Soon to be graduates and their family are pressed for time, scurrying to address every detail of this exciting occasion. One of the biggest tasks they must consider is who to invite to the actual graduation ceremony, and who receives an announcement. The confusion often begins here. How can the recipient tell the difference? Similar in appearance, but the distinct qualities deserve our attention.
The graduation announcement
This is by far the most common card sent to the majority of family and friends. An announcement proclaims the student is graduating from high school or college. It often includes a photo of the graduate, their school emblem, a quote, and maybe a personal note. There will not be any details about the ceremony or reception because it’s not an invitation to attend.
An appropriate response to the announcement
First of all, don’t be disheartened if you’re not invited to the graduation. The graduate and their family are already feeling uncomfortable that they couldn’t welcome more of their loved ones to the event. Most of the time, ceremony seating is limited and tickets are purchased well in advance for attendees. Understand that this can be a stressful time for the family who must cut the guest list down to only a few. Instead of expressing your disappointment or desire to attend, share with the graduate your genuine excitement that they’ve reached this major life milestone.
Graduation gift etiquette
Give what you feel most comfortable giving. Depending on your relationship to the graduate, their family, and your financial situation, determine what is most appropriate to offer as a token of congratulations. Don’t forget to include a heartfelt card acknowledging their accomplishments.
The graduation invitation
The invitation is a request to be present at the graduation ceremony and/or the reception. Expect to see more detail on this card, including clear verification that you are invited such as, “please join us,” time, and address. RSVP as soon as possible.
An appropriate response to the invitation
The most anticipated response is a prompt “Yes” to the RSVP. If you’re unable to attend, send your regrets as quickly as possible. When provided enough notice, the family can give your ticket to another family member or close friend. Order your gift online, carry one to the reception, or mail a check or gift card to the graduate.
Your warm wishes will encourage the graduate as they begin the next challenging journey ahead.
For more of my life after graduation etiquette tips, check out my article Business Etiquette: The Art of the College Job Search on the Huffington Post.