What NOT To Do At Your Graduation Party: 12 Mistakes To Avoid

For a flawless celebration, understanding what NOT to do at your graduation party is crucial. This quick guide highlights the top mistakes to avoid if you want a fun and hassle-free grad party.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Learn more: Affiliate Disclaimer.

Planning the perfect graduation party can be a bit of a puzzle, especially when it comes to knowing what NOT to do.

So today we’re diving into what you shouldn’t do at your graduation party.

By avoiding these common graduation party mistakes, you’ll ensure that your celebration is memorable and stress-free.

From scheduling your party and sending invitations to deciding what foods to serve, we’ve compiled the most crucial mistakes to avoid when planning your graduation celebration.

Image Source

What Not To Do At Your Graduation Party

1. Don’t Plan It For The Same Day As Your Ceremony

One of the worst mistakes you can make is scheduling your party for the same day as your graduation ceremony.

Most people make plans with family after the ceremony, so not many of your fellow graduates will be able to attend a party on the same day.

A joyful graduate in a blue cap and gown facepalms with a smile, showcasing a large silver ring, with their diploma in hand during a graduation ceremony on a grassy field.
Image Source

If you want your classmates to attend your graduation party, I recommend scheduling it for the weekend before or the weekend after your ceremony.

The only exception to this rule is if you have a lot of out-of-town guests coming in for the ceremony. Out of respect for their travel schedules, it’s a good idea to have your party on the same day (or at least the same weekend).

2. Don’t Spend A Ton On Seating

An outdoor evening event setup with string lights hanging between trees above white folding chairs arranged around tables with striped tablecloths.

Fancy seating arrangements might look great, but definitely come at a price. And honestly, most people will be standing or walking around during the party anyways.

If your party is indoors, consider just setting up a folding card table or two in addition to your dining room setup.

You can borrow or rent some affordable folding chairs if you don’t have enough seating in your house.

If the party is outdoors, I recommend placing some bistro tables around the lawn so that people have a place to put their food while they’re eating.

3. Don’t Let Your Guests Get Bored

Graduation parties can get a little bit boring, especially if your guests don’t know each other well.

Plan some fun activities or games to keep the energy levels up. You don’t need anything extravagant; simple yard games, a good playlist, or even a DIY photo booth can do the trick.

a colorful bag toss game on a grassy lawn
Two happy graduates posing in front of a graduation party photo wall made of wooden pallets

Keeping your guests engaged will ensure that they remember your party for all the right reasons.

Not sure how to keep your guests entertained during your party? Check out our guide to the best graduation party games.

4. Be Careful With Finger Food

While finger foods are convenient, they’re definitely not the most sanitary option for a big graduation party.

If you are serving dishes that tend to be more of “finger food”, make sure you set out plenty of serving utensils.

Invest in sets of serving spoons and tongs so that your guests aren’t digging into the food with their hands.

A buffet table at a party laden with various dishes including croissants, cheese and crackers, sandwiches, fruit platters, vegetable sticks, dips, and a large platter of fried chicken tenders, with seasoning shakers at the front.
Image Source

You can see in this picture that there is a serious lack of serving utensils. This will cause guests to grab food with their (potentially dirty) hands.

I would recommend adding some small tongs for the veggies, chips, sandwiches, and fruit. I would also add a few more spoons for the various dips on the table.

Here are some cheap serving utensil options:

5. Don’t Wait Too Long To Send Out Invitations

Timing is key when sending out invitations for a graduation party.

Graduation season is BUSY, and it’s very likely that you’ll be competing with family vacations, holiday plans, and other graduation parties.

Wait too long, and you risk guests already having plans.

Aim to send out your invitations at least one month in advance. Or even earlier if you’re inviting people that have to travel to attend the party.

Here are some pretty options for graduation party invitations from Amazon:

Want to save paper? Digital invites are a great way to save money and keep track of your guest list.

Evite has lots of options for free digital grad party invitations that look really good.

6. Don’t Forget To Take Lots Of Pictures

Four women in festive attire laugh and embrace in front of a rustic wooden pallet backdrop decorated with pink tassels and balloons spelling 'yay' to celebrate a graduation event.
Image Source

Whether you’re graduating from high school or college, this may be the last time you see some of your guests for awhile.

Make sure you take as many pictures as possible with the important people in your life!

Whether it’s candid shots, group photos, or selfies, make sure to capture these memories.

Consider setting up a designated photo area or even assigning a friend or family member to take photos throughout the day.

Not sure how to set up a graduation party photo booth? We have a whole guide for that on our blog!

7. Don’t Forget To Tell Your Guests What’s Next

Your guests are there to celebrate you and your achievements. But they also want to know what you’re going to be up to now that you’re done with high school or college.

Make sure you let your guests know what you’re doing next!

If you’re graduating from high school, let your guests know where you’ll be attending college. You can do this by decorating in your future school’s colors.

Two young women stand smiling against a lush greenery wall with the words 'bama bound' displayed above, flanked by a cascading arrangement of red, white, and black balloons.
Image Source

For college graduates, it’ll probably be a little difficult to work your future plans into your decor.

But if you already have a job lined up, you could include that information in your invitations or put a sign up somewhere during your party.

This will save you the hassle of having to answer that question from each individual party guest.

8. Don’t Skip The Card Table

Your guests will probably bring cards and gifts for the graduate, so make sure you have a designated spot for them.

A smiling young woman stands behind a graduation party welcome table featuring a photo frame, a 'Cards & Gifts' sign, and an open photo album, with banquet tables set in the background.
Image Source

Not only is this more convenient for guests, but it also ensures that no gifts get lost in the chaos of the party.

A simple table or box can serve as the perfect spot for your guests to leave their well-wishes and gifts.

[RELATED: 90 Ways To Congratulate A Graduate (Quotes & Messages)]

9. Don’t Leave Your Card Box Unattended

A graduation memory table adorned with a 'cards' banner, a plush toy, framed photographs, a pink bucket with pens, rubber duckies wearing graduation caps, and a 'Class of 2022 graduation' autograph book.
Image Source

While we all want to trust our guests, it’s still smart to keep an eye on your card box.

After all, people tend to put pretty significant amounts of cash or checks in graduation cards!

Place your card box in a secure, yet accessible location and consider asking a trusted family member to keep an eye on it.

P.S. attending a grad party soon? Here’s exactly how much money you should give for a college graduation gift.

10. Don’t Buy Too Much Food

It’s easy to overestimate how much food you’ll need, which can lead to wasted food and money.

Plan your menu carefully, considering the number of guests and the type of food you’re serving.

Also keep in mind that many of your guests will be attending multiple parties in one day. They likely won’t be eating a ton at every party they go to.

It’s better to have just enough with a little extra, rather than tons of leftovers that might go to waste.

11. Don’t Forget To Put Out Trash Cans

As someone who has attended a lot of grad parties, I know how awkward it can be to have to ask around for a garbage can to throw your plate out.

If you’re hosting a party, make it easy for your guests to pick up after themselves by having enough trash cans around.

Place them in strategic locations, so your guests can easily dispose of their waste.

A designated waste area at an outdoor event with labeled bins for 'TRASH' and 'RECYCLE', and coolers for 'Water' and 'Soda', set on a grassy lawn.
Image Source: In My Own Style

I like how this party host labeled the bins as “trash” and “recycling”.

This not only keeps your space neat, but also makes the cleanup process much easier for you afterwards.

12. Don’t Forget To Send Thank You Cards

Finally, don’t forget to show your appreciation for your guests’ presence and gifts by sending thank you cards.

Your guests took time out of their busy schedules to celebrate your achievements, so make sure you let them know how much you appreciate it.

Here are some cute options for thank you cards that you can send out after the party:

Have a friend or family member keep track of all of the gifts you received and who they were from so that you can easily personalize your thank you messages.

Hopefully this post gave you a better understanding of what not to do at your graduation party if you want your celebration to be a success.

Need more graduation party planning tips? We have you covered!

Check out some of our most popular graduation party planning articles:

Similar Posts