Graduation Decorations – DIY String Lights in a Gymnasium

*Update. This post was written years ago, but since it will soon be graduation time again, it was fun to go back and read these memories. I’ve updated the post with a little more information in case you are decorating for a big celebration and want some ideas! Thanks for joining me on this stroll down graduation decorations memory lane. – Rita Joy, 2022

2 years ago, our oldest son graduated from High School.  Our boys go to a small school a ferry and 3 bus rides away.  (A 1 hour journey each morning and afternoon.)   Obviously, he was our first son to graduate, and we were {blissfully?} unaware of the big production that graduation is around here.  Somehow, living a ferry ride away had kept us completely “out of the loop” of the whole hoop-la of graduation events.

I was absolutely blown away on Brad’s graduation day.  The boys were in tuxes.  The girls were in dresses that cost more than my wedding gown.  The school gym didn’t look like a place for basketball and sports.  Instead, it was completely transformed into a breath-taking beach scene.  I gasped out loud when I saw it.

…And was completely embarrassed that I hadn’t understood enough of what was happening to be a bigger help!


This Saturday, son #2 graduates.  I was no longer blissfully naive of what was ahead.  So, this time, I wanted to be a better help.

Yesterday was the first day of decorating.  This time, I wanted to be a help.  Many of the other parents involved in this whole process are seasoned pros.  All of this was their doing – not mine!  I felt privileged to be part of the process and thought you might like to see it, too.

How to add a ceiling full of twinkle lights in a gymnasium for Graduation Decorations

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience.

If you are planning a graduation party or any big celebration in a school or church gym, you know that the first thing to do is try to figure out how to make it NOT look like a gym!;)

Camaflouging the unsightly metal beams and walls goes a long way towards transforming such an ugly space into something pretty and stunning. Lighting and twinkle lights can help with that.

Here is how a canopy of twinkle lights was installed in the gym ceiling.

1. Lay out a very large fish net on the gym floor.

The first step, I was told, was putting up The Net.  When we arrived in the morning, lying neatly on the floor was a commercial fishing net approximately the same dimension as the ceiling of the main room space.

Since we live on the coast where real life fishing boats work, we have easy access to actual commercial fishing nets in our town. If you are looking to buy some on a smaller scale, here are some decorative fishing nets.

2. Test many long strands of white twinkle lights to see if they are working.

gym before

You can see in the back of that picture some strings of clear Christmas twinkle lights that were being tested to make sure they worked.  Then the fun began.

(To cut costs, parents were encouraged to donate their clear Christmas lights and label them so they could be returned back after the event.)

stringing lights

The parents carefully laid the lights out in an s pattern until the net was filled with lights.

lights on the net

Then we fiddled and fussed to figure out why some of them would randomly go off.

3. Hoist the net up to the ceiling using a pulley in the center, and attach it to the center and sides of the gymnasium walls.

Once all the lights were finally working, the tricky part began.  A center pulley was earlier installed in the very center of the highest peak of the gym to help specifically with this.  Once we were able to get it down, it was attached to the center of the net.

center pulley

Now’s when I failed in the picture department. You’ll just have to imagine the “hoisting up of The Net” on your own.  It involved rope, ladders, and men willing to climb them.

The net was tied up by ropes at each corner first, then the sides, and then the pulley pulled up the middle.

The whole process took about 6 hours.  Last night, my opinion would have been that it was a way too complicated process to justify all that time, energy, and tall ladders.  And, then, today, we shut out the main lights and plugged in the lights:

lights up

I take it back.  Perhaps it’s worth it after all!  There is not one ounce of “school gym” atmosphere once those lights started twinkling overhead.

So, if you have the time and energy and men willing to climb ladders, this is an incredible way to camaflogue a gymnasium and turn it into an elegant spot for a graduation celebration.

For more graduation decoration ideas:

Check out this post on showing the graduation party theme “Jolly Old England”.

And, here are the posts about our boys’ graduations:

For more recipes, crafts & ideas for your home all year round, become a VIP!

Become a VIP newsletter subscriber and get instant access to the library of free printables (including wall art, gift tags, and more!). Click here or the button below to join today.

Similar Posts


Join my list for more ideas for you and your home…



  1. Oh, I’m jealous. I was just thinking about grad decorating today, (as I weeded) and remembering how much fun it was, especially the last two years. I was realizing that this time last year and the year before, we were neck deep in it…
    Last year, we were still frantically painting and finishing the pergola on this day!
    And I found myself missing all the fun . Enjoy!!

  2. Normally I don’t understand post on blogs and forums, having said that i wish to express that this kind of write-up pretty motivated me to try and do that! Your current publishing taste may be shocked us. Many thanks, quite terrific article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.