Graduations elicit deep emotions of pride and accomplishment at any level, whether you are the spouse, child, friend, parent or other relative of the graduate or the one who's hard work and dedication finally paid off. For that reason, graduation stages should be adorned with elegant decorations that make sense for the exact celebration taking place, meaning the kind of graduation that is being held.
Kindergarten graduations are an important milestone for the child, and even more so for the parents. It can be incredibly emotional watching your baby walk across the stage to becoming more independent and being considered one of the "big kids." These graduations are usually put together by the teachers and a few parent volunteers, which means there isn't much of a budget for a fancy stage. At this point, it's more about the significance, as it's mostly just the parents in the audience and it usually takes place in the classroom or playground area.
Construct an easy stage of two or three milk crates (or similar sturdy objects) lined up end to end. Cover the crates with sturdy cardboard, poster board or cut-to-fit plywood to make the surface flat and even. Cover the makeshift stage with a large sheet or construction paper in the school colors. Step-stools can be placed at each end of the "stage" where an adult should be present to help the children up and down. Add the school, country and state flags (if applicable) in the background of the stage. Make use of walls behind the stage by having the class decorate a large banner with their names and hand-drawn pictures of their favorite part of kindergarten. Papier mache streamers can hang from the ceilings or be pinned on the walls behind the stage.
For older children who are graduating from elementary or middle school, make use of the school's stage. Sometimes these are indoor multipurpose rooms, other times they may be outside. Either way, add drapes, curtains or fabric in the schools colors behind the stage. Place any relevant flags in front of the draperies so they are present. Prestigious adults can take a seat on the stage if there's room: the principal, vice principal, school's namesake, superintendent or other significant figures. Festive balloons can be tied to stair railings, or arrange a bouquet of weighted balloons at both ends of the stage. Balloon arches in the school's colors would be a fitting and useful decoration.
High school graduations must be treated with more class and sophistication, as the school should have a larger budget, and many of the decorations will be able to be reused year after year. Many schools erect stages on the football fields or basketball court, because the bleachers are the prime place to put parents and other audience members. Another option is to use the theater or performance stage. The stage should be large enough to accommodate several people at once. Fabric or draperies in the school's colors would make a fitting backdrop for the stage. The stage itself could simply be sturdy rugs covering the wood. The aisles and walkway for the graduates on the stage should be lined with a runner, whether it's material or paper, in white, red or a school color. Chairs onstage should be decorated with festive balloons and large ribbon bows in the school colors. Teachers, staff and alumni could be seated onstage, particularly if they will be speaking or presenting during the graduation. The chairs at the end of each row should be decorated with bows or streamers. Large balloon bouquets could create an arch for graduates to walk through, line the ground in front of the stage, decorate the stairs to the stage and emphasize the podium. Another option is renting or purchasing arches or columns that can hold banners with the current year. The columns or arches can be reused every year by simply updating the banner. Consider a stage skirt in luxurious material made in the school's colors. The podium skirt could be personalized by featuring the school's mascot along with the current graduation year. Add plants or other greenery around the stage for color, texture and decoration.