Planning a Graduation Party

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Selecting a Date | Choosing a Setting | Party Themes | Invitations
Menu and Serving Ideas | Decorations | More Ideas | Graduation Recipes

Graduation Day. The day every teenager has been waiting for since they started high school. Celebrating a graduation should be a day the graduate will always remember, not one of stress that the parents' want to forget. Following the guidelines below is a beginning to hosting a wonderful day for all to remember.

Sit down with the graduate and discuss what he or she would like for their graduation day. Remember, the day is to honor the graduate, so their input is important. Would they like a small family gathering or a party with family and friends? What types of food would they prefer to have served? How about a theme? All of these questions need to be answered in advance with plenty of time to prepare and organize. This leg work takes some time but is worth it in the end when everyone enjoys a calm and stress free celebration. Allow approximately two months to get everything organized.

Selecting a Date:

Choosing a date and time to host the party can be difficult. Working around family schedules and other party times can become cumbersome. Remember that the party does not necessarily need to be held the day of the ceremony. A number of parties are held even two weeks after the actual graduation day. One idea is to have the party the week prior to the graduation. With the party over, just sit back and enjoy the ceremony as well as the parties of other graduates.

Another point to consider would be the time schedule. Think about limiting the amount of time that the guests are there. In some instances, three to four hours is adequate. Putting a time frame on the party frees, not only the graduate so that he or she can attend other parties, but also the hosts', so they can sit down and enjoy out-of-town guests and friends that may be staying longer.

Whatever is chosen, remember to focus on what works for the the graduate and the family.

Choosing a Setting:

A common location for graduation parties is the backyard or garage. With spring in the air and the weather turning nice, what a better time to have an outdoor party? If the party is to be held out doors, make sure there is shelter for the guests in case of bad weather. Tents work great for outdoor entertaining and usually are available at any rental business. Tables and chairs can also be rented; however, churches may make these items available for graduates' families for a small donation. If renting, remember to book ahead of time to ensure that the quantities needed will be available.


When is comes to themes, the possibilities are endless. This is an area that can really be fun and creative. Choose a theme that reflects the personality and likes of the graduate. Maybe he or she is a sports fanatic. Planning a party around sports can include the decorations (jerseys, pennants, photos from their favorite team, etc.), food that is served at a ball game (hotdogs, snow cones, nachos, popcorn), music can be playing in the background from their favorite stadium. Below are some ideas to get those creative minds to work;

* Mexican Fiesta
* Hawaiian Luau
* Car Theme
* Dance Studio
* Work Travels
* Texas BBQ
* Theme from the college that the graduate will be attending. (Serve foods from that state, etc.)
* Ice Cream Social
* Coffee and Dessert Bar


Most high schools offer a graduation announcement and invitation through a company that is working for them. They are usually generic and offer the school colors, mascot, and other class information. There are also a large number of companies that can be found on the internet that provide a wide variety to choose from. Another option is to design and create an invitation with the graduate in mind. For those up for the challenge, below are some option to consider.

* Use a baby picture of the graduate on the front and list the graduation information beside or below it.

* Use an image of the newspaper from the day the graduate was born. Be creative in what is said, such as "This just in" or "Breaking News" and then give the graduation information.

* Use pictures of the graduate through the years and have them printed lightly on the background with the graduation party information printed on the top.

These ideas can be taken to a local printer to be printed on a paper of choice. Allow approximately two weeks to have them completed but always double check with them on the printing time. In the meanwhile, use this time to get addresses that are needed in order. Make phone calls or e-mail everyone so that all the addresses are up to date and ready to go. The easiest way to do this is in a computer spreadsheet, but writing them the old fashioned way returns the same result.

Whichever is chosen to announce the graduate's big day, make sure that they are in the mail 4-5 weeks before the day of the event. Doing so allows out-of-town guests enough time to make their travel plans. Sending a map with the invitation giving directions to the graduate's home or wherever the party is taking place in also a good idea.

Menu and Serving Ideas

The recipes below are just a few that are perfect for your graduation party. For more great recipes ideas for your graduation menu, see our collection of Graduation Recipes.

Menu Ideas


Ice Cream Punch


  • 12 ounces frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
  • 6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 9 cups water or lemon lime soda
  • 5 pints orange sherbet
  • 1 quart ice cream - vanilla

In large serving bowl or pitcher, combine concentrates and water. Gently add in sherbet and ice cream. Break into small pieces with a spoon. Stir to partially melt.
Note: instead of water, you could use lemon lime soda.


Cracker Mix for a Crowd


  • 1 box Regular Bugles
  • 1 box nacho Bugles
  • 1 box cheddar crackers
  • 1 sack Parmesan fish crackers
  • 1 package pretzels (small bag)
  • 1 package regular Chex Mix
  • 2 envelopes Hidden Valley Ranch Mix
  • 1 bottle Orville Redenbachers Popcorn Oil

Pour all the crackers and snacks together into one very large bowl. Substitute your favorite snacks as desired. Stir Hidden Valley Ranch Mix into oil and pour over cracker mixture. Stir thoroughly to coat mix. Bake at 250° for 1 hour. Stir several times while baking. Cool on paper towels.

Caramel Puff Corn


  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon walt
  • 1/2 cup white corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 2 packages puff corn

Pour puff corn in a large brown paper bag.
Cook butter, brown sugar, salt and syrup in a glass bowl on high power in microwave for 2 minutes. Remove and stir. Cook for 2 more minutes on high. Add soda and stir. Pour over puff corn in paper sack and stir to cover each kernel. Put puff corn mixture in the microwave and cook on high for 1 1/2 minutes. Take puff corn out and stir again in the bag. Put back in microwave and cook for another 1 1/2 minutes. Remove puff corn from sack and spread on cookie sheet to cool.


Chicken Salad Sandwiches


  • 1 large can chicken or 2 cups of cut up chicken
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 - 2 stalks celery chopped
  • 1/2 cup mayo or salad dressing
  • 1/8 teaspoon Accent seasoning
  • dash salt
  • dash pepper
  • dash garlic powder

Put chicken in a bowl and use a fork to shred it up. Add the rest of the ingredients. Add additional mayo or seasoning to taste. Put on bread and enjoy. This recipe is good as a dip with crackers also.
Note: This chicken salad can be made up a day ahead of time. It keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork


  • 7 pounds Boston butt roast
  • 1 cup chicken broth - canned or made from chicken bouillon
  • 1 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix
  • 1/2 onion - sliced and separated into rings

Place the pork roast in the bottom of the slow cooker. Pour the chicken broth over the roast. Sprinkle the Lipton Onion Soup Mix over the top of the roast. Place the onion slices on top of the meat and cover the slow cooker. Allow it to cook for 7 to 8 hours on low or cook for 1st hour on high and then turn down to low and cook for 5 to 6 more hours.

Remove from slow cooker and trim excess fat. Drain juice from the slow cooker but do not discard.Pull the pork into shredded pieces and place back into the slow cooker. After all the pork has been placed back in the slow cooker, pour some of the juice back in over the pork to help keep it moist. Add just enough to moisten the meat. Do not have more than 1/4 inch of juice sitting on the bottom.Cover and reheat; serve on buns with favorite toppings.
Note: Once you have the pork shredded and juices added, it can be refrigerated or frozen and then reheated for use at a later date.

Easy Maid Rites


  • 2 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 3/4 onion, finely chopped (medium)
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth, stock or water
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Brown ground beef with onion and celery until no longer pink; drain. Combine all ingredients simmer over low heat, stirring frequently. The longer it simmers, the better. To searve, place 1/2 cup meat onto the bottom of a plain hamburger bun or Kaiser roll. Replace bun tops and heat in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to warm the bun, if desired. Serve with a spoon. Offer dill pickles as a garnish.

Side Dishes:

Creamy Oreo Cookie Salad


  • Extra Oreos for garnish, optional
  • 2 boxes vanilla pudding, small boxes
  • 3 1/4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 12 ounces Cool Whip
  • 1 package Oreos, coarsely crushed

Beat the pudding and milk in a bowl for approximately two minutes or until it thickens.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar together. Beat the cream cheese mixture into the pudding; then fold in the whip cream. Fold in the crushed Oreos. Garnish with extra cookies. Cool in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.

Slow Cooker Cowboy Beans


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked, crumbled
  • 2 cans red kidney beans
  • 2 cans pork and beans
  • 2 cans butter beans
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup catsup
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 4 tablespoons molasses

Brown beef and onions. Drain grease. Add bacon. Mix remaining ingredients and heat in slow cooker until heated through, at least 2 hours.
Note:These beans can be mixed up and refrigerated a day or two ahead of time. The day they are to be served, cook as directed above. Keep in mind that you may have to add a little more to the slow cooking time because the beans would be cold.


Krispy Caramel Bars


  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup white syrup
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Melt marshmallows and margarine together and add Rice Krispies. Press into the bottom of a buttered 9 x 13 pan. In a saucepan, bring the syrup and brown sugar to a boil. Remove from heat and add peanut butter. Pour over Rice Krispie mixture. Spread evenly. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the caramel layer immediately. Allow the chips to set on the caramel layer for approximately 10 minutes and they will melt to where you can spread them over the top evenly.

Monster Cookies


  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter, creamy
  • 4 1/2 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup M&M's

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream sugars and butter. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla, corn syrup, salt and baking soda. Add remaining ingredients, mixing well after each one. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, depending on the size of cookie. Cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes than transfer to a wire rack.

Serving Ideas

Serving beverages can be done easily by preparing any sized tub with ice and an assortment of drinks. Makes sure to include something for everyone.

When serving buffet or picnic style, have the napkins and silverware easily accessible for the guests. It can be difficult to carry a plate full of food and try to manage utensils as well. This pocket fold napkin helps to solve the problem.

Step 1:

Begin with a paper or cloth napkin (paper napkin shown) folded in a square. Lay napkin diagonally with open corners at the top.

Step 2:

Roll the first layer, of the 4 layers, to the center of the napkin.

Step 3:

Flip napkin over and fold the left corner to center of napkin.

Step 4:

Repeat fold with the right corner. If napkins will be used to carry silverware for a buffet or picnic situation, place a decorative sticker on the back to hold napkin folds in place.

Step 5:

Turn napkin over.

Step 6:

Insert the fork, knife, and spoon.


Deck the walls and table tops with photos and memorabilia of the graduates' life. Try to incorporate "fun photos" not just the typical class picture. Pull out the old jerseys, team photos, dance recital programs, or any other items from their past. Focusing the decorating around the graduates likes and interests throughout their school career creates a fun atmosphere for the guests to enjoy.

Have their favorite sayings and slang written out, laminated, and displayed throughout the party setting. What a fun way for the guests to learn a little more about the graduate.

Decorate clay pots with the high school colors, plant colorful flowers, and use it for centerpieces on the tables.

Set up a table for gifts, making sure to have a container for the cards. A nice basket works well, how about a decorated mailbox, or one of the graduates' old instrument cases adorning the school colors?

Decorating for a party doesn't have to be expensive. Use whatever is available around the house or take a trip to the local discount store. There are a great ideas there from serving trays to food contains and they have ample decorating supplies.

More to Add to the Day

Place a new address book at the card and gift table and have the guests add their names, numbers, and amyl information so that they graduate will have their own listings to take to college with them.

Provide a memory book for the guests to tell their favorite memory or story about the graduate. This will make a wonderful keepsake.

Have an activity available for all the graduates attending the party to keep busy with while there. Volleyball, crochet, or bocce ball would be great for this.

Place disposable cameras on the tables to inspire spontaneous picture taking.

Have a video created about the graduate and have it showing throughout the party. There are plenty of companies that offer this service.


Planning a Graduation Party Reviews

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"We have our oldest daughter's graduation this year and I don't know where to begin to plan for it. This article at least gave me some things to start thinking about."
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