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Graduation - Your Guide to Party Success

Your child’s graduation, whether from elementary school, junior high, or high school, is a big deal and should be celebrated! It is the completion and advancement of your child’s education and celebrating this important milestone encourages your child to continue learning throughout their life.

Although my graduations seem like a lifetime ago, I distinctly remember everything about them, even what I wore, in some cases. It is an undeniable sense of achievement as a child to know that they did it! They studied hard and passed their tests, and now they get to move on to the next challenge. It’s pretty much a metaphor for life: If you work hard, you move onward and upward! So, marking these milestones with memorable celebrations make them even more powerful!

The most important thing to do before you start to plan any graduation celebration for your child is to ask them how they would like to mark the occasion. Simple, yet this first step could save you a ton of work, frustration, and disappointment. Can you imagine going all out, setting up a huge party with the family and then your teenager says to you, “See ya! I’m going to hang out with my friends.” (This scenario may have already played out for their birthdays.)

I’m sure there will be a variety of answers when you ask your child what kind of party they’d like to have for their graduation - everything from “nothing” to “a huge party with all of my friends.” No matter what their answer, I have a few suggestions for all possible outcomes.

Outdoor celebrations

Let’s start with a big party. Since it will be summer (and hopefully we will experience good weather throughout the summer months), you have more options for venues! For example, there are some amazing City of Calgary parks fully equipped with picnic tables, fire pit, BBQ, a pavilion/shelter or power, and lots of free parking to accommodate a big graduation party. Make it a potluck picnic where extended family and friends each bring a dish or if you want to host the party, you can be the grill master and grill up patties and dogs for your bunch. Keep everyone busy (and off their phones) with a nature scavenger hunt, a great game of horseshoes and/or Frisbee, or even play nostalgic games and host potato sack races. For more information and to book a City of Calgary picnic site, visit

Or, you could pair down the invite list and host a party in your own backyard! With fewer people, you can spend a little more time on fun details like graduation-themed food, a photo booth, and a signature photo wall.

Eats and creativity

Graduation food ideas could include diploma cookies or crepes or anything edible that you can roll up and tie ribbons around. A grad cap bowl could be easily made using a black bowl with a piece of square black paper underneath the bowl or reverse it with a black bowl turned upside down with a black plate on top of the bowl to make the perfect graduation serving platter. You can even add a tassel for true authenticity.

For high school grads, you could create a ‘bar’ for the food, such as a salad bar, a baked potato bar, a taco bar, or an ice cream sundae bar. 

Likely for any tween or teen, photos are going to be the most important part of their party as they will want to share it all on social media! Creating a simple photo booth out of poster board and paint will give them a backdrop that is Instagram-worthy. Black paper and white paint used to write “Grad 2019!” is all you need. If you want to take it to the next level, you can always create your own Snapchat filter to mark the occasion. They are inexpensive and can really personalize the event. If you search Snapchat templates, you will find a variety to choose from or create your own through Canva.

If you want to keep everyone busy at the party, have a photo booth prop-making station. Supply sticks, card stock paper, paints and markers, and let them create their own fun sayings. You know, the ones parents have no idea what they mean and are likely not in any store, like ‘Graduation is GOAT!’ ‘This party is lit, I’m hundo P!’ Translation: ‘Graduation is the greatest of all time! This party is amazing, I’m 100 percent certain of it.’

Another great party activity for any age group is to make a graduation video. Get all of the party attendees to do one of the trending dance moves together like the ‘floss’ or maybe they can all recite a school saying, sports cheer, or sing one of their favorite songs. It could even be a video yearbook with each person getting a minute to talk about their after-graduation aspirations! It would make an awesome keepsake for all of the party guests that I’m sure all would find interesting to look back on years from now.

A fun and interactive activity that will have everyone laughing is to create your own superlatives wall. Get a picture of each person attending the party or easier yet, take a polaroid of them as they arrive. Stick the pictures to the wall, which can be made out of paper or an adhesive chalk decal, and then let the party guests decide who is ‘Most likely to succeed’ or better yet, get them to make up their own. I think it would be way more fun to be named ‘Most likely to be more famous than Kanye West’ or ‘Best use of excuses for being late to class.’ 

Party alternatives

If a graduation party is your child’s worst nightmare, there are a variety of activities that could be turned into a grad celebration like going on a nature hike, bowling, laser tag, swimming, painting pottery, attending a sporting event, a movie out, going to an amusement park, or hosting a video game tournament. If these ideas are even too much for your grad, then marking the occasion can be as simple as making their favorite meal at home or taking them for a night out on the town to their favorite restaurant or giving them a meaningful gift. For example, if your teen wants to travel abroad after high school graduation, their own luggage set would be a great gift or maybe it’s giving them a meaningful piece of jewelry or a watch with a personal inscription. It really doesn’t matter what you do for their graduation, as long as you do something. Showing and telling your child how proud you are of them will be the memory they carry with them forever.

Happy graduation to all!

Tanya is the Head Curator at Menagerie Parties & Cakes, handcrafting boutique party experiences through custom décor, engaging activities, and show-stopping sweets for people living full, productive lives wanting to celebrate life to its fullest. It’s a Party in a Box! For more information, visit and follow her on Facebook and Instagram @menagerieyyc


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