High School Graduation Etiquette Issues

Families, Parties, Announcements and Gifts

Educaton: Graduates stand in row on college campus.
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Although high school graduation can be a very exciting time for many teens, it also brings up some very delicate etiquette issues for many families. The good news is, it can also provide a great opportunity to role model how to handle difficult situations diplomatically.

Deciding Who to Invite to Graduation

Most high schools give teens a very limited number of tickets to graduation. Deciding who gets those tickets can be tricky.


Problem-solve together about how to handle the situation. When you can't invite everyone, it's important to communicate the issues directly with extended family to avoid as many hurt feelings as possible. 

A teen who only receives six tickets but has two parents and two step-parents, may not be able to invite both sets of grandparents. One option is to invite just one person from each set of grandparents. You can allow each set of grandparents to decide who will get the single ticket.

It can also be helpful to alert the family of the situation and ask for volunteers to skip out on graduation. While some people love attending the ceremony, many others would rather celebrate with the graduate at a party.

Ultimately, leave it up to the graduate who gets invited. Hopefully, family and friends will be gracious enough to understand if they don’t receive a ticket to graduation.

Graduation Party Invitation Etiquette 

Try to send graduation party invitations about one month in advance to give people plenty of notice about when the party will take place.

Don’t worry about wittling down the guest list. Instead, it’s okay to invite a lot of extended family, neighbors and friends.

Schedule the party at a time when most people will be able to attend. Since many families will be celebrating more than one graduation, it can be helpful to schedule the party several weeks before or several weeks after the actual graduation ceremony.

You may want to avoid Memorial Day weekend and Mother’s Day to get the best attendance.

It’s proper etiquette, however, to put on the invitations that gifts aren’t necessary. Include a note that says, “Your presence is present enough,” or something along those lines to make it clear that the invitation doesn’t mean a gift is expected.

Avoid including any type of gift suggestions. Don’t tell people if the graduate is registered somewhere and don’t ask for “cash only.” If people are looking for gift suggestions, they’ll ask for ideas.

Although social media and email make it easy to send online invitations, many people still prefer receiving actual invitations in the mail. Hand write invitations and give people a little bit of information about what to expect at the party. For example, make it clear whether you’re planning an outdoor barbeque or an indoor pizza party so guests can plan accordingly.

Read More:

Graduation Announcement Etiquette

Graduation announcements can be sent to friends and family members who live far away or who won’t be able to attend the graduation party. It’s important to note on the graduation announcement when the graduation ceremony is so that people are aware of the time frame that you'll be celebrating.

Just like on a party invitation, however, it’s important to note that you simply wanted to tell people about graduation and that no gifts are expected. It can also be helpful to tell people what your teen’s plans are after graduation. 

Thank-You Note Etiquette 

It’s good manners for gift recipients to respond with handwritten thank-you notes. Text messages or emails usually don’t appear as gracious as a handwritten note that is sent through the mail. Encourage your teen to personalize each thank-you note by saying how the gift will be used or why it was especially appreciated.

Read More: Graduation Gift Guide

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