Class of 2019 graduation party ideas: Can you believe it’s already that time? Here at Distinctivs we love a good party, so let the grad party planning begin!
To celebrate, we’ve put together THE ultimate guide to planning the best graduation party of the year. This list has everything you’ll need to pull off an epic college or high school graduation party that your guests will still be talking about for years to come.
1. Types of Graduation Parties
7. Party Games
11. Party Favors
12. Signs and Banners
13. Photo Booths
14. Party Rentals
16. Gift Table
17. Party Outfits
18. Guest Book
21. Thank You Cards
Don’t know where to start? First, take a deep breath. Trust us - this is going to be fun!
Before you start planning everything else you’ll want to figure out what kind of Instagram-worthy party this will be. Is your grad picturing a laid-back hangout like a backyard bbq or pool party? Or are you leaning towards hosting an open house or a formal dinner at a nice venue? What about compromising and throwing a fun themed graduation party like Hollywood Night or The 90’s?
Brunch, luau party, a dinner cruise...there are tons of different types of graduation parties and themes to think about. This step can be the hardest, but once you have your vision for the party the rest of the details will start coming together. Just remember to work with your grad to come up with the best plan that works for everyone - they’ll appreciate being asked for their input and getting to be involved in the process!
Once you know what type of grad party you’re having, it’s time to figure out where. Think about your theme and what type of venue will best accommodate that vision.
Source Garden Decors
You’ll want to get the location planned as soon as you can because you’ll most likely have to reserve the venue in advance if you’re renting a facility or restaurant. With it being graduation season, places will start booking up quickly!
On the other hand, some of the many advantages to hosting the party in your home or backyard is that it’s free and you don’t have to worry about reserving your spot. There are also some public places you can reserve at no cost like a park or pavilion.
Hosting a college graduation party? Keep it simple and casual by inviting friends and family to come hang out at your favorite local bar.
You can also send guests online invitations, but keep in mind that some family and friends may not be reached this way if they do not have an email address or internet access.
We recommend you start collecting addresses about 5-6 weeks out and the general rule of thumb is to mail invitations 3-4 weeks before the big day. This gives guests plenty of notice in case travel is necessary or time off work is needed.
For a special surprise, include a Books for Grad request card with your invitations that asks guests to bring a signed book for your grad to enjoy as they begin their next chapter.
Add a unique finishing touch to your graduation invitations by using a Class of 2019 sticker in your grad’s school colors as an envelope seal.
A few quick searches on Pinterest and you’ll see that there are endless options on how to feed your sweet tooth at a graduation party. Whether cake pops are your thing or you prefer a classic layered cake, you really can’t go wrong here.
Have fun and get creative when it comes to baking or ordering the graduation cake. It can be a great show-stopping centerpiece for your food table or a fun way to incorporate your theme in another detail of the party. For a quick and easy way to give your desserts that little something extra, use graduation themed cupcake pics or cake toppers.
Don’t forget to have extras on hand for guests that come back for a second helping!
Now let’s talk about another main attraction - the food! Again, this can take on many different forms - from brunch to buffets to taco bars and food trucks, there are plenty of ideas on how you can feed your guests.
If you want to get this one checked off your list quickly with minimum effort on your part, then hiring a caterer may be a great fit. They can handle everything from putting the menu together to actually serving guests at your party.
If you want to take a more hands-on approach, then it’s important to think about the time of day your party will be held and the size of the crowd. Will guests be expecting a full meal or will a table full of finger foods be acceptable?
Fruit and veggie trays and sandwich platters are an easy way to please everyone and can be spruced up with fun party food picks and graduation cap picks to match your theme. Taco bars are another great way to feed a large crowd while keeping expenses down. A backyard bbq or cookout are other popular options that won’t break the bank. And, of course, you can never go wrong with a crowd-pleasing pizza party.
Willing to splurge a little? Hire a food truck to roll up at the graduation party! It’s definitely one way to make the grad’s day memorable and delight the guests all at once.
For drinks, you want to give your guests a variety to choose from. Drink dispensers full of iced tea, lemonade, and water are always a classic choice or fill up a cooler with canned sodas and water bottles so guests can easily grab and go.
We love decorating our water bottles with these high-quality waterproof graduation water bottle labels that hold up to being submerged in a cooler or ice bucket all day, so you don’t have to worry about labels falling off or soggy paper crumbling while trying to take a sip. There are plenty of colors and designs to choose from so you’ll be able to easily match your theme!
If you’re celebrating a college graduate, set up an open bar or hire a bartender to serve drinks at your party. Ask the graduate to create a signature drink for the guests to enjoy.
If you’re partying outside, break out the yard games like cornhole, yard twister, or life size beer pong to bring out the competitive side in everyone and lots of laughs.
Pay attention to the little details and guests will notice. Try to think outside of the box when it comes to your graduation party decorations and don’t forget to make the party all about your grad.
Does she love posting selfies and pics of her friends on Instagram? Get some of those photos printed out to display at the party! Put them in a nice frame and it doubles as a gift that she can use to decorate her dorm or apartment with.
Is he crazy about football and sports? Use his sport as inspiration to make creative centerpieces that’ll make him feel right at home at his grad party.
Make your candy table the one everyone’s talking about with our graduation party favor stickers that add an unexpected detail to Hershey’s® Kisses and other sweet treats. Use hanging decorations and graduation confetti to decorate your candy buffet so it’ll look just as sweet.
Massive letter and number balloons are especially popular right now and you can use them to spell out fun sayings or show off the year 2019 at your graduation party - they’re also really fun to take pictures with!
Create a Pinterest worthy DIY balloon garland to use as a backdrop and guests will stare at it in awe of how crafty you are.
Don’t forget the plates! Your guests are going to want somewhere to put all that good food and your graduation party tableware is the perfect way to incorporate your party’s theme.
Honor their alma mater with paper plates and plastic silverware in their school colors or purchase custom napkins and cups that feature your grad’s name for a personalized touch they’ll love.
Check out our graduation party favor stickers in popular school colors and trendy designs like floral, camo, mixed foil, and teal and pink for a sweet way to show your appreciation.
Use small grad party favor stickers to decorate Hershey’s® Kisses and other small candies like Reese’s® Cups Minis, Rolo® Chewy Caramels, and LifeSavers® Mints. Place candies in a small favor bag or jar so guests can quickly grab and enjoy on their way out.
Scatter a few Hershey’s® Miniatures candy bars wrapped in matching graduation favor labels on tables for guests to snack on while playing games and chatting to hold them over until the food is served. We dare you to find an unopened candy bar when the party's over!
Personalized favors are another great option and you can get just about anything personalized now - from custom M&M’s to koozies, and even the favor bag itself! Browse our personalized graduation stickers for custom stickers with your grad's name or school mascot's name and graduating year.
Another fun way to thank guests for popping by is with small bags of popcorn sealed with our large round stickers that stick perfectly on graduation party favor bags. You can also use them to seal cookie bags to celebrate one smart cookie.
Make your grad party space feel extra festive with signs and banners celebrating the graduate.
Signs can be very useful in helping guests know where to leave gifts, where to sit, and what the different food options are so you’re not answering the same question multiple times all day. We also really love the idea of displaying a large personalized sign at the front door welcoming guests as soon as they enter the party.
Banners are great to hang above the food and gift tables to really set them apart. Pick one with a fun saying like Hooray Grad or you can even get them personalized with the grad’s name.
The backdrop can be a fun DIY project you do with your grad or there are plenty of options out there that won’t require as much work - custom banners, balloon garland, and you can even rent an actual photo booth.
Sit out a variety of photo booth props for guests to use for silly pictures that the grad will look back on for years to come.
If your grad is crazy about Snapchat, surprise them with their own Snapchat filter that friends and family can use while taking photos at the party.
Source Alston Events
If you’re hosting your graduation party outside you may be looking to rent a tent, tables, chairs, and the whole works. If that’s the case, your best bet is to contact a party rental company to find everything you need.
If you have the tables covered, then a party rental company is also great source for your food and entertainment needs! Find a local company and see what they offer - you may be able to rent anything from a cotton candy machine to a karaoke machine to make your party that much more fun. Add a popcorn maker, nacho cheese pump, or chocolate fountain to your menu and guests won’t want to leave the food table.
Other fun game rental ideas for your outdoor graduation party include: inflatables like an obstacle course or slip n slide, a dunking booth, a mechanical bull, or even a giant projector screen to play embarrassing home videos or a slide show full of cute baby photos!
For outside parties, don’t forget to cover all your details. Depending on your location and the time of year a large outdoor fan may be an absolute necessity. Some places will rent soft serve ice cream machines or snow cone makers to help guests beat the heat. If the party is at night, you may want to rent lighting if the venue doesn’t already supply it. And don’t forget to think about renting a porta potty if there aren’t other restrooms nearby.
Source Kara’s Party Ideas
Make your tables match your theme with unique centerpieces that will add to the party atmosphere. You can find premade centerpieces at party stores or create your own with balloons, flowers, candy, and just about anything else you can think of.
We love the idea of displaying photos of the graduate on your tables so friends and family can reflect on all of their fun memories. Find creative ways to display your photos like placing them in glass jars to make homemade picture frames or on sticks in a vase of flowers.
Scatter small candies decorated with graduation party stickers in the center of tables or use them to fill up a jar with graduation centerpiece sticks for an easy way to carry out your grad party theme.
Whether you’re asking for gifts or not, friends and family are bound to bring something to show the grad how much they care so you want to make sure there is a designated place for gifts at the party.
A graduation card box is a great addition to the gift table so guests can drop cards all in one place. That way, there’s less chance of them getting lost - because let's be honest, most of them probably contain money!
Of course, the guest-of-honor will want to dress to impress, so help them come up with the perfect grad party outfit with these fun ideas!
Your grad and his buds can show off their sense of humor in funny t-shirts or their sense of fashion in the latest styles. Your grad and her girls can celebrate together in pretty graduation dresses - and of course, her first step into the future deserves a beautiful pair of shoes! Shopping for her graduation party attire can be the perfect excuse for a fun mother-daughter shopping trip that she’ll always cherish. After all, a new outfit would be the perfect graduation gift.
Another fun idea is to order custom tees for your grad and all their friends to wear at the party. Ask them to come up with the design for a cool shirt and they’ll wear it even after the party is over!
It’s a good idea to have a guest book to keep track of guests who attended the party or open house so you can thank them later. It also makes a great keepsake for your grad to remember the friends and family who shared in their celebration.
If you’re looking for something a little more creative than your traditional guest book, there are tons of new ideas that are popular at both high school and college graduation parties.
Greet guests at the door with a table of instant cameras where they can take a selfie and place the photo in an album and write a sweet note for the grad next to it. You can also have a framed photo, a globe, or the grad’s initial for guests to sign instead of the typical guest book.
Ask friends and family share their words of wisdom and advice with our graduation advice cards where each guest can leave a special note for the grad and sign their name.
Another special alternative to the traditional guest book is to have the grad’s Bible or a newly gifted Bible and a few highlighters available for friends and family to highlight their favorite verse to inspire the grad as they begin their next chapter.
You want your grad and guests to enjoy themselves and there are plenty of ways to keep everyone entertained at your grad party. You may even want to hire a photographer or videographer to capture all the fun!
People love to dance, so why not have a DJ or live band playing to keep everyone moving and having fun? If your grad doesn’t offer first, ask them to come up with their own party playlist so the DJ will know exactly what to play.
Looking for a fun and unexpected party offering that is sure to delight your guests? Hire a caricature artist, airbrush artist, or henna tattoo artist to provide their services for the party.
And, of course, if your party is at night the perfect way to end it is with a firework show!
As the party day nears, you’ll be scrambling to make sure that everything has been taken care of. Take the time to sit down and create a checklist to make sure you don’t forget any details.
If your party is outside, it might be a nice gesture to have a bug spray and sunscreen station for guests to help themselves if they need to.
You also want to make sure you have extra supplies on hand. If you’re hosting the party in your home, make sure the bathroom is stocked - you don’t want to run out of toilet paper in the middle of the party!
On the morning of the party (or the day before, in some cases), make sure you pick up the food, cake, balloons, and anything else you’ve ordered that isn’t being delivered. Grab more bags of ice than you think you’ll need and chill drinks ahead of time so they’re ready for guests to enjoy right away.
As guests start arriving, put on some music and get ready to party with your grad because you both deserve it!
Blank thank you cards are the perfect way to let your grad write a little note of thanks for the gifts they received and let the person know how much they appreciate them.
You can also send digital thank you cards the same way you sent your invitations if you prefer this method.
For a nice gift back to the guest, include a photo of them and the graduate that was taken at the party.
We’d love to hear about your graduation party and see your grad party pics! Leave us a comment below or share your photos with us on our Facebook or Instagram with #distinctivs!
Related Content:10 Fun Graduation Party Ideas
How To Use Our Water Bottle Labels
How to Use Distinctivs® Party Stickers
How To Use Our Candy Wrapper Labels For Your Party