Party Planning

8 graduation party ideas for any budget

graduation banner graphic

You’re excited about your child’s graduation but planning the party feels like homework.

Decisions on food, decorations and party supplies can be overwhelming. Then there’s the cost. How do you pull off a fab celebration without spending a fortune? Hey grad parent, it’s easier than you think.

Graduation party tips worth stealing

graduation party favors

Try a few or all of these low-cost, super-easy graduation party ideas. I’m confident they will get you started down the right path:

1. Take the make-ahead food route

Plan your menu with main dishes, sides and desserts created in advance. It really takes the pressure off and gives you more time to mingle with guests the day of the party. When choosing recipes, remember that not all foods retain their freshness or texture even when stored properly. I seriously recommend contacting the best cooks you know to ask for advice. This isn’t the day to take risks with new recipes.

2. Keep the scene clean

Choose foods that aren’t messy, especially when it comes to your main dish. Sloppy Joe is out; meat and cheese trays are in. Cake will produce more crumbs than cookies. Finger foods mean less cleanup, less utensils and often less cost.

3. Let guests help themselves

Taco bars, snack bars, dessert bars and drink bars are big winners. Guests get to choose exactly what they want, when they want it. All you have to do is keep everything filled. Be sure to place signs on your specialty bars to identify foods with nuts and other items that could cause allergic reactions.

4. Sensibly quench everyone’s thirst

If you’re serving alcohol, keep it simple. Offer just a few popular choices. Use liters of soda poured into cups for cost-savings. Have Sharpies on hand to write names on the cups for safe reuse. Share the day, not the germs.

5. Customize party supplies for a unique touch

Make your loved one feel extra special with customized graduation party items. Seeing his/her name on a few party supplies will let them know how proud you are of their achievements. A few of the most affordable graduation party items are custom cups, banners and sunglasses.

Personalized graduation cups are perfect for beverages during the party and as favors to take home. Guests can also use them to fill with food from your snack or candy stations. A favorite saying to print on your cups: “Cheers to the graduate!” Add your child’s name and graduation year.

Hang a custom banner outside your graduation venue to make it easier to find. An inside banner serves as an eye-catching sign and decoration to honor the graduate. It also makes a nice backdrop for photos. A favorite phrase: “___’s Graduation Party, Class of ___”

Graduation party sunglasses spark the fun for everyone. Whether your celebration is inside or out, guests will happily grab a pair to wear. They make great props for a photo booth, too. You’ll treasure the crazy photos! A favorite phrase: “The future is bright!”

6. Create an Instagram grad hashtag

You can’t be everywhere snapping pics. Create a hashtag and display it prominently in a photo frame at the party. Very simply ask guests to share their photos via Instragram with your hashtag. Hashtag examples: #maddiesgradparty, #jakesgradbash or #emilyclassof2021.

7. Use a kiddie pool to keep drinks cold

This tip is best when used for an outside graduation party. Kiddie pools are relatively cheap and just the right size to hold plenty of ice with bottled water, juice boxes and canned drinks. Guests can easily see what’s available without blindly reaching through an ice-packed cooler.

8. Ask guests to share a memory

Your graduate will love reading through each memory left by a relative or friend. Reminiscing can be a great way to put your grad’s next journey into perspective. Check out this idea from Must Have Mom that urges guests to write on Jenga blocks. She also includes a free printable to create the sign. Love it!

— This post was originally published in April 2018 and revised in February 2021.

unique graduation party items graphic

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