Planning a Graduation Party

15 May 2024

Graduations galore. Elementary, Middle School, High School, College, trade school, specialty training…they all seem to gravitate to a May and June graduation ceremony. If you are thinking about throwing a bash to celebrate, here are some things to consider.

Set a date

This may be the most difficult task on the list. With so many graduations happening at the same time, plus Mother’s Day, and other events, it may be difficult to find the right time and place. Consider pairing up or grouping up, especially if there are overlaps in family and circles of friends. Don’t be surprised if people don’t stay at your party as long as expected. With so many conflicts, it simply means lots of coming and going.


While this is an important milestone, it is not as important as a wedding. The more simple the venue, the better. A back yard, a park, or similar setting works quite well.

Remember to check out or prepare for restroom facilities. If you are doing this at your home and you only have a single bathroom…well. If you will be opening up the bathroom adjacent to your master suite or on other floors, be sure that all the rooms are clean and neat. Just in case be sure that any valuables are away from prying eyes or hands.


Decide on how much you want or can spend. You may need to consider food, drinks, decorations, thank you cards, and postage. If there is not sufficient seating, you might need to borrow chairs and tables or rent. For an outdoor location, depending on the weather, you might need an alternate place or a tent rental.

graduation party


Create a list including email addresses and telephone numbers, unless you are going to the extra expense of printed invitations. These can include family, friends, church or religious family, neighbors, teachers, scout or club leaders, or other important people in your child’s life.

Make notes on how many people to expect, including plus ones and children (and their ages). Depending on your location, and the ages of the children, you might want to consider a play area with appropriate games to keep them occupied while the adults chat.

Be sure to keep track of any gifts that your guests may bring, including monetary. Consider removing any cash but making a notation inside the card of the amount. That way you won’t need to worry about a gust of wind sending paper money flying around.

Food and Beverages

This will undoubtedly be your largest expense. Decide whether it will be a buffet or just snacks and finger foods. Include soft drinks or punch as well as coffee and tea. Whether you want to include alcohol will depend on the number of people and the age of the guests, as well as the security of the area (public parks generally won’t allow alcohol) and your budget constraints.

Be sure that the majority of the food is your child’s favorites.

Cook in advance. You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen or on the grill while everyone is chatting and having a good time. If it is necessary to cook, enlist help. Set up a schedule so that no one is imposed upon for too long. Make it hour-long shifts at the most.

That goes as well for the food replenishing. Keeping an eye on the food table and making sure the residue is removed and new platters are coming, is a task of its own. Cheese does not do well after sitting out for a while and anything with a spoilage issue (mayonnaise) needs to be monitored.


This will include tablecloths, plates, cups or glasses, plasticware, napkins, etc. Centerpieces may be appropriate and there are lots of inexpensive items at the Dollar Store (well…$1.25 store). Flowers may come from your own garden, or ask if you can raid friends or neighbors’ gardens. Just be conservative so that their gardens don’t look horrible after you have taken your pick.

You may or may not want a display table. If so, keep it simple. A photo or two and a framed diploma or certificate. Perhaps a keepsake or two from the graduate. You may want to add a guest book for names and possibly room for a short comment.

Additional Help

We addressed the food and beverage table, but you may want someone designated to take photos. A real camera is always better than a cell phone.

You will also need help with the pre-cleaning, set up, decorations, ongoing tidying (removing used plates, cups), and taking the trash and recycling away from the party area as necessary.

If there is a cake, know who will do the cutting and distribution.

In the end, keep the focus on the graduate and what he or she would prefer.

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