Quick and Easy Ideas for High School Graduation Parties

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by Nancy on April 12, 2011

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If you are the parent of a high school senior it’s time to start thinking about celebrating your student’s graduation from high school. For party-giving lovers this is another opportunity to go nuts and have fun planning graduation themed decorations, favors, centerpieces, menus etc.

Others of us are overwhelmed and find the idea of throwing together a party stressful – particularly when you hear your friends chatting about the quilts they are making, the displays they are creating, the massive files of videos or photos they are editing for the special day. Don’t despair! Try these fun, affordable high school graduation party ideas:


Looking for a quick but special invitation? Did you know that Etsy features many talented graphic designers that create wonderful one-of-a-kind, affordable invitation templates? In most cases you send them your specific information, they load it into the template and send you a file. Usually it takes less than 24 hours and you can be off to the printer (or print at home.)

Before you order be sure to clarify what type of software you’ll need to open the files. (Some require PhotoShop.) Most of these designers have options starting around $10-$15. Check these out:

Find hundreds more Etsy graphic designers by visiting Etsy and searching ‘graduation invitations.’

Money-saving tip: Combine your student’s graduation announcement and party invitation into one. If you’d like to make your own invitations check out our post on Creative DIY Graduation Announcements.

To take your invitations up a notch:

  • Add special return address labels like these from JackPot Designs.
  • Create a custom photo stamp using your graduate’s senior picture. Order from PhotoStamp (takes 3-5 business days.)


  1. The quickest way to decorate is to play off of the graduate’s high school colors. Tablecloths, napkins, cups and balloons in two colors will instantly create a party feel.
  2. Make a one-of-a-kind tablecloth with ChalkCloth, fabric you can write on like a chalkboard. Set up your food or display and write clever notes directly onto the cloth or think of fun names for your food items that reflect your student’s high school. Best of all, when you’re finished erase the notes and use it for another party. Oilcloth doesn’t ravel so requires no sewing. Use a pair of pinking shears (or other fun decorative scissors to make a nice edge.)
  3. Make a t-shirt clothesline. Hang up some clothesline and string a series of t-shirts from your graduate’s life.
  4. Set out old photo albums.
  5. Set up a display table with interesting objects that represent your student’s life.
    • Baby book
    • Framed photos you already have (babyhood to high school)
    • Items that represents your student’s interests and passions (musical instrument, sports gear, etc.)
    • Art or writing samples from elementary school
    • Graduation tassel and mortarboard
    • Trophies/award certificates
  6. Leave it to Etsy where you can find out-of-the-ordinary cake toppers.
  7. Simple flowers. Not gifted at flower arranging? No worries. Pick up some 6-packs of annual flowers at your local home center or nursery along with a package of dry moss. Set the flowers in a basket, cover with moss, place on table.


We have been to graduation parties where a group of students arrive like a swarm of locusts and inhale every bit of food in sight. Alternatively, there are parties where the hosts are left wondering what to do with all the leftovers. When you plan food for a graduation party consider:

  • The date of the party. We learned there are LOTS of parties scheduled the week before and after graduation. If your party falls towards the beginning you will likely have more people. If your party falls towards the end, in our experience, everyone gets burned out (even the students) and you need less food.
  • How many students you’ve invited. The more kids that come, the more food you’ll need.
  • The time of day. Obviously people will be hungrier if your party immediately follows the graduation ceremony or falls over lunch or dinnertime.


Buffets are the option of choice for the graduation open house. Choose a menu that is student-friendly, allows people to take care of themselves and minimizes the need for cutlery. The following ideas may be obvious but they are time-tested winners:

  • Hire a caterer
  • Order food from a restaurant
  • Taco or burrito bar
  • Hot dog bar
  • Cold cut sandwich platters ( or long sub sandwiches cut into pieces)
  • Barbecue
  • Pizza
  • Cake!

Take Your Menu Up a Notch

And don’t forget the most important tip – have fun!


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Practical College Moms

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Julie April 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm

My mom made me a Martha Stewart graduation cake, I loved the scrolls mimicking diplomas that were on top, plus, it tasted fantastic!


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