Eight graduation dos and don’ts for grads, family and friends

It’s cap and gown time; that wonderful time when high school and college students graduate and move on to their next adventure. It’s an exciting time. But, graduation can also be a bit of an etiquette minefield. I certainly made some mistakes with my own graduation and have made etiquette faux pas with other people’s graduations in the past. So, to avoid my mistakes and the others out there, here are some tips to help you navigate graduations.

Tips for the Graduate

Use both the small and big envelope

This may date me, but when I received my packet of graduation announcements I noticed there were two envelopes, a smaller one and a larger one. Being the independent person I’ve always been I didn’t think to ask my parents why I received two different envelopes. Instead, I tossed the smaller ones and put the announcements in the larger envelope. I thought it was odd the announcement was a little small for the envelope, but I didn’t let that stop me and mailed them anyway. Well, turns out, I was supposed to put the announcement into the small envelope and the small envelope into the large envelope – sort of silly if you ask me. In fact, I bet schools no longer provide two envelopes; but if yours does use them both.

Send announcements out after the ceremony

The other faux pas I made many years ago was thinking a graduation announcement I received from a friend’s son was an invitation to the graduation ceremony. Despite not having tickets or information on where the ceremony was taking place I thought my husband and I were being invited to the event. We showed up only to be turned away because we didn’t have tickets. Huh? Well, my confusion is one many people have faced. So, to avoid confusing those people who you are not inviting to the graduation ceremony, send the graduation announcement AFTER the ceremony.

Dress appropriately

Graduation is a big deal, so dress like it is. You’ll remove your gown at some point in the celebrating so be sure what’s underneath is graduation worthy. Skip the flip flops, shorts and casual t-shirts. Also, avoid wearing anything that’s warm. It can get hot under that black gown, so wear lighter fabrics.

Pay attention

While graduation ceremonies are usually long affairs try to give it your full attention, especially when the speaker is talking. Glean some helpful tips and inspiration from the presenter – often a successful business person or VIP. Don’t be tempted by your phone. Turn it off and put it away.

Tips for Family and Friends

Let graduation be about the graduate

This is your graduate’s day, do not dictate who they can or can’t invite to the ceremony or graduation party. If your child wants to invite your ex, his birth mother who you despise, let bygones be bygones for one darn day. Let the grad have her day.

Don’t confuse an announcement with an invitation

If the item you receive does not ask for a response and doesn’t have either the ceremony and/or reception details it’s an announcement. If you receive an invitation, be sure to respond promptly as to whether you can attend or not.

Gifts and cards

If you receive a graduation announcement versus an invitation to the ceremony and/or reception, a gift is not expected. However, it’s lovely to send a card congratulating the graduate and wishing him success. If you are invited to the ceremony or reception a gift is appropriate. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Cash or a check is always appreciated. Gift cards to stores that sell items that would be suitable for new graduates are great gifts. An etiquette book is also a useful gift and I happen to know of a great one – Spinach in Your Boss’s Teeth: Essential Etiquette for Professional Success written by yours truly.

Leave the blow horn at home

Do clap and whoop when your graduate’s name is called, but don’t use a blow horn to show your excitement. People around you will not share in your excitement. Also, stop the noise-making quickly so the next graduate’s name can be heard by her family.

Let these tips make your or your family member’s graduation be a happy, friendly and celebratory event. Most importantly, congratulation graduates! You’ve worked hard. I wish you much success in your endeavors.

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