Graduation Party and Gift Ideas

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It’s that time of year – time for graduation! Do you have a child graduating? My youngest granddaughter just finished preschool and had a cap and gown ceremony. So adorable!

Are you planning a graduation celebration for your high school or college senior? All of our kids had different ceremonies and get-togethers. Our two oldest went through public school and had that traditional ceremony and then as a family we went out to eat. The next two kids had an at-home party – tons of fun! And our youngest finished when Covid first started so her ceremony was different, but still special.

What I love about throwing a graduation celebration, ceremony, or party is tailoring it to your graduate’s ideas and tastes. For me, the hard part is picking that perfect gift! I’ll offer some ideas for those too!

Ask for your graduate’s input

My family loves throwing big, elaborate parties of all kinds! We have themes and so much fun. But having a lot of people at a party isn’t always the best thing.

It’s important to get your child involved. Plan around what they like. If they only want family, do that. If they choose low-key and you want more, remember this celebration is about them.

Don’t put more stress on what is probably already a stressful time, for them and for you. This should be a fun time!

Graduation theme & party ideas

  • Use the school’s colors in decorating (we had an umbrella school so we used their colors.)
  • Often the book “Oh the Places You’ll Go” is used as a popular graduation gift and party theme
  • Use your child’s favorite hobby or passion as the theme (dance, music, sports, photography, etc.)
  • Base the theme on where you live – a particular food (BBQ, Mexican, etc.) or something that area is known for
  • Food theme – “Taco ‘bout a Future,” candy or ice cream bar, soda bar
  • Party outside – have outdoor games and/or pool party
  • Stick with an elegant black and gold décor

Even if your graduate wants low-key, you could incorporate one or two of these ideas by having themed food or special cupcakes with the school colors.

Location, location

Parties can be held at home, a restaurant, rent a venue, gazebo, or park. Drive-by parties started during the pandemic, and they’re lots of fun too! Drive-by parties can be done on your driveway or in your yard. Set a window of time like 2-3 hours.

Organization tips

I love making lists and organizing what we will need (always err on the side of more). You can find “cheat sheets” for this on Pinterest.

Some specific things to have on hand include:

  • Napkins/paper towels/tablecloths – any paper supplies you might need
  • Serving bowls/platters
  • Plates, cups, bowls
  • Serving spoons and tongs
  • Name tags for foods (especially if you have gluten- or nut-free)
  • Cleaning supplies

I always go for less expensive items for all of these. Why? Because most, if not all, will be thrown away at the end of the party. It’s very possible to throw a fun party without going overboard on expense.

Party food suggestions

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are your senior’s favorite foods?
  2. What kind of food goes with the theme?
  3. How much money do you want to spend?

Budget-wise – My suggestion is spending the most on what means the most to you. It could be a specialty food or cake/cupcake. It might be the gift so you want to make the food the least expensive. Pre-planning helps!

Grab-and-go foods (finger foods) are always a hit, especially with the younger crowd.

I always have more than I need. It saves me from worrying if we’ll run out. If you do run out of one thing, you’ll have enough of the others. Plus guests can take goodie plates home, or many things can be frozen and used later.

Graduation gift ideas

We’ve seen the movies where the graduate walks out in the driveway to find a brand new car with a huge red bow on top. Exciting? Yes! Practical? Not for most of us!

Here are some fun and practical gift ideas:

  • Luggage
  • Nice tote bag or briefcase
  • Laptop
  • Dorm supplies
  • Cool planner
  • Cookbook
  • Good headphones
  • Camera
  • Jewelry
  • iPad
  • Gift cards

My sister likes to do themed baskets for gifts. She might put different cooking supplies in a basket or tote – something they can use in their room or dorm for storage. She’s done coffee-themed baskets, candy-themed, specialty foods, and more.

Most importantly – Have fun!

It’s quite possible that your house has been stressful the last few months. Senioritis is real and planning for end-of-the-year celebrations takes work. Be sure to have fun. Take pictures – lots of them. And focus on your graduate and their accomplishments.


Jen Dodrill has been married 36 years, is mom to 5 grown kids, and she homeschooled the youngest three for a total of 13 years. The “baby” graduated in 2020, but Jen refuses to bow to empty-nest syndrome! She’s at work on her first novel (follow updates at Jen Dodrill Writes), teaches Oral Communication as an adjunct instructor, and blogs about homeschooling at Jen Dodrill History at Home. When she’s not working, she’s spending time with her kids and adorable granddaughters. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook, and her favorite place – Pinterest.


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"Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).