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Simple Graduation Party Ideas: How to Celebrate Your Graduate

We’re excited to share our simple and inexpensive graduation party ideas. These easy ideas will help you celebrate your favorite graduate in style without breaking the bank. 

When my son graduated from high school in 2018, we knew we would be having a party!

He’s the oldest grandchild on both sides of our family.

With all our families coming to visit, we needed to do something special to celebrate together.

I also knew I wanted to keep things simple so we could enjoy this moment.

But simple can still be meaningful!

Here are a few of my favorite simple graduation party ideas.

Son in graduation gown with stole and cords standing with his mom

I was able to use a lot of these ideas, plus some new ones when my twins graduated in 2021.

Between AnnMarie and I, we’ve had five (soon to be six) high school graduates, and have shared lots of simple and budget-friendly ideas from their parties.

Like this burlap banner.

These simple graduation year numbers.

This easy selfie station would be great at a graduation party.

These feminine photo centerpieces.

A fun way to display those school K-12 school photos.

This meaningful and personalized graduation book that brought tears to lots of eyes.

And these sentimental graduation gift ideas.

Here’s how I kept things simple at my son’s graduation party.

Get Help with the Food

I kept the food simple. After all, who wants to spend the days while the family is in town cooking and doing dishes?

Kitchen island with trays of food, bucket of chip bags, and bowl of cut watermelon

We ordered pulled pork barbecue and coleslaw from our favorite local spot.

Note: when the guy from the restaurant says to order half a pound per person, don’t listen. We had so much left over! Thank goodness it froze well!

I enlisted AnnMarie to help and she brought potato salad and cut watermelon plus an appetizer.

She’s amazing like that.

Bagged green salad made another easy side.

Metal tub filled with individual bags of chips and container of cut watermelon wedges

Skip buying big bags of chips that’ll go bad soon after they’re opened. Especially if you live in the south.

Hello, humidity!

The little individual bags of chips are perfect! You get variety, and they stay fresh all day.

Plus no germy hands reaching into a big bowl…

Glass drink dispensers with chalkboard labels for a party

Jugs of tea and bottles of lemonade look fancy when you put them in cute dispensers.

I found some fun striped paper straws that matched my son’s high school colors at our local party store.

Pick some special touches

Wood tray holding boxes of Cracker Jack, tub of Big League Chew, and bags of sunflower seeds

My son began playing tee-ball when he was 4-years-old.

Travel baseball began at age 12.

He played his last game a few weeks before graduation.

So I knew I needed to honor this part of his life!

In the spirit of keeping things simple, I ordered some favorite dugout snacks from Amazon.

Grouping them together on a tray made them look like an old-timey concession stand.

Set up some memorabilia

There are lots of ways to celebrate your graduate’s accomplishments over their years of school.

I opted for a simple set-up to display some of his trophies, awards, and artwork.

Table holding memorabilia with artwork displayed behind for a graduation party

The favorite item of the party?

The list of things he wanted to do when he grew up, recorded when he was 4.

Doesn’t everyone want to be a paper-picker-upper astronaut doctor golfer painter?

Try adding about 30 more job titles to that and you’ll get the idea!

That kid was ambitious.

Or indecisive.

You be the judge.

Four rows of photos hanging from ribbon between family room and kitchen for graduation party

I also displayed lots of photos from throughout his years in school.

These photo banners were the biggest attention-grabber of the party.

Every guest spent time looking at all these fun memories!

The photo banner is so easy to make and after the party I put all the photos into an album as a keepsake.

Scrapbook with pages that hold photos from a photo banner to give as a gift

More food…

I put finger foods and desserts on a separate table.

Our party began at lunchtime, just after the graduation ceremony.

I knew my son’s friends and their families would just be dropping in.

Having some light snack options gave people a chance to have a bite to eat even if they didn’t want a full meal.

Party food display with a photo banner hanging behind for a graduation party

Those are fresh pork rinds in the baskets in the front.

The barbecue place makes them and they are so good!

Simple graduation party decorations

Tiered stand with decorated brownies and a label with Class of 2018 tied on top

AnnMarie used to have an Etsy shop and she made awesome paper crafts for parties.

I enlisted her services to make some custom tags that I used in a variety of ways.

The little toothpick pennants were a fun touch on the store-bought frosted brownies.

And I used one of the larger oval tags on top of the tiered tray.

Two easy graduation party centerpieces made from mason jars and photos on sticks

Colored burlap is an inexpensive table runner option.

It dresses up the disposable paper tablecloths on the outside tables.

Each table got a simple mason jar centerpiece featuring another one of AnnMarie’s tags, some ribbon and crinkle paper, and some more photos attached to cake pop sticks.

Resources

I’ve put together a list for you to easily find all the items I used at my son’s graduation party. This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read our full disclosure policy.

Other graduation party ideas

Over the course of last May and June, we attended a lot of graduation parties!

There were so many wonderful ideas.

One of my favorite parties was just after the boys’ Baccalaureate service.

Photo of a large friend group of high school guys in their graduation gowns

All fifteen of his crew were there.

We made sure we got them all together for a picture in their gowns.

Since they went to two different high schools, we knew we wouldn’t get this special photo on graduation day.

The host got a cake decorated with another photo of all the boys from earlier that year.

Sheet cake with a photo of friends printed on it and tiny flags with college initials for each person at a graduation party

She made simple flags with each of the boys’ future colleges!

I thought that was such a fun extra touch.

I hope these graduation party ideas help you plan a special celebration for your graduate too! I’d love to hear about how you made your party memorable.

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

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Pinterest graphic with collage of photos with graduation party ideas