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Graduation Etiquette

graduates in robes throwing hats up in the air, with text overlay asking,

Graduation Gifts

Whether it’s for a high school diploma, bachelors, or master’s degree, here is a must-follow etiquette tip: if you’re invited to the ceremony or are attending a graduation party, send or bring a gift. If you can’t attend in person, but wish to send a gift, give it near in date to the graduation, or have it delivered in advance with instructions to be opened on the day. While some parents splurge on a car or computer, many choose less elaborate, but still meaningful, gifts to commemorate the day. Jewelry (often engraved with the date), books, cash or stock certificates, luggage, a camera, or graduation rings are all presents the graduate will appreciate in the years ahead. Flowers are also a thoughtful choice—it’s tradition to present the graduate with a corsage or boutonnière prior to the graduation ceremony, or a bouquet of flowers afterwards. If you can’t be there in person for graduation celebrations, a bouquet or arrangement delivered to the graduate’s home let’s her know that you are there in spirit.

Graduation Ceremony Invitations

We are only allotted six invitations to my son’s high school graduation ceremony. How should I break the news to close family members that they will not be able to attend? Is it acceptable for me to invite them to the party even though they cannot attend the graduation?

This is a common dilemma during graduation season. Explain the situation to relatives. Most will be understanding. Devise some kind of plan—perhaps draw names out of a hat. If necessary, consider inviting one member from each set of grandparents to attend. Invite everyone to attend the party after graduation and be sure to share all of the pictures.

The Graduation Party Guest List

I want to throw my son a high-school graduation party and invite his friends and our relatives. But I’m concerned his 18-year-old buddies might get rowdy and upset the aunts and uncles. Do I:
  1. Throw two parties.
  2. Invite everyone. And if family doesn’t like the atmosphere, they can always leave.
  3. Explain to my son beforehand that even though it’s his party, he and his friends must behave themselves.

Correct Answer: (3) High-school graduation is an exciting time for teens and parents, so there’s no reason why your relatives and son’s friends can’t celebrate together. Get your son involved in the party planning: Let him send the invitations and plan the menu. If you’re concerned about the behavior of your son and his friends, discuss this with him—ahead of time. Your son should already know the polite behavior you expect, and you should already know most of his friends. Keep your conversation positive, but make sure you cover the potential problems, such as noise level and inappropriate activities. Also, be sure that no alcoholic beverages are served to minors.

Graduation Announcements

It is an etiquette myth that if you receive a graduation announcement you must send a gift. Announcements do not equal invitations to a graduation. You are not obligated to give a gift, although you may choose to do so. Whether or not you send a present, a card or note of congratulations is always appreciated.