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You can still give your grad the sendoff they deserve, even during quarantine.

By Lisa Milbrand
May 05, 2020
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One of the most difficult parts of the coronavirus pandemic and physical or social distancing has been missing out on celebrating big milestones: Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and even funerals have become virtual gatherings. And for students graduating high school or college this year, there are a lot of rites of passage they’re missing—including long-awaited proms and graduations. Even if this year’s graduation isn’t exactly what everyone expected (or hoped for), there’s still plenty of reason to celebrate—and plenty of ideas for celebrating graduation during quarantine.

“It can be challenging to be creative sometimes, when you’re so inundated with craziness,” says celebrity party planner Sasha Souza of Sasha Souza Events in Sonoma, Calif. “That can quash your creative juices. But there are options to make it special and celebrate what they’ve accomplished.”

Here are some quarantine graduation ideas for celebrating (safely) even during COVID-19 lockdown, beyond just sending high school graduation gifts or college graduation gifts.

7 quarantine graduation ideas

1
Look for remote or virtual graduation ceremonies

If you’re missing the pomp and circumstance—and all those speeches—there are a ton of big names out there ready to share their inspirational thoughts. John Krasinski dedicated the May 3 episode of his new Some Good News show to the entire class of 2020, whether they’re kindergarteners or doctoral students, so break out the cap and gown and watch on YouTube. (You can jump to minute six to get straight to the graduation feels.)

Not to be outdone, Facebook’s having its own virtual graduation—#Graduation2020—on May 15, with Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Garner, Awkwafina, Lil Nas X, Simone Biles, and Miley Cyrus scheduled to speak or perform.

IRL, many school districts are looking for ways to safely celebrate distantly, whether it’s drive-in graduation ceremonies where the grads and their families maintain social distancing by staying in their cars and watching the ceremony on a big screen or virtual celebrations via Zoom or other online options.

2
Decorate to celebrate

One thing you definitely can do is showcase your child’s accomplishment by decking out your house. Order graduation lawn signs, balloons, and more (or make your own) to showcase how proud you are of your graduate. Arrange a festive backdrop in the house for your graduate to sit in front of when they’re doing any virtual graduations or graduation parties—for seniors, it could heavily feature the colors and logo of their new college, for example. Any grad will appreciate a balloon wall or streamer wall, too.

3
Coordinate with other parents

Parents all over the country are developing new ways to celebrate their graduates while still maintaining social distancing.

“People want to be able to see each other, so like the drive-by birthdays, some parents are getting together and arranging drive-bys for the graduates,” Souza says.

Parents at one school in Salem, Ore. have pooled resources to create a permanent mural dedicated to the class of 2020, where each student can decorate a tile as they would have decorated their own cap for the ceremony. In Alameda, Calif., they created a celebratory citywide Senior Signing Day on May 1, where kids headed outside at 10:45 a.m. to put out their graduation signs and community members stepped outside at the same time to cheer them on.

4
Arrange a video tribute

Ask loved ones to send a video message to celebrate the big milestone. The website Tribute helps you combine them into a beautiful video montage to surprise your graduate. You can currently DIY the video for free with the code “yougotthis25,” or hire them to help you splice together your videos, starting at $99.

5
Take lots of pictures

This year’s graduates will definitely remember this—but photographs can still memorialize the time. Go ahead and take lots of pictures of your child in the cap and gown. (You can even arrange a free, socially distanced professional photo shoot—just look for photographers in the area with the hashtags #PorchPortrait or #PorchProject2020.)

6
Consider postponing graduation celebrations

“Postponing is always better than canceling,” Souza says. “People need something to be hopeful for.” You might instead host a combination graduation/bon voyage party before your senior heads off to college if social distancing rules are more relaxed by the end of the summer.

7
Plan a virtual graduation party

You can still have a great party—virtual style. Choose a tech option, whether it’s Zoom or Facebook’s new Messenger Rooms, which let you create a video chat room and invite up to 50 people to join the video call with no time limits. You might also decide to have separate events to celebrate with smaller groups, so people have more opportunity to chat with the graduate.

Consider what you’d want to have at the celebration, and how you might be able to reproduce that idea. Think about graduation songs you can play in the background or ways to decorate the space behind your grad.

“At most social events, you have a celebratory menu and drink—usually something the kid loves, some sort of dessert, some sort of a recognition of what the event is, and a toast,” Souza says. “Look for ways you can recreate that.”

You could send out cupcakes or cookies—places like Wicked Good Cupcakes, Magnolia Bakery, and Kara’s Cupcakes all ship nationwide. Or send out a food suggestion: “We’re having the guest of honor’s favorite tacos, and hope you’ll raise a taco with us.”

“Making it special is so important,” Souza says. “You’re all sharing a meal together as a family over FaceTime, so you still get that shared experience of celebrating together.”