Backyard Graduation Party Ideas

High school and college graduations are looming on the horizon. These are special and momentous events for both you and your graduate. Planning you graduation party should be a fun and exciting project. Don’t let your graduation party get lost in the crowd; with some early planning you can host a fabulous celebration. Here are some great tips to make your party one of a kind. 

Having four children who graduated two years apart, I have been planning high school or college graduation parties for over a decade. The two most important pieces of advice I can offer is to set a budget and plan early. Figure out how much money you have to spend on your celebration. This is critical, as your budget will determine the number of guests you can have and the venue you will use to host your party. Many families have their parties out at restaurants, in halls or other locations. These will cost more money. With four who graduated within a 7-year span, we knew with our oldest that we couldn’t set a precedent that we couldn’t continue with the rest. So the idea of the “Backyard BBQ” took shape. It’s easy, casual and relatively inexpensive. Plus the outdoor theme allows for a larger guest list for your graduate. Our kids invited their friends, fellow grads, teachers, coaches, and of course, all the family. We ran the graduation parties like an open house. 

Once you have a budget and have decided on your venue, then settle on a date and do it early. You will be competing with lots of other parties this time of year and by getting yours on the calendar first you will avoid conflicts. Next decide on invitations. You can order them online or buy them in the stores. However to save money, you can make them yourself on the computer. There are numerous invitation products available in office supply stores that will give you templates to make your own. Be creative… add graduation clipart, a logo from the college or high school of your graduate or even inset a photo! Unless you have room in your house or are having it off site, ALWAYS plan a rain date. Also make sure you have an RSVP with a date deadline and add your email as well as your phone number. A ‘regrets only” RSVP system makes for tricky planning. Recently, I have even seen people use free online invitation services. 

For food, your options are numerous if you are hosting your graduation party at home. You can have it catered, you can cook or our family favorite for our barbeque theme is hamburgers, hot dogs and heroes. Add some salads, fruit platters and a graduation themed dessert and you have an easy, inexpensive menu. We set up a “stadium” food booth near the grill. My husband and his buddies were grilling to order, with the condiments and rolls set out at the booth. You make a poster and name your area. For example, at our party for our youngest who was going to DePaul University in Chicago.. we set up the “DePaul Dug Out” and decorated the table with the school colors. For our son, who was headed to Rutgers University, we had a “Knight Stand” as their school mascot is the Scarlet Knight. For another of our parties, I bought cases of bottled water, took off the store label and made my own personalized labels celebrating the graduates! 

For your graduation themed dessert you can always make or order a sheet cake. However, I have received great kudos with my graduate cakes. I make dozens of cupcakes and make tags on card stock with the high school or college logo. When our daughter was headed to Chicago for college, I made tags with pictures of Chicago landmarks. I then tape the tags to a toothpick and insert into the cupcakes. Make sure your tags are small enough that they don’t cause the cupcakes to tip over. Display on a platter and you have a unique dessert plate. 

One last area that I always budget for is graduation party favors. I have always felt like all the guests should take home a fun gift.  There are some creative and unique ideas for making your own graduation party invitations and favors, a fun graduation party decoration and some suggestions for graduation gifts at  Celebration Ideas Online. There is also an idea on how to host your college graduation party right on campus. These ideas are sure to make your party a one of a kind celebration for both your graduate and your guests. 

Carol is married with four grown children who loves to celebrate everything! Their family celebration experiences and traditions can be further viewed at There are some great ideas for creating lasting family memories!

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Backyard Graduation Party

The end of the year is almost here! For many parents, their child’s graduation from any of the Catholic high schools is a bittersweet time. You are proud of everything your children have accomplished, but are sad to see them leave the nest. Send them off to college in style with a safe and fun high school graduation party. Follow these simple tips to make sure everyone will have a good time and return home safely.

1. Decide on a Day and Time. Many graduation parties include parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and peers. Sit down with your graduate to decide when he or she would like to schedule a party. Take into consideration how many family members will need to travel to attend and over how far a distance. Sometimes it is better to plan two different parties – one for the family members and one for friends.

2. Figure Out a Budget. The budget will rule the entire event – from the guest list and location to food and party favors. If you have a small budget, consider inviting a few close family and friends to a backyard barbecue or have your student choose a couple of close friends for a fun dinner at a favorite restaurant.

3. Choose a Location. The location will help you plan the rest of the party. Likely your options range from your backyard or a campground to a hotel or amusement park. Consider letting your student plan a half and half party – the graduate spends half the day with family members and the other half with friends and peers.

4. Create the Guest List. This is an important step toward making the party a safe one. Sit down with your son or daughter and explain to them that parents and other adults will be present at the party. Likely, you can offer a compromise by throwing a small “parent party” at the same location as the student party – close enough to make sure everyone is safe, but far enough to allow the students a sense of independence. Stress that your student is not to invite anyone that you do not know. This may cause a few complaints, but stand firm. You want to know every student on the guest list and be certain your teen only invites people on the pre-discussed list. This keeps troublemakers from coming to the party and creating problems.

5. Send Out Invitations. Most top private schools and public schools offer personalized invitations for students to purchase. If this seems too pricey, consider making the invitations together or simply send out electronic cards.

6. Set the Menu. The menu should reflect the location. For example, if you are hosting a gathering in the backyard, you could fire up the grill. If your student wants to rent a hotel ballroom, you can have the event catered.

7. Decorate! Arrive at the venue early and unleash your creative side. Enlist the help of your grad to make the party unique and special. Don’t stick with the old standbys of crepe paper and balloons – branch out by making posters of funny baby pictures and having a guest book or t-shirt for friends to sign. You will be able to find inexpensive decorations at dollar stores or even garage sales.

8. Encourage Your Student to Greet Guests. After all it is the grad’s party! This is a great chance for your student to play host or hostess for the first time. Have the graduate introduce guests who do not know each other, and encourage him or her to make sure everything is running smoothly throughout the night.

9. Take Lots of Photos. Likely, this is one of the last times these friends will all be together, so make sure your child will be able to remember it! You may get a few eye rolls and scowls, but in a few years your grad will thank you.

10. Speaking of Thank You… Don’t let your child forget to send out thank you notes. The graduate should send notes to everyone who helped to plan and execute the party as well as to everyone who brought gifts and to those who attended.

Follow these tips for a graduation party that you and your student will always remember!

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Backyard Graduation Party