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College Graduation Party Ideas and Planning Tips

College Graduation Party Ideas and Planning Tips


It’s finally happened—after four, or maybe even five (or more), years your child has crossed the stage and gone through the pomp and circumstance of a college graduation.  You’ve shed your tears, lamented about years gone by and your baby growing up and entering the real world, signed that final tuition check, and are ready for that final push from the nest as they embark on this next chapter of life.  But first, there’s one last thing to do, celebrate this huge accomplishment with one blowout bash!  Planning a college graduation party worthy of this momentous occasion may seem like an overwhelming task, but with a few simple steps, you can pull off a party that your graduate will remember forever. 

Choose and send out the Invitations.

First decide on the type of graduation party you would like to throw. For instance, you may want a more intimate setting, with a few close relatives, in the private room of your family’s favorite restaurant. Or, you may want a more causal affair in the comfort of your backyard, surrounded by many relatives, friends and neighbors. Once you have figured out the main details, you can begin your party planning process! Start by alerting friends and family of the big day with personalized graduation invitations. Use invitations that will reflect the tone and/or color scheme of the party. If you decided to go with a more formal and intimate party atmosphere, send out more elegant invitations that will coordinate with the character of your graduation party. If you have decided to have a large party in the backyard, send out fun and bright invitations in the graduate’s school colors. Include all the important graduation party details, including date, time, duration, and location and send your invitations out at least six weeks before the party date to give guests plenty of notice.  If you’re inviting out of town guests, include a map to the party location as well as a list of nearby hotels. 


Hang a banner in the entranceway of your party. 

Congratulate the graduate with a custom banner and hang it over the entranceway of your party space. Coordinate the context of the banner with the invitations you have sent out, as well as with the theme or color scheme of the party décor, and create an inspiring and heartfelt message for the graduate. Not only is a custom banner the perfect way to show you are proud of your graduate, but when you hang your banner in the front yard, everyone will know exactly where the party is! For an extra special touch, attach a permanent marker to the banner and have guests sign the banner when they arrive, sharing their wisdom and well wishes for the special guest of honor. When the party has ended, the signed banner will serve as a special keepsake the graduate will treasure for years to come! 


Decorate your party space with graduation decorations. 

Decorate your graduation party space in your graduate's school colors. If the party is located in your backyard, use balloon bouquets--in your graduate's school colors--to guide your guests to the party space. At the front entrance of the party space, set out a table for guests to place their cards to gifts. Drape a "Congrats Grad" letter banner over the table or directly on it, matching it with the rest of the color scheme. In addition, place a black and white graduation table cover over to the table. 

A majority of your guests will be bringing cards, so set out one or two graduation cap gift boxes out on your table for guests to slip theirs in. Add something fun and meaningful your guests can do for your graduate by allowing them to share their keys to success. Create a stand out of a wooden pallet that reads "Share Your Key to Success," and hammer a few nails into each section of the pallet. Display this on your graduation gift table, along with paper tags with strings on them and permanent markers. Have each quest write down their key to success, or just some good advice for the real world, on a paper tag and hang it onto the pallet. You can even purchase fake, plastic keys to add to each tag, if you prefer. Once the party is over, your graduate will have all the keys to success! 

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Add a few hanging decorations to your outdoor party space. Hang a mixture of graduation cap hanging decorations and graduation paper lanterns from the inside of your tent or cabana. You can also hang these off of your deck, if that's an option for you. 


Plan out your party menu or order a catering service. 

Guests will be expecting fabulous food at your party, and you won’t want to disappoint! If you are hosting your party at another venue, the food and beverages should already be taken care of, but if you are hosting a party at your home, it’s easiest to set up a buffet-style meal that guests can help themselves to throughout the event. If you are confident in your cooking, and are willing to make a large amount of it, you can cook all of the food yourself. You’ll want to make easy-to-eat finger foods, such as burgers and sandwiches, and compliment them with salads, rolls, fruit, etc. If you’re expecting a great deal of guests, it’s easiest to use a catering service for the refreshments at your party.  

The dining area should be decorated in coordination with the rest of your party. Cover your dining tables with graduation table covers and place "Congrats Grad" centerpieces on the center of each table. 

Set out matching graduation paper plates and napkins for your guests to eat off of. 


Send your guests home with party favors. 

Handing out party favors at your graduation party is a fun way to thank guests for coming and commemorating the big day. If you plan on hiring a DJ for a fun night of dancing, you’ll want to supply your guests with fun light-up and glow items for them to wear or use throughout the night. Set out a table with glow necklaces, and other light-up accessoriesof all colors. You can also set out an array of fun sunglasses, printed with a custom message, such as Sarah's Graduation Party 2015, so that guests will remember your fabulous party for years to come! 

You’ve spent years supporting your child as they struggled through their college years and now that you’ve both made it to graduation, it’s time to celebrate with a college graduation party the whole family will enjoy.  With the right supplies and the perfect party planning, your event is sure to be a success, kicking off the next chapter of the graduate’s life in total style! 


At Windy City Novelties, it’s our hope that this article inspires you to create a fun and unique party for your loved ones. For more helpful tips on organizing your event, email our dedicated party planning experts at [email protected]. You may also subscribe to our emails for weekly party planning ideas, featured products and more at

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