5 Graduation Party Ideas to Celebrate Your Student

graduation party ideas

It’s graduation season! It’s that time of year when it feels like you’re attending a ceremony every weekend. What better way to celebrate your graduate than with a party! There are so many graduation party ideas- does your student want to invite the whole class or just family and close friends? Are you celebrating at home or renting a venue? Is it a brunch or are you grilling out? There so many ways to celebrate!

We’ve pulled together some of our favorite party ideas for graduating students!

5 Graduation Party Ideas

1. Casual Cookout

graduation party ideas

Summertime events usually call for a backyard barbeque. This is a great idea for a graduation party because it allows you to be casual and flexible. If your backyard is big enough, you can host at home and not worry about finding a venue. All you need is a designated grill cook, plenty of picnic tables and enough food and refreshments to go around. A casual cookout can be held open house style: let people know what times you’ll be there and let attendees come and go as they please.

graduation party ideas


The best food for a graduation cookout is what you can make in large batches to set out, so guests can self-serve. Some classic cookout food and drinks include:  

  • Hamburgers and hot dogs
  • BBQ chicken and/or pork
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Ice cream sundae bar

We love this recipe for pulled pork sandwiches from Martha Stewart. It’s super yummy and easy to make the day before!


Cover every base with a selection of nonalcoholic and, if you choose, alcoholic drinks. Obviously your graduate may not be old enough for a cocktail, but you may also have parents attending your cookout!

  • Water
  • Soda
  • Tea
  • Lemonade

Looking for an easy, fun drink to serve? We love this recipe for a nonalcoholic Arnold Palmer from All the Nourishing Things. Bonus: it’s keto-friendly!

graduation party ideas

graduation party ideas


Every party needs an activity! A backyard barbeque obviously calls for fun games you can play outside with plenty of space to move around. Some our favorite backyard games include:

  • Backyard volleyball
  • Croquet
  • Hackey sack
  • Cornhole

2. Open House

graduation party ideas

An open house is the best way to celebrate your graduate if you expect to invite a lot of people. If every family member, friend, neighbor and member of the graduating class are invited to your party, an open house is the best way to stagger guests and preserve your own sanity.

To hold an open house, set your times and let guests know they can pop in at any time (during your set party time). This is especially helpful on weekends with multiple graduation parties- it makes it easier for your guests to attend everyone’s event instead of choosing just one!

graduation party ideas


The most efficient way to serve a rotating group of guests is to set up food and refreshments buffet-style. 

Open houses are the perfect events to have catered. Does your graduate have a favorite restaurant? Call them up! If catering is out of your budget (or if your graduate prefers your cooking!), look to hot dishes that are easy to cook in large quantities. You can also hold a brunch open house and serve up breakfast food!

These chicken parmesan sliders from Delish are easy to make in a large batch and sure to fill up your guests!


Make it clear your party is to celebrate a graduation! Decorate the house in school colors and if your graduate is moving from high school to college, throw in the university’s colors as well! Festoon the house in graduation caps, sparklers, “Class of 2018” banners and other graduation-themed decor.

Use your graduate’s memories as décor! Hang pictures of fun memories with friends from clothesline and string it across a room. Use your graduate’s childhood photos and old school pictures to show his or her growth! We love the way Studio DIY used photos as grad decorations!

graduation party ideas

graduation party ideas


Some of your guests may only be there for a short time so you may not have time for traditional games, but there are still tons of fun things to do.

  • Photo board- Create a makeshift photo booth! Have your graduate take a picture with every guest to hang on the board.
  • Wisdom box- Have guests write down advice for your graduate to drop into a box. By the end of the night, you'll have collected a lifetime of wisdom!

The Polaroid board is a wedding idea from Elegant Wedding Invites, but we say use it for a graduation party too!

3. Family Dinner

graduation party ideas

Want to keep your graduation party simple and intimate? If a family-only dinner is more your graduate’s style, there are several routes you can take.  If your graduate prefers home cooking, make a menu out of his or her favorite dishes. If your family celebrates special occasions with a night out, make a reservation at your graduate’s favorite restaurant. Make sure you make the reservation at least four weeks out- everyone else is celebrating graduations too!

Make it even more special by letting your graduate bring along his or her best friend to join in on the fun!

4. Pool Party

graduation party ideas

Graduation calls for the first pool party of the season! If you want to keep the party casual, a pool party is a fun way to celebrate a summer event. Keep the kids entertained in the water while adults lounge with refreshments.

graduation party ideas


Make your drinks as fun as your pool party! These refreshments are perfect for a hot day by the pool (and very easy to shake up for the adults who attend).

  • Frozen lemonade
  • Nonalcoholic daiquiris
  • Cherry limeade
  • Nonalcoholic pina colada

We like this frozen lemonade recipe from Diethood- she adds a scoop of frozen yogurt to add a creamy element to this refreshing drink.


There is no shortage of fun at a pool party and you're never too old for games!

  • Super soaker fight
  • Water balloons
  • Belly flop competition
  • Pool noodle race

This Grandma is Fun has a fun obstacle course mapped out to play over the pool- all you need to a squirt gun!

graduation party ideas

graduation party ideas


Pool party food should be easy to eat in between games- think light and bite-sized! Some easy pool party dishes:

  • Sliders
  • Taco bar
  • Fruit salad
  • Pinwheels

If your graduation pool party is luau-themed, Noshtastic has an easy recipe for sausage and pineapple appetizers.

5. Evening Soiree

graduation party ideas

Some events just call for a fancy celebration! If your graduate wants to celebrate in style, it’s time to plan an evening soiree he or she won’t forget. Send out invitations that make the dress code clear- cocktail attire requested! Hotel conference rooms, golf clubs, event centers and restaurants all have the space to host a fancy graduation party. Most will offer catering options so all you have to do is choose from a pre-set menu.

An event like this can take a team; does your graduate want to share his or her celebration with friends? Celebrating more than one person means you can share costs and have help planning the event!

Share your graduation party ideas!

We hope these graduation party ideas inspired you to start planning a party! How do you plan to celebrate your graduate? Let us know by using the social icons below! 

Looking for more summer fun ideas? Head over to the Summer @ Hm page for fun summer activities and summer holiday inspiration. 

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