Seniors, Education, Graduations, Spring

How to Plan a Graduation Party! 4 Considerations For a Great Party

Hi, I'm Kristen!
I'm an award-winning senior portrait and family photographer based out of Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. I love sunshine, cacti, chocolate chips, and a great cup of tea - but most of all I love photographing joyful clients. :)
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High school graduate in a blue robe throwing her cap towards you

Need some help figuring out how to plan a graduation party? You’re in the right spot!

High school senior girl wearing her varsity jacket in the hills of Northern California.

How to Plan a Graduation Party

Let’s start with the basics for how to plan a graduation party. The simplest party plan is to host an “open house” where you will provide snacks and drinks at your home and friends and family can drop by to offer their congratulations! Don’t want to have the party at-home? Consider a nearby park (introverts, you are able to leave and have a definitive end to the party)! Definitely check with the park district if you plan to reserve a pavilion at a local park!

How should I decorate and what activities should I have at my grad party? The simplest ideas include incorporating your school colors! Consider balloons and streamers, and foods in school colors. You can order M&Ms in your school colors, and they also have these adorable white M&M mix-ins with cap and tassels printed on them! Looking for balloons in the shape of numbers for your graduating year? Check Target! Wanting some ideas that are more unique? Read on for more ideas about how to plan a graduation party!

High school senior girl wearing a Marquette University sweatshirt.

Unique Graduation Party Ideas

Let’s talk about ways how to plan a Graduation Party unique to you!

Here’s where to start: think about your hobbies and interests! Are you a hockey player? Now’s the time to display that jersey, hockey stick, and varsity jacket! What are you thinking of studying next? If you’re going to be a chemistry major, consider ways you could incorporate that element (hah…unintentional pun, but I’ll take it) into your party – dry ice in the punch? Test tubes or beakers for glasses?

Did you get senior photos taken (sidenote: I know a girl who can help you with that…) Now is THE perfect time to put your photos on display! Set your senior album out where people can see it. Consider using smaller prints to hang (on clotheslines is a cute, boho look, while framed gives a more luxurious vibe), or to set out on tables with an easel on display. I also love the idea of a smaller print (think 5×7 or 8×10) in a large mat – leave out pens in your school colors for friends and family to sign the mat as a guestbook!

Look to your community for unique graduation party ideas – often there are local businesses that want to help you celebrate! For example, in my town of Oak Park, IL, florist Pickle Hill Parties makes special bouquets incorporating the colors of the local high school. Furthermore, the Daly Bagel bakes up orange and blue swirled bagels which are perfect snacks at grad parties!

Activities at a Graduation Party

You might also think about outside-the-box elements and activities when thinking about how to plan a graduation party. Is super hot weather forecasted? Why not put up an inflatable water slide and have a great time splashing with friends? Put up an outdoor volleyball net, or play badminton? Activities and games at parties are a fantastic way to throw a fun party – it gets people talking and interacting with each other and bumps up the energy level of your party!

Some of my favorite games for an outdoor party include cornhole, kubb, and snake toss. These lawn games don’t require a ton of athletic ability so people of all ages can join in the fun!

OPRF High school cap and gown photos

Who to invite to your grad party?

Here’s where it gets tricky, because EVERYONE wants to celebrate on the weekend of or after your graduation, which means sometimes your friends CAN’T come to your party because they are at theirs! My solution? Talk to your inner circle of friends to see about having a communal graduation party so you can all celebrate together!

In addition to school friends, you’ll want to consider inviting friends from hobbies and extracurriculars outside of school. Family members, even if they are far away and unlikely to actually attend a party, will always appreciate a graduation invite. Definitely plan on sending to your grandparents, aunts and uncles, and any other close family members!

What if your parents want to invite THEIR friends? Talk to them about the invite list – how many guests can your location hold? Can you compromise and invite their friends that you also know and like, and leave off their friends that you don’t know at all?

Pro tip: You will be asked 10 million times “what are you going to be studying?” which is a question that can inspire anxiety. Consider putting a nametag on your shirt: “I’m undecided!!!” to help avoid being asked the same question over and over!

High school senior girl graduate posing with redbuds with her cap and gown.

What wording should I use in my Grad Party Invitations?

You don’t need to overthink this – just share the basics and let your friends and family know they’re welcome! You’ll want to include:

  • What date and time the party will be, and how long the party will go.
  • Where the party will be, including any additional information like where to park, or where to meet if you’re at a public location.
  • If gifts are gratefully accepted or discouraged (and if they’re accepted, don’t forget to send a thank you note within 2 weeks to be polite! I’m duty bound to mention you can ask your senior photographer for custom thank you notes to take purchasing cards off your to do list).
  • If there is space in your card design, include what school you graduated from, and what your next plans are, including what you plan to study, if applicable. This will save you so many questions at the party!

I hope these tips helped you with ideas for how to plan a graduation party! I hope you have the best time celebrating. Congratulations, graduate!

Kristen Hazelton is an Oak Park, IL (West Chicagoland) and Livermore, CA (San Francisco East Bay Area) senior and family photographer. She occasionally photographs in San Diego, CA, Tucson, AZ, and Seattle, WA. You can inquire about your own photoshoot here!

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