Graduation Etiquette

As graduation time gets closer, you may be wondering about graduation etiquette, graduation gift etiquette, and basic etiquette and manners for the occasion. From a practical standpoint the "rules" for graduation announcement etiquette and graduation celebrations change a bit depending on the age of the celebrant. The festivities for a Kindergarten graduation have a completely different look and feel than those for a college graduate. However there are some basic guidelines that will help no matter what.

Graduation Invitation Etiquette

Nearly universally schools limit the number of seats that each graduate can use. As a result, nearly everyone on your potential mailing list will know that there’s a distinct chance they will not be in attendance. If someone you know is unaware of these constraints by all means tell them in order to avoid potential hurt feelings.

One simple way to resolve this situation is by having some type of gathering after the graduation. Now you can expand your invitation list and include more friends and family of the graduate in his or her special day.

Additionally, send out graduation announcements to folks who you know cannot attend due to various circumstances. This helps them feel involved, even from a distance. Unlike the invitation, however, graduation announcement etiquette says mail the cards after the graduation day. Note that blogs, email and other electronic announcements are perfectly acceptable.

graduation etiquette, graduation gift etiquette, graduation announcement etiquette, etiquette and manners

Pomp and Circumstance

It’s true – graduations can seem rather dull. Nonetheless this is an important moment for each person on that stage. The basic guideline for etiquette and manners here include turning off your cell phone for the entire proceeding. Also plan on toughing out the whole alphabet of graduates. Leaving early is a huge faux pas.

Practical Graduation Gift Giving Etiquette

Individuals who receive a graduation announcement are not required to buy a gift. You can certainly do so if you wish, but the card itself doesn’t oblige you in any way. In terms of what to buy, again we’re back to age-appropriate, thoughtful items. The college graduate leaving home has very different needs than the child moving into First Grade. Money, while it may seem dull, helps the former greatly where as a CD or Bond might be more suited to the child so they have something building toward the future.

To the graduate: remember those thank you notes. Graduation etiquette prefers hand written notes but for those people who have illegible handwriting. Personalize the note somehow too. For example, if you received cash tell them what you think it will go toward. Three to five sentences will do the trick. And don’t delay. Put those in the mail within a week after receiving your gift.

graduation etiquette, graduation gift etiquette, graduation announcement etiquette, etiquette and manners

Clothes Make the Graduate

At any age a tidy semi-formal outfit suits the graduation atmosphere. Ties and properly groomed hair for gentlemen are a must. Both boys and girls of all ages should have a good pair of nice-looking shoes (really, when you’re sitting in the audience what do you see on stage first?). If caps and gowns are the fare for the day, iron the gown and don the hat without fuss. No taped messages on the cap please.


Graduate – this is your day to shine. Graduation etiquette even says the focus is on you. However, remember to show courtesy and thoughtfulness to your guests. Likewise, guests remember not to outshine the graduate – even as you wouldn’t a bride! Everyone take the time to reminisce as memories make the day, not just now but for many years to come.

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