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How to Plan a Graduation Party

With so many memories made at school, as it comes to an end for graduates, it’s an emotional time. So what better way to end it than a party? The actual graduation ceremony itself is usually a drab and drawn-out affair, so most students focus their attention on the after-party scene. If you’re thinking of hosting, we’ve got some essential tips to make sure your event is one worthy of the occasion.

Part 1: Planning

Who to invite

This will dictate many other elements of your party. Is it one exclusively for a few classmates or is the whole class welcome? Can your family members come along too or would you prefer them to make themselves scarce?

Picking a date

Unlike a birthday, everyone’s graduating at the same time so your event may not be the only one happening. One of the first questions to ask yourself is how you can make your event attractive to those you want to come. If someone else in your neighborhood is hosting a similar party, you may want to sync up with them and run a joint event.  

Then you need to decide how close to do it to the end of school. While the day of the graduation ceremony is the obvious option, if you want something more intimate, perhaps you’re better off waiting until the dust has settled.

Type of event

Your friends may well be skipping from party to party over the course of the evening so you need to think about where your event fits into that sequence. An open house that anyone can drop into at any point is good, but you may have some big peaks and troughs in attendee numbers.

It may be simpler to pitch yours as either a starting point or an end of the evening stop to steer your guests as to when to turn up.


There’s a long list of things that need to be factored in, and it’s useful to break the budget down into manageable areas so you can figure out where to spend and where to save.

  • Logistics - including invitations, signage, tent rental
  • Decorations - such as centerpieces, balloons, flowers, and tableware
  • Sustenance - food, drink, concession stands, and catering equipment
  • Photography - consider having a photo booth or selfie backdrop
  • Entertainment - a standout party feature, such as a dunk tank

Part 2: Preparation

  1. Invites
    Sending up to 12 weeks ahead is ideal as you may be competing with other parties. Build a buzz and include essential info such as the dress code.
  2. Venue
    If you're hosting at home, let your neighbors along the street know about the potential of some noise and extra cars being parked.
  3. Food
    Keep it simple and easy to eat on your feet. Remember that finger foods need to be edible in one or two bites, and try and relate your menu to the theme if you have one.
  4. Drink
    If adults are attending, you may need both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. While many of the graduates might think they’re ready to start drinking, it’s wise you have see through cups and clearly distinguishable drinks so people can see if anyone is sipping a beverage they shouldn't be.
  5. Music
    Consider a chronological walk through your time at high school or college. What was the number one tune on everyone’s playlist on the day school started school? Even professional DJs need a break, so you could get the best band at your school to do a set in the middle of your party.
  6. Entertainment
    There’s a huge variety of choice, from a water slide to a mechanical bull. Whatever you decide on, make it inclusive, focus on fun and do something Instagrammable!

Part 3: Buildup

Gather memorable moments

A great way to frame the entrance to your party is with memorable photos or school memorabilia that tells a story of the past few years. Make this an alternative to the official yearbook, and provide space for guests to write down their thoughts.


The right lighting is an important party element that many people forget. Combining this with some well-chosen decorations helps to set the scene for the type of party you're having. A balloon wall in your high school graduation colors can make any house or venue feel special.

Set up a chat group

If you can, get everyone invited into a WhatsApp group; it makes it far simpler to communicate any last minute changes or to clarify anything that wasn't on the original invite.

Plan your outfit

Factor this into your original budget. While you want to make it appropriate for the event, it’s also useful to think about future use to make a more economical choice. Choosing separates rather than an ensemble outfit makes it versatile to adapt for almost any occasion.

Part 4: On the day

  1. Find out who’s coming
    While people may have said yes originally, getting some on-the-day confirmations will help you plan.
  2. Hide the breakables
    Create some no-go areas if you’re hosting the party at home.
  3. Check the weather
    Don’t just choose the forecast that you like the look of. It’s always best to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
  4. Check in with your suppliers
    If you’re having anything delivered the day of the party, confirm with them as early as possible. If something goes wrong you’ll have time to sort it out.
  5. Have a good lunch
    You might be getting nervous as your party approaches, but don’t forget to eat something nutritious. It’ll help with your energy levels later on.
  6. Be an attentive host
    Welcome people in, let them know where the drinks are, and where to leave any personal belongings. They may also need a phone charging area if they’ve been going heavy on the photos.
  7. Go to other parties too
    If possible, plan an escape from your own event to see what others are up to!

Part 5: Once it’s over

Get a cleaner in

Don’t ruin the memory of your party by having to clear up all the mess afterward. Budget in a few dollars to get a professional in, then go out for breakfast with your friends and come back to an immaculate house.

Relive the memories online

Consider creating a shared photo album with all the parties going on around your graduation that everyone can add to. This will give a good mix between the formal and informal events proving a snapshot that you’ll look back on fondly for many years to come.