Soon tassels will be enthusiastically moved from the right to the left side of graduation caps. Students will receive their diplomas, a huge milestone in their educational journeys. The honors they’ve worked so hard for, demonstrated in a rainbow of stoles.
I’m sharing a few questions I’ve received regarding how to create a memorable and mannerly experience for both students and their friends and family.
Q: We only have a certain number of invitations to my daughter’s high school graduation. Can I invite more people to an after party even though they were left off the graduation list?
A: Yes. Family and friends understand the limited seating at graduation ceremonies. Most will be happy to share in the celebration at the party afterward, or on another day.
Q: What is the difference between an invitation and an announcement? I received an announcement in the mail, but there was no indication I was invited to the graduation or a party.
A: A graduation announcement is simply a proclamation that a student has graduated from high school (or college), and the family is sharing the happy news. A gift is not mandatory, but a celebratory card or note would be a polite gesture. A graduation invitation is a request to attend the ceremony. Generally, you are a close family member or friend and will want to offer a gift of congratulations. You may opt to send a card with a check enclosed ahead of time, or bring a gift to the party.
Q: Is it appropriate to have two graduation parties – one in our hometown and one when we go to visit my mom (the grandmother of the graduate) this summer? All of the cousins are in another state, and I hate for my daughter to miss out on a family celebration.
A: By all means have two parties if you have the time, energy and resources. Some people invite only high school friends to one party and then host another event for family members and friends of the family at another time. Make sure the guest list does not overlap, and if it does, let the guests know they are not obligated to bring a second gift to the other celebration.
Q: Does the graduate have to stay for the entire party or can he or she leave with their friends after a while and allow the out of town family members to visit?
A: The etiquette of the guest of honor (the graduate) at a party is that they should stay for the duration of the event, to show appreciation to those that took the time to attend in their honor. There are exceptions, however, if the party is in the afternoon, and the adult attendees are lingering late in the evening to catch up on what’s been happening since they’ve seen each other last. Or, the party has come to a close, and all that is left is a couple of aunts and uncles who are staying the night before leaving the next day.
It’s a good idea to put a time frame on the party so family members that came to spend time with the graduate can visit, and won’t feel cheated when the student wants to leave several hours later to join another person who is celebrating their own graduation. It’s a busy time of year, and several graduates may be having parties at the same time.
Q: Can my son send out email thank you notes instead of handwritten ones? He has terrible writing and would prefer to use the computer.
A: It is much more personal to send handwritten notes. Taking the time to sit down and write out personal notes to each person who gave him a gift is preferable to an email. There may even be a slim chance that some older adults don’t use email and would miss the opportunity to be acknowledged without a note in the mail. I strongly encourage you to inspire your son to write – in his best handwriting – even chicken scratch is a personal touch.
You may also enjoy this recent Graduation Q & A segment (via San Antonio Living).
For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, read her Inc. contributions, subscribe to her articles on Huffington Post, “like” The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, or follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.