This post originally appeared at my parenting blog The Gift of Good Manners. I will be cross posting some of my favorite content from that blog here at the Etiquette Daily periodically. I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I enjoyed writing them.
Graduation is a special time of transition and accomplishment all wrapped up together. As we approach graduation season – both high school and college – we receive many questions from graduates and their friends and families. People often ask us about the differences between invitations and announcements: the grads want to know when you send which, and the recipients want to know if they should send a gift for either or both!
First, the grads’ question: Many schools have to put limits on the number of people grads can invite to the ceremony. Usually this is due to space considerations. For example, the grad might have the opportunity to invite five people to the actual graduation. For any celebration following graduation, there may be all the same considerations you have for any guest list: How much space do you have? Are you serving an elegant meal that might require a smaller set number of guests? What time constraints are there, such as the graduation ceremony or any school party? And there are some considerations specific to graduation: Your best friend may be graduating also and having a celebration at the same time. All your friends might be doing the same thing so your celebration may be mostly family. Teachers have a dilemma as many of their students want them to come to their celebration. They may try to spend a little time at several parties. The important thing is for everyone to realize that graduation is a unique event that requires some special thought as you make out guest lists for invitations to the ceremony and/or the celebration.
Announcements can help address any complications. They are a great way to share the excitement of the event and the day with friends and family who can’t be invited as a result of space constraints at the ceremony or the celebration you may host. Also, rather than send an invitation to someone you know can’t attend, an announcement lets them know when you are graduating but carries no social expectation of a gift or feeling of obligation to attend.
Second – people want to know both if they should send a gift and what are good graduation gifts. If you are invited to a graduation event, you really should send a gift. As with any gift, your choice of what to give should be based on your relationship to the graduate and your personal budget. Parents may give something of special value or personal meaning. Others might give gifts that say congratulations and welcome to the adult world — monogrammed stationery, fine pen and pencil sets, a leather bound journal, framed art or photography, picture frames, or luggage. It is fine to give gift certificates or money.
And finally, it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: the graduate should always write a personal thank you note for every gift and also send notes to anyone who entertains or does special favors for them.
To all you graduates, I end with a shout: CONGRATULATIONS and best of luck in all you do!