A podcast from Alex Packer, etiquette guru and author of How Rude!® The Teen Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out.
Second in a monthly series of podcasts from Free Spirit Publishing.
Who should receive invites and announcements? What do you do if you can’t make it to everyone’s grad party? Is it wise to flip the bird and stick your tongue out when posing onstage with your diploma? Etiquette expert Alex Packer offers ten tips for teens looking to navigate high school graduation season with grace and good manners.
Yes, your high school commencement is a day you’ll always remember. Let’s hope it’s a day you’ll want to remember. While graduation may be your triumph, it’s also a major occasion for everyone who helped you get there. This is your chance to show your family, teachers, and friends what a fine person you’ve become. Today we’ll discuss ten things you can do to demonstrate maturity, decorum, and gratitude as you kiss high school good-bye.
1. Decide who to invite to the ceremony. Because seating is usually limited at commencement exercises, you may not be able to invite as many people as you wish. In this case, you’ll have to prioritize. Start with anyone likely to give you a car. Then invite your immediate family and closest relatives. If you still have some seats left, you can broaden the net to include mentors, friends, and distant relatives.
2. Send out grad announcements. These you send to friends and relatives who would be thrilled to hear of your accomplishments. This list might include tutors, coaches, piano teachers, scout leaders, and treasured babysitters from your childhood. If you had hoped to invite them to the graduation ceremony but were unable to do so because of limited seating, include a note to that effect or invite them to your graduation party, if you are having one. Let them know how much their support and/or friendship has meant to you over the years.
3. Don’t fish for presents. It’s tacky to blanket the populace with news of your graduation. Don’t send invitations or announcements to the neighbor you don’t know very well or the doctor who removed your tonsils when you were nine. ‘
4. Be tolerant of parents and relatives. Your folks will be bursting with pride. This means that they’ll stalk you with their camera, reveal your family nickname, leave lipstick on your cheek, and talk about you to anyone who will listen. Don’t be embarrassed by your parents’ behavior. Your friends have parents, too.
5. Wear something nice. You might wonder But if you can’t see what’s under my graduation gown, what difference does it make? In theory, it makes no difference. People attending a graduation ceremony should pay attention to the speeches, not speculate on what the graduates have on beneath their robes. In other words, as long as what you’re wearing (or not wearing) under your gown doesn’t distinguish you from classmates who are properly attired, you’re within the bounds of etiquette (as long as a gust of wind doesn’t lift your gown).
6. Demonstrate good diploma-cy. When you go up to receive your diploma, restrict physical contact with the principal to a handshake. No hugs, playful slugs on the shoulder, or European air kisses allowed. Of course, if your principal initiates such activities, you are free to join in the festivities. Additionally, try not to hoot and holler when your best friend is called to receive his or her diploma. Your ear-splitting whistling might overshadow the next graduate’s name. Save your loudest “hurrays” and “woohoos” for the cap toss.
7. Giving a speech at the ceremony? Keep it short. Don’t swear. Hurt no one. Tell a few inside jokes for your classmates. Radiate idealism. Thank all parents and teachers. Don’t trip when you leave the stage.
8. Grad party guidelines. If you’re invited to a graduation ceremony or to a graduation party, it’s customary to send a card or bring a gift to offer congratulations. If you are busy with your own party and don’t have time to attend all the parties of classmates who invited you to theirs, it’s still a nice gesture to send a card.
9. Thank-you notes are mandatory. Here’s the thing about thank-you notes: they get exponentially more difficult to write with each day that passes. By the second day, they are four times harder to write. By the third day, they are nine times harder, and if you wait 12 days, they are 144 times harder to write! So, get out that pen and get started.
That’s right. Thank-you notes should be written by hand. Use personal note stationery or attractive cards (the ones that are blank inside). However, if your handwriting is absolutely atrocious, it’s better to send a laser-printed, personally signed letter than none at all. Never begin with “Thank you for . . . .” Start with some news, a recollection of the event, a reaffirmation of your friendship, or other charming chitchat. Always mention the gift by name or share how you are going to spend the money. If you have no idea, make something up. And, if you wish to petition me for permission to text your thank-yous, please take a number, get in line, and I will consider your request.
10. Finally and most important, don’t forget to enjoy your final moments of high school! This is the end of an important chapter in your life story and a huge personal accomplishment! Celebrate your success and enjoy these last times with your classmates before everyone takes off for their next adventures.
Until next time, this is Alex Packer, etiquette guru and author of How Rude!® The Teen Guide to Good Manners, Proper Behavior, and Not Grossing People Out.
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