will be evident during the party and just lightly clean the rest.


There a lot of different ways you can go when it comes to food, but here are some ideas to use on their own, or mix and match:

Whitmeyer Photography

1.  Pasta bar – a few different types with a variety of toppings and sauces.
2.  Sliders – just one recipe or different kinds for variety. (There are a ton of slider recipes on Pinterest.)
3.  Brunch – pancakes with interesting toppings, or egg bake/cheesy potatoes/fruit, or pastry/breads/bagels with unique butters, cream cheeses and fruit.
4.  Smoothie bar.
5.  Popcorn bar.
6.  S’mores bar.
7.  Mashed potato bar.
8.  Pig roast and calico beans.
9.  Burger bar with specialty cheeses and toppings, period ketchups, mustards.
10. Walking tacos with an assortment of chips for people to choose from.
11. Taco or Nacho bar.
12. Dessert bar.
13. Sub sandwich trays from a sub shop.
14. Ice cream sundae bar – Use an ice cream maker and have a toppings bar.
15. Cupcakes – the consensus is that cupcakes are the way to go – versus cake.  Paula bought a pull-apart cupcake “cake”, and she said it worked out really well. (There ends up being a lot of frosting, which you can just scrape off if needed.)  You could also arrange regular cupcakes in the shape of the year, or stack them on tiered trays.

graduation party ideas - cupcakes frosted as one cake

Just chill. Use a small kiddie pool with a table cloth over it – filled with ice – to hold salads or anything else you want to keep chilled.  Same idea for drinks.

Alternatives. It’s nice to have at least one vegan option for guests that may prefer it.

And if you can have at least part of the food catered instead of making everything yourself, that’s the way to go!

Diploma napkins, graduation party, graduation open house, grad party ideas, easy and budget friendly grad parties, graduation decorations, grad food, grad centerpieces, graduation table ideas
Utensils wrapped in napkins to mimic diplomas via Party Pinching

Pictures and Decorations.

Share. If it works for your situation, share any color themed decorations with other families from the same school whose graduations aren’t the same day as yours.

Amanda’s Parties to Go

Pictures.  Videos are an easier option than picture scrapbooks.

Costco makes pic collage posters if you don’t want to make your own picture boards.

And creating a large photo wall might be fun, too?   Jen from Tatertots and Jello printed hers at Staples.

Eclectic seating mix. My friend, Penny, is renting an interesting mix of tables and chairs from a connection who has collected them for years and sets them up for parties. Super fun and unexpected!

Jenga wishes.

One grad dad made 12″ DIY Jenga pieces from 2×4’s, and had everyone sign their name/advice/well wishes on the pieces.  Then they all had fun either playing or watching the giant Jenga game.

It looks like this idea may have actually started at weddings using a regular size game (see below), which would work too.  If you’re interested in DIY’ing a large Jenga game, though, there’s a tutorial link in this post.

Oh Lovely Day

What’s next board.

My co-worker, Bre, mentioned that her mom made a “what’s next?” poster for her graduation.  A great way to save the graduate from having to answer that question over and over!

After she told me about the idea, I was searching Pinterest and came across this really fun chalkboard that incorporates that idea and more.  Made by Etsy shop

Photo booth thank you.

Photo booths with fun props are always a hit.  Add a photo to each thank you card or, if you’re feeling really motivated, make personalized custom thank you cards with each pic.

Reinvent old jerseys.

All those years. All those games. All those jerseys! This could fall under decorating or a gift, depending on what you do with them, but either way it would be meaningful for the graduate.

A banner for the party? A quilt to take with them to college?


What’s your favorite idea? If you have any graduation party ideas, tips, inspiration or recipes to share, we’d love to hear about them in the comments!

More inspiration.

2 Responses to Friday Favorites {04} – Graduation Party Ideas and Tips

  1. Nancy April 20, 2017 at 10:59 am #

    Theme parties are always fun! We BQ brats ahead of time and then put in crock pot to keep them warm,then the bq is available for burgers. Cheesy hash browns, potato salad, Asian chicken salad and a table of finger desserts.
    Chocolate peanut butter balls are always the top of the list.
    Jello letters in school colors, spelling out the school & or year.

    • PK April 20, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

      Hi Nancy – wish I would’ve seen you to connect before I published this! Great ideas, as always! :-) Thanks for commenting.


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