Graduating from high school, college or graduate school is a major milestone and the culmination of years of hard work. Which is why it deserves to be celebrated. But with many graduation ceremonies canceled or being done via Zoom due to COVID-19, your new grad might be feeling bummed out that this important moment won’t be commemorated in style. Enter these 17 virtual graduation party ideas that will recognize your kid’s tremendous achievement, while observing social distancing rules. Here’s how to maintain pomp under these strange circumstances.
17 Virtual Graduation Party Ideas for the Class of 2021
PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. You can learn more about that process here.
1. Get On Board With The Technology
Just because you can’t be in the same room as grandma and grandpa doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate together. Thanks to technology like Google Hangouts and Zoom, gathering loved ones has never been easier. These free services have extra features like chatroom function as well as the ability to mute other mics—a handy tool for party games (more on that below). Top tip: Set a meeting password to make your gathering more secure. Then all you have to do is drop the meeting link into the invite. Which brings us to our next point…
2. Send Out Invitations
The easiest way to get everyone to show up for your virtual fete is to send the invite via email. That way, guests can simply click on the meeting link and copy and paste the password in order to join (email invites also have the added benefit of being automatically added to calendars so there’s no excuse for a no-show). Use an online design service like Paperless Post or Minted to create a digital invitation worthy of the occasion. Choose from fun graduation templates or customize your own by adding a photo of the guest of honor or some personal touches (like a pizza-themed invite to commemorate her favorite food).
3. Whip Up The Party Food
Guests may not be coming over to your house, but you can still put a wow-worthy display on the table for the family. From baked mac-and-cheese bites to buffalo chicken meatballs, here are 55 easy finger food recipes the whole gang will love. If your teen isn’t into embracing his mom so much these days (they grow up so fast, don’t they?), whip up one of these comfort food dishes instead that’s basically a hug on a plate. Or keep things extra simple and support local businesses by ordering in a selection of tasty dishes. Whatever you do, just make sure some of your kid’s favorite foods are on offer. And here’s another fun idea: If your virtual guests will be joining you for the meal, ask that they make or order the same thing—taco night for everybody!
4. Don’t Forget The Decorations
From banners and tablecloths to paper fans and balloons, nothing says party like something colorful and shimmery. And don’t forget to let the neighbors know you have a graduate at home too. Because what better way to shout their success from the rooftops or you know, from your front yard, than with a giant sign telling the world how proud you are of them? Here's a selection of customizable graduation yard signs for the world to see (from a socially distanced, six-feet away).
And don’t stop there. Make your Zoom meeting feel less like a conference call by adding a fun virtual background to your party. We’re fans of these Disney magic backgrounds but you can also ask that everyone set their screen to a fun pic of the graduate herself.
5. Dress The Part
Your teen’s been living in sweatpants for months (and OK, so have you—no judgement). But now’s the time to put some real clothes on and don’t forget about the all-important graduation cap and gown. Reach out to your kid’s school and see if they’re offering pick-up or delivery of caps and gowns (many schools are). Alternatively, order one online before the party—just be sure to check delivery dates. Amazon has a wide selection of cap and gowns available (including this classic pick that can be delivered in less than two weeks).
6. Throw A Virtual Watch Party
Hey, if you’re going to dress up and whip up some good grub, why not take it to the next level by throwing a watch party? You can host a movie for your entire family through a platform like Scener, which allows you to stream all your favs from services such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max. Another option is to keep the entire thing intimate and just invite members of your quarantine pod. Ditch the TV and up the cool factor by using a movie projector to watch.
7. Select A Virtual Guest Speaker
Your kid’s virtual graduation ceremony will likely involve a commencement speech, but make your bash more personal by nominating someone (you, your partner, a grandparent or sibling) to give their own, personalized speech for your new grad. Think of this person as the emcee of the virtual event, someone to say a few inspirational words and maybe even ask other guests to do the same. Oh, and someone who will remind everyone to turn their mics off.
8. Ask Guests To Send Cards
Not only is this a momentous milestone but considering the unusual circumstances, this is definitely going to be one for the books. And speaking of books, guests typically sign a guest book at a graduation party. But if that can’t happen right now, ask friends and family to shower the grad with cards instead (make sure to include your home address on the invite). Then you can surprise your grad with a collection of well wishes that she can keep forever. Need a little help in the card writing department? Try one of these inspirational graduation quotes.
9. Start—and End—the Party With A Bang
Typically, a graduation ceremony would start with Pomp and Circumstance and finish with hundreds of caps flying in the air. While this year’s graduates can’t experience exactly that, they can still mark the occasion with the celebration it deserves. Recreate the typical graduation ceremony (yes, including the music) and hand your kid their diploma (your school can mail this out or you can make your own until the real deal arrives). Then, end the party with something fun like a slideshow of the past four years, cutting a special cake or a trivia game about the graduate.
10. Play Some Games
Virtual meet-ups can turn snoozy, fast. Keep things moving with some fun games to play with guests like Pictionary, Charades or a classic game of bingo (grandma and grandpa will love it). To keep the focus on the guest of honor, play “Two Truths and a Lie” but use memories of the graduate, instead. (Maybe now you’ll finally find out who really broke that vase ten years ago.) Let guests know ahead of time what they’ll need in order to take part and locate the mute-all button so the meeting doesn’t turn to chaos.
11. Send A Graduation Announcement
Snap a shot of your graduate with her cap and gown and make a card (“He did it!”) to send to friends and family after the fact. We like these pretty options from Minted. Just remember to order a couple of extra copies for the scrapbook.
12. Give A Gift They’ll Actually Enjoy
13. Take A Virtual Tour Of Their College Campus
If your teen is heading off to college in the fall, check out their new campus with a virtual tour. During these strange times, your kid will appreciate imagining what future adventures are around the corner and focusing on the future.
14. Make It A Drive-by Event
Looking for a graduation party idea that doesn’t involve a screen? Hop in the car and go for a ride. Reach out to the parents of nearby friends with a date and time to take to the porch (stoops, windows and front lawns all work, too) for a drive-by pop-up party. Encourage families to string up some decorations outside their homes and share lots of cheer when you roll by. Or if you need to stay home, ask friends and loved ones to put on a graduation parade for your kid. The idea is similar to the drive-by celebration except this time, the guest of honor stays put while friends and loved ones roll up in their cars, pausing to shout congratulations from a safe distance. Who says no-contact means no fun?
15. Create A Graduation Photo Banner
Your typical decorative banner is nice. You know what’s nicer? A customized photo banner showing each of the grad’s pics from each grade (or year). Starting a new chapter is scary, but it can be made a wee-bit easier when they can see just how far they’ve already come.
16. Get Them A Celebrity Shout Out
The commencement ceremony will be a little different this year, but you can still make it memorable, even if it’s from the living room. After that virtual graduation ceremony wraps, surprise the new grad with their own, specialized shout-out from their favorite celebrity via Cameo. For the grad who’s super into 90s shows right now, think Kel Mitchell, Jaleel White or Beverly Mitchell. For that reality TV show buff, you have Jax Taylor from Vanderpump Rules or the OG himself, Flavor Flav. There are plenty of celebs to choose from.
17. Send Money
When all else fails, sending cash is a sure way to make sure any recent grad feels appreciated. Maybe you couldn’t go see them because of travel restrictions or maybe you feel bad for forgetting what time the Zoom ceremony was supposed to take place. No worries, because you can be sure that a “someone just sent you money” notification is going to bring a smile to their face.