30 Graduation Party Ideas to Celebrate Any Academic Milestone

From party favors to finger foods

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graduation-party-ideas: students at graduation dressed in cap and gowns.
Igor Alecsander/Getty Images

Summer break is right around the corner, which means that students all over the country will be donning their caps and gowns and receiving those hard-earned diplomas. There’s no denying that graduation—be it from elementary school, middle school, high school or college—is a milestone worth commemorating. As such, you’ll likely want to celebrate the student in your life who’s stepping up and we have a whole host of graduation party ideas to help you plan the perfect bash. Read on for the best party decor, favors, activities and recipes around and the celebration will be just as successful as the guest of honor.

56 College Graduation Gift Ideas

Graduation Party Decor Ideas

graduation-party-ideas: globe themed party decorations.
A Night Owl

1. Oh The Places You’ll Go Graduation Party

Inject a little childhood nostalgia into the big celebration (you know that’s how you’re feeling) and even if the grads in attendance aren’t quite as misty-eyed as their parents, the throwback Dr. Seuss-inspired theme will surely warm their hearts. Plus, it’s a great send-off for grads who are about to conquer the unknown—be it a gap year, a first year at college or a new career.

graduation-party-ideas: holographic star and moon balloons.
Studio DIY

2. DIY Holographic Balloon Backdrop

The garland-making technique is fairly straightforward and the effect, which is sparkly enough for any celebration, promises to yield some very Insta-worthy grad photos.

graduation-party-ideas: a giant pink balloon that says 'hooray'
Studio DIY

3. Pop-up Balloon Messages

Here, another festive and cheerful balloon DIY. This one is exceedingly easy, since it really only involves cutting out cardstock letters and taping them to a balloon—just keep in mind that, if you want to make a statement, the bigger and rounder the balloon, the better.

graduation-party-ideas: a balloon arch of green black and yellow balloons
The Craft Patch

4. School Spirit Balloon Arch

If you like the idea of a school spirit theme, this attractive balloon arch, which can be customized to feature the school’s signature colors, is an excellent choice. Best of all, the whole thing comes together quickly with just a few budget-friendly materials, so you can easily make more than one arch for the event if you wish.

graduation-party-ideas: a wreath made out of pictures topped with a grad cap.
DIY Beautify

5. Graduation Memory Wreath

Feeling sentimental? They really do grow up so fast, which is why it makes perfect sense to celebrate all the ages and stages that led up to their big graduation moment with a photo wreath. This DIY is incredibly easy and requires little more than a pool noodle, a hot glue gun and a small stack of sweet (or silly) photos.

graduation-party-ideas: apple cider bottle with celebration tags around them.
Persia Lou

6. Printable Grad Bottle Tags

You don’t have to be a craft expert to pull this one off, since all you need is a printer to achieve this cute refreshment table decor, which can be attached to Champagne bottles at a college grad party or sparkling cider for the high school set.

graduation-party-ideas: 'adventure awaits' pennants on a stack of donuts.
Alice & Lois

7. ‘Adventure Awaits Pennant with DIY Banner

This one is more fitting for high school graduation parties (gap years, dorm life, etc.) and less so for college grads (job hunting, rent) but the printable pennants are a fine way to spruce up any spread and the banner and the matching garland is an exceedingly easy way to add even more color to the party space.

Graduation Party Favors

graduation-party-ideas: a small lei
The House That Lars Built

8. Charm Bracelet Graduation Lei

These highly customizable and easy-to-make leis are such a sweet way to add a personalized touch to the party favor selection. Choose the charms based on the individual hobbies and interests of each attendee and hand out the wearable art at the door so each grad can rock it during the party and hold onto it as a keepsake for years to come.

graduation-party-ideas: candy wrapped in ribbon and money.
Kara Creates

9. Graduation Candy Grams

Giving cash to a grad is a time-honored tradition. That said, we can all agree that a cash-wrapped candy bar beats a cash-stuffed envelope, dollars to donuts. (Right?)

graduation-party-ideas: money and confetti
Studio DIY

10. DIY Money Confetti Poppers

Another clever way to gift cash and a decidedly celebratory one at that—these DIY confetti poppers are a cinch to make and can be made from scratch or by using a hack involving store-bought cake push-pops or confetti poppers. (Whatever route you go, the tutorial covers all the bases.)

graduation-party-ideas: a mini grad cap glued to a jar.
Crafts by Amanda

11. Graduation Cap Gift Jar

This adorable and very fitting mason jar craft is so easy, you don’t even need a degree to accomplish it. All jokes aside, though, this is a perfect party favor for gifting money (or anything else, for that matter) and looks great as part of the display for a seated dinner.

graduation-party-ideas: light bulbs decorated with grad themed elements
Julie Measures

12. DIY Shine Bright Party Favors

Here, a clever way to celebrate your recent grad’s smarts that can be assembled in the blink of an eye with nothing more than a lightbulb, tassel keychain and hot glue gun.

graduation-party-ideas: orange basket with orange snacks
Kara Creates

13. ‘Orange You Glad You Graduated?’ Gift Basket

A free printable tag announces the punny theme, but what you put in the gift basket is entirely up to you. Get creative and customize it—just make sure the contents are orange.

graduation-party-ideas: a tshirt that reads 'one degree hotter'
Happiness is Homemade

14. ‘One Degree Hotter’ Graduation Tees

If you don’t own a Cricut or some other type of electronic cutting machine, keep scrolling…but with the some help from that special piece of equipment these cheeky tees couldn’t be easier to make and the grads will surely get a kick out of them.

Graduation Party Activities

graduation-party-ideas: a tassel made out of paper flowers
The House That Lars Built

15. Paper Flower Graduation Tassels

We love these pretty paper flower tassels and we’re pretty sure the guests of honor will, too. Print out the instructions and set up a craft table with all the required materials so that the grads can embellish their own caps.

graduation-party-ideas: a family playing corn hole
RichLegg/Getty Images

16. Lawn Game Party

Fire up the BBQ and take the party to the backyard for an afternoon of lawn games and good eats. There are plenty of games to choose from (cornhole, bocce ball and horseshoes, to name a few) so guests are guaranteed to stay entertained.

graduation-party-ideas: a mom and daughter in a photo booth wearing party hats
Siri Stafford/Getty Images

17. Photo Booth

Photo booths are pretty pricey, but fortunately you can rent one for a much more reasonable price from companies like Booth by Mail. Best of all, the set up is a cinch and you can get creative with the backdrop or just use one of the options included with the rental.

graduation-party-ideas: a 'who knows the graduate the best?' worksheet

18. Who Knows the Graduate Best? Game

This sturdy paper guessing game is very straightforward (you just fill in the blank) and it’s an excellent way to celebrate the guest of honor, while making the graduation dinner party a little more lively and fun.

graduation-party-ideas: friends playing a game
Anna Bizon/Getty Images

19. Trivia Party

After earning their degree, grads should know a thing or two, right? Test their general knowledge by organizing a trivia night party for the group. The friendly competition and fast-paced game play will add excitement to any celebration.

Delia Creates

20. Pin the Cap on the Graduate Game

Here, the beloved birthday party game gets a graduation-themed twist and the result is a nostalgic and wholesome grad party activity that everyone will enjoy (even if most of them miss the mark, so to speak).

graduation-party-ideas: a gold star pinata
Delia Creates

21. Shooting Star Pull Piñata

This DIY piñata involves quite a bit of crafting but the festive finished product is well worth the effort, since it’s an impressive piece of decor and a fun activity that a whole group of grads can enjoy without having to beat your hard work to a pulp. (Bonus points if you fill it with candy and cash.)

Graduation Party Recipes

graduation-party-ideas: cupcakes with mini candy grad caps on them
Somewhat Simple

22. Graduation Cupcakes

Bake your own cupcakes or simply use the store bought variety for this easy dessert—a sweet and fitting tribute to the occasion.

graduation-party-ideas: pigs in a blanket and a side of aioli
Katherine Gillen

23. Everything Bagel Pigs in a Blanket with Cheater’s Aioli

In case you missed it, everything bagel seasoning makes, well, everything better, and these pigs in a blanket are proof. They’re also a fuss-free finger food that’s perfect for a grad party.

graduation-party-ideas: small servings of nachos
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

24. Mini Nachos

Mini nachos are a brilliant invention that ensure no grad gets the short end of the stick (or chip, as it were), since every individual portion is perfectly loaded with all the good stuff. In other words, this party appetizer is an overachiever.

graduation-party-ideas: pasta salad with avocado and black beans
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

25. Avocado and Black Bean Pasta Salad

For a vegetarian dish that’s a little more substantial than the finger food options, this pasta salad, featuring a dreamy combination of creamy avocado and hearty black beans, fits the bill. Bonus: It pairs well with those mini nachos if you’re going for a Mexican food theme.

graduation-party-ideas: buffalo chicken sliders on a plate
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

26. 15-Minute Buffalo Chicken Sliders

The bite-sized sandwiches known as sliders were born to be the star of any party spread, and these ones are no exception. Best of all, they come together with store bought buffalo sauce and rotisserie chicken, so you can make a big batch in just 15 minutes without breaking a sweat.

graduation-party-ideas: baked potato chips topped with cheese, sour cream, chives and bacon.
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

27. Loaded Baked Potato ‘Chips’

Here, homemade potato chips are turned into a baked potato version of the mini nacho. They’re bite-sized, bursting with flavor and damn delicious.

graduation-party-ideas: small sweet potato crostinis
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

28. Sweet Potato Crostini

Serve these sweet potato crostini for a gluten-free party app that can be made two ways—either topped with smoked salmon and cream cheese, or cranberries, almonds and creme fraiche—and looks as good as it tastes.

graduation-party-ideas: pasta salad with bacon, lettuce and tomato.
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

29. BLT Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is a classic party food, because it’s easy to make a big batch and is meant to be served cold. This one is a winner, but we probably don’t need to explain why turning everyone’s favorite sandwich into a pasta dish is a recipe for success.

graduation-party-ideas: melted gouda and mushrooms in a pan.
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

30. Easy Skillet Mushroom and Gouda Fondue

Another classy dish that will elevate any party spread—this fondue is truly easy to make and you don’t need a fancy fondue pot to pull it off, either. Plus, the flavor combination of melty gouda and umami-forward mushrooms is sure to keep grads coming back for more. (Pro tip: make sure there’s plenty of bread.)

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Emma Singer is a freelance contributing editor and writer at PureWow who has over 7 years of professional proofreading, copyediting and writing experience. At PureWow, she covers...