How to Celebrate Your Graduate This Year

Hold on to your caps—these graduation ideas will make your graduate feel extra-special.

With ceremonies cancelled across the country, this year’s graduates are trading the pomp and circumstance for small, at-home celebrations. And while it’s not the same as seeing them walk across the stage, there are still plenty of ways to honor your grad.

Read on to find recipe ideas, tips for getting in touch with family and friends, graduation day activities and more.

Small-Scale Graduation Recipes

Graduation cupcakes with vanilla frostingWestend61/Getty Images

While you’re likely not planning a big backyard bash, you’ll still want to set out a spread for the immediate fam. Make sure to include your grad’s favorite foods and utilize school colors whenever possible.

  • Small-Batch Party Recipes: From sides to drinks to sweet treats, we have plenty of small-batch party recipes to get your gathering going.
  • Summer Salads: Thanks to the warm May and June weather, many graduation parties can be held outdoors. Round out your meal of grilled mains with some summer salads. We’re big fans of these small-batch pasta salads, but potato salad, fruit salad and other offerings would be welcome, too.
  • Regional Favorites: College grad? Whip up some dishes that will remind them of the local cuisine near their alma mater. We have small-batch recipes from the Midwest, down south, out east and out west.
  • Drool-Worthy Desserts: When you’re cooking for just a few people, a sheet cake may not be practical. Instead, opt for a smaller cake, or whip up these mini desserts.
  • Celebratory Sips: If your grad is old enough to imbibe, celebrate with a champagne toast or one of these summery sippers. Cheers!

How to (Safely) Celebrate with Friends & Family

Photo taken in Bangkok, ThailandYuttana Jaowattana / EyeEm/Getty Images

We’d all love to give grandma a hug right now. But there are still plenty of ways to celebrate at a distance.

  • Organize a Parade: Have friends and loved ones drive by the house at a specific time, honking, waving and wishing “Congrats!”
  • Virtual Commencement: Many schools are posting their commencement ceremonies online. Set up a family video call to watch and cheer on your grad. Find tips for hosting a virtual party here.
  • Recorded Greetings: For a memorable keepsake your student will look back on for years to come, reach out to friends and family members and ask them to record a brief video message, offering words of encouragement and advice. Merge all of the messages into one video file and watch it on Graduation Day.

What to Do on Graduation Day

A 22 year old caucasian young woman dressed in a graduation gown throws her hat into the air surrounded by her friends and family in front of her home while celebrating her graduation from collegeStephen Swintek/Getty Images

The big day has finally arrived! While there may not be a ceremony to physical attend, you can still honor your student’s achievement at home.

  • Take Photos: While your kiddo may be hesitant to put on their cap and gown, they’ll be thankful for the captured memories. Take photos at home and in the backyard. Or, if it’s feasible, head over to school and snap some photos there, as well. Just be sure to practice social distancing!
  • Get Cheesy: That enormous sign you made? Go ahead and grab it. A bouquet of flowers? Check. Noise-makers? We got ‘em! Make your grad feel special every time they walk into a room.
  • Do the Hat Toss: Don’t let your grad miss out on the famous hat toss! Take the family outside and let your grad have her moment. Bonus: You’ll actually get your hat back!
  • Open Gifts: Set aside some time to open cards and gifts sent by loved ones. (Oh, and if you’re still looking for a present, check out these genius graduation gift ideas).
  • Relax! Set up the hammock, spend time with Fido or settle in for a nice, long nap. However your grad wants to relax, give them plenty of time to chill—they’ve earned it!

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Katie Bandurski
As Senior Shopping Editor, Katie connects Taste of Home readers with the best gifts, deals and home products on the market. An avid foodie and a holiday enthusiast, Katie is an expert at cultivating meaningful moments. When she’s out of the office, you’ll find her exploring Wisconsin, trying out new vegetarian recipes and watching Christmas movies.