Dear Parents, You Don’t Have to Throw an Over-The-Top Grad Party

Check out these budget-friendly graduation party ideas your grad AND guests will love!

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Dear Parents, You Don’t Have to Throw an Over-the-Top Grad Party

Spring has sprung and graduation vibes are popping up ALL over social media.

It’s an exciting season for grads and their parents, but it can also be a bit stressful – especially for parents who plan to throw their grad a graduation party.

If you’re a busy parent feeling stressed about not having the time, money, or energy to pull off an extravagant, Instagram-worthy party for your graduate, fear not. 

Check out these great budget-friendly grad party-planning tips to help you save money and time, and avoid stressing out.

Dear Parents, You Don’t Have to Throw an Over-the-Top Grad Party


Before you start planning or doing any legwork, talk to your teen about what kind of party they’d like – if any! Sometimes, kids feel pressured (just like we do!) to have a grad party, but not all grads want an elaborate party and some don’t care about having a party at all. (Some would rather use the money to travel or put toward a car, for example.)

10 Tips to Throw a Fabulous Graduation Party on a Budget

1. Establish a Budget and Stick with It

According to one study, the average grad party for 60 guests costs about $1,100 (give or take). Obviously, you can squeeze by for much less or go all out and spend thousands. With a little creativity and internet searching (Hello, Pinterest!), you can find tons of inspiration and party hacks to help you stretch your budget. Also, be sure to track your expenses along the way. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype of planning and overspend!

2. Choose a Budget-Friendly Venue

Hosting the party at your home or in your backyard can save a lot of money on venue rental fees. If space is limited in your home or yard, consider joining forces with a friend or relative who has a larger backyard or find a community space like a park, neighborhood clubhouse, or even at the pool or beach.

Image Courtesy of Pinterest

Check out this post for more Outdoor Grad Party Ideas!

3. Host a Joint Grad Party

One of the best ways to save money on your grad party is to team up with other graduates and host a joint grad party. Be sure to divvy up the responsibility and costs upfront with other parents so there aren’t any surprises. Also, make sure you know how many people each grad is going to invite so you choose a large enough venue to accommodate guests.

Image Courtesy of Pinterest

4. Choose Simple Decorations

You don’t need elaborate decorations to create a festive atmosphere. Balloons, streamers, and banners are all fairly inexpensive and can make a big presentation. (Be sure to check out your local Dollar Store.)

Also, you can repurpose items you already own or borrow decorations (like string lights) from friends or family. Hit thrift stores for old suitcases or vases for creating a memory or advice-giving display. Scour your area for plants and wildflowers for table décor and/or centerpieces. Make a fun photo display or a display of your graduate’s trophies, high school sports uniform, and cap and gown.

Check out this post for festive Graduation Centerpiece Ideas!

Image Courtesy: Catch My Party

5. Play It Smart With Food

If you schedule your grad party during typical meal times (i.e. during normal lunch or dinner hours), guests will expect to be fed. Instead, host a simple mid-morning brunch on a Saturday with specialty coffees, bagels, and various toppings, a drop-in from 1-4 pm, or even a late evening 7-10 pm party. For food, think simple but with a fun presentation – Popcorn Bar, Donut Display, Cookie Bar, or Desserts-Only Bar. If you want to step things up, consider a Taco Bar, Nachos Bar, or Pasta Bar… all of which aren’t too crazy expensive. 

Remember,  guests are likely going to multiple grad parties on the same day so serving smaller portions makes a lot of sense. Most people have so many leftovers after a party – don’t overdo it!

Image Courtesy: Hostess with the Mostess

6. Keep Alcoholic Beverages to a Minimum OR Skip Them All-Together

While most party-goers would agree that it’s nice to have a little sip of something bubbly at a grad party, it’s certainly not necessary and truth be told, alcohol can really rack up the cost of a party. To keep the budget in check, consider serving JUST beer and wine or perhaps offering one or two specialty fruity alcoholic drinks or Sangria in pretty drink dispensers. No one is going to fault you for skipping the alcohol… water bottles, soda, lemonade, or iced tea are fine!

Image Courtesy: HomeDecorFull

7. Add Fun and Inexpensive Entertainment for Guests

Set up a few lawn games, board games, or a DIY photo booth with props to keep guests entertained. And, don’t forget the music to keep the vibe of the party lively and fun! (Let your teen choose the music!)


8. Look for Deals on Party Supplies

Look for sales, discounts, and bulk deals when purchasing party supplies like disposable tableware, napkins, and utensils. Shop at discount stores or dollar stores for affordable options and check online re-sale groups and webpages in your local community. Borrow as many things as you can like tents, beverage tubs, extra folding tables and chairs, and serving containers and utensils. You can often find used and discarded wooden pallets for free that can be used for all kinds of party displays. 


9. Go With DIY Invitations and Party Favors

Create your own invitations using online templates or design software, or just send electronic invitations via email or social media to save on printing and postage costs. It’s also easy to make personalized favors using inexpensive materials like candy, candles, homemade treats, or a Polaroid pic of the graduate with each guest. Or feel free to skip party favors! Need tips on creating your own DIY grad party invitation? Check out this guide on Canva. 

Basic Namesake 5x7 none Announcement (Front)Image Courtesy of Shutterfly

9. Take Advantage of FREE Printables

To really cut costs, take advantage of all the FREE graduation printables that are available. From signs and cupcake toppers to “How Well Do You Know the Graduate” game printables and party planning checklists, FREE printables are a great way to pull off a great grad party without spending a fortune!

Download Our FREE Graduation Printables HERE! (TONS of Fun Designs!)


Remember… the purpose of your graduation party is to celebrate all of your grad’s achievements and to allow them and all their friends time to have fun together before they go their separate ways.

Your teen isn’t going to remember all the food details or how blinged out your tables were – they will remember laughing with friends, big hugs from relatives, and the warm and proud feelings of being celebrated. Truly, the most important thing is to enjoy a graduation celebration with family, friends, and loved ones and to create lasting memories that you and your teen will cherish forever.

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If you enjoyed reading, “Dear Parents, You Don’t Have to Throw an Over-The-Top Grad Party,” check out these other posts!

28 Fun Graduation Party Finger Food Ideas

101 BEST Graduation Quotes to Inspire Your Grad

50 Best Graduation Songs That Bring Out All the Feels

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