Graduation party ideas for highschool and college, boys and girls. Tips and DIY for food, snacks, decorations, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget.

10 Things NOT To Do At Your Graduation Party

Dish it to your friends!

This post was last updated February 25, 2022.

Congratulations! You made it through school and now it’s time to party, but after working so hard the last thing you want to do is more work for your Graduation celebration.

While we’re sure you’re swimming in ideas of what to do for your Grad party how about what not to do at your Graduation Party?

From food, to pictures, to decorations, here are some crucial dos and don’ts that we’ve seen stand in the way of having an absolutely perfect party.

Here’s How To Make Your Graduation Party Special For ANY Budget!

We’ll also give you tips used by pros and ideas on the universal elements of every memorable Graduation party that’ll make the planning process fun and easy…and of course we added some of the best Graduation Party ideas for joint parties and twins!

Be sure to PIN THIS and check back as we keep adding new ideas we remember all of the time.

1. Don’t Hire a Professional Photographer

Easy DIY Graduation party decorations and picture ideas. Gorgeous and fun photo backdrop.
PINTEREST.COM

One of the benefits of everyone having cell phones is you no longer need to hire a professional photographer, just include an email address or create a social media hashtag so guests can send you all of their pictures from the party. 

Encourage guests to take pics by easily making a gorgeous DIY photo backdrop (or photobooth like the one above) and remind them to include your special hashtag or email. 

You can buy a Photo backdrop frame like the one used above from amazon click here, borrow it from your school or a friend, or make it yourself for around $23 using this Youtube video.

Make a Hash Tag Instagram sign Graduation Party
GET THE FREE PRINT OUT HERE

Print out a sign and frame it in a regular photo frame to notify guests of your party hashtag for Instagram or Facebook, or let them know what email address to send their pictures to. You can also write it on chalk board or poster board next to the photo booth!

Friends tv show photo party backdrop Graduation Party idea. Easy DIY Graduation Party Decoration Ideas.
SOURCE

Even if you’re on a budget you can make the trendiest and most gorgeous photo backdrops yourself for DIRT CHEAP.

Worst Graduation Party Ideas Easy Dollar Store Photo Backdrop
PHOTO CREDIT TUTORIAL

We made some super easy yet amazing photo booths and back drops for parties using only a cheap dollar store plastic tablecloth taped to an outside wall with decorations attached to the top.

Graduation party ideas for highschool and college, boys and girls. Tips and DIY for food, snacks, decorations, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget.

The total cost was under $5. You can also mix in metallic dollar store tablecloths too.

You can even use an inside wall or door, and fabric, and fake flowers or balloons for the top.

Friends tv show photo party backdrop Graduation Party idea. Easy DIY Graduation Party Decoration Ideas.
SOURCE

Use an outdoor fence, poster board or chalk board, contact paper sign, and lights or balloons to create any design you want.

Graduation Party Garage Photo

GRADUATION PARTY GARAGE DECOR TUTORIAL

Use your garage door for a photo backdrop. Balloon garland as seen above is affordable yet looks expensive and is pretty easy to assemble just purchase a kit here on amazon.

Graduation party ideas for highschool and college, boys and girls. Tips and DIY for food, snacks, decorations, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget.
SOURCE

Balloon garland looks like it costs hundreds of dollars when really it can be purchased for mere dollars and assembled in an hour or less. You can find a kit like the one above here on amazon.

Graduation Party Ideas for Photo Backdrop and decorations
PHOTO CREDIT

The above idea combines a display table of the Graduates accomplishments, their cap and gown, and a photo party backdrop. The gold starburst balloons are a top trend in Graduation Party decor you can use to accent balloon garland like in the photo above. You can hire the talented event company that designed this look or copy the look yourself using the items below. Custom fringe is available for purchase on etsy. Get the look below:

 

Cutest Graduation party ideas for high school and college, boys and girls. Tips and DIY decorations, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget. #Graduation #GraduationParty #GradParty
Pinterest.com

You can also make a simple photo backdrop (like the one above) using free wood Pallets. We found huge quantities of wood pallets for free outside of Trader Joes and on Craigslist.com in Los Angeles! If you can’t find free wood pallets on Craigslist you’re sure to find some at the following places:

  • Outside of a Construction Company office/warehouse (good for larger quantities)
  • Outside of Bars and craft beer locations
  • Outside of Pet food stores
  • Feed & Tack stores
  • Stationary shops
  • Furniture stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Schools
  • Flooring stores
  • Other small retail
  • Art and Craft store (Michael’s etc)

A friend works at the main office of a construction company that throws out dozens of good wood pallets almost daily.

  Copy the look:

Cutest Graduation party photo booth ideas for high school and college, boys and girls. Tips and DIY decorations, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget. #Graduation #GraduationParty #GradParty
SOURCE

 You can find the exact banner for the pallet wood photo back drop above on etsy by clicking here and fabric garland by clicking here !

Grad Party Picture Collage Wall Photo display idea. Easy DIY Graduation Party Decoration Ideas using Pictures for twins
Pinterest.com

Just add balloons, ivy garland, and tassels and you’ll have a trendy photo pallet wood backdrop for mere dollars.

This idea is especially great for joint and Twin Grad parties. Make two pallet panels like the photo above so each Graduate gets a wall that is joined with a string of both of their photos!

DIY Pallet Wood Photo Back drop photobooth for Graduation Party2020 DIY WOOD PHOTO BACK DROP SOURCE

Get creative and paint or stain pallet wood any color you want! You can find number balloons online or at the dollar store.

Easy Wood Door Photo Both for how to make your Graduation Party special

PHOTO CREDIT

Mom Brenda Kail in Oklahoma used old wood doors, and rachet straps nailed to the back to make this rustic indoor or outdoor Graduation party photo booth. Repurpose old items around the house or head to the thrift store for ideas!

Cutest Graduation party photo booth ideas for high school and college, boys and girls. Tips and DIY decorations, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget. #Graduation #GraduationParty #GradParty
Pinterest.com

A balloon wall is another top Graduation Party trend that’s pretty easy and affordable to DIY but looks impressive. Here is a great tutorial.

Easy DIY Graduation party decorations and picture ideas. Two cheap and easy methods for making a gorgeous photo backdrop or photo booth using dollar store streamers and balloons in black and gold.
SOURCE

Attach balloons to bushes or hedges like in the photo above, or a piece of cloth, wall, or pallet.

Easy DIY Black and Gold Graduation party photo backdrop booth
PHOTO CREDIT PINTEREST.COM

You can buy this GOLD FRINGE TINSEL on amazon for cheap and tape it to your wall or garage door along with the gold silver and black balloon garland.

Easy DIY Graduation party decorations and picture ideas. Two cheap and easy methods for making a gorgeous photo backdrop or photo booth using dollar store crepe paper or streamers.
SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2

If you’re on a shoe string budget you can make fancy and expensive looking photo booth party back drops out of dollar store streamers, masking tape or command hooks, and a wooden rod.

For an added effect, twist each streamer and adhere the bottom to the wall with masking tape.

Easy DIY Graduation party decorations and picture ideas. Cheap and easy method for making a gorgeous photo backdrop or photo booth using dollar store crepe paper, streamers, or ribbon for both outdoor and indoor.
Source

If you don’t have a wall or your party is outdoors you can get the same effect for mere dollars by tying streamers, crepe paper, ribbon, curtains, or even strips of fabric to a string.

Trendy Graduation Party idea for a Photo backdrop
PHOTO SOURCE

Tie the ends of the string between two trees or stakes and clip any additional banners or decorations to the top using clothespins.

Make the trendy carnation flower photo backdrop above yourself using real flowers or fake ones found on amazon and this great online tutorial

Don’t forget the photo props! 

Easy DIY Graduation Party Decor Photo props
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  This is a cheap and easy photo prop! Wrap some boxes in wrapping paper and decorate with cut outs. Use numbers, phrases, or names. 

2. Don’t Spend On Seating

Cheap Graduation Party Idea for Free Tables and Chairs
Photo Credit Top, Photo Credit Bottom

Borrow Tables and Chairs from your School – Go to your school, or your sister or brothers, and ask them if they have any tables or chairs they could loan you for your Grad Party! Our friends have been doing this for years for their Grad parties without any problems. Just be sure to ask for availability for your Grad Party date, ask what time you can pick them up, and have access to a pick up truck to transport them. You’ll also want to return them clean. Since you’re a tax paying citizen, and schools are paid for by taxpayer dollars, they may allow you to borrow their supplies. 

Outdoor Graduation Party Ideas for seating
PHOTO CREDIT TOP, PHOTO CREDIT BOTTOM

Utilize Pallet Wood For Extra Tables  and Seating – You can also mix up seating or add extra seating for free by using wood pallets for tables with blankets or pillows for seats (pictured above). This is a trendy boho idea that will be fun and picture worthy for young adults and kids but be sure to provide traditional tables and chairs for adults and seniors. 

As we mentioned earlier, we found hundreds of FREE wood pallets outside of Trader Joes and on Craigslist in Los Angeles, but if you can’t find them on Craigslist, you’re sure to find plenty of free ones by calling or visiting the following places:

  • Construction Company offices/warehouse
  • Bars and craft beer locations
  • Pet food stores
  • Feed & Tack stores
  • Stationary shops
  • Furniture stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Schools
  • Flooring stores
  • Other small retail
  • Arts And Crafts Store (Michael’s etc.)

A friend works at the main office of a construction company that throws out dozens of wood pallets almost daily.

Graduation Party Ideas for outdoor seating
PINTEREST.COM

 Repurpose Your Furniture- Pull out any extra sofas, chairs, coffee or end tables, and patio seating from your home to use for the party. 

Graduation Party Ideas Food Table
PINTEREST.COM

Try Second Hand/Thrift Stores – You can probably find dirt cheap tables and chairs at thrift or second hand stores. 

3. Don’t ONLY offer junk food and candy

Graduation Party Ideas for food emoji Shit Just Got Real Cupcakes
PHOTO CREDIT TOP
PHOTO CREDIT BOTTOM

It’s your Grad party so splurge a little but be sure to offer healthier options for your guests.

Best Foods to serve at your Graduation Party - Fruit Bar
FRUIT BAR PHOTO CREDIT
Worst and Best Graduation Party Ideas - Watermelon
PHOTO CREDIT PINTEREST

Put a fruit bar next to the candy bar, vegetable crudite next to the chips, and salad next to the hamburgers and hot dogs.

Fruit Pizza Graduation Party Food Ideas.
1001Gardens.Org

Watermelon Bowl fruit salad Graduation Party Food

Friends or relatives with heart problems or who are diabetic will appreciate the gesture.

Graduation Party Food Ideas.
PINTEREST.COM

Don’t forget an alternative to sugary sodas and sports drinks too!

Graduation party ideas for high school and college, boys and girls. Tips and DIY for outdoor and indoor food, snacks, decorations, bar, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget.
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4. Don’t make it easy for double dippers to double dip

Worst and Best Graduation Party Ideas
PHOTO TUTORIAL

There’s always that one child or tipsy adult who dips their chip directly into the bean dip after they already took a bite!

What To Serve at A Graduation Party Salsa
SALSA PHOTO CREDIT

Yes, we’ve actually seen this in action at parties and it’s mortifying. The chances of it are greater if little kids are coming and adults are drinking.

Graduation Party Food and decoration Ideas.
Alpha Prosperity Events

Keep germs at bay by putting dips, guacamole, and even salad in single serving plastic cups or glasses that guests can quickly grab instead of one big bowl or platter on the food table to prevent absent minded double dipping.

Worst Graduation Party Ideas - Individual Bean Dip
BEAN DIP RECIPE

You can even purchase cups and containers with lids for take out themed Grad Party food that’s germ proof.

Graduation Party Food Ideas.
AVERY GARDEN MAGAZINE

Individual cups are also a cheap way to give a polished and classy look to your grad party food spread, it’s also great for portion control.

Graduation Party Food Ideas.
Avery Garden Magazine

Usually with self serve batch food you get random spills and messy accidents on the tables, individual portions will keep your food table clean and eliminate the need for serving spoons.

Graduation Party Food Ideas.
CarrieDahlin

Don’t leave food items such as cookies open and stacked on platters that people have to grab with their hands.

Easy DIY Graduation party decorations and food ideas. How to throwing a safe outdoor grad party in 2020 for every budget
SOURCE

Cover them or store them in jars with tongs that people can use to grab items instead of using their hands.

Best Graduation Party Desserts
SWISS CAKE ROOL DIPLOMAS TUTORIAL, CUPCAKE GRADUATION CAP TUTORIAL, PEPPERIDGE FARM PIROUETTE GRADUATION COOKIE DIPLOMAS TUTORIAL

5. Don’t make your Grad party look like a memorial or shrine…you’re not dead you’re just beginning!

What NOT to do at your Graduation Party. From Pictures to Decorations, Graduation Party mistakes you could be making. Easy graduation party ideas for the best High school or College graduation party.
By Jamie Jepperson/Pinterest.com

Let’s have a moment of silence for the death of your adolescent school career. This is your grad party not your funeral!

Try to display pictures tastefully and select the ones that count, but don’t make your party look like you’re dead.

When over done, framed photos on a table with candles looks more like a memorial shrine than memories of school years past and all in all evoke a sad feeling of mourning rather than accomplishment!

Graduation Pictures display ideas for Graduation party. Easy Graduation party decoration ideas.
PINTEREST.COM

Make a designated picture display area to highlight not mourn the best memories of your school year.

Boys Photo Display Graduation Party Idea
PHOTO CREDIT

Add some color photos along with black and white, a pop of color to the display, or even some sparkling lights to give an inviting and happy feel. For more picture display ideas for your Grad party please visit our other post for a ton of the best ideas that fit any budget.

Glue photos to stock paper and sticks and insert into a Rustic Graduation Party centerpiece. Easy DIY Graduation Party Decoration Ideas using Pictures.

Don’t forget those eating tables! Photos placed as centerpieces on the tables where we were eating were ones we noticed the most.

Guests will appreciate having something to look at while they’re enjoying their meal or drink so don’t forget to put your best photos there! 

This is another super easy centerpiece idea for twins since you can stick two photos in each arrangement.

For The Best Ways To Decorate With Pictures At Your Grad Party Click Here.

6. Don’t do everything yourself

DIY customized Graduation party cupcake stand using flower pots from the dollar store. Decorations and food ideas for your Highschool or college graduation party.
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Not everything has to be customized, choose a few easy statement DIY pieces to personalize the party and utilize Amazon and the dollar store for the rest. It’ll be cheaper, less stressful, and save you a ton of time.

Graduation party ideas for high school and college, boys and girls. Tips and DIY for food, snacks, decorations, pictures, entertainment, and cap decorations on a budget.
SOURCE

Get a willing sibling or hire a teenager to help with things like taking out the garbage and refilling snacks when the party is in full swing so you can enjoy the celebration.

We’ve seen Grad party hosts so stressed out trying to keep up with cleaning up over flowing garbage, and refilling empty food trays that they couldn’t really enjoy the party or food until it was over.
 
We’ve also seen guests going hungry because the host was enjoying the party (as they should be) and didn’t keep up with replenishing the food table.
 
 

7. Don’t Spend A Ton Hiring Professional Entertainment – Utilize Many Talented Teens Or Graduates In The Graduating Class To Perform At Your Party Instead!

Whether it be dancing, singing, playing an instrument, or DJing, heck even performing magic tricks, some may do it for free or for a small fee! Don’t stop at graduates, ask cousins, neighbors, and siblings of friends.
 
Make a free playlist on Spotify of the Graduates favorite songs to play during the party and in between any live performances.

8. Not give guests an opportunity to give the Grad advice.

Graduation cap box for cards or advice, great graduation party decoration idea.

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This is too easy and valuable not to do.

Grab a pen and an empty pad or notebook, and give guests the opportunity to write down their best piece of advice for the new Grad.

Words Of Wisdom Graduation Party IdeaWORDS OF WISDOM GRADUATION PARTY PHOTO CREDIT

You can even set a jar, box, or bag by the pad.

Whether it’s on life, deciding their career path, or valuable tips for college, this is the perfect time to get some jewels of wisdom from friends and family who care and have been there.

9. Don’t forget the details

Restroom sign for Graduation Party Decoration Idea.
EmmaLineBride.com

Where to park, where’s the bathroom, do all of the lights and electricity work, do you have enough trash cans- all things you should not only figure out prior to the party but make signs for or let guests know about.

The larger your guest list is the more important this is! We’ve seen people forget to include this info to guests with overwhelming and disastrous results.

10. Don’t Have High Maintenance Food

Walking Taco Bar Easy Graduation Party Food

WALKING TACO PHOTO CREDIT

Unless the Queen of England is going to be in attendance save the super fancy gourmet food for your Wedding. 

One Smart Cookie Bar for Graduation Party

COOKIE BAR PHOTO CREDIT AND TUTORIAL

Dress up quick, easy, and delicious dishes that have mass appeal, but use few utensils.

Chocolate covered strawberries 3 tiered display Graduation Party Food

CHOCOLATE DIPPED STRAWBERRY PHOTO CREDIT

Remember it’s the presentation that is key.

Fruit Bar Graduation Party Food

FRUIT BAR PHOTO CREDIT

You want something that’s easy for guests to pick up and easy to throw out.

DIY Watermelon basket Graduation Party Fruit FoodWATERMELON BASKET TUTORIAL

Food guests can eat while standing up or sitting down.

Ring Pop Graduation Party Food Idea

CLASS RING POP PHOTO CREDIT

Candy puns are the best way to put a Graduation party food spin on normally ordinary candy.

Graduation Party Candy Buffet

GRADUATION PARTY CANDY BUFFET

Candy Puns make a great cheap Graduation candy buffet look expensive and witty.

Graduation Party Candy Bar Idea Acrylic Fillable Letters
PHOTO SOURCE

Fillable acrylic letters will make a show stopping candy bar for any gender. They may be available to rent for cheap at your local event rental company or you can purchase them here on alibaba or here on etsy.

fillable acrylic letters for Graduation Candy Bar
PHOTO SOURCE

You can use one acrylic letter, or two for initials, or your whole name, or a phrase like “Yay” or “Grad. They also have numbers available. Everyone will want to take a picture of this candy bar. It will definitely double as a photo backdrop!

Graduation Cap Ferrero Graduation Party Food Idea

FERRERO GRADUATION CAP IDEA

Any food can look fancy depending on how it’s displayed.

Syringe Medical or Nursing Graduation Party Food Idea

Syringe Medical / Nursing School Graduation Party Food Idea

Having a Medical or Nursing School Graduation party? Don’t forget those syringe jello shots!

Party Jar Drink Bar
SOURCE

Serve drinks/water in a mason jar with a lid, or buy prepackaged juice boxes, and canned or bottled soft drinks and water.

Party DRink Jugs
SOURCE

11. Don’t Have The Trendy Polaroid Guest Book IF…

Best Graduation Party Ideas for a Guest Book
PHOTO CREDIT:
POLAROID GUEST BOOK, JENGA GUEST BOOK, CANVAS GUEST BOOK

If you have a tight budget or are going to have a ton of guests, the polaroid guest book idea will cost you a small fortune.

We’ve seen this in action at many Grad parties and Weddings, guests will take multiple photos in an attempt to get a flattering picture.

Factor in the cost of film, the photo album, and pens, and you’re looking at a small fortune. Another issue is many of your older guests may forgo it all together. 

Instead have people snap a picture of themselves at the photo booth and either send you the pic via text/email or create a Grad Guest Book hashtag so guests can post their pic with the hashtag and a message to the Grad!

Have either a selfie stick or a cellphone holder handy at the photo booth for guests to use to get a good shot, and have a traditional (and cheaper) guest book available for guests to sign too!

Here are other versions of the guest book for every budget and theme:

  • Buy a dollar store Jenga set and instruct guests to write a note or memory to the Grad and sign their name
  • Buy an artists canvas and have guests sign it so the Grad can hang it on their wall
  • Signing the Grad’s School t shirt.
  • Buy a stuffed animal for guests to sign, you can buy a dog, unicorn, bear, or even a Lama to fit your fiesta or Taco theme
  • Buy a Globe for guests to sign and leave comments on that the Grad can have as a keepsake on their desk
  • When all else fails, just get a pretty note book and have guests write a message and sign it the old fashioned way.

13. Don’t Have An Open Card Box

Vintage Suitcase Card Box Idea for Graduation Party
VINTAGE SUITCASE CARD BOX IDEA PHOTO

Don’t use these trendy open card box ideas unless you know and trust everyone that is coming to your Graduation party.

People know that the greeting cards in your Card box are full of cash and can easily grab one and walk off with it!

Open Card Box Ideas for Graduation Party
TOP PHOTO CREDIT, BOTTOM PHOTO CREDIT

These open card box ideas were originally designed for small weddings where all of the guests in attendance were very close family and friends, NOT larger Graduation parties. 

Easy DIY Graduation Party Card Box
DIY DOLLAR STORE GRADUATION PARTY CARD BOX TUTORIAL

INSTEAD opt for closed card box ideas that someone can’t easily walk off with. Better yet, secure it to the table with tape or earthquake puddy. 

14. Above all, DON’T fret!

This is a celebration of an amazing milestone and the beginning of adulthood. Whether or not the decorations are perfect or everything goes as planned, the whole point is to take it all in and enjoy one of the most exciting times of your life with your family and friends.

If you want KILLER lashes for your Grad Party, CLICK HERE for our $5 HOLY GRAIL mascara that beats them all (even designer).

We hope this list helps you plan the Grad party you’ll never forget. Congrats Grad! The future is yours!

Love,

Don’t forget to pin for later!

Graduation party ideas for highschool and college, boys and girls. Tips and DIY for food, snacks, decorations, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget.

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11 Of The Best Picture Display Ideas For Your Grad Party

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Graduation party ideas for highschool and college, boys and girls. Tips and DIY for food, snacks, decorations, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget.

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Friends tv show themed photo party backdrop and picture display Graduation Party ideas. Easy DIY Graduation Party Decoration Ideas for any budget indoor and outdoor.

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Graduation party ideas for highschool, boys and girls. Tips and DIY for food, snacks, decorations, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget.

Graduation party ideas for highschool, boys and girls. Tips and DIY for food, snacks, decorations, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget.

Graduation party ideas for highschool, boys and girls. Tips and DIY for food, snacks, decorations, pictures, and cap decorations on a budget.

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Dish it to your friends!

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