11 Graduation Party Etiquette

Graduation Party Etiquette
When planning a graduation party, your guest list determines the size of the event. You can hold the event in your backyard or rent a venue. If invited to a grad party, don't forget to bring a gift and wear appropriate attire.

1. Who’s In?

When choosing who to invite, consider what kind of party you want. Are you looking for something low-key or a larger affair? Your guest list will depend on your venue size and budget.

When sending graduation party invitations, include all the essential details, such as the date, time, location, and dress code. Send the invitations a few weeks in advance to give your guests enough time to plan.

After receiving RSVPs, 

  • If someone declines the invitation, thank them for their response.
  • If someone has not responded by the deadline, contact them to see if they plan to attend. 
  • Follow up with any guests who have confirmed their attendance to remind them of the party details.

2. Time It Right

Graduation parties are held after the graduation ceremony or during the graduation season. Specific timing can vary depending on individual circumstances and preferences

The duration of a party can vary depending on the type of party you plan to host. You may host an open house-style party, where guests can come and go throughout the day. This type of party can last 3-4 hours.

If you host an evening party with dinner and dancing, it should last 4-6 hours. You can also opt for a weekend getaway, where guests stay overnight or for the weekend.

3. Picking The Perfect Location

Hosting a graduation event at home can be convenient and cost-effective. You can transform your backyard or living space into a celebration area by decorating with balloons, streamers, and other party props.

Tips for hosting a party at home:

  • Create a checklist of everything you need for the party, including food, drinks, decorations, and seating arrangements. 
  • Enlist the help of friends and family to set up decorations, serve food, and clean up after the party.
  • Make sure you have enough food and drinks to keep your guests satisfied. You can hire a caterer or order party trays to make the process easier.

If you want a hassle-free party, hold it in a restaurant or an event venue. This option may require more planning and budget, but it will save you from the stress of setting up, catering, and cleaning up.

Hosting a party at a public park or beach is a fun and affordable option. You can reserve a picnic area or rent a pavilion to set up tables and chairs. Guests can enjoy the scenery while socializing and snacking on food and drinks.

4. What To Wear

Dress appropriately to show your respect for the graduate and the event. Check with the host or the invitation to see if a dress code is specified. 

Graduation events are semi-formal or smart casual, so you can wear a nice dress or a pair of dress pants with a blouse or a button-down shirt. Avoid wearing anything too casual or too formal.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothing that allow you to move and sit comfortably. Try not to upstage the graduate by wearing something too flashy or attention-grabbing.

5. Food And Drinks

graduation party food
Graduation party food stall

The right food and drink options can make the occasion even more memorable. 

  • Finger foods: Mini sandwiches, cheese and crackers, vegetable trays, and fruit platters are popular. 
  • BBQ: Grilling burgers, hot dogs, and chicken are classic options, and adding sides like corn on the cob, potato salad, and baked beans can round out the menu.
  • Desserts: You can serve cupcakes, cake pops, or a dessert bar with treats like brownies, cookies, and candy.
  • Non-alcoholic drinks: Provide plenty of non-alcoholic drink options such as soda, iced tea, lemonade, and water.

Having alcohol at the party depends on the individual situation and preference. If the party is strictly for people over the legal drinking age, alcohol may be appropriate. If the party is open to guests of all ages, including minors, avoid serving alcohol.

If you wish to hold a potluck party, communicate the potluck’s theme and what kind of dishes are needed. Create a sign-up sheet or assign dishes to ensure a balanced menu.

Ensure enough seating and table space for everyone to enjoy food and refreshments. Label the dishes to help guests identify what they are eating. 

6. Gifting Etiquette

woman handing out a graduation gift
Woman handing out a graduation gift

Never show up empty-handed. Bringing a graduation gift is customary to congratulate the graduate on their achievement. You can choose something practical, sentimental, or just plain fun.

When giving a gift, make sure to present it nicely. You can wrap it in gift wrapping paper or place it in a gift bag. It’s also nice to include a card with a thoughtful message. 

If you receive a gift, send a thank-you note to the gift-giver. This shows your appreciation and gratitude for their thoughtfulness.

Creative gift ideas for graduates:

  • Personalized Graduation Jewelry: You can engrave a piece of jewelry with the graduate’s name or graduation date.
  • Customized Graduation Cap: If the graduate plans to wear a cap at their ceremony, you can help them personalize it with their own design.
  • Professional Development Resources: Consider giving the graduate a subscription to a professional development website or a course to help them further their career.

7. Setting The Theme

Balloons are a classic decoration for any party. Use balloons in the colors of the graduate’s school or in a mix of bright colors to add a festive touch. You can hang banners with congratulatory messages around the party venue. 

Use photo displays to showcase the graduate’s journey through school. This can include photos of the graduate as a baby, through their school years, and finally, on their graduation day.

Keep the decorations appropriate and tasteful with these tips:

  • Avoid anything that could be considered offensive or inappropriate. This includes decorations with political or religious messages.
  • Stick to the theme of the party. 
  • Use colors that are appropriate for the occasion. For example, if it’s a high school graduation party, use the colors of the graduate’s school.

8. Fun And Games

Hire a DJ or create a playlist of upbeat songs to get everyone dancing. You could also set up a karaoke machine for extra fun. Set up a photo booth with props and decorations to encourage guests to take fun and memorable pictures.

Plan some games guests can play, such as cornhole, giant Jenga, or a scavenger hunt. Offer a variety of food and drinks to keep guests satisfied throughout the party.

Tips for keeping guests entertained:

  • Have enough entertainment options and activities to keep guests engaged throughout the party.
  • Have a schedule or timeline for the party so that guests know what to expect and when.
  • Encourage your guests to participate in activities and games to keep them engaged and having fun.

9. Speeches and Toasts

A graduation ceremony can be long, and people may not have the patience to sit through a lengthy speech or toast. Keep your remarks brief and to the point.

Personal stories or experiences can be a great way to connect with your audience and make your speech or toast more memorable. Share stories relevant to the occasion that will resonate with your audience. 

Tips for keeping speeches and toasts appropriate:

  • Graduation ceremonies are family-friendly, so keep your language and content appropriate for all ages.
  • Don’t discuss sensitive or divisive topics that could cause offense or discomfort to some audience members. 
  • Ensure your speech or toast is inclusive and acknowledges the contributions of all individuals.

10. Capturing The Memories

There are several ways of capturing memories at a high school or college graduation party. You can go with the traditional route of hiring a professional photographer who clicks high-quality images and capture moments that you may miss. 

A photo booth is another option that has become popular at events and parties. It provides a fun and interactive way to capture memories and allows guests to take home their printed copies of the photos. 

Another good option for outdoor parties is a drone photographer. This can provide unique and stunning aerial shots that showcase the venue and party guests from a different perspective. 

Tips for capturing memories:

  • Take photos in natural light, or bring additional lighting equipment if the venue has poor lighting.
  • Take photos from above, below, and at different angles to add variety to your photos.
  • Take photos of people not looking directly at the camera or capture a moment of laughter or joy between friends.

11. Wrapping Up

Before the party, plan how you will clean up afterward. Assign tasks to family members or friends to help with the clean-up process.

During the party, encourage guests to dispose of their trash and used plates and utensils in designated bins. Clean up spills and messes as soon as they occur to prevent stains or damage.

Etiquette tips for thanking guests and showing appreciation after the party:

  • After the party, send personalized thank you notes to each guest, thanking them for attending and for any gifts or contributions they may have brought. 
  • Consider posting a thank you message on social media, tagging your guests and thanking them for their support and attendance.
  • If you have the time and resources, host a small gathering after the party to thank your guests in person and continue the celebration.

What is the Etiquette For Asking Someone to a Graduation Party?

It’s proper etiquette to give people plenty of notice before the party, especially if you invite people with busy schedules.

Be polite and respectful when inviting someone to your party. Give the person all the relevant details about the party, including the date, time, location, and dress code. If someone hasn’t responded to your invitation, send a polite follow-up message to see if they can attend.


Tabitha is a curious and enthusiastic writer who believes in the power of words and the importance of good manners. Etiquette is her passion, and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with others. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, and spending time with her family.

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