15 graduation party ideas to celebrate a new beginning

A man hugs someone in a cap and gown as family looks on smiling
Paperless Post BlogGet-Togethers > 15 graduation party ideas to celebrate a new beginning

Planning a graduation party is like organizing a birthday party, but everyone in town shares the same birthday. How do you celebrate your graduate in a way that feels special to them, when hundreds of other students are celebrating at the same time (and maybe even at the same venue)?

Start by choosing one of these ideas for a graduation party to set your event apart from the other shindigs in town. From elegant events to backyard barbecues, we’ve got graduation party themes (and matching graduation party invitations) to make yours the celebration to attend.

Outdoor graduation party ideas

Whether you’re planning a celebration for the end of preschool, grad school, or anything in between, these grad party ideas outline everything you need to host a gathering to remember. You’ll discover graduation decoration ideas from Paperless Post Party Shop, graduation party food ideas, and suggestions for hosting for different ages.

Graduation party invitations

Customize our graduation party templates with photos, a school logo, and more

1. Graduation garden party

For an elevated graduation party, invite guests over for hors d’oeuvres and sparkling cider among the flowers. A garden party adds a sophisticated vibe for high school and college grads and provides the perfect setting for relatives to catch up with the person of the hour.

  • Invitation: Invite guests with the “Botanic Year” photo invitation by Rifle Paper Co. or “Watercolor Pink Dahlias” by Paperless Post.
  • Refreshments: For a delicious take on the classic graduation sheet cake, serve the Texas sheet cake by Taste of Home and decorate it with frosted or real spring flowers.
  • Décor: Hang pastel garlands and banners in the garden party space to set the celebratory mood.
  • Activities: Hire a professional photographer to take pictures of the graduate—cap in hand—surrounded by the greenery and flowers of the garden. Set up a photo booth so the rest of the guests can get pictures with a similar backdrop.

2. Island-inspired graduation party

An outdoor table with grass trim has drink dispensers and pineapples and a pink balloon ‘ALOHA’ banner
Image via Lee Vue


For a fun and relaxed graduation celebration, invite guests to an island vacation-themed pool party. Remind them to bring their bathing suits—and tropical shirts!

  • Invitation: Say “Aloha” to guests with the beautiful “Seaside Sunrise” invitation by Paperless Post or the fun Flyer “Pineapple Grove,” or take a look at Paperless Post’s luau party invitation options.
  • Refreshments: Provide a taste of the islands with a grilled pineapple lime mocktail by The Merrythought.
  • Décor: It’s not a luau if it’s not colorful. Choose brightly colored decorations for an indoor or outdoor celebration.
  • Activities: Invite guests to join you—and the graduate, if they’re game—in a farewell hula dance or a round of limbo.

3. Vineyard graduation party

An invitation with gold lettering and a black and white photo of a young woman; a white banquet table under a covering in a vineyard
Grand Day” by Paperless Post; image via Fantesca Estate & Winery.


When a bit more pomp and circumstance is in order, host your graduation at a local winery or vineyard. It’s a nice setting for a college or graduate school commencement—just make sure guests have a safe ride home.

  • Invitation: Send the refined “Cap and Plaque” invitation by Paperless Post to set the tone of the party.
  • Refreshments: Bring an array of cheese platters and a charcuterie board to complement the wine, or see if your venue provides these for events.
  • Décor: Find beautiful, break-proof wine glasses that guests can take home in the Party Shop’s collection of elegant drinkware.
  • Activities: Have a round of wine tasting before giving heartfelt toasts to the brand-new graduate.

4. Block party graduation party

A block party is a great way to reconnect with neighbors and other graduates, especially when the graduating class is for 5th grade or preschool. Check with your city or town about closing off your block for the biggest celebration in town.

  • Invitation: The cute “No Cap” invitation by Mr. Boddington’s Studio lets everyone know the reason for the party.
  • Refreshments: In true block party tradition, organize a potluck. Add a few Guest Questions or a Comment Wall to your invitation to ask what each person can bring.
  • Décor: Set out food and activity tables classed up with nice table covers along your street.
  • Activities: Send guests out on a neighborhood scavenger hunt to see how well everyone knows the street.

5. Regional graduation party

Give your grad a taste of their future with a party planned around their new college or town. If they’re headed to Louisiana or Mississippi, host a crawfish boil. New students headed to the South will enjoy an old-fashioned barbecue. Try a clambake for grads attending school in the Northeast. New York City? Order plenty of pizzas. The Sun Belt? Enjoy tacos and Topo Chico. You get the picture.

  • Invitation: Put your guest of honor on display with the“Have Diploma” photo invitation by kate spade new york or the “Grad As Can Be” invitation by Paperless Post.
  • Refreshments: Match your drinks to the food at the party. Sweet tea for colleges in the South, pop for schools in the Midwest, and agua fresca for the Sun Belt.
  • Décor: Decorate for any of these ideas with an array of outdoor dining supplies in fun colors.
  • Activities: Set up a trivia game about your grad’s new region and have teams compete to answer the questions correctly.

6. Graduation picnic at the park

burgundy and gold online invite with an animation of a picnic laid out with watermelon and grapes and the words ‘CLASS OF 2024'
Picnic Spread” Flyer by Paperless Post.


Want to host a fun-filled graduation party for your elementary or middle school kid, but can’t fit your guests in your own backyard? Invite them to pack their own picnic baskets and head to a local park.

  • Invitation: Send out the “Picnic Spread” Flyer or “Classroom Accessories” invitation by Mr. Boddington’s Studio for younger grads.
  • Refreshments: Graduates of any age love a sandwich platter and lemonade, like the delicious peach lemonade recipe from Will Cook For Smiles.
  • Décor: Let everyone know where the party is when you decorate with celebratory balloons and balloon arches.
  • Activities: Set up near a playground for little kids (and little kids at heart), or bring some frisbees in case the older kids want to play a little Ultimate after dinner.

7. Graduation beach party

If you live near the beach or another body of water, most of your celebrations probably end up there. So why should graduation be any different? Celebrate spring and summertime commencements with surfboards, sand castles, and sunsets by the ocean.

  • Invitation: Invite loved ones and friends to your beach graduation party with the “Dappled” invitation or the “Job Well Done” Flyer invite, both by Paperless Post.
  • Refreshments: Serve something guests can pick up and carry around without too much hassle, like the fresh bruschetta recipe by Delish.
  • Décor: Make your party summer-themed with beach balls and brightly colored decorations around the beach tent.
  • Activities: Plan a bonfire after a day of surfing and boogie boarding, or get a game of beach volleyball started.

Indoor graduation party ideas

8. Movie night graduation party

Embrace the nostalgia of graduation with a movie night. It gives your grad and their friends one more chance to watch their favorite film together—or to make fun of their favorite film together, depending on their sense of humor.

  • Invitation: Bring in the movie theme with the “One Night Only” invitation by Paperless Post. If your movie showing will be outdoors, try the “Falling Stars” invitation by Ashley G.
  • Refreshments: Serve up popcorn and candy for guests to enjoy as they watch the movie.
  • Décor: Send home extra movie treats in favor bags—or use them to serve popcorn for easy clean-up.
  • Activities: Pick a classic movie about school ending like “The Graduate,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Say Anything,” or “Grease” for the ultimate graduation feels.

9. Graduation dinner party

For a more formal take on the graduation party, plan a sit-down dinner with loved ones and special guests. If you’re only inviting a few close friends and family, you may want to self-cater—but if not, consider hiring a caterer and offering a buffet.

  • Invitation: Invite guests to your dinner party with the “Glowing Grad” invitation by Sugar Paper or “Bold Horizon” by Paperless Post.
  • Refreshments: For a light, summery meal, prepare a main course like roasted salmon with citrus salsa verde by Bon Appétit.
  • Décor:  Set the graduation scene with black tableware, and play some background music to add to the atmosphere.
  • Activities: Share stories and toasts about the graduate over a meal—and prepare for laughter or tears (or both).

10. Graduation fiesta

spread of Mexican finger food like tortillas, corn chips, peppers, guacamole, and beer
Image via Paperless Post.


When the guests are mostly of age, you can host a margarita night!  Keep the theme and décor festive and bright, and don’t forget the chips and guac.

  • Invitation: Invite guests with “Gingham Style” by Mr. Boddington’s Studio or “Road to College” by Cheree Berry Paper & Design.
  • Refreshments: Order catering from your favorite local Mexican restaurant or set up a taco bar of your own.
  • Décor: Decorate with festive piñatas—and maybe break a few open for added fun and treats.
  • Activities: Hire a Mariachi band or encourage your grad and their friends to sing karaoke after a margarita or two.

11. Graduation afternoon tea

finger sandwiches on a three-tiered platter and tea cups and saucers; an invitation with a photo of a young woman in a cap and gown and colorful flowers overlapping the image
Image via Joanne Pai; “Loose Stems” by Carolyn Suzuki Studio for Paperless Post.


For a more intimate graduation party, host an afternoon tea. Set up tables where families can sit together to drink their tea and enjoy some desserts. This is a great option for grads who want to feel a little more mature after finishing up high school or middle school.

  • Invitation: Use the “Year in Bloom” by Rifle Paper Co. or “Loose Stems” by Carolyn Suzuki Studio to let guests know that tea is on.
  • Refreshments: Bake classic English tea scones by Honey, What’s Cooking to complement any tea setting.
  • Décor: Collect tea settings at second-hand shops and use them both as decorations and for tea service. You can also find platters and centerpieces from Party Shop that match the colors of your decorations.
  • Activities: If guests are feeling artistic, have them decorate tea cups or other decor for the grad’s new living quarters (or bedroom, if they’re not moving).

12. Graduation dance party

A dance is always a fun option for a middle or high school graduation party. To make it even more festive, pick a graduation party theme, like the ’80s, ’90s, or disco, and encourage guests to wear costumes. Whatever the theme, decorate with lots of bright lights and glitter.

  • Invitation: Send a fun Flyer like “Accomplished” or “Done and Dusted” to get your guests in the mood to groove.
  • Refreshments: To give guests more time for dancing, serve something they can grab and eat between songs, like a vegetable tray or chips and dip.
  • Décor: Find funny photo props and let guests take pictures with them, either in a photo booth or in candid photographs while dancing.
  • Activities: Ask guests to add their favorite songs to the playlist during the party to keep the beat going.

13. Graduation game night

A graduation game night is a fantastic way to let kids or teens celebrate together. Provide plenty of snacks and drinks and put on some music as your guests play board games, card games, or video games.

  • Invitation: Invite guests to the best party in town with the “Party Vibes Green Neon Sign” invitation by Cheree Berry Paper & Design or the “Cap and Glasses” Flyer.
  • Refreshments: Serve cute graduation cap cupcakes by McCormick—don’t worry, no one’s going to throw these caps in the air!
  • Décor: Hang honeycomb decorations in your party space to set the stage for games and festivities.
  • Activities: Invite guests to bring their own favorite board games—such as The Game of Life or another future-planning game—for more thematic games and entertainment.

14. Evening graduation gala

an invitation with a gold mortarboard above a popped gold Champagne bottle; a low stack of filled coupe glasses on a table
Hat Pop” via Paperless Post; image via Sammie Chan.


For a more formal affair, invite guests to a graduation gala. You can honor just one graduate or the entire graduating class at a dressed-up event that feels just as special as the accomplishment you’re celebrating.

  • Invitation: Send a more formal invitation to match the mood of the event, such as “Hat Pop” or “High Roller” by Paperless Post.
  • Refreshments: If you plan on hosting during dinnertime, consider having a seated meal provided by caterers or your venue. For later events, passed appetizers and drinks are fine.
  • Décor: Festive gold and silver decorations set the stage for a magical, sparkling night.
  • Activities: Invite teachers and professors to give speeches about the graduates, or let loved ones take the floor for extended toasts.

15. Graduation ice cream party

An ice cream bar is a party idea that will please just about any grad—especially if your party takes place in the warmer days of June and July. It’s an especially nice idea for elementary and middle school graduates who want to spend a few sweet moments together after the ceremony.

  • Invitation: Send “Degree in 3-D” by Paperless Post or the sprinkle-themed “Gold & Silver Confetti” by The Indigo Bunting.
  • Refreshments: Set up a station where guests can pile up scoops of ice cream, and provide a topping bar where they can go wild. We love this list from The Kitchn for some toppings to consider. (Don’t forget the root beer for root beer floats!)
  • Décor: Set out ice cream and toppings on unique serving trays that match the rest of your decorations.
  • Activities: Take pictures of the sundaes and vote on the winner.
a Champagne-colored online invite with animated gold mylar balloons and the words ‘CONGRATS GRADS'
Three Balloons” Flyer by Paperless Post.

Plan your graduation party with Paperless Post

Whether you’re toasting to your grad’s success with an elegant graduation dinner, game night, or clambake, they’re guaranteed to appreciate the special treatment and the time you put into planning your graduation party. Make the occasion even more unforgettable with invitations that match perfectly.

At Paperless Post, we have graduation invitation ideas to make your party a hit—no matter how you decide to gather. Or, if you’re sending graduation announcements, you can follow our guide to graduation announcement wording to take one more thing off your plate. Everyone may be celebrating the same milestone this year, but your graduate is one of a kind—and their celebration should be, too.


Hero image via Adobe.