Pomp and Circumstance

After a cold winter and a rainy spring, our daffodils and tulips are finally sprouting and the lilacs are in full bloom. We are officially in the season of graduations! Whether you will be donning the cap and gown yourself or simply attending the festivities, there are etiquette guidelines surrounding these ceremonies. It is time to tuck away the cell phones, leave the blow-up beach balls at home and save the snarky sloganed t-shirts for when you are hanging with friends. Graduations are a prime time to dust off your better behaviors. Here are the top ten tips you need to know to avoid any etiquette emergencies during this season of graduation.

10. Graduation Announcements vs. Graduation Invitations ~ An announcement, whether for a graduation, wedding or birth, is just that, an announcement of a major life change. The appropriate response to any announcement is a congratulatory note or card. An invitation to a graduation party is a grander gesture and requires a grander response. Generally speaking, a token of your well wishes (i.e. a gift) is appropriate. To avoid confusion, announcements are sent after the event while invitations are sent in advance.

9. An Array of Options ~ With many members of a social circle in the same graduating class, it is common to find oneself with multiple invitations to events occurring at the same time. It does diminish from a festive day when guests spend their time taxiing from one event to the next. Instead, you should review all your invitations to see where they fall in your schedule. Choose the 2 or 3 most important and really be present at those, instead of checking your watch to see when you need to shuttle to the next one. For those parties you cannot attend, do be sure to rsvp and find another time to pop by to deliver that graduation gift.

8. Graduation Ceremony Entertainment ~ Yes, graduation ceremonies can be taxing. But this is a big moment in someone's life and does merit a bit of pomp and circumstance. If this is someone close to you, a child, niece, nephew, grandchild… you should attend. If you are not as close, you may opt out of the ceremony and meet up for the celebration. You may also opt out if you have an infant or toddler who may be disruptive at the graduation exercises. But as long and dull as they have the potential to be, there are some amazing speakers and truly inspirational speeches. Take the time to be present and mindful.

7. Cap Toppers ~ Before picking up that hot-glue gun, be sure to review any policies and practices set down by your school. Decorating your cap can show school spirit, be a form of peaceful protest or help your friends and family to spot you in the crowd. Just be sure your artistic endeavors are G or PG rated as graduations are family-focused events.

6. What to Wear Under There ~ It tends to be warm during graduation events, especially when wearing polyester graduation gowns. Graduates should carefully choose lighter fabrics to stay cool. Graduation is a time to dress up. This is a formal occasion and attire should be a few steps above athleisure-wear. Generally, sundresses, skirts, capris, or summer-weight khakis with tops or collared shirts will work. Flip-flops should be avoided both for their informality as well as the racket they make when traversing the stage.

5. School Supplies ~ Often the ceremonies are drawn out affairs with additional time slated in seats waiting for the commencement to, well, commence. While not the time for a full-fledged picnic, there are some items you may want to bring with you. For sundrenched events or those held in arenas lacking air conditioning, water is a must. Sunscreen and hats also help to keep you comfortable. Tissues are helpful, should you be moved to tears or if your allergies are on high alert. Mints, cameras, and even a small snack can be included. Graduates without pockets should consider a cross-body bag to wear under their gowns for necessities during the ceremony.

4. Plan for Pre-Pictures ~ Many schools collect graduation gowns as the students exit the event. If you want to be sure you have captured this moment, be sure to take plenty of pictures in advance of the graduation. The morning of the graduation can be busy. If your graduate has access to their gown a few days prior to the event, take the time to have your own photo-session in advance.

3. Three Cheers ~ Please do listen to those organizing the graduation. If they ask you to hold applause, do try to contain yourself. If there was to be clapping after each individual graduate's name, the graduation would likely last to the wee hours of the morning. Whistles, cowbells and vuvuzelas should all be left at home.

2. Great-Gifts ~ Select gifts which help your graduate transition to their new surroundings. For high school students going off to college, a gift certificate to the campus coffee shop or nearby pizza place are great choices. Most college bookstores have on-line shopping if you choose to give regalia. Items such as personalized stationery and etiquette books are, of course, great choices. Even in this age of digital readers, there is something to be said for the development of a personal library. This would include everything from the basics such as a dictionary, thesaurus, and book of quotations, to cookbooks and your favorite classics you think the graduate should own and read!

1. Graduation and Maturation ~ By now, the graduate should understand that he/she is not "entitled" to gifts and should be humble enough to express appreciation when gifts are given. Before summer plans are in full swing, the graduates should complete their thank you notes. Notes for gifts are a given. While putting pen to paper, graduates should also consider sending thank you notes to teachers, tutors, coaches and counselors who made a difference.

Wishing the Class of 2018, from coast to coast, all the best!