The beginning of the summer is prime time for graduation parties! As a parent, you may not have yet dealt with the ins and outs of graduation etiquette, especially if your first-born is the grad. You may feel overwhelmed with planning your own party and invitations to other graduation celebrations, but don’t fret! Here are some tips for you to be the perfect host—or the perfect guest.


For the Perfect Host

The Invites

The Ceremony
It is usually not necessary to send formal invitations for the ceremony, as most schools only allow a certain amount of guests to attend. Sit down with your graduate and plan out who will receive those coveted tickets, and have your graduate call each family member for a special invitation.

Be careful not to invite too many people, as many schools are strict about their numbers.

Be sure to give 4–6 weeks of notice for family members who must travel to attend, and consider including directions to the venue to avoid confusion on graduation day.

The Celebration
Everyone is planning a party for their special graduate, so be sure to set a date early and send out the invites 3–4 weeks in advance! Consider specifying the dress code to ensure that all of your guests are comfortable. You may also include directions to the venue.

Make your invitation stand out from the rest! Personalize your invites with a photo of your grad. Online services are often a good place to design and print your special announcement.

The Party

The Venue
Think about the type of party that you want to host. How many people are you expecting? How much are you looking to spend?

Do you want a more casual setting? If so, consider having your party in your backyard. See our Graduation Open House article for ideas! This option is cost efficient and adds memorable personal touches to your special celebration.

Too many guests for your backyard? Do some research on local restaurants and banquet halls. Don't worry, this does not have to be an incredibly expensive option. Consider hosting the party in the afternoon, and look into less expensive options that the venue has to offer, such as a cash bar or an abbreviated menu. Remember that it does not have to be a blowout; a simple celebration is all it takes!

Remember that there is no specific protocol for a perfect graduation venue. Everyone has a different idea of the right party for their graduate. This is a celebration for your child and their accomplishments, so ask for their input, too!

The Décor
Decorations are a great way to make your party your own! You can choose how much your party needs. Check your local party store for easy decorations like banners and balloons. You can never go wrong by deck your party out with school colors! 

Again, ask your graduate for their input, and plan the decorations together!

Food, Fun, and Favors
For a meal that all of your guests will enjoy, offer a range of options, . You can also serve some of your graduate's favorite foods! And don't forget plenty of dessert! 

Consider hiring a DJ or making your own party playlist. Create a slideshow of photos of your child to play throughout the party. Have your grad plan any party games or activities for their friends.

Don't forget favors! A simple idea is fill small paper bags with candy and a photo of your graduate.

The Gifts

It is a good idea to make a small list of graduation presents that your child might enjoy or need, so that you can be armed with an answer when a family member asks you for suggestions.

Keep in mind that it is assumed for guests to give gifts at the party, especially if you send out formal invitations. If you do not wish to receive gifts, be sure to include a simple “No gifts, please” or "Your presence is presents enough" on your invitations.

The Thank-Yous

It is very important that your guests feel appreciated. Remember that this is a busy time of year for everyone!

Have your graduate hand-write thank-you notes for each guest. Be sure to make each note personalized and thoughtful! Those special family members who went the extra mile may deserve a phone call from your child to show extra gratitude.


For the Perfect Guest —>


For the Perfect Guest

The Invites

The Ceremony
If you are attending a ceremony, be sure to plan ahead. Parking and finding seating is often difficult, especially at a larger school. Attempt to arrive at least 45 minutes early to the venue. If the ceremony is outdoors, be prepared for the weather. And don't forget to bring tissues!

Remember that each student is only allowed a certain amount of tickets, so don't be disheartened if you cannot attend the ceremony. You'll have plenty of time to congratulate the graduate at the party!

The Celebration
Be sure to RSVP quickly, the sooner the host knows how many people they have to plan for, the easier it will be for them!

Make sure to plan ahead. There are only so many summer weekends for graduation parties, so make sure that you don't commit to too many celebrations!

The Party

If the party is in the backyard, offer to bring something such as a dish (or ice)—whatever the host needs!

Check the invite for a dress code, and any other information that might be helpful.

Keep in mind that it is perfectly acceptable to "party hop." Everyone understands that they're battling some stiff party competition! Expect to be invited to more than one party on any given day. Plan when you'll attend each party, and remember to spend a sufficient amount of time at each celebration, especially with the graduate! Let the host know when you plan on being at their party so they can plan accordingly.

The Gifts

Gifting grads is not as hard as you think!

A photo collage is a great personalized gift for any student. Try to capture your favorite memories together, and it will become a treasured decoration.

High school graduates will always appreciate swag from their future alma mater. Most colleges have online stores stocked with a wide variety of gifts. Plan ahead to be sure that the items are shipped in time for the party! Dorm essentials will soon be at the front of every freshman's mind, so make a basket of the small must-haves. A shower caddy makes a great gift basket!

Every graduate is different and unique. Take a minute to think about their interests and future endevours, and think of a gift that is specific to them!

If you're absolutely stumped, all students appreciate a cash gift! (They will be broke college students one day, either in September or in ten years!)