The A+ Graduation Party Checklist (+ Free Printable)

12 mins read
The A+ Graduation Party Checklist (+ Free Printable)
February 16, 2024
12 mins read

Ah, it’s here, the graduation! Whether it’s for high school or college, it’s a big milestone worth celebrating. A graduation party provides a great chance to look back on the hard work and accomplishments of the closing chapter and congratulate the graduate on their achievement. It’s also time to thank people in the graduate’s life for the support they have received throughout the years. You want the guest of honor to feel celebrated and the guests welcomed.

With all that in mind, planning a graduation party may seem like a big task. But with a few simple steps and a little organization, your graduation party will be one for the books. Our ultimate graduation party checklist can help you keep everything organized and on track, and the printable version will help you make sure you haven’t forgotten about anything.

So what steps do you need to take to throw the best graduation party? Scroll down to find out!

3~4 Months Ahead

🎓 Set Up a Budget

We’re starting with the least fun, but most essential part of party planning. Knowing how much you can spend on the party will let you plan accordingly and make decisions regarding the number of guests, food, decorations, and party favors.

When setting up a budget, don’t forget to set aside a small section for ”unexpected expenses” so that if something unforeseen comes up, you won’t overspend.

🎓 Make a Guest List

Now that you know how much money you can spend, it’s time to make a guest list. Since the party is all about the graduate, ask them first who they’d like to invite. Then add to the list all the people that helped them throughout their learning years. It could be anyone from friends, teachers, and trainers to members of your family and community.

celebrating graduation
Make sure to consult the guest list with the grad!

🎓 Decide On the Type of Party

When it comes to graduation parties, there are two main types:

  • A classic party, lasting 2 to 3 hours, where every guest comes at a set time, sits down for the meal, and spends the rest of the time together, playing, mingling, and catching up with the graduate.
  • An open-house party. The idea behind it is that people come and go freely, between the set time. The open house party usually lasts around 4 to 5 hours and provides more of a free-flow atmosphere. More people can attend it, as it’s easier to schedule a 30-minute drop-in rather than a full party. The downside to an open-house party is you may have more people show up than you expected, so you have to prepare for that.

🎓 Pick the Date

The graduation party doesn’t have to happen on the exact weekend of the graduation, as this will already be a busy and exciting weekend. But it’s also best not to postpone the party for too long. The popular dates usually fall on any weekend during May and June, so pick a date within those two months.

🎓 Pick the Location

Think about where you want the party to happen. A grad party can be thrown at a restaurant, an outdoor venue, or even in your backyard.

Organizing the party in a backyard gives you full control of all the elements of the party and doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. But it also means you have to prepare all the details, clean up before and after the event, take care of the guests, and control the logistics.

Throwing a party in a rented venue takes a lot of the preparation and cleanup off your shoulders. You can focus on celebrating with the guest of honor and making the day even more special for them. And renting the venue doesn’t have to break the bank! There are plenty of affordable restaurants and outdoor venues where you can organize the party. For example, you can rent a venue with a BYO policy which allows you to bring the food and drinks on your own. It’s the perfect solution to cut down on rental costs.

an outdoor rooftop venue venue surrounded by at dusk filled people enjoying a party
A colorful venue can be a great highlight for a graduation party. Courtyard at Heights House Hotel, Houston, TX

🎓 Pick the Theme

The main theme is, of course, graduation, but you can make the party even more personal and fun by choosing a specific theme. Is the guest of honor a football player? Make the party football-centered. Is he or she a bookworm? Then make it a literary-inspired party! The theme should be something that your grad will really enjoy and appreciate, and which will make the party even more exciting for them. It will also help you later choose the decorations, menu, or even the venue.

If you need some inspiration to choose a theme, our list of 170 party themes will surely come in handy!

🎓 Send the Invites

Once you have your date, time, and location, you can start sending out invitations for your party. Remember to include an RSVP so you know how many people to expect. 

Sending invitations 3 months in advance may seem like a stretch, but since your guests might be attending many similar parties, it’s important they make time for yours as well. If you’re not ready to send the invites yet, you can send ‘save-the-date’ notes or at least set up a Facebook event to make your guests aware of your plans.

🎓 Secure the Rent-outs

If there’s anything you’re planning to rent or anything else for the party, like catering or a photographer, this is the time to do it. This could include:

  • Tents/chairs/tables – if you’re planning the party in your backyard
  • Catering – either for the backyard party or the BYO venue
  • Photographer or photo booth – if you want to capture the special occasion professionally
  • Entertainment – to make your party special, you can hire a DJ, a band, a magician, or a caricaturist.
graduation photo shoot
Graduation photos make for a great keepsake, so make sure to take plenty of them at the party!

1 Month Ahead

At this point, you should already know how many people are planning to attend the party, you can check the weather for the party day and make more precise plans. This time will be busy for you, so keep that in mind when planning. A month before the party, you should:

🎓 Decide on the Menu

Start planning the menu. Hors-d’oeuvres should be easy to prepare ahead of time and easy to be eaten by hand. You can also opt for a BBQ, which is a perfect party idea for a warm spring/summer day. Think about the graduation cake as well. You can decide to make your own or order one to be delivered.

Websites such as YouTube or Pinterest have many ideas and inspirations that can help you decide what (and how) to add to your party menu.

🎓 Shop for Decorations

Now it’s time to start gathering decorations for your party. For a backyard party, look for balloons, themed decor, and a photo background. If you’re planning to have some flower arrangements, you can place your order now. 

If you’re organizing the party in a rented venue, make sure to confirm with the venue manager what kind of decorations you can set up there before making any purchases.

graduation party decoration
One thing is a must: a big congratulations sign to let your graduate know that you’re proud of them!

🎓 Gather Memorabilia

Whether you’re organizing a party in your backyard or in a venue, the graduation party can’t go without photos and videos of the graduate. Start gathering photos of the main party person and all other things that can show their journey to graduation. Gather all the photos from competitions, medals, diplomas, etc. If you have time and skills to do so, you can set up a video or presentation to be played in the background.

🎓 Prepare Party Favors and/or Thank You Cards

If you’re planning to give party favors to your guests to take home, it’s time to start shopping for them. You can also send out thank you cards after the event, which you can prepare ahead of time.

🎓 Plan the Activities

A graduation party is not just about food, drinks, and music, it’s also about having fun! To make the party more enjoyable and memorable, plan some activities that will keep the guests entertained throughout the event. If you’re having a graduation party outdoors, then it’s best to have some indoor games and activities ready in case it rains.

a venue filled with arcade games
If you rent a venue for the party, search for one that provides fun activities, like Barcadia in Dallas, TX.

🎓 Ask for Help

If you’re having a large party and have a lot of things to take care of, don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends and family friends and ask for help. They will be able to assist with food preparation, set up tables and chairs, prepare drinks, etc. Asking them ahead of time will give them time to prepare and plan accordingly.

🎓 Draw up an Agenda

Roughly write out the agenda for the party. Noting down ahead of time how you would like the party to unroll will give you an idea of what else you need to prepare and if you’ve forgotten anything.

1~2 Days Ahead

The graduation party is around the corner! In those last days, you can:

🎓 Set up the Party Space

Clean up the place of the party. If possible, set up the table and chairs. Start decorating and setting up the photos and other memorabilia of the graduate. If you do it all ahead of time and notice you’re missing something, you will still have time for some last-minute shopping.

colorful venue
A venue with funky decor won’t need very much decorating. Wandering Barman, New York, NY

🎓 Start the Food Prep

If possible, get the food ready ahead of time. You can start by preparing all the ingredients that need to be cooked, marinate and/or season them. You can also already pop the drinks in the cooler.

🎓 Get Ready for Guests Calls

Or just send a message to your friends and family to remind them of the upcoming party. This might result in some last-minute cancellations, so doing this will let you know what number of guests to prepare for.

Day of the Party 🎉

The Big Day is here! If you’ve been prepping ahead of time, there’s only a short list to remember here:

  • Pick up the cake
  • Pick up the flowers
  • Welcome the guests in
  • … and enjoy!

It’s Not The End, It’s The Beginning

Graduation is a big milestone in the life of a person, so it’s worth celebrating in style. The graduation party is a chance to reflect on all the accomplishments the grad achieved and congratulate them on their hard work, so it’s important to carefully plan the affair. We hope our graduation party checklist will come in handy with your party planning and will help you have the best graduation party! Check out the printable version we’ve prepared for you. Keep it at hand so you don’t forget any details!

Happy celebrating!

graduation party checklist 1
Click on the image to save it to your files!

Looking for a graduation party venue?

Here at Tagvenue, we have all the venues perfect for the grad party: from colorful pubs to elegant restaurants. Are you looking for something outdoor? You will find it here as well! Browse venues and find the perfect one for you!


How to plan a graduation party?

When planning a graduation party, set up a budget and theme ahead of all planning as it will help you decide on all elements of the party. Remember to decide on the date and location of the party. Prepare the list of guests and invite them once you have those details planned. Then, decide on the menu. You can either choose to have a sit-down dinner or serve finger foods. Prepare a list of what you need for the decorations, entertainment, and party favors. Lastly, remember to consult each step with the grad, as it’s a party for them, after all!

What to expect at a graduation party?

A graduation party is a festive occasion that typically includes food, decorations, and entertainment. Graduation parties often include decorations that reflect the graduate’s school colors or theme. Another popular option is to have a graduation video or slideshow showcasing the graduate’s academic journey. For entertainment, you can usually hire a DJ or a live band to play music, set up a photo booth with props for guests to take pictures, or incorporate games and activities such as cornhole or giant Jenga. Graduation parties are also an opportunity for guests to give the grad gifts to celebrate their achievements.

How to throw a graduation party on a budget?

The first step to throwing a low-cost graduation party is to set up a budget. Having a clear budget in mind can help you make informed decisions and avoid overspending. One way to save money on a graduation party is to host it at home. You can also look for a venue offering a BYO policy, as this option allows you to bring your own food and drink and only pay for using the space. You can also organize a potluck-style party and ask your guests to bring something. Consider making your own decorations instead of buying them. You can create personalized banners, photo backdrops, and centerpieces using materials such as construction paper, markers, and string. You can also design your own invitations using free programs such as Canva. Consider creating a playlist of the graduate’s favorite songs or using a streaming service to play music instead of hiring a DJ or a live band.

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The A+ Graduation Party Checklist (+ Free Printable)