Topic Tuesday – {Graduation Etiquette}

April 14, 2015

Graduation is literally just around the corner and as my calendar reflects (I have a shoot every single day of the week in April!), some seniors are frantically trying to get their photos taken in time to send out Graduation Announcments, Invitations and/or Party Invitations.  So how can you as the photographer guide them through this process?  By knowing the rules of etiquette when it comes to all things Graduation.

Many of you may not know this, but prior to being a photographer I owned an invitation business. I created party invitations, shower invitations and more and became quite versed in invitation etiquette.  So with that knowledge and a little research from the web, I have gathered some information that will come in handy for you when your clients order Graduation Cards.

Invitation versus Announcements

What is the difference?  I have parents ask me this sometimes so I need to be prepared with the correct answer so I can be sure to guide them into what they really need.

While Invitations and Announcements look very similar, the wording is where the major difference is.  An Invitation invites the person who receives it to the actual graduation ceremony.  In my area (check your area to see if it is the same), each student is only allowed a certain amount of invitations to the actual ceremony.  Because of this, some of my clients opt to use the school invitation for that purpose then order a fun graduation announcement with their photo from me.

The invitations, whether they are ordered through the school or through me, need to include the following:

  • Date of Ceremony
  • Time of Ceremony
  • Location of Ceremony
  • Name of person graduating
  • High School they are graduating from
  • Class of 2015 or whatever year it is

Announcements are used when a person would like to share with someone that they are graduating but not necessarily inviting this person to the ceremony or party.  It is simply an announcement saying, “Hey I’m Graduating!” 🙂  These are usually sent out to friends, parent’s friends, work associates, long-distant relatives and others who would want to know of the accomplishment.

An announcement usually has the following info:

  • Name of Person Graduating
  • Class of 2015 or whatever year it is
  • High School that they are graduating from
  • Optional:  Name of College they are going to attend

As you can see, the announcement has less information than the invitation and does not invite them to attend the ceremony.

When to Send Out Invitations

According to Emily Post, invitations should be sent out three to four weeks before event and if the invitee is out of town, invitations can be sent up to six weeks prior to the event to give enough time to make travel arrangements.  This goes for both ceremony invitations and graduation party invitations.

When to Send Out Annoucements

According to Lizzie Post, Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter, in an article on, graduation announcements are to be sent after the ceremony has taken place.  I must admit this is something I learned today and I am so glad I did.  This is a great tip for your seniors because they may be thinking they need to send it out earlier and rush to get their photos taken.  But if you wait until after the ceremony has taken place, that gives us photographers a little more time to get those shoots in.

Graduation Party Invitations

Graduation Party Invitations are similar to the graduation ceremony invitations in that they invite someone to attend an event.  The difference being the event itself.  Some graduates have parties to celebrate this important accomplishment.  The party can be mixed with both adults and teens as well as include family and non-family members.  The party can also include those that may have already been invited to the ceremony but they would receive two different cards in the mail…one inviting them to the ceremony and one inviting them to the party.

Photographers can create graduation party invitations using the images from that senior’s photo session.  Using the information for the actual party, you will need to make sure you have the following on the invitation:

  • Date of Party
  • Location of Party
  • Time of Party
  • Who the Party is Celebrating
  • Regrets or RSVP
  • Optional – what type of party such as formal, casual, etc

Like the invitations to the actual graduation ceremony, party invitations should be sent out three to four weeks before the date of the party and if they are going to out-of-town guests, you should send them up to six weeks prior to the party to allow time for travel arrangements.

Should I as the Photographer Attend

This question was posted by Caroline of CG3 Photography in one of the private Seniorologie Facebook Groups and a lot of others replied.  If you receive an invitation to either the ceremony or graduation party, should you go?

My answer, along with a lot of the others in the groups answer, is that it depends on how close you are to that person.  I feel like I get really close to my girls and because of that I want to support them in their accomplishments.  So if I get invited to a party or a ceremony I try to go.  If it doesn’t work out that I can, they understand but I definitely try to attend.

I think this is a personal decision and one that you have to be comfortable with.  I don’t think it is a necessity that you attend but if you get invited then you should definitely consider it because it would probably mean a lot to that particular client.

Should I Give a Gift

According to Emily Post, if you receive a graduation announcement you should give a gift.  The gift does not have to break the bank but could be something simple and meaningful.  A few ideas of gifts are:

  • Starbucks Gift Card
  • If you know the college they will attend, something with the school on it
  • A Card with heartfelt advice
  • Photo Product – mini album, extra print, notepad, etc
  • Gift Card to favorite local boutique

With graduation season upon us, I hope you will find this post helpful and guide your clients to help them through this season.  Feel confident when they ask you questions about graduation invitations, party invitations and announcements!