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Graduation Announcement Etiquette – Everything You Need to Know

graduation announcements with photos and printed return address with gold background

Do you need to send graduation announcements? While the idea may seem antiquated to some, friends and family love to celebrate this milestone occasion and it’s the traditional first step in a long line of time-honored personal correspondence. Save the dates and wedding invitations, holiday cards, and birth announcements are all considered meaningful personal correspondence keepsakes, and a graduation announcement is the perfect opportunity to continue or begin the tradition.

black and white photo graduation announcement photo of boy graduate

When it comes to graduation announcements, there’s a multitude of options and choices to suit every budget and personality. Include a favorite senior photo or a fun and exuberant snap from the ceremony itself, or opt just to include the basics. Tiny Prints offers a wide variety of themes, colors, formats, and prices to suit any style or personality. Be sure to plan for envelopes and postage, or an RSVP card for invitations.

Announcements and Invitations: Who Gets What, and When?

Once you've decided on your announcements or invitation, the next issue is who to invite, and when to do so. Your choice of photo might dictate the send date; an announcement including a photo in your cap in gown will obviously be sent post-graduation. The general rule of thumb: plan to send graduation party or ceremony invitations at least two weeks before the event, and graduation announcements should be sent two weeks before the date or within four weeks after. It's important to stick to this six-week window, as announcements tend to lose their luster if sent too late after graduation. Of course, always be mindful of language and tense!

Teachers, classmates, friends, family and colleagues are obvious choices for announcements and invitations. Close family and friends may also receive invitations to grad parties or ceremonies, but the general rule is don't send a graduation announcement to anyone you or your family wouldn't send a holiday card to. You can't go wrong with this rule, but it's also a good idea to keep a few extras on hand to respond in kind to any unexpected announcements you may receive.

How to Assemble Graduation Announcements

Graduation announcement wording is a common dilemma. Individual grads will decide to make their language formal or informal, friendly or straightforward, personal or basic, and whether or not to include a personal photo. If you're stumped on language, follow the lead on your chosen design, or reproduce the example below:

  • Full name

  • Graduation year (i.e. "Class of 2016")

  • Name of high school or college

  • Date of Graduation

You may choose to include a personal sentiment or future plans on the announcement itself, although a more effective greeting might be better handwritten on the printed card or on a separate envelope within the mailing envelope. This is the place to include nicknames, informal greetings, or a personal signature or thanks. Include the recipient's formal name and mailing address on the outside of the envelope, and make sure to print or include the correct return address. You can also use address labels that match your announcements to make your mailing process easier.

The printed announcement or invitation is also the place to include a "No Gifts, Please" request, if you'd prefer.

What to Expect After Sending Announcements

Gifts are the usual outcome of high school or college graduation announcements, unless you specifically request otherwise. Don't register for gifts or try to influence what you receive; your family and friends will either send gifts or they won't, and a sincere thank you is the only communication necessary.

Thank You Card Etiquette

A formal announcement should include a formal graduation thank you card. Timely and handwritten thank you notes are a crucial part of the graduation announcement or invitation procedure; emails or phone calls should not be used as substitutes! Thank you notes should be standard for all graduation gifts, no matter how small, and should always be sent within two weeks of receiving a gift. Use matching personal stationary for a classy touch.

black and white personalized graduation thank you card with arrows

How to Respond to Announcements and Invitations Received

Chances are you'll receive plenty of announcements and invitations during graduation season. Again, gifts are the usual response, although you shouldn't feel pressured to reinvent the wheel for each and every announcement or invite. A small amount of cash or a gift card is an easy and appropriate response, but there is no requirement! If a gift doesn't fit in your budget, consider a congratulations card instead. Feel free to send gifts or cards to grads who don't send formal announcements as well. You might consider sending a small gift or a card particularly if you're invited to a party you can't attend.

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