From announcements to gift protocol, we have every manners conundrum covered.

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Graduations are important milestones that mark big transitions. As such they should be celebrated or at least recognized. As June approaches and graduation season looms, if you’re a soon-to-be graduate, a family member planning on attending the commencement ceremony, or a friend of the family who has received an announcement of the big event, you may be wondering about the correct etiquette for graduations. Here is the proper way to mark a graduation whether from kindergarten, high school, college, or beyond:

Graduation Invitations

There is a major difference between a graduation invitation, which means attending the ceremony, and a graduation announcement, which alerts friends and family to the milestone.

Remember that many schools limit the number of commencement tickets allotted for each student.  Those tickets should be reserved for immediate family members and grandparents. When you send out the invitations, make sure you request that people RSVP quickly, as tickets are limited.

If you receive an invitation to a ceremony, respond as quickly as possible. If you don’t receive an invitation to the ceremony, don’t be offended.

If you’re the one sending out the invites and faced with a ticket shortage, explain the situation to family members or close friends who may not get a seat. Tell them that while you would love to invite them, but there’s only enough space for immediate family. If possible, invite everyone to a graduation party to celebrate together. 

Graduation Announcements

Announcements inform recipients of the accomplishment and do not include an invitation to the graduation ceremony or, typically, an invitation to a party. That’s why they are traditionally mailed after the ceremony has taken place and can be sent out between the day after the graduation to up two weeks later.

As for who gets an announcement, according to the Manners Mentor, graduation announcements are typically reserved for people who are both on your holiday card list and whom the graduate would recognize in person. While parents may want to boast about their child’s accomplishments, announcements are only sent to people the graduate knows, not who the parents want to tell.

Gifts

While people who receive graduation announcements may feel compelled to buy a graduation gift, that’s not the case. According to the Manners Mentor, simply receiving a graduation announcement in the mail does not mean you need to send a gift, so don’t feel obligated As a courtesy, add a line to graduation announcements sent to those who are not invited to a celebration, reminding them that no gift is necessary, according to etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts. That said, if you want to, of course send a little something to the celebrant whether it’s a gift or friendly card to surprise the graduate and their family.

If you are invited to and attend the commencement ceremony, you should send a gift. According to the Emily Post Institute, If you can’t attend the graduation in person, but wish to send a gift, give it near the date of the graduation or have it delivered in advance with instructions to be opened on the day.

As for what that gift should be, the experts agree that mentioning gift registries or wish lists on graduation invitations is a no-no, according to Fox Business. That can make it tricky to know what to give to the grad, though. Either ask the graduate’s parents for advice on what to send, opt for a gift certificate so the graduate can do the choosing, choose to send a check, or try to keep in mind that the best gifts are ones that graduates will use in their next stage of life.

Graduation Parties

Graduations should be celebrated. If family or friends are coming from out of town, send invitations at least six weeks in advance to give them plenty of time to book travel and accommodations. According to the experts who spoke to Fox Business, three to four weeks in advance should suffice for the invitations for local friends and family.

The form of invitation depends on the type of party you plan to host. If it’s a formal to-do, send a more formal invitation. An email invitation will work for a more casual party like a backyard barbecue just make sure less tech savvy invitees know the party details.

As the Emily Post Institute notes, high school graduation parties require that the student’s friends and family mingle. That means, the rowdier crowd may need to moderate their behavior. Before the shindig, remind the grad that they need to speak to each of their guests, not just their friends and remind them that they need to be on good behavior. That said, according to the etiquette experts at Emily Post, this is the one occasion where the guests of honor aren’t expected to spend the whole evening at their own party. If after chatting with all the guests and making the rounds, if your child wants to celebrate on their own, or visit another graduation party, don’t let manners hold them back.

Thank You Notes

Graduates are expected to send a hand-written thank you card for every gift received. The pros all agree that it is inappropriate to send e-mails or text messages to express gratitude. Thank you notes should go out as soon as possible, but no later than two weeks after the present is received.

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