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Graduation etiquette tips

Posted by Scott Stueber, CPCU, CISR, AAI on May 3, 2022 9:14:17 AM

Graduation etiquette tipsIf you’re planning a high school or college graduation party this year, it’s not a small task. There’s a ton of things to do to get ready for the big day. If you’re planning your first one, you may feel completely overwhelmed and a bit emotional. While one journey is ending, another one is beginning.

Whether you’re planning a graduation party or simply attending one, here are some etiquette tips to follow that will lead to a great celebration.

Planning Etiquette tips

1. Guest list.

Deciding who to invite to graduation day festivities can be a big area of stress and concern. Budget and the gathering place might not accommodate everyone. The last thing you want to do is exclude someone. To help in your decision-making process, check out the list of who to invite below. Don’t forget to involve your graduate in the process.

  • Extended family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and relatives you may not see on a regular basis
  • Friends, both near and far
  • People who have helped your student during his/her high school or college career such as, teachers, tutors, counselors, and coaches

If your child is graduating from college, it’s likely ceremony invitations will be limited. If this is the case, you may have to leave some important people off the list. If you do, make sure to have a conversation. Trying to explain this in an email or text can be disastrous.

Lastly, don’t forget about family and friend dynamics. The last thing you want is a graduation brawl. There may be a few people who are best kept off the list.

2. Appropriate time to send announcements or invites.

If your announcement is to share the information about your graduate, but it’s not an invite to the ceremony or party, then it’s up to you when to send them. They can be sent before or after the graduation ceremony/party. If you plan to send a “Save the Date” card followed by an actual invitation, send it well in advance. The chance of guests attending is greater.

When it’s time to send the actual invitation, you should send it three to four weeks prior to the event. If you have friends or family who live out of state, consider sending them out at least six weeks in advance.

3. Don’t forget the details.

If you’re sending out party invites, be very specific. As I mentioned earlier, graduation season is a hectic time of year. It’s likely your guests will have conflicting ceremonies or parties to attend. Make sure you include the date, time (beginning and end), location, and RSVP information. Also, don’t forget to include detailed driving instructions if the venue has challenging traffic patterns or is impacted by road construction.

4. What’s being served.

What you decide to serve your guests is totally up to you. Most likely hey’ll be fine with whatever you decide. Jut make sure you let them know ahead of time, so they know what’s being provided. Some options include:

  • Light appetizers and drinks
  • Buffet
  • Cocktail hour followed by a sit-down dinner

Etiquette tips for attending a graduation ceremony or party.

1. Is a graduation gift necessary?

If you receive a high school or college graduation announcement just sharing the news, a gift isn’t required. If you receive an invitation to the ceremony or party, then it’s appropriate to give a gift. Either way, you can’t go wrong with sending a nice card.

2. How much should I spend on a graduation gift?

If your graduation party invites have been few and far between, you may not be sure how much to give. While most graduates like cash, you’re not obligated to give it. The amount to give depends on your financial situation and your relationship with the person. If they’re a close family member or a longtime family friend, it’s appropriate to give more. Anywhere from $20 -$100 is appropriate.

3. How to RSVP.

If you receive an invitation, consider yourself fortunate. You’ve obviously made an impact on the graduate’s life. Pay close attention on how the host family wants you to respond. If they provide an email address to respond to, don’t call or send a text. If you have a conflict, regretfully decline with a nice note. A respectful decline is appreciated more than radio silence.

4. Dress conservatively.

Like many events, it’s not uncommon to see inappropriate attire. Due to the length of the ceremony, comfort is most people’s concern. I usually dress in business casual for the ceremony and take a change of clothes for the party. If you’re not sure about the school or venue, it’s best to call the host to see what they recommend.

5. Turn off or silence your cell phone.

While this tip should be a no brainer, there’s always one in every crowd. For the enjoyment of others, please silence your phone and keep it in your pocket or purse. Texting the entire time is disrespectful to the graduate and those around you.

6. Follow the rules.

How often do you go to a graduation ceremony and they tell you to hold your applause or refrain from whistling or yelling out? It never fails, you always get families that think it’s cute or this doesn’t apply to them because their student deserves it. Keep in mind everyone is trying to enjoy the special day, so follow the rules and be respectful. There’s plenty of time to party it up afterward. Lastly, stay until the end of the ceremony allowing all graduates to exit first. Make sure you have a plan in case family members get separated.

7. Talking tips.

The closer your relationship is with the graduate, the easier it is to have a nice and natural conversation. However, if you don’t know them well, the conversation can go down an awkward path. Congratulating them, asking them about summer plans, or simply thanking them for the invite is appropriate. Avoid talking about GPA, student loans, and if they have a job. These can be sensitive topics that the graduate would rather not discuss.

Graduate etiquette

1. It’s ok to leave.

While you’re the center of attention, it’s unrealistic for guests to expect you to stay at your party for the whole duration. Plan on staying at least an hour and do your best to greet as many guests as possible.

2. Don’t forget to send thank you notes.

The best rule of thumb is to write out notes immediately following your party. This helps avoid procrastination. If you can’t get them written right away, make sure to send them out no later than two weeks after the event.

For additional information on planning a graduation party, click here.

Do you have any suggestions or information you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you. Please share them in the box below.

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