Graduation Etiquette

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Graduation, a time to celebrate a job well done, is one major milestone in life marking the beginning of a bright new future. Because the occasion denotes a certain formality, there are some do's and don'ts of graduation etiquette to consider.

Invitations or Announcements

Should you send graduation invitations or announcements? It all depends...

Those who receive graduation invitations expect to be able to attend the ceremony. Therefore, only immediate family and close friends should be invited to the ceremony. Many scholastic institutions limit the number of people who may attend, and issue a limited number of tickets to the graduate to be given to those who will more than likely attend the ceremony. In return, the graduate is expected to have a graduation party for those attending. A gift is expected from those receiving an invitation.

Graduation Announcements are sent to friends and family to share the good news of the graduate's accomplishment. For those receiving an announcement, a gift is not expected unless they choose to do so. Because graduation announcements have somehow become associated with forced gift-giving, they should only be sent to close friends and family, unless the announcement specifically states "No gifts please".

Graduation flowers.jpg

What to Wear

A cap and gown is the traditional attire for graduation. Many schools have specific rules about what to wear underneath the robe. Keep in mind the color of the graduation gown. For her, if the graduation gown is white, be sure to wear light colored clothes underneath to avoid seeing a faint image of brightly colored attire through the gown – not a good look on stage. For him, a tie may or may not be required. Dress pants or casual pants are fine - no jeans or shorts.

Remember that shoes will be visible to the audience. Girls should wear dress shoes, either flats or heels. Boys can wear either casual or dress shoes. The graduation ceremony is not the place for tennis shoes, sandals or flip-flops.

Thank You Notes

Thank you notes are a must once a gift is received. Those who put the effort into choosing and sending a gift expect a response. A hand-written note is warmer than e-mail, so plan ahead by having stationary and stamps on hand. Some graduates prefer to create and personalize their own thank you cards to be more personable.

What to Give? Graduation Gift Giving Etiquette

For those invited to the graduation ceremony or are attending the graduation party, you are expected to send or bring a gift. Gifts range in price from the very extravagant to the more thoughtful. Some parents consider graduation the time to splurge on a car, an exquisite gemstone, a computer, electronics, a trip or the thrill of an experience gift. Some prefer to give gifts that their graduate will appreciate long after graduation, such as books, stock certificates or jewelry. Others lean toward the practical giving cash or gift cards, luggage, a camera, a microwave or small refrigerator to be used at college. Just remember to choose a gift that the graduate wants, not one that you want.

Flower bouquets are traditionally thoughtful and should be presented after the ceremony. It is also custom to present the graduate with a corsage or boutonnière prior to the graduation ceremony. Flowers can also be delivered to the graduate’s home if you live away and are unable to be present for the celebration.

Graduation Party

Whether it is a traditional graduation party or a more casual gathering, a party including all who are invited to the ceremony is expected. If you are hosting the party, keep in mind the graduate's future plans when you create a theme. If college is the next step, gather collegiate items to decorate with. Understand that likely there will be multiple parties and fellow graduates will drop in and out in order to attend them all.

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