Graduation Etiquette

Graduation Etiquette

While etiquette seems to have been lost in most of today’s casual society, graduation is still a time when we adhere to proper protocol. A graduation ceremony, however, is not something we attend daily. At most, it is the focus of our attention maybe once or twice a year; so there’s often confusion about what is appropriate. Here are a few graduation etiquette guidelines:


  • Announcements are not invitations to graduation unless a ticket for the ceremony is included.
  • Announcements may be sent two weeks prior or two weeks following the graduation.
  • Announcements may be sent to anyone who has been significant in the life of the person graduating.
  • The outside envelope should be formally addressed; e.g.: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
  • The inner envelope should be addressed informally; e.g.: Uncle Jim and Aunt Karen

Gift Giving

  • Receiving an announcement does not require you to give a gift.
  • Gifts should be given based on relationship. They should show connection and affection for the individual.
  • A gift should always be within your budget.
  • Gifts should be nicely wrapped and include a card that identifies the giver.
  • Gift ideas include items for their dorm or apartment; jewelry; luggage or travel kits; personalized stationery; gift cards; or cash.
  • Consider including the gift of words. Write a few lines about the person, gifts you see in their life, and that you believe in them. These can create powerful bonds.
  • Consider giving a course on social skills to prepare the graduate for future success.

Thank-You Notes

  • A thank-you note should identify the gift and how it will be used or enjoyed. With cash, or a gift card, you should mention how you will spend it.
  • A thank-you note should be handwritten and sent within two weeks. An email thank-you is not appropriate at this time.

What to Wear

  • Make sure your selection meets your school’s graduation dress code.
  • Ladies traditionally wear a lightweight dress or top and skirt, which should not hang below the gown.
  • Men traditionally wear dark pants with a dress shirt and tie.
  • Be aware of your shoe choice since they are most visible.

Don’t forget the camera to capture all the great memories!

This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate an important milestone in the life of a loved one, and it can also be a time of great stress. Too often the focus is on the perfection of the details and not on the reason for the celebration. Make sure the focus is on the person, their accomplishment, and the next chapter of their life. The moments we spend with someone, while being fully present, are the moments that weave together the memories they will cherish for a lifetime. Let’s not miss them.


 ©2013 What Would Mrs King Do? If you would like to use this article in your newsletter or blog, you may do so. Please include our credit information: Written by Deborah King, What Would Mrs King Do? © Copyright 2013. I would also appreciate it if you would send us a copy for our files to [email protected].


  1. Thank you Debra! Good reminders for us to day as our second daughter graduates in a few hours!

  2. Gladys Lugardo-Hemple :

    Debra, Thank you so much for the magnificent information. As a Special Education teacher and Council President of Bridgeton, NJ I know graduation is so important for so many young kids today. But in South Jersey we call “Gradution” “Step Up”. Apparently they change it for different reasons. Your information is valuable and I appreciated. As usual I will presented to the parents. THANKS


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