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Minding Your P’s & Q’s: 4 Tips on Graduation Etiquette

‘Tis the season to celebrate graduation – a milestone in life’s journey – and that means ceremonies, parties and gift giving. If navigating the “do’s and don’ts” and the “wish I knew what to do” has you feeling like you’re wading through the alligator-infested Okefenokee Etiquette Swamp, these four tips will help you.

1.Who gets an announcement and who gets an invitation to the ceremony?

A student usually gets a limited number of tickets for seats at the actual graduation ceremony. These invitations should be reserved for immediate family, including grandparents, and should be sent out at least three to four weeks prior to the event, and for out-of-town relatives, six weeks.

A more formal, printed announcement can be sent two weeks ahead of or after the event to extended family and friends. Some graduates design and create their own informal announcements. Although tempting to resort to a mass email, it is respectful to send printed announcements for such a momentous occasion.

2. Do I send a gift to everyone who sends me an announcement?

It is appropriate to give a gift, but not necessarily required. Most important is acknowledging the graduate’s accomplishment in some way, at least a congratulations card and note.

A graduate always appreciates gifts, and many people automatically think of giving money. Your understanding of the family’s traditions and your relationship to the graduate will help you choose a meaningful present.

3. Graduation Parties; Invitations and RSVPs.

A graduate’s family most often plans a party to celebrate this milestone. Invitations should be sent at least three weeks prior to the date of the party. Even if it is as casual as a drop by for an “Open House Celebration,” please, please, if you are invited to a party, RSVP as soon as possible. Some invitations may designate “Regrets only.” The hostess will be less stressed if the number of guests can be calculated.

A note to the graduate: Please spend a little time with relatives or friends who have traveled from out of town to attend your celebration.

4. Thank You Notes: Absolutely!

A handwritten thank-you note needs to be sent for each gift received. It doesn’t have to be long, but should acknowledge the gift and appreciation. Notes should be sent as promptly as possible. A generic “thank you for the graduation gift” borders on tacky. A thank-you sent by email or text message is not considered appropriate.

Here is a helpful, delightful interview on graduation etiquette:


Happy graduation and congratulations to all the graduates and your families! May your next journey in life be blessed with abundant joy!

Kathryn Barker has never met a child, a tea, or a baby animal she didn’t love. With her Sweet Husband of 43 years, she has: raised three extraordinary children, doctored all manner of farm animal, driven a team of horses, made soap, spun wool and opened a tea room. An avid photographer, Kathryn has had tea in a ger in Mongolia, viewed the Three Gorges Dam in China and waved to the Queen of England. She maintains a tea booth at the Oregon St. Antique Mall. Visit her at www.tea4kate.com or on Facebook and Twitter at tea4kate.

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