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Graduation Party Ideas

Celebrate your new high school or college graduate with a stylish, special fete


Whether it's a high school or college fete, you'll want a party that's both stylish and special. Here are some ideas from venue to activities and food.

1. Pick a Beautiful Venue

Graduates Blowing Bubbles
Eric O'Connell/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Most high school graduation parties are held at home. But if you're planning a college celebration and you're dealing with long distance party planning, there are a number of venue possibilities, including your child's apartment, a private room at a restaurant (reserve early!) or on the college grounds. The lawns at California's St. Mary's College, for example, turn into a frothy sea of white tents and canopies on graduation day as families host elaborate picnics immediately after the ceremony. If your child's school offers this option, reserve lawn space early and consider having a caterer handle the food, so you don't have to sweat food safety and refrigeration details, or worry about your coolers of food disappearing. (P.S. For tips on how to deal with challenges involving refrigeration, running water and similar "wait, there's no kitchen here??" issues, check out the tips on the senior recital reception planning page.)

2. Plan the Menu

Photo by Jackie Burrell
A graduation fete should feature delicious, stylish buffet fare that's easy to make ahead. Anchor one end of the buffet with a big tub of well-iced sodas - plus beer, wine or champagne for the 21-and-over crowd, if you wish. At the other end? A beautiful spread of easy to serve and easy to eat buffet fare - fabulous salads, satays and gourmet mini-burgers, plus wonderful, bite-sized sweets and graduation cupcakes, cake pops and more. Baby pictures or that memory board you made for your child will make the perfect centerpiece.

3. Make a Video Memoir

Photo courtesy of Pam Roth, Stock.Xchng
One of the lovely things about high school and college graduation parties is that they're grown-up parties. You don't need to fill a pinata (although a pinata stuffed with thumb drives, little packets of detergent and other dorm supplies might be kind of adorable) or play pin-the-tail on anything. Everyone will be perfectly happy simply chatting, sampling the buffet and making toasts to the new graduate. But a video slide show that traces the new graduate's childhood, from babyhood to the present, is a lovely thing at a graduation party. Click here for suggestions on how to make a video slide show, pick and pace the images, and add a soundtrack that makes people cry.

4. Add Dorm Crafts & Memory Books

Dorm crafts
Photo by Jackie Burrell
If you just can't resist having a few, low key activities at your child's graduation festivities, here are a few fun possibilities.
  • Ask guests to offer the new graduate advice for college or post-college life in a blank book.
  • Set up a table with supplies to make photo thumbtacks with images of friends for their dorm bulletin board.
  • Make a wordy pencil cup for that dorm desk.

5. Great Gifts

By Kym McLeod, Stock.Xchng Photos
Need a great gift for that new college grad? Here are 6 great college graduation gift ideas, from travel accessories and cooking lessons to a rental art gallery gift certificate that not only adorns apartment walls, but may start a lifelong love of the arts. (Got a high school senior graduating? Here are gift suggestions for them too.)

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