Graduation Party Ideas: 10 Must-Haves You’re Probably Forgetting

graduation guest book

Planning a graduation party is a labor of love and requires a lot of thought. If you focus only on the basics, like food, invitations, and venue, you might forget important must-have items that honor the graduate and make his/her guests feel special as well. Let’s take a look at 10 graduation party ideas people tend to forget about in all the hustle and bustle of graduation season.

graduation party ideas

1.) Graduation Photo Display

A photo tribute to the graduate is an absolute must-have. After all, a grad party is a perfect time to dig up all those adorable baby photos, embarrassing school pictures, and photos from special milestones, like homecoming and prom.  We love the idea of using reclaimed wood as a backdrop for photos with a simple burlap pennant banner adornment, like the example below featured on Three Mango Seeds.

graduation party ideas
DIY Graduation Photo Display via Three Mango Seeds

While a trifold poster board display is a popular option, we also love the idea of showcasing photos along your staircase like in the example below featured on Beautiful by Design. Whatever you choose to do, don’t let the graduation photo display be an afterthought. Take time to do something truly special.

graduation party ideas
Staircase graduation photo display via Beautiful By Design

2.) Graduation Guest Book & Instant Camera

Graduation guest books are one of the most commonly forgotten items at a graduation party. But just think — years from now, won’t you want to remember who showed up to make the day special? PurpleTrail’s custom graduation guest books come in a variety of designs, including ones that show off the graduate’s senior photos.  

graduation guest book
The Adventure Begins Graduation Guest Book from PurpleTrail

A simple guest book turns into a cherished memento when it’s personalized with the graduate’s school colors and custom text.

graduation guest book
Blue and Gray Photo Bar Graduation Guest Book from PurpleTrail

We love the idea of placing an instant camera next to your guest book and encouraging guests to glue the photo next to their name in the guest book. In an age where most photos are stuck in digital limbo, it’s fun to have actual printed photos to remember who was at your graduation party.

3.) Photo Backdrop for Graduation Party Photos

Beautiful photo backdrops are becoming increasingly popular at graduation parties. Backdrops are easy to find pre-made. From custom Etsy masterpieces to the simple gold fringe curtain panels sold on Amazon, you’ve got tons of options to choose from.

graduation party ideas
Gold fringe curtains from Amazon / Images via Brit + Co

If you’re crafty, you can make a DIY photo backdrop using a variety of materials, including crepe paper streamers or strips of fabric attached to a wall, or even old pallets adorned with pennant banners and paper rosettes. We love the DIY gold glitter photo backdrop below, which was featured on the Inspired By This blog.

Graduation Party Ideas
Gold Glitter Photo Backdrop via Inspired By This

4.) Memory Jars and/or Advice Boxes

Oh, how quickly we forget the details of high school after we graduate! That’s why memory jars are such a great idea. With a memory jar, every friend and family member who knows and loves that graduate can write down a fun memory they’ve had with the grad and add it to the jar. Months or years down the road, the grad can open the memory jar from their graduation party and relive the best moments from high school when they’re feeling nostalgic.

graduation party ideas
Photo by Tana Photography / via Style Me Pretty

Another great idea is an advice box. This is a particularly good idea if the graduate has lots of older relatives, trusted mentors, and favorite teachers who have the wisdom to share on taking those first big steps in life after high school.

5.) A Clever Place to Stash Money Cards

It’s only natural for friends and family to lavish the graduate with cash, checks, and cards honoring their accomplishments. But where will you put all those money cards?

graduation party ideas
DIY Graduation Cap Card Box via Nancy’s Craft Spot

Instead of letting the cards accumulate and clutter up your graduation party decor, consider creating a clever little box like the one above. Doesn’t it fit it great with your graduation party theme?

6.) Graduation Themed Treats

Food and drinks are probably at the top of your mind at a graduation party. But to make the graduation grub special, consider adding a fun, graduation-themed treat. The adorable chocolate graduation cap pops below feature crowd-pleasing ingredients, like mini peanut butter cups, chocolate squares, and other favorite candies (The iSaveAtoZ blog has the recipe here).

graduation party ideas
Graduation Cap Pops Photo Credit: Turnerfamilyx4 / via iSaveAtoZ

If you need an even easier idea, take Pirouette cookies and tie a ribbon around them in school colors to make themed “diploma cookies.” You can check out the Love The Day blog to see how this amazing idea fits in within a graduation-themed dessert table.

graduation party ideas
Diploma Cookies via Love The Day by Lindi Haws

7.) Unique Door Decor for the Grad

If you’re hosting a graduation party at your home, it’s easy to get so focused on decorating the inside of your home for the grad that you forget outdoor graduation decor entirely. We recommend sprucing up the entry to the party with a little graduation door decor.

graduation party ideas
Graduation Photo Wreath via DIY Beautify

We love the DIY photo graduation wreath above featured on DIY Beautify that uses heavy black cardstock, hot glue, and lots of photos of the graduate! You can get the full tutorial here.

8.) Custom Graduation Party Banner

Speaking of outdoor graduation decor, a custom graduation party banner is a great way to let friends and family know where the party is!

graduation party banner
Rustic Green Chalkboard Graduation Banner from PurpleTrail

With PurpleTrail, you can easily design your own graduation party banner online by uploading your own photos and choosing your favorite fonts, colors, and graphics.  

9.) Graduation Party Favors

Don’t forget to send your graduate’s guests home with a small favor from the graduation party. While not required, graduation party favors are a courtesy, considering many guests will be giving generous cash gifts to the grad. PurpleTrail offers custom graduation mugs that make for perfect take-home gifts for family and friends.

graduation party favors
Gold and Black Photo Graduation Mug from PurpleTrail

We love the Dr. Seuss-themed DIY below that features chocolate globes in a little cellophane favor bags. You can get the tutorial (and free printables for the favor bags!) over on the A Little CLAIREification blog.

graduation party ideas
Dr. Seuss Themed Party Favor Printable Treat Bag Toppers via A Little CLAIREification

10.) Graduation Balloons

Last but not least, what’s a party without lots of balloons? Regular balloons will do the trick, but consider adding some specialty balloons as well, such as the gold Class of 2017 balloons available on the Girly Gifts shop on Etsy. These eye-catching balloons can serve as an anchor to the rest of your graduation party decor.

graduation party ideas
Class of 2017 balloons from the Girly Gifts shop on Etsy

We hope these graduation party ideas inspire you to plan a memorable celebration for your grad. After all, beauty is often in the details!

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