What are your graduate’s favorite foods? Get them involved in this decision.

Keep it simple! Make it easy on yourself and serve five to seven different menu items. The most common mistake made at a graduation party is serving too much food. See our food formula for advice on quantities.

Keep hot food hot & cold food cold! As you plan your menu think about how you are going to set up your buffet table.

Chafing dishes are available for rent and make an excellent presentation. You may want to borrow one or two from a friend.

To keep cold food cold we recommend setting up an ice table. These may be available for rent at a rental company near you or create your own with a small kiddy pool or large tray.

Dare to be different! 

After going to too many graduation parties where the same food was being served you will understand. We encourage you to be imaginative! For example, if your graduate is a pizza freak, serve pizza.  It is an unusual open house item, and yet the number one most popular food among teenagers. Pizza ovens are a catering specialty.

If your graduate loves desserts, have a dessert party that starts at 7:00 p.m., and specify “dessert party” on your invitation so people know to eat dinner earlier. Desserts can be made ahead and require little serving time. The bakery is an easy way out. Or how about make your own sundaes and banana splits?

Brunch ideas: Hosting your party earlier in the day is a great idea if you don’t want to conflict with other grad parties. Purchase doughnuts, muffins, bagels with cream cheese, yogurt and fruit. Pancake griddles are a catering specialty and can be very fun. Serve juices and coffee.

Afternoon and evening menu ideas: This is the most popular time of day to host a grad party. If you have selected the Saturday after the graduation ceremony realize that people may be coming from other grad parties. They won’t be hungry, so don’t serve too much food. Keep it simple! There are so many choices.

Consider offering one unusual item that includes renting equipment from a local party rental store. We’ve seen cute old fashioned popcorn machines, slushy machines, hot dog grilling machines, nacho cheese dispensers with chip warmers, pretzel warmers, and ice cream carts.

Our friend rented a cotton candy machine and let the grads all make their own. It was a huge hit. Tip; Make sure you do this outside!

Here are some of our favorites:

  • BBQ sandwiches, ribs or chicken served with cole slaw, baked beans and a fruit salad. Tip from the professional caterer for the BBQ: If you want to use the grill, reduce your stress and precook your meat.
  • Italian pasta bar: The challenge is keeping the noodles and sauces warm, so you will need a lot of help in the kitchen. Use chafing dishes and offer one type of noodles and two types of sauces. Include a big Italian salad for a great combination. Provide shredded parmesan cheese for your guests to add themselves.
  • Mexican taco bar: Serve spicy ground beef in a crock pot, and put the cold items (lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa, olives, onions) in bowls on ice to keep them cool. Arrange the taco shells in a Mexican serving bowl or basket. Or make it a Taco in a bag!
  • Buy large bread shaped like the graduation year. Serve it with spinach dip or do a big submarine sandwich. Plan ahead on how you are going to keep the hoagie cool while it sits out for several hours. We recommend setting it on ice. Rectangular flower pots can be bought in various sizes. Or a wallpaper hanging trough will do the job.
  • Hoagie or sandwich bar: Let your guests assemble their own sandwiches. Stop by your local sub sandwich shop for inspiration. Or order a big variety to be sliced and served as needed. Keep the back up in your refrigerator.
  • Coney Island hotdog bar complete with chili, cheese, onions, ketchup and mustard.
  • Baked potato bar with Cheese Wiz, shredded cheese, broccoli, bacon, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper.
  • Shish kabobs/skewers
  • Salad bar and fresh fruit.
  • Asian food
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Gyros
  • Tortilla Wraps
  • Lasagna
  • Veggie Tray

Tasty Desserts: Small sizes that can be picked up easily are very popular for buffet tables.

  • Custom cakes: Have you seen photocakes? Here is your chance to have your cake and eat it too. Order one custom cake to display and a second cake to cut and serve. Can’t decide on what to serve?
  • Smores at a fire pit. Provide several baskets full of marshmallows, chocolate bars and graham crackers. Have plenty of roasting sticks on hand. And wet wipes.
  • Cut out your school logo on a watermelon boat. This takes some talent, but it’s an inexpensive and special touch.
  • Ice cream sundae bar: serve ice cream with different toppings, fruit, cookies, and coffee.
  • Frozen treats from your favorite ice cream specialty store, packed on dry ice. You can rent an ice cream cart like the ones you see at amusement parks. They come packed with novelty treats and will stay cool enough for your four-hour party.
  • Hire an ice cream truck for your party!
  • Trays of your graduate’s favorite bars, cookies and candy. Or, use a cookie cutter shaped like a graduation mortarboard. If you have family members who like to bake, ask them to help.
  • Fortune cookies, custom ordered for graduates
  • Custom made chocolates: Order gold foil-wrapped coins with your graduate’s name on one side and the year on the other side. Check out our web site, www.GraduationParty.com for links.
  • Root beer floats were a huge hit at our friend’s party. She offers this time saving tip: Scoop the vanilla ice cream into plastic cups and freeze them overnight. Then at the party all you have to do is add root beer and a straw. You can buy a keg of root beer from the liquor store.
  • Cheesecakes in a variety of flavors served with different toppings: chocolate, strawberries or blueberries.
  • Chocolate mortarboards: Place miniature peanut butter cups, bottom up, on a plate. Top with a small dollop of peanut butter, then press on chocolate covered graham crackers. For a tassel, cut up a long rectangle of fruit roll-ups, keeping part of the little square in tact, cut little tassels. Stick on top of cookie.
  • Candy Bar: Find a variety of glass cookie jars and fille them up with the graduates’ favorite candy. Buy lots in your school colors.


Here is another chance to be creative. The most popular beverage on a hot summer day is bottle water. Honor the graduate with custom made water bottle labels.

Provide your guests with a variety of beverages to choose from. Here are a few suggestions: Again, we would never expect you to serve all these options. Keep it simple and select two or three.

  • A summer tradition of big pitchers of iced tea and lemonade is refreshing. It’s challenging to keep these full, so make sure you have help refilling them.
  • If you want to serve soda, we suggest cans. Be creative on the display. We’ve put beverages on ice in kiddy pools, wheel barrows, small inflatable boats and metal wash bins. You don’t have to keep refilling them all day.
  • If you do serve cans, put out a couple of recycling bags or boxes. Wash the official recycling bin you got from your garbage company so that it looks more presentable. If you want more than one, borrow your neighbor’s.
  • If you prefer to use coolers, label them so people don’t have to dig around.
  • Punch bowls are fun. Make an ice ring using one of the punch ingredients so that as it melts it will not dilute the punch. A bundt pan works well for an ice ring.
  • Root beer floats.
  • Rent a slushy machine. This is very popular with the kids. Keep in mind that it takes a long time for the juice to freeze so you have to get it set up early in the day and you may only get one use out of the machine. Have alternative beverages.
  • Borrow a bunch of blenders or hire a professional to serve smoothies.

Fun Treats and Take-Away Gifts Special orders to make your party special and pay tribute to the grad. Personalized candy bars.

A Word on Alcohol – Design your graduation party so it is free spirited, but “spirit-free”. Keeping the graduates entertained at parent-sponsored and supervised parties can prevent a tragedy. Do not serve alcohol to minors. Host that provide alcohol to minors can be charged with a gross misdemeanor and go to jail and be fined thousands of dollars.