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Ideas for College Graduation Parties

modern black and white graduation party invitations and decor

Graduation from college is a major accomplishment, and cause for celebration. Planning the celebration can be tricky, as college graduation weekends are usually jam-packed with activities and involve traveling for the event. To help you navigate the chaos, we've assembled our best tips and tricks for hosting a fabulous college graduation party.

How to Choose a Graduation Party Venue

pastel and gold graduation party decorations

Photo Source: Graduation Party Décor

College graduation parties are usually held at a home or apartment. Private residences are often the best and most comfortable venues, as there are no logistics in terms of rental fees, headcount, minimum orders, or enforced timelines. If you're traveling to attend the ceremony, you might consider hosting the party when you return and after the commencement festivities are over.

If the guest of honor won't be present in the weeks after the ceremony, or a private home isn't available, there are several other great venue options for grad parties. Colleges and universities often rent space to families over graduation weekends for this very purpose; check with your graduate about who to contact at the school for more information.

Other options include local parks, restaurants, or even a favorite local bar. If you're opting for an outdoor space, consider hiring a caterer to handle the logistics of display and refrigeration.

Regardless of your venue, make sure to decide and book early! You'll most likely be competing with dozens of other events over graduation weekend, and it's important to book early to get the location squared away so you can focus on other aspects of the party.

Food and Beverages at College Graduation Parties

pastel pink and gold cupcake toppers and holders

Photo Source: Graduation Cupcake Toppers

Keep in mind that your event will most likely coincide with other parties and school-sponsored events. Food and beverages should be provided, but there's no need to go overboard as people will be event hopping. If you're hosting an outdoor event, consider a light buffet or your graduate's favorite hors d'oeuvres. Most catering companies (or even local restaurants) will provide enough food for a small buffet at a reasonable price, and it might be worth it to have the caterers handle setup, display, and refrigeration for food and drinks. The final necessary detail is a grad-themed cake or dessert. Most bakeries have plenty of grad-themed options, and what's a grad celebration without a cap and gown-themed cake?

In terms of beverages, beer and wine are usually available at college grad parties. If your guests are particularly festive, kick it up a notch and offer a specialty cocktail! Again, if your party is in the days before or after the ceremony, keep in mind your event is probably not the only occasion scheduled during that time, and it's certainly not the only event of the weekend. There's no need to break the bank with the amount of drinks on offer.

Ideas for College Graduation Party Decorations

graduation party straws with mini caps and green mason jars

Photo Source: Simple Graduation Party Table

Keep the décor simple at college graduation parties. Even if the school is local and the party planning isn't complicated by travel plans, it's best to keep the focus on the graduate, and ensure the theme or décor of the party doesn't take away from the social atmosphere. If you would prefer to include some sort of décor, consider balloons, streamers, tablecloths, etc. in the college or university's colors, or simple flowers or "Congratulations Graduate" banners. While super-detailed décor isn't necessary, college grad parties are a great place to display photos. Baby pictures, photo banners, or a memory board or gallery wall could create some fun interactive décor. If you're tech savvy, pull out all the stops and create a slideshow or short video honoring the graduate to run at the event.

simple graduation party table set up with party favors, pictures and cap straws

Photo Source: Simple Graduation Party Table

Planned activities are also not a necessity at college graduation parties. Folks invited will generally drop in, and again, the school will doubtless have many activities and events planned over graduation weekend. Keep your event casual and invite guests to come and go easily. While formal organized games or activities aren't necessary, make sure there's a nice spot for photographs at your party's location. Everyone will want to take a keepsake photograph with the graduate

Ideas for College Graduation Party Invitations and Announcements

pretty beige and gold graduation announcement with photo of happy student modern blue and gold graduation party invitation

You can also use your student's graduation announcement or graduation party invitation to inspire your party decorations. Styling the graduate's party décor with elements from your paper goods can add a charming touch to your party set-up. Graduation invitation or announcement themes that include stars, keys, or patterns have great crossover appeal for decorations. The color palette of your invitation or announcement can also be used for your graduate's party, making the party planning process easy. You don't have to go over the top if you incorporate complementary colors throughout your décor. You can even display the graduate's announcements throughout the party or use them to create a fun DIY centerpiece or garland.

Gifts for College Graduation Parties

three graduates wearing their cap and gowns and holding diplomas

Guests aren't generally expected to arrive with gifts in hand at college graduation parties. The grad party is a more casual and social affair, and gifts (usually cash) are commonly sent upon receipt of a formal graduation announcement. For more information on sending and receiving graduation announcements, see our graduation etiquette page!

While no gift is generally the norm, consider designating a small, safe area for small gifts if you do happen to receive any. If as a guest you'd rather not arrive at graduation party empty handed, consider a bunch of flowers, a food or beverage contribution, or a personalized congratulations card. You can also give the college graduate an array of personalized stationery as they take the next step in their blossoming career.

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