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High School Graduation Party Themes

In the spring, everyone holds graduation parties.  How can you make your child’s or young adult’s party memorable and unique among the hundreds of other events happening around the same time?  Focus on the graduate, get their input, and create some memory keepsakes for the big event.

The Graduation Party Open House

Most graduation parties are open houses.  This is mostly because everyone else is also having an open house.  For a few weeks in May, people might have to attend as many as six or seven parties.  The open house format makes it easy for visitors to pop in, have a bite to eat, leave a gift (!), celebrate with the graduate, and move on.  Here are integral ideas to keep front and center when planning a graduation open house:

  • Even though it is more work for you, plan your graduation open house to last over a fairly long time frame.  10am-3pm, or 1pm-5pm, or 3pm-8pm to allow the maximum amount of people to come through.
  • Serve “finger food” or appetizers.  Food needs to be easy to eat while standing up.
  • Alert your neighbors to the fact that you’ll be having an open house. Invite them, but say *no gifts* so they don’t feel obligated to bring one.  (And, if the neighbors are sensitive about their lawn, make some simple “No Parking” signs and put them out.
  • If your son or daughter has a best friend or friends, consider a joint open house.  If you prefer to host your own, coordinate with those friends’ parents so that you don’t end up with your party at exactly the same time.

With those details out of the way, you can get on with the fun part of party planning!

Graduation Party Themes

With so many graduation open houses happening right around the same time, you’ll want to make yours memorable for the graduate and the attendees. Here are some party theme ideas:

Upcoming college major

If your graduate is heading off to college, theme the party according to their selected major. This is obviously best if your grad is fairly certain that he or she will remain in the chosen field.

Favorite hobbies

If your graduate is a big lacrosse player, horseback rider, football team member, band geek, etc. theme a party according to their favorite hobbies and activities. For instance, if he or she is really into music, make sure to have an entertainment area where everybody can play Rock Band or Guitar Hero.

Capture the memories

This is a photography theme.  Put disposable digital cameras around the house, or encourage guests to bring their own. Make a photo paper printer available, and encourage guests to snap photos with the graduate, print them, and write a note on the photo.  Then, make a scrapbook or have your local copy shop bind it.  The digital photo + the personal note will be a memory to treasure.


A graduation open house is the perfect occasion to use for your invitations.  Use paper graduation party invitations for grandparents and people without access to computers. You can also find invitation clipart and templates.

The paper invitations make nice keepsakes. However, the majority of the invitees will be more likely to RSVP if you use an electronic invitation service like Evite, or even if you set up a Facebook event.  It is also easy to check your guest list, and ensure that you stock up on supplies.

Many people will write a little message when they RSVP on Evite, and you can print the RSVP list and include it in a scrapbook for your graduate.

Party Food

Your party theme will influence the types of foods you serve.  Here are some menu suggestions for the themes above.

  • College major:  If you select this theme, you might just want to go with “college” food.  Midnight pizza runs, ice cream sundaes, “mystery meat,” and more.  (Mystery meat is largely gone, as college cafeterias are full of restaurant-like choices.  But, you can always hearken back to the good ol’ days.)
  • Hobbies:  For sports fanatics serve Gatorade “punch.”  Cupcakes decorated according to the sport of choice are, well, choice.  If your college-bound graduate is a foodie, choose fancy options.  For an engineer, an architectural “cake” made from rice crispy squares.
  • Capture the memories: The cake has to have an edible picture of the graduate on it, naturally.  Other appetizers can include foods that the graduate loves, or that were served during memorable occasions during their high school experience.

Other Food Ideas

These are just some appetizer ideas that include foods that everyone loves.

  • Pigs in a blanket
  • Sliders (Sliders are just little sandwiches.  They can be small hamburgers, roast beef sandwiches, chicken salad, etc.)
  • Veggie tray
  • Bruschetta
  • Mini fruit kabobs (make these on toothpicks, and cut the fruit in TINY pieces, so they can be eaten in one gulp)
  • Chips and salsa (put a SPOON in the salsa!)
  • Tostitos scoops chips with dabs of spinach dip in them
  • Rice Krispy treats
  • Petit fours (instead of cake)  or Cupcakes

Graduation Party Playlist

No party is complete without tunes.  Spin these (or load the iPod) for the graduation party:

  • I’m Coming Out (Diana Ross)
  • ABC (The Jackson Five)
  • School’s Out (Alice Cooper)
  • Charlie Brown (The Coasters)
  • Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd)
  • Graduation Day (The Beach Boys)
  • Me and Julio Down by the School Yard (Paul Simon)
  • School Day (Chuck Berry)
  • Back of the Bus (G. Love)
  • Mrs. Robinson (Simon and Garfunkel)
  • Be True to Your School (The Beach Boys)
  • What I Go To School For (Busted)
  • Rock n’ Roll High School (Ramones)
  • Good Riddance (Green Day)
  • Hot for the Teacher (Van Halen)
  • Welcome to Wherever You Are (Bon Jovi)

In addition to those tunes, include songs that were #1 or popular during your graduate’s high school years.  Include your grad’s high school fight song (if you can find a recording) or the college fight song.  Prom songs are also fun to include.

Above All, make it Personal

The graduation party needs to have personal touches to make it memorable for the most important person at the party: the graduate.  You can find lots of graduation party paper goods and balloons, and those are fun.  Just make sure to let your graduate put his or her personal touch on the festivities, too.