These pretty high school or college graduation party ideas are simple and easy on the budget featuring sunflowers, paper crafts, photo displays, and a candy buffet.

There’s something about high school graduation.

Don’t get me wrong!

College graduation is pretty amazing.

But high school graduation also marks the end of childhood.

Kids who’ve been classmates for over 13 years will head in so many different directions.

In fact, the ceremony may be the last time some will ever see each other!

For my family, it signals quite a big change for my twins: one will be heading to App State University and the other is going to Virginia Tech in the fall.

They haven’t been apart for more than 5 nights in a row their entire lives…

And they are the absolute best of friends.

Twin sisters hugging each other while wearing caps and gowns for high school graduation

So of course, I had to have a party to celebrate their accomplishments so far!

Their party was a little smaller than their brother’s graduation party.

Unfortunately, their grandparents didn’t feel safe traveling yet due to Covid.

But my sister made the trek from Maryland and our good friends traveled here from Virginia!

I still might have overcompensated a little to make everything feel extra special.

After all, this party was for two graduates, right?!

However, all the ideas I’m sharing with you today are easy on the budget.

I think you’re gonna love these pretty graduation party ideas!

And even though this party is for my girls, lots of these ideas could work for a guy’s party too.

You can see how I decorated for my son’s party here.

If you aren’t able to throw an in-person party, a lot of these ideas would still be fun to use at a virtual graduation party!

Choosing a Color Scheme

There are a few options for a great color scheme for a high school graduation party.

Probably the most common choice is to use the high school’s colors.

And the second most popular option is to use the colors of the college they’re planning to attend in the fall.

But there’s no set rule that you can’t choose any color scheme that makes your grad happy!

Table covered with a blue floral tablecloth with a navy burlap runner down the center. The table is topped with glass jars filled with candy and trays of cookies. Sunflowers decorate the table.

Since my girls are attending different colleges, and they each have unique tastes and style, I chose to use their high school’s colors for their party.

Which meant I was able to reuse some items that I used at their brother’s party!

That’s a great way to save money if you have more than one child.

AnnMarie was able to re-use a great burlap banner that she made for both her sons‘ graduation parties. And I’ll bet it’ll show up at her daughter’s party next year!

But even though I reused some items, it was important to me for their party to look different from their brother’s.

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Meaningful Party Decoration Ideas

Photo Displays

One of the highlights of my son’s graduation party was a photo banner display. It included 200 photos from kindergarten through his senior year.

At his party, my daughters both asked if I would make a similar display for their party, so of course I did!

Since I had photos of two students to display, I added an extra row of photos.

Woman hanging photographs on a photo banner display at a graduation party.

I shared all the instructions for how to make a photo banner like this yourself.

It’s an easy, affordable, and special way to show off all your graduate’s highlights over the last 13 years.

The hardest part?

Narrowing down the thousands of photos I had of them to just 250…

But the walk down memory lane was wonderful!

I was able to reuse the command hooks, ribbons, and mini clothespins that I used for their brother’s banner.

One of my favorite things about these photo banners is it’s easy to use the photos to create a special photo album using these photo sleeves as a sentimental gift after the party.

If you don’t have a large area to display a photo banner, AnnMarie shared how to make a smaller photo display that would be perfect for a graduation party!

Memorabilia Display and Gift Table

I set up a table in my family room to display the girls’ diplomas, graduation announcements, and a foam-core sign with space for guests to sign and leave well-wishes.

The table was also the perfect spot for guests to place gifts.

Table with a display of high school diplomas, foam board signs with pictures of the graduates, a centerpiece of sunflowers and the graduation announcements at a graduation party for twin sisters.

I put a patterned paper gift bag beside each girls’ easel for cards.

The blue and white tablecloth was a budget-friendly find at our local BJ’s Wholesale Club.

The package included three waterproof disposable tablecloths large enough to fit a 6-foot table.

The pattern coordinated perfectly with some of the patterned paper I used on the paper mache numbers I made!

I made a centerpiece display using an enamel bucket I already had.

Some faux sunflowers, Class of 2021 stickers from Vistaprint, and the girls’ graduation announcements completed the display.

Table with a display of high school diplomas, foam board signs with pictures of the graduate on a stand, a centerpiece of sunflowers and the graduation announcements.

The foam signs were super easy to make thanks to Vistaprint and you have an option to order easels to display them.

You can customize the signs by creating your own design or choose from one of thousands of designs they have online.

I designed these signs using Canva and added their school’s mascot and colors.

Be sure to set out permanent markers for guests to use to sign the boards!

Photo Centerpieces

Decorating with photos is a great way to keep things inexpensive and also meaningful.

I made centerpieces at my son’s party using large mason jars filled with crinkle paper and photos attached to candy sticks.

Everyone enjoyed looking at the photos, and the centerpieces were affordable and easy to make!

But I wanted my girls’ centerpieces to look unique.

I decided to still mount the photos on cardstock in their high school’s colors.

Instead of taping the photos to the white sticks, I hot glued mini clothespins to the sticks to hold them.

Here they are on their first day of kindergarten! Be still my heart!

I recycled 28 ounce cans to make the base.

The cans are painted with two coats of white chalk paint, and then wrapped with three layers of ribbon (white lace, yellow polka dot, navy fringe).

I stuffed the cans with a strip of dark blue burlap, then tucked in a few faux sunflower stems.

It was so easy to make these cute graduation party centerpieces with a feminine touch!

Another great idea for photos is to set up a fun selfie station like AnnMarie made for her daughter.

Graduation Candy Bar and Dessert Table

I set up a candy buffet and dessert table in the kitchen (since it’s hot here in North Carolina and I didn’t want the candy to melt!).

The table is covered with another one of the disposable table cloths, then I used a strip of navy blue burlap as a table runner.

I used the burlap at my son’s graduation party too, so this is a versatile and inexpensive option that you can reuse!

I loved the candy bar that AnnMarie created for her daughter’s sweet 16 party and she had done something similar for her sons when they graduated with cute candy tags.

Table covered with a blue floral tablecloth with a navy burlap runner down the center. The table is topped with glass jars filled with candy and trays of cookies. Sunflowers decorate the table. Tissue paper pompoms decorate the chandelier.

So I enlisted her help to make custom tags for all the sweet treats on this graduation candy buffet!

And I borrowed some of her glass containers to mix in with the ones I had.

We used fun sayings like “Reach for the Stars” on the Starburst, “Class Rings” on the Ring pops, and “Teacher’s Pet” on animal crackers, etc.

My girls each chose their favorite candy to serve (Mike & Ikes for Katy, M&Ms for Livy).

Close up of a table covered with a blue floral tablecloth with a navy burlap runner down the center. The table is topped with glass jars filled with candy and trays of cookies. Sunflowers decorate the table.

We gave the candy tags a feminine touch that coordinated with the party’s theme of sunflowers with the ribbon.

Because guests were dropping in for their party, I chose not to do a graduation cake.

Instead, I ordered decorated brownies from our grocery store and small cookies from our local Crumbl bakery.

If you’re looking for a delicious way to wow your guests, the cookies from Crumbl are amazing!

They come out with six new flavors every week and also offer a few standard catering options like chocolate chip.

I opted for the small cookies that are about 3-inches big. They’re the perfect size for a party!

Inexpensive Party Decorating Ideas

Decorating for a party is always fun, but I struggle with spending too much money on something that’s only for a day.

I chose to make a lot of the decorations for the party because I could make them for way less than buying them.

One of my favorite ideas for a party is tissue paper pompoms.

I bought two packages of colored tissue paper and used some white tissue paper I had on hand to make a bunch of big pompoms.

For less than $20, I was able to add lots of color both inside and out.

Close up of large paper pompoms hanging from a chandelier.

The tissue paper pompoms added some yellow and white to the candy buffet when I hung them on the chandelier.

Then I made clusters of all three colors (navy, gold, and white) to hang on the underside of each umbrella outside.

My girls’ high school started a new tradition in 2020 to hang vinyl banners on the fence at the school the month before graduation.

I ordered my banners from Vistaprint and then brought them home after graduation to display at their party.

Large black umbrella shades a table on a deck decorated with large paper pompoms. The table has a centerpiece with sunflowers and photos of the graduates.

Each table at the party had one of my homemade centerpieces.

Next, it was time to make a statement!

You’re gonna love these pretty graduation party ideas!

I dressed up the gazebo with sheer curtain panels I usually have hanging in my photography studio.

Costco gazebo on a paver patio decorated for a graduation party with curtains on the posts, paper pennant banners around the border and chairs set up underneath.

Each post has two curtain panels attached with zip ties at the top, then tied with tulle ribbon in the school’s colors halfway down.

I made simple paper pennant banners using patterned scrapbook paper and ribbon to hang around the perimeter of the gazebo.

I love how it turned out!

More Pretty Graduation Party Decorations

Sets of these decorated paper mache numbers were arranged in several places both inside and outside at the party.

You can pick up inexpensive flowers from your local grocery store to make small bouquets to add a pretty touch.

We enjoyed the fresh flowers for more than a week after the party!

I used 32 oz. mason jars as a vase.

Paper mache numbers decorated with patterned scrapbook paper, paint and ribbon display the graduation year on a table in front of a vase of sunflowers

Here’s another view of the scrapbook paper pennant banner looking towards the deck with the paper pompoms.

These small, inexpensive items really made a statement, don’t you think?

Costco gazebo on a paver patio decorated for a graduation party with curtains on the posts, paper pennant banners around the border. View looks out to a backyard pool and a deck with black umbrellas decorated with large tissue paper pom poms

We set up yard games like corn hole, Bulls Eye Buckets, and washers in the back yard for guests to play.

Since it can get pretty hot here, we also set up a pop-up canopy with a table and more seating.

A few more tissue paper pompoms, another patterned table cloth and burlap runner, and two more homemade centerpieces made the canopy party-ready.

Popup canopy in a grassy back yard surrounded by trees with a table and chairs set up underneath. The table has a blue and white floral table cloth and a navy blue burlap runner down the center.

I tried to use photos that included some of the guests on the centerpieces.

Everyone loved taking a walk around and finding all the different photos!

Easy Food Ideas for a Graduation Party

Any time I entertain, I love using individual bags of chips.

They’re more sanitary and they won’t go stale sitting out in a bowl!

A large tiered tray is a great way to serve the chip bags.

Woman holding a large three tiered stand filled with individual bags of chips on a deck shaded by large black umbrellas at a graduation party

I recommend keeping the other food very simple.

This is a great time to order pizza, or set out trays of cold cuts.

For my son’s party we ordered pulled pork barbecue with all the sides from a local restaurant.

This time, we served a make your own taco/taco salad bar.

If your celebration will last into the evening hours, be sure to add lights to your outdoor spaces!

We keep these larger bulbs strung all year long in the gazebo.

For the party, we hung these smaller string lights under the large umbrella and the pop-up canopy.

Don’t the lights make the space look magical?

Nighttime view of a back yard pool with pool light on and large umbrella with lights underneath and pergola lit up for a graduation party

It’s so easy to create pretty graduation party decorations on a budget.

Do you have any favorite budget-friendly ways you like to decorate for a party?

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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