Graduation Etiquette

Graduation etiquette. Wording grad Invitations, who to invite, what to wear.
For 12 seemingly endless years, you dutifully went to parent-teacher conferences and sat on those little chairs. You returned phone calls from the school nurse even though she used the word "measles." You typed term papers about the Louisiana Purchase. You helped your kid get through it all-- the school yard squabbles, the first boy/girl party, the first car date, the prom. And now, you'll get to help once again. But this time he (or she) is wearing an outfit that you approve of: a cap and gown.

But don't go getting nostalgic yet. Your parental work is not completely done, for you and your son or daughter still haven't agreed on what the proud graduate will wear under that graduation gown. The only outfit that "breathes" less than a graduation gown is a space suit. Nothing is worse than a graduate who squishes across the stage, so think light, airy fabrics like cotton and linen. Unless the school has specific rules (and many do), please make sure that Miss Graduate is wearing something easy and elegant-- a simple dress or a skirt and blouse would be perfect. Whatever she chooses, what's underneath should be in a light color if her graduation gown is white (or yellow). Not only is it cooler, but nothing ruins the look of that hard-earned graduation gown more than seeing the faint outline of the magenta dress underneath (which, of course, you won't even notice until the pictures come back).

Depending on school customs, Mr. Graduate may need to wear a tie. If so, this is the time to borrow a rep tie or foulard from Dad to wear with a neatly pressed shirt in white, blue or another pale color. Either a spread collar or button down, both are perfectly fine. Even if a tie is not required, it looks so much better that you ought to bribe him to do it. Don't insist on dress trousers; neatly pressed casual khaki or olive drab is fine. However, draw the line at jeans and shorts.

Ironically, just about the only part of a graduate that is actually visible to the audience is footwear. Girls should go with a moderately dressy shoe (either flats or pumps are fine but, please, nothing that would look at home in a mosh pit). Boys need to wear either a loafer or dress shoe. Graduation is not the place for flip-flops, sandals, tennis shoes or bunny slippers, regardless of the gender of the graduate. Nor is graduation the time for your kid to affix a message out of masking tape letters to the top of her mortarboard or the back of her gowns. Do your best to discourage it.

Once you determine that your graduate probably is not going to humiliate himself (or you) by mooning the audience à la Robin Williams in Patch Adams, who should you invite to watch him march across the stage? To whom are you going to send announcements?

Graduation announcements, while not originally viewed as a request for gifts, unfortunately have become associated in recent years with forced gift-giving. Graduation announcements should not be distributed to people other than close friends and family members, unless the notation "No gifts please" has been added. (A rough rule to follow would be this: Send announcements only to those people who already know that your son or daughter is graduating.)

The same thing goes for graduation invitations (which differ from the announcements only in that they include a request for attendance at the ceremony as opposed to merely announcing the impending receipt of the diploma or degree). This is particularly true because many degree-granting institutions impose limits on the number of spectators who actually may attend, and issue tickets to the graduate to be given to those select members of the family or friends who actually are expected to show up at the ceremonies. Think carefully about who to invite to the graduation ceremony; after all, what if they all actually show up and you don't have tickets for them?

Better to invite only immediate family and closest friends (such as godparents) to the ceremony. That means, of course, that you must have at least one fabulous graduation party to which you can invite all of those people who helped you and your family survive the last 12 years.

Whether it is a traditional graduation party such as an open house or a more "organized party" such as a roast for the graduate or a buffet dinner, plan a party theme that reflects what your graduate's plans for the future are. For example, if college is the ticket, get on the phone (or online) to that college's bookstore and order balloons, school banners and posters, and anything else that serves both as decoration for your party as well as souvenirs for your guests. Buy fake mortarboards and fill them with flowers in the school colors for instant centerpieces.

It is easy to say that you should plan a graduation party that the graduates will actually remain at throughout the evening, but that actually never has happened. That's okay, though, because once they leave to go to the next party (at which they will also remain just long enough to eat), you and your friends and finally can sit around and reminisce about that first boy/girl party….

Congratulations from the Party Girl and Party411!