Graduation party checklist: students holding their diplomas

It’s grad season! After all their hard work, your graduate is ready to reap the rewards — and that means it’s time for a celebration. Whether you’re planning an over-the-top bash or a laid-back gathering, there’s a lot on your to-do list. 

With this detailed graduation party checklist, you’ll find essential tasks and preparations to ensure success at every step of the planning process.

Graduation Party Checklist: How to Plan a Graduation Party

Graduation party checklist: friends eating outdoors while a man serenades them

Study this graduation party checklist to pull together the perfect event to honor the special grad’s achievements. We’ve broken it down into a handy timeline so you know what needs to get checked off your to-do list. For even more tips, check out our guide for planning a graduation party.

3-4 Months Before

Graduation party checklist: Era Invitation

Design: taylorVdesign

Invitation Inspiration: Era Invitation

Whether it’s a high school graduation party or a college graduation party, here’s what to focus on 3-4 months before the event.

  • Create a budget: A few months before the party, determine how much you want to spend on the celebration. Factor in expenses like decorations, party food, stationery, and the cost of any vendors.
  • Make the guest list: Create a list of friends, family, and colleagues you want to invite. Ask the graduate to give you a list of people they definitely want on the guest list. Keep your budget in mind as you create the guest list and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Choose a party theme: If you like, choose a theme for your grad party. The theme can be based on the school’s colors or things the guest of honor enjoys — like a sport or a subject they plan on studying. You can also choose a classic party theme like a summer BBQ, ice cream party, or luau.
  • Decide on a venue, time, and date: Typically, the celebration takes place at home right after the graduation ceremony, but feel free to choose a different day if that makes more sense. Decide together when and where to host the event based on your schedules and preferences.
  • Start talking to vendors: Graduation is a popular time for party planners and other vendors. Several months before the big day, start talking to entertainers like DJs and live bands as well as caterers, linen rentals, and professional photographers. You’ll have a better chance of ensuring they’re available for the time and date of your celebration.

One Month Before

Graduation party checklist: Metallic Tassel Invitation

Design: Stacey Meacham Design, LLC

Invitation Inspiration: Metallic Tassel Invitation

Graduation day is quickly approaching. As much as you’ve checked items off your to-do list, there’s more to be done. Consider these important graduation party checklist items when it’s one month before the big day.

  • Send out invitations: Now’s the time to let guests know about the special event! Send graduation party invitations to everyone on your guest list about a month before the event. For out-of-town guests, give 6-8 weeks’ notice so they have time to make travel arrangements. Be sure to include RSVP details so you can easily keep track of who can attend.
  • Make final vendor reservations: Reconnect with your vendors and make payments or final arrangements to ensure their services are ready for your event.
  • Get decorations and serving supplies: Start stocking up on party supplies like graduation banners and signage as well as tablecloths, napkins, and servingware. Get graduation party decorations like school-themed memorabilia, backdrops, and a photo booth. Be sure to get plenty of caps, tassels, and gold stars to decorate the event space.

Two Weeks Before

Painterly Border Invitation

Design: Stellax Creative

Invitation Inspiration: Painterly Border Invitation

You’re two weeks away from celebrating your graduate and their years of hard work. Focus your energy on getting the following tasks out of the way, so you’re set up for success.

  • Create a playlist: Whether you’re hiring a DJ or going the DIY route, start compiling a list of songs to play at the party. Ask the graduate to give you a list of their top tunes or poll their friends to ensure the music hits the right note.
  • Make a slideshow: Honor your grad in a special way by putting together a slideshow featuring photos of them throughout the years. It’ll also make a fun digital keepsake for years to come.
  • Prepare party favors: Start putting together gift bags for the guests to take home. Match the party favors to your theme or go for custom candles, chocolate bars, or goodie bags with the graduation year printed on them.

One Week Before

Iconic Grad Invitation

Design: Owl and Toad

Invitation Inspiration: Iconic Grad Invitation

You’re almost at the finish line, but there are a few things left to do. Don’t let these important tasks on your graduation party planning checklist fall by the wayside.

  • Prep food that can be made ahead of time: If you’re not hiring a caterer, get a jump on your graduation day tasks by making some of the food beforehand. Pop these items into the fridge or freezer until the big day.
  • Check the weather and make adjustments: Keep an eye on the forecast and put together a backup plan in case rain, wind, or snow threatens to put a damper on the event.
  • Make a final list of last-minute items: Consider any items you still need to buy and write them down in one easy-to-read list. Then plan to spend a day or two gathering these last-minute supplies.

A Day or Two Before

Simple Script Invitation

Design: Shari Margolin Design

Invitation Inspiration: Simple Script Invitation

It’s almost time! But before the big event, you still have a day or two to prepare everything. Here’s what you should be checking off your to-do list the day or two before the grad party.

  • Clean the venue: If you’re hosting a backyard graduation party or at a friend or family member’s house, do a deep cleaning to prep the space for the event.
  • Set up the venue: Set out tables, chairs, and other gathering spaces unless a professional company is handling this for you.
  • Test and charge electronics: If you plan on doing a slideshow or playing music, set up and test all the equipment to make sure everything is working. If it’s not, you have some time to troubleshoot and buy any extra gear you may need.
  • Start hanging decorations: To save time on the day of the event, start setting out decorations like streamers, confetti, and centerpieces. Be mindful of items that may need to be fresh (flowers, for example) and ask the venue how early you can access the space if you’re renting out a room.

Day of the Graduation Party

Scalloped Waves Invitation

Design: Lisa Travis

Invitation Inspiration: Scalloped Waves Invitation

The big day has arrived! While everything is coming together, here are a few things that still need to get done on the day of the party.

  • Food prep: Finish preparing any food that you plan on serving and start plating all of the items. Use coolers and ovens or warming bags to keep foods at the right temperature until guests arrive.
  • Label food and beverages: Create festive labels for all food and beverage items. Bonus points for adding decorative elements like tassels and miniature caps!
  • Create a space for graduation gifts: Set up a table where guests can leave graduation cards and gifts. You can also set out a guest book for people to fill out as they arrive — it makes for a special keepsake for your grad as they take on the next adventure.
  • Set up party games: Ask a friend or family member to help you set up any backyard games or graduation party games
  • Finish decorations: Inflate your balloons (or pick them up from the party supply store), set out floral decor, and put the finishing touches on any decorations that you couldn’t do ahead of time.
  • Get ready to party: Prepare to greet guests as they arrive and don’t forget to enjoy the festivities — you’ve earned it!

Enjoy the Perfect Graduation Party

With this graduation party checklist, you’ll plan a fantastic celebration honoring your grad’s hard work and accomplishments. From four months in advance to the day of the event, this checklist ensures you’re organized every step of the way.

When you’re ready to let guests know about the special celebration, browse our collection of graduation invitations. You’ll find designs for every grad party theme, whether it’s a formal affair or a casual gathering. Customize the designs by changing color schemes, uploading photos of the grad, or adding elements like a wax seal.

Need more graduation party ideas? Continue browsing our Stationers blog to find ideas on party themes, decoration ideas, and party games. You’ll also find etiquette tips and wording ideas when you need to write graduation cards or craft invites.