Backyard Graduation Party Ideas: Food, Decorations, & Favors

Backyard Graduation Party Ideas: Food, Decorations, & Favors

Wow! It seems like so recently, I cradled my baby girl in my arms and now her high school graduation is approaching! As a parent, there are a lot feelings that accompany this monumental event, one of which is pride. She has put in a lot of hard work and now she is choosing which engineering college she will attend. It is still a few months away but I like to plan ahead. I also want to provide all of you with great backyard graduation party inspiration that you can use too! That is why I am so excited to have an incredible party planning professional to share some of her top graduation party ideas today!

Wondering how you are going to pull off the upcoming big event? Don’t worry. I have graduation party tips from expert, Renee Patrone Rhinehart. She is the founder of Party Host Helpers, a national resource that provides extra hands and expertise for any size gathering. “Partying” is Renee’s job 365 days a year! She has so many creative DIY party ideas that are fast and budget-friendly.

Graduation Party Ideas
Renee Rhinehart sharing her best graduation party ideas on FOX29 “Good Day Philadephia”.

The Best Graduation Party Ideas

Are you looking for ideas and tips so you can figure out how to plan a graduation party? You are in the right place! Let’s walk through it from invitations to decorations to graduation party menu ideas, we have you covered. You will love the college and high school graduation party ideas in this blog post. If you prefer video format, many of the ideas are included in Renee Rhinehart’s video segment below:

Where To Have A Graduation Party

First you have to decide where to have your graduation party. I am a huge fan of the backyard graduation party. Not only is this a big money saver on the location fee, it is also a cozy, more personal event space. In addition, a garden party means less hauling and planning. Everything you need is right there! As an added bonus, you have access to your own kitchen and/or backyard grill which can also help save you money.

However, if you have limited space in your home, you can find a local location to host your grad party. Suggestions for popular graduation party venues include local parks (you may be able to reserve an outdoor pavilion), restaurants, country clubs, or a rentable party venue. If you are going to have a party outside of the home, be sure to call around to reserve a space as early as possible.

Graduation Party Invitations

For your graduation party invites, you can go old school on paper or you can go electronic with emailed invitations. Paper graduation party invitations have the benefit of being nice keepsakes for the graduate, family members, and friends. Emailed guest list invitations have the advantageous of being easy and free. A couple of great resources to check out are Greetings Island and Evite.

Graduation Party Food Ideas

Now for the graduation party menu ideas! While you can go with almost any food, it makes sense to go with what you have easy access to or go the extra step for some cute, graduation party themed food. I will include both types of ideas for graduation party food below. Here are party planner, Renee Patrone Rhinehart’s, suggestions for an epic graduation party menu.

Individualize – Serve your guest of honor’s favorites! Favorite cocktail (if the college graduate is old enough to drink!), favorite snack, favorite dessert. After all, it’s a great way to make them feel important on their special day!

Self Serve Is A Great Option — I love a good buffet/station that’s easy! A walking taco bar, a burger and/or hot dog bar, a sandwich bar, even a nacho bar!

Dessert – We LOVE serving diploma cookies – SO easy. Grab a canister of pirouettes and put a ribbon in the color of your school around it – they look just like diplomas! Perfect on the dessert table or the coffee bar.

Diploma Cookies

Candy Bar With Flare: For grad parties I love to really celebrate the high school graduates with some fun play on words! Try a candy bar with vases, mason jars, or buckets and fun individual signs. The sweet treat options are endless. For ideas check pinterest! This candy buffet can also double as favor bar if you put out clear cellophane bags and some ribbons.

  • Ring Pops – “Class Rings”
  • Mini Cookies – “One Smart Cookie”
  • KitKat – “Study Breaks”
  • Smarties – “Arent Your A Smartie!”
  • Gummy Worms – “Book Worms”
  • Tootsie Rolls – “Honor Rolls”
  • Nerds – “Cool Nerds”
  • Dum Dums – “You’re No Dum Dum!” or “So Long Suckers”
  • Hershey’s Kisses – “Goodbye Kisses”
  • Swedish Fish – “oFISHally Graduating”
  • Starburst – “Reach For The Stars”
Graduation Party Food Ideas

Graduation Party Decorations

Renee Patrone Rhinehart also shared her expert graduation party decoration ideas.

Keep the colors consistent – Decide if you are going to choose high school colors or college colors and run with the school spirit color scheme! Or you can always stick with classic metallic gold and silver! Make sure the graduation party theme color shines through in the graduation banners, some of the food you serve, party favors, table centerpieces, etc. 

backyard graduation party

Champagne graduation cap toppers! The perfect accessory for the first toast after your college student receives their diploma. Construction paper, curling ribbon (or craft graduation tassels), and tape work well for these DIY graduation caps. These drink accessories are so festive! Cheers!

Photo Booth- Set up a photo booth area with a cute backdrop with the graduation year and balloon arch. It is an easy way to capture fond memories of close friends and family. Don’t forget to get a picture of the grad too!

graduation party decorations

A Memory Jar– In lieu of a guest book, put out a large jar with index cards and have party guests answer a question like such as, “What is your favorite memory with the grad?” Later, add the memories to a scrapbook as a keepsake for the guest of honor!

Graduation Party Favors

Here are a couple of fun ideas for Party Favors with a graduation theme. 

Make a cookie tray or place a few cookies in a cellophane bag and tie shut with ribbons. Add labels that say, “Smart Cookie”.

graduation party favors- smart cookie favor

Make the adorable Ferrero Rocher grad favors from the video above. Take a gold Ferrero Rocher and add a little cap and a tassel. Super easy with construction paper squares, glue, and some ribbon for the tassel. Such a crowd pleaser on the dessert table or a favor to go! 

What To Do At A Graduation Party

Enjoy. The most important thing is to relax and enjoy yourself. You and your graduate have earned this so enjoy the special occasion! Eat. Drink. Be Merry. If you want you can play some yard games or some graduation party games, but they are totally optional.

Take A Load Off. —  When hosting a party, it can sometimes be really difficult to enjoy it yourself! But hosts deserve to have fun too rather than stress. To the rescue are the seasoned professionals from Party Host Helpers. Whether you need someone to serve food and snacks, help you set up or clean up or a professional bartender, a helper can  really let the host take a load off and give them the space to enjoy the party they’ve thrown!


I hope you enjoyed these fun backyard graduation party ideas. I would love to see how your grad party turns out! Share with us on social media @familyfocusblog!

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