35 Creative Graduation Party Ideas That Wow

Honor the grad in your life with a creative party he or she will remember for years to come. Flip through our favorite food, game and decor ideas to get inspired for your graduation bash.

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March 31, 2016
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Diplomas to Devour

Give your brunch table a festive, graduation twist with a stack of these delicious chocolate hazelnut diploma crepes. Recreate this scholarly snack in your kitchen by wrapping each individual crepe in black-and-white baker's twine.

Diplomas to Devour: Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Recipe

Host a Tailgate

Maybe your celebrated graduate is heading off to their first year of college this fall. Or, maybe they’re bidding adieu to their golden years on campus and entering the real world for the first time. Either way, a tailgate party is always a good idea. Deck out your backyard in their school colors, lay out your fave tailgate dips and provide guests with classic tailgate games, like cornhole or horseshoes. Don’t forget a few coolers (or kegs) of ice-cold brew for the 21-and-up club.

Turn to Tassels

Recreate this adorable, hanging tassel photo display for the party that doubles as a sentimental parting gift for your graduate’s dorm room or apartment. Showcase the tassel hanger at the grad party, and provide guests with an instant camera to take photos. Ask them to pin their pictures to the dangling tassels and by the end of the party, your grad will have a piece of home to take with them on their next chapter.

Serve Personalized Soda + Grad-Caps

Provide your graduate with some cute, post-grad pop! Give their favorite soda a scholarly makeover by adding a personalized label and topping each bottle with miniature graduation caps, complete with teeny-tiny tassels you can craft from card stock and thread. Cheers!

Decemeber Bonfire

December graduates deserve to celebrate too, right? Highlight their achievements by hosting a cozy bonfire for friends, family, and fur-babies. Provide guests with plenty of blankets, homemade chili and spiked apple cider.

Party Poolside

Your graduate may be growing up, but they’ll never outgrow a killer pool party. Celebrate your scholar by having all their friends and family over for fresh, summery sips and a sunny afternoon swim. Offer guests a spread of crisp sandwiches, fresh veggies with dip and a light, fruity dessert.

Leave Cooking to the Pros

Not at your best in the kitchen? Relatable. Graduation celebrations are no time for stress, chaos, or bad food, friends. Sidestep all the potential kitchen drama altogether. Host a joint party with fellow graduate parents, and go in together to hire a local food truck to cater the event. The guests will love the interactive experience the truck creates, and you’ll rest easy knowing that no one will be forced to eat your (burnt) baked beans.

Creative Cooler

Skip the unsightly plastic cooler, and roll out this creative, cooler alternative for your graduation celebration. Fill a (clean!) wheel barrow with lots of ice, then create groupings of your fave beverages within. Hot tip: Consider the color palette of the party, and select sips that reflect that for a cohesive overall design.

Champs + Charcuterie

Delight your December college grad with a sophisticated champagne and charcuterie soiree. Pile your serving board with fancy cheese, Italian meat and fruit aplenty. Display bottles of bubbly front-and-center on your bar cart, and be sure to add a generous selection of red, white and blush blends to serve varied tastes.

Fiesta With Friends

They turned their tassel, now it’s time for them to turn-up with tacos and guacamole, galore. Host a vibrant backyard fiesta for your graduate, and don’t skimp on the colorful details. Drape your tables with punchy patterns, add a basket of chips with salsa, and create centerpieces from fresh, fuchsia blooms. Oh, and a DIY margarita station is guaranteed to earn praise from college grads and guests alike.

Sweet Brunch

Celebrate the day with a post-grad brunch, complete with a tower of sweets. Order a few dozen donuts, and create a sweet statement piece for your brunch buffet. Add a bucket of iced soda on one end of the table and a bunch of fresh, summer blooms on the other for a balanced design. (Brownie points if you add a platter of extra-crispy bacon somewhere in there, too.)

Show School Spirit

Our go-to, foolproof graduation party plan is decking out the event space with the rising freshman’s college colors. This green-and-white table showcases how sticking with two hues throughout the tablescape can yield spirited — yet sophisticated — results.

Scholarly Seafood Boil

You don’t need to live by the coast to host a killer seafood soirée. Use your graduate’s accomplishments as an excuse to host a summer shrimp boil, oyster roast or clam bake for your loved ones. Roll out all the stops with fresh corn and potatoes, bright lemons, horseradish and melted butter for days.

Add a Hot Dog Bar

Elevate the beloved and budget-friendly hot dog to a Pinterest-worthy party display by creating a self-serve hot dog bar. Set the table with a classic picnic tablecloth and provide guests with a sea of fresh toppings, homemade chili and unique dipping sauce like Sriracha.

Create a Collaborative Graduation Gift Basket

Collaborate with family members to create a one-of-a-kind, practical gift basket for your graduate. Use a colander as your base, and fill with other kitchen essentials, family recipes and a few sentimental notes of encouragement to bring a smile to their face.

Set Up a Popcorn Bar

Impress guests by assembling a popcorn bar with flavorings and toppings. Pop the popcorn just before the party starts to ensure it tastes fresh. Choose containers that complement the theme of your graduation celebration.

Try a Cotton Candy Bar

If you prefer sweet rather than savory, opt for a cotton candy bar at your graduation event. Don’t forget that cotton candy comes in all colors — pick the color that best suits the grad.

Create a Photo Wreath

Greet guests with the sparkling smile of the graduate. Make this adorable photo wreath, and hang it on your front door for guests to admire as they arrive. This DIY guarantees a great first impression.

Bake Graduation Cap Pretzels

Fill your home with the irresistible aroma of these deliciously-festive pretzels. Serve the salty treats with mustard and a cold refreshment.

Let Dr. Seuss Inspire Your Decor

Design a party theme based on Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go! for the grad who's young at heart. Whimsical yet worldly, the theme will please partygoers of all ages. Fill treat bags with globe-shaped candies for guests to take home.

Decorate a Box for Cards

Friends and family will appreciate a designated drop-off for graduation cards. Get crafty when designing the box, using paint or wrapping paper to coordinate with your party's color scheme. 

Craft a Tissue Paper Party Sign

Bring the graduation year to life with this DIY tissue paper sign. Simple and budget-friendly, the sign packs a powerful punch. Consider choosing tissue paper in the grad's school colors.

Capture the Moment With a Photo Booth

Buy or make signs and props, and set up a photo booth. The photos — some silly, some serious — will document the day for years to come. 

Bake Your Way to a Clever Theme

Is your grad one smart cookie? Convey the idea with a cookie bar, which can be just as charming as it is delectable. Offer an assortment of cookies to please every taste bud at the party. 

Opt for an Unconventional Guest Book

Invite guests to sign Jenga blocks with memories rather than offering a traditional guest book. The grad can take the game, along with the sweet memories, into the next phase of life.

Ask Guests for Advice

Create this DIY advice tree where guests can leave notes, wishes and advice for the grad. Set the tree on a table with patterned note cards, a pen and mini clothespins. This project is affordable, quick and easy — perfect for a last-minute party addition.

Make a Cocoa Cereal Graduation Cap

Shaped to look exactly like a graduation cap, this festive dessert will wow kids and adults alike. Present the delicious masterpiece on a cake stand.

Build a Beverage Station

Gather some pipes, pails and a tub, and construct this nifty beverage station. Ultra-functional, the drink caddy can also store napkins, utensils and cups.

Create a Graduation Photo Collage

Offer a personalized tribute to the grad with these photo collage letters. Select meaningful photos from throughout the years, and print them in black and white for a unified look. Display the handmade keepsake as a centerpiece on a prominent table.

Design a "Bright Future" Theme

Celebrate your graduate’s bright future with this cheerful theme. Choose vibrant, sunny colors, and accessorize with glittered light bulbs. Consider using a crisp white backdrop to accentuate your party colors.

Give Out Sunglasses as Favors

Though this idea would work great for a bright future-themed party, it could also work as a fun accent to any type of graduation bash. Buy inexpensive sunglasses in bulk, and make a sign to match your decor.

Inflate Balloon Superlatives

Display yearbook superlatives at your graduation get-together by attaching them to colorful balloons. Scatter the balloons throughout your party space, or corral them in one spot for maximum visual impact.

Arrange a Graduation-Themed Candy Bar

Set up a table dedicated to candy of all kinds. Add a creative label to each bowl or jar to reinforce the graduation theme.

Play a Game of Backyard Dominoes

A backyard bash isn’t complete without a competitive outdoor game. Make these oversized wood dominoes for a casual graduation gathering to keep guests entertained for hours.

Organize a Cornhole Tournament

Order (or make your own) school-themed cornhole bags. Plan a competition and treat finalists to graduation-themed prizes. This idea is perfect for an outdoor party or cookout. 

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