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Graduation Etiquette

Is a gift a must?

SL_graduationetiquette_WOWhether 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 the party, send or bring a gift.

What to select?

Many families see graduation as a rite of passage and celebration worthy. Some parents splurge on a car or computer. Others choose to give gifts that last such as books, stock certificates, luggage, a camera, or graduation rings which are all presents the graduate will still 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.

When to give?

Near or on the day of graduation.

How should the gift be delivered?

Mail it or drop it off in person.

Graduation Gift Etiquette Myth

People who receive graduation announcements must send a gift. Announcements do not equal invitations. 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.

Invitations to graduation ceremony

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? Certainly, it’s 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. Or, invite one member from each set of grandparents to attend. “Mom, we’ll only receive six invitations to Matt’s graduation. Jack, Susan, Bill and I are going for sure, so we’ll have to decide who gets the other two tickets. It’s an awkward situation. We’re thinking of just drawing names out of a hat. Or do you think Dad would be willing to stay home so that you and Jack’s mother could 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 remain well-behaved.

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.