Manner Monday Q&A: Graduation Gifts

Every Monday Blogging4Jobs invites our resident Etiquette Expert, CareySue Vega (@Etiquette101), to share tips when it comes to etiquette in the workplace during our own Manner Monday segment. This segment is for the practitioner who is focused on creating a more etiquette-friendly environment. 

Manner Monday Q&A

Q:“I work in a small office with six other people. Three of my coworkers have children who are graduating this year. Needless to see that’s all they’re talking about, and I know I will be invited to all of the parties. I also have two nieces and a close family friend graduating. I’m sure there are others I’m not aware of, but so far, I’m counting up to six possible gifts I’m going to need to buy in May. I’m on a budget and wasn’t prepared for this. Do I really need to buy them all gifts?” – Beth

A: Beth, I’m going to answer your question with how the news should be shared and then you can decide based on whether you receive an ‘invitation’ or an ‘announcement’ and whether or not you choose to attend the event. I hope this helps…

And let me start off saying as a parent myself, I can only imagine the excitement and emotions that will come once my Cub reaches his senior year (he’s nine now). So I can also imagine the non-stop side conversations taking place at your office. I think for many parents, their child’s road to graduation and the “it takes a village” quote is all too familiar. Many parents want to stand on the rooftop and shout it out… Wahoo!!! He’s graduating!!! Thank you for helping!!!

So let’s break down the process for how the news is shared:

Graduation Invitations

This is an invitation to the actual graduation festivities.  Many schools have a strict limit on how many people may attend in support of each student.  This may determine the list for the ‘invitation’ group.  If parents want to have a party so more people can share in the celebration, they could host a graduation party and extend invitations to the other close friends and family who may have been left out of the ceremony itself.

As the recipient of an ‘invitation’; if you are able to attend, a gift should be given to the graduate.  If you are not able to attend, you may still send a gift, but it is not required.

Graduation Announcements

An announcement does not extend an invitation to an event; its sole purpose is to ‘announce’ the news to whomever the sender thinks might be excited to know of the accomplishment.  Many people may have lost track of time and did not realize that Johnny is already a senior.  They would be excited to hear about this great stage in his life (and the parents).  Those who receive announcements are not obligated to send a gift.  A hand-written note would be a great way to respond to the announcement, sharing excitement for the achievement.  Of course, if the recipient of an announcement would like to send a small gift, they are welcome to do so, but again – not obligated.

With all of that being said.  Some parents will want to send announcements to everyone they know, others will choose to send them only to close friends.  I think the extent of the list will fluctuate for different families and situations.

And, unfortunately, some people do send invitations and announcements as a ploy to receive gifts.  We can only hope that the invitation or announcement we receive was sent in the spirit of the occasion and respond accordingly.

Beth, in your specific case, if you are invited to an event and your are not able to attend, I would make sure to send a handwritten congratulatory note to the graduate saying you have a previous commitment and you regret you will not be able to make it.  This will help to ‘keep peace’ with your peers in the office – no one takes the time to send a handwritten note anymore, and your peer will be honored that you took that time to show their child how he or she matters.  I hope this helps to answer your question. If you need clarification, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

And if anyone else has a question or topic they would like covered during Manner Monday, please leave a comment below. I’m happy to help!

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CareySue Vega

Carey Sue Vega is a business and youth etiquette expert. For ten years, she honed her skills with an international audience as Cruise Director for the Norwegian Cruise Line. Vega has been featured in numerous radio and television shows and magazine articles, sharing her etiquette expertise.  She’s also social savvy with social media. Connect with CareySue.


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