Graduation Etiquette

Graduation Etiquette

By Tina Hayes and Indigo Silva

As summertime approaches, not only do we begin to anticipate sunshine and a good time, many students and their families are preparing for the big day, graduation. Graduations are very joyous and monumental occasions. Whether you are preparing to graduate, throw a graduation party, or attend one, here is a dose of etiquette to help things run smoothly.

Graduation Announcements and Invitations

There is a big difference between graduation announcements and invitations. Invitations are formal invites to the graduation ceremony and the announcement is meant to do just that, announce the graduate’s completion of their schooling. Due to a limited number of tickets available, students may not have enough for all family members. Immediate family members and grandparents are usually the ones to receive invitations to the ceremony.

Announcements are generally sent out to close family and friends. Even if you haven’t connected recently, let them know about your big accomplishment.

The Ceremony

The graduation ceremony happens only once. Do not embarrass yourself or your family by making silly gestures or shout outs when your name is called; be sure to have some decorum about yourself as you walk across the stage.

The Graduation Party

Graduation party invitations should be sent out three to four weeks prior to the party for local friends and family. For out of town guests, invites should be sent at least six weeks prior. Include a map of the area as well as hotels within the area if you do not plan to have them stay with you.

The invitation should let guests know what the event will include. For example, be sure to let guests know what type of food will be served, the venue type and whether there will be a cash bar or alcoholic drinks available.

If the graduate has plans after graduation, make sure the party represents that; for example, decorate with his/her new school’s colors or mascot. If the graduate does not have plans, keep the theme simple and be sure it represents the graduate’s personality and accomplishments thus far.

As the graduate, make sure you spend time with all guests who come to your party. Greet and speak with each guest. Giving a speech is a good way for the graduate to address and thank everyone for coming to celebrate his/her accomplishment.

Gift Giving

If you receive a graduation invitation, it is courteous to give a gift but it is not required. Be sure to acknowledge the graduate’s accomplishment in some way, a card is always the simplest way to give congratulations.

Graduates should not include gift registries in their invitation, but upon RSVP the guest can ask what the graduate would like as a gift. A few gift suggestions include: a nice pen set, a computer case or bag, pieces of luggage, towel set(s), toiletries, jewelry and gift cards. Graduates must send hand written thank you cards to express gratitude for the guests who attended his/her party and any gifts that were given. Failure to offer written thanks can damage ones reputation.  Graduates who do not express gratitude in writing are just as bad as newlyweds not sending thank you notes for wedding gifts. 

Having and using good manners and rules of etiquette will help graduates navigate through adult life with more poise in their work and social interactions. Following these rules of etiquette will help ensure your graduation experience is spectacular. 

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Tina Hayes is the founder and owner of The School of Etiquette and Decorum in Antioch, CA. As a passionate instructor dedicated to providing quality and professional etiquette training to her clients, Mrs. Tina Hayes promotes the awareness that social presentation and behaviors are important to be successful in today's society for all ages.