a graduate smiling and holding her diploma for a virtual grad celebration

Inspiration for Memorable and Safe Graduation Ceremonies in 2021

Graduation day is the goalpost that students work hard for and look forward to for a long time. They’ve overcome a lot together. Late nights writing essays. Hours studying for exams. Early, tired mornings figuring out mathematical equations. Stacks of textbooks carried across campus and poured over. When it’s all over, tossing caps in the air, dressing up in gowns, taking photos, and dancing together is more than just a celebration—it marks the end of an era.

Not being able to celebrate graduation in the same way last year was hard for graduates, but some schools found a way to make the day special, even with restrictions and rules in place.

If you’re planning a graduation ceremony in 2021, here are a few creative graduation ceremony examples from real schools:

1. Drive Thru Ceremony

Image Source: Desecret News

Until booking a large convocation hall for graduation convocations is safe again, plan a physically-distanced drive-thru ceremony. It marks the occasion more than a mailed-in diploma would. Take a look at Provo High School’s drive-thru graduation ceremony for inspiration.

What you can do to make it memorable:

  • Have an elevated stage area, so families can see their graduates from a distance in their cars.
  • Place diplomas on a table for graduates to pick up on their way across the stage.
  • Keep the chairs distanced for graduates attending the ceremony.
  • Setup the stage so the principal stands behind graduates for their diploma photos.
  • Put together a gift bag and photo backdrop off to the side for graduates’ family pictures.
  • Invite family members to decorate their cars with signs and streamers. Try making the decor eco-friendly by printing designs on seed paper banners. The paper is plantable, growing into wildflowers, and leaves no waste behind! Use this template for printing A-Z letters to make your banner at home.

2. Personalized Graduation Gifts

Graduation gift to students from Candor Junior-Senior High School
Image Source: Ashton Teribury and Jennah Kareem via people.com

Send a gift to every graduate with items that will give them the boost they need right now. Take a look at Candor Junior-Senior High School’s adopt-a-senior program for inspiration. Community members rallied together to put together wellness-themed gift packages with cards and other items.

What you can do to make it memorable:

  • Consider partnering with a community organization to donate a gift, branded item, or treats. Many businesses and organizations are looking for a way to stay connected to the community right now. This may include a local bakery, florist, or spa.
  • Put together school memorabilia for graduates, such as branded t-shirts or mugs, and personalized letters from teachers and staff.
  • Include a seed paper graduation favor that’s also a gardening gift. When graduates plant the card, they can grow wildflowers, herbs, or veggies. Seed paper is symbolic for graduation ceremonies: just like graduates earned their diploma with patience, dedication, and care, they can also grow plants with seed paper in the same way.

3. Unique Graduation Ceremony Venue

Image Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer

Think outside-the-box with the convocation location. For example, Jim Thorpe High School students got to celebrate their graduation by “racing” across the finish line on a NASCAR race track, with only their immediate families in their cars.

What you can do to make it memorable:

  • Hang banners around the venue that congratulate the graduating class.
  • Have a fireworks display at the end of the ceremony.
  • Commission a celebrity to congratulate the class with a video message through Cameo. That could even be a TikTok famous animal star such as Tika the Iggy! The costs range, fitting almost any budget.
  • If it’s not possible to book a NASCAR race track, think of venues where there’s plenty of space to physically distance and live-stream the event for families. That could include a football field, hockey arena, or horse racing venue.

4. Graduation Cap Decorating Contest

Graduation cap decorating contest particpants
Image Source: Indiana University

Encourage graduates to express their creativity. Check out these artful floral designs from Indiana University 2020 graduates!

What you can do to make it memorable:

  • Invite students to share their work on social media with the university using a hashtag
  • Offer the winners reserved parking spaces at the drive-thru graduation ceremony, or a gift card and diploma frame.
  • Include details for how the caps will be juried, such as for most creative, inspiring, or showing the most school spirit.

5. Gaming and Graduating

Animal Crossing graduation ceremony from Georgia Tech College of Engineering
Image Source: Georgia Tech College of Engineering

In 2020, some graduates and gaming fans hosted their graduation ceremonies virtually on Animal Crossing through Nintendo Switch, while seniors from other high schools created a world and hosted their graduations in Minecraft.

What you can do to make it memorable:

  • Invite tech-savvy students to create the graduation ceremony in the games themselves.
  • Put together an invitation for graduates and families that includes instructions on how to sign into the game and participate.

Graduations might have to look a lot different this year, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be fun and memorable. With a positive outlook and a little creativity, it’s possible to celebrate graduates in a special way.

Learn more about how you can incorporate this special, eco-friendly paper into your graduation ceremony or convocation by subscribing to our newsletter and viewing our Personalized Plantable Graduation Seed Favors.


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