Graduation Go-To Guide

It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the pomp and circumstance of graduation. It’s a major milestone in someone’s life and attention must be paid. With 6 million U.S. high school students and 3.8 million college students set to matriculate this spring, families need to get schooled on graduation etiquette, myths and current celebration trends.

Have some class

It remains the most misunderstood aspect of the commencement celebration. Once upon a time, it was believed that anyone who received a graduation announcement was automatically invited to the ceremony, any corresponding party and expected to bring a gift. Actually nothing could be further from the truth. According to etiquette experts such as Emily Post and Miss Manners, the purpose of the announcement is to share your student’s exciting news with friends and family. It should be given without expectation and received without obligation.

Families can include a note about an upcoming open house in the announcement, but if you plan to invite the receiver to the actual graduation ceremony, it’s best to send a separate invitation. Students tend to have a limited number of seats allotted to them and not everyone will be able to attend. If everyone has a similar looking “invitation” it can cause some confusion so it’s best to make this clear in order to avoid any hurt feelings.

Also, keep in mind that announcements should be sent only to those with whom you have regular contact and who your student would immediately recognize. There is no need to mail them to everyone you’ve ever met.

Celebrate in style

According to national statistics, families spend on average $578 on a graduation bash. Though most plan the event themselves, purchase decorations and host the party in their own home, others will hire a coordinator, rent/borrow a space and call in a catering company such as Hall’s to supply the fare. The important thing is not to do more than you can afford. If your graduate is expecting a soiree that looks like something they’ve seen on MTV or an “unreality” show and is outside of your budget, then a frank discussion is in order.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been invited to a graduation party, you may not know what to give or how much to spend. Cash remains high on the list of acceptable presents as well as items the student may need for their college dorm room or a keepsake gift. No matter what you choose to do, the amount you spend tends to depend on how well you know the student. A casual acquaintance may cough up $20 but if it is a niece or a nephew, you may raise the ante. Remember though, this is a gesture and not a money grab. Don’t give more than you can afford.

Remember graduation is a time to celebrate a student’s accomplishments, to honor the past and look forward to the future. Here’s to the class of 2015. Congratulations!

Top tips for Grad Parties

• Choose paper invites over e-vites
• Don’t rush the party to have it close to the actual ceremony. For the best turn out, wait a week or so when other events die down.
• Don’t overcalculate food costs due to an unknown number of guests. You will always end up with too much.
• Personalize the decorations with a memory table or make centerpieces from your graduate’s favorite things.
• Consider co-hosting with other parents to cut costs—especially if renting a space.
• Encourage your student to send timely (and REAL), handwritten thank you notes.

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