Graduation Gift Etiquette and Gift Ideas

For any graduate, the commencement and celebrations that follow will be treasured as one of the most momentous occasions of their life. Before these students embark on life’s next big journey, whether that’s going off to college or the working world, they deserve a celebration for their hard work and dedication with the people who mean the most, including you! If you are honoring someone who is graduating this season and are unsure of what to get them, our graduation gift etiquette and gift-giving tips below will help you make the perfect choice.

beautiful graduation announcements on wall

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When is a Graduation Gift Appropriate?

Graduation season is more often than not marked by the sprinkling of graduation announcements and graduation party invitations throughout the usual junk mail pile. After receiving personalized graduation correspondence it’ll be important for you to consider the details before sending a gift.

If you’ve received a graduation announcement, not a high school graduation party invitation or a college graduation party invitation, etiquette states that you are not required to give a gift. Many families use announcements to simply share the exciting news with family, friends, and co-workers. In fact, most of the graduation party invitation wording will include a phrase such as, “no gifts.” Although you may feel obligated to give a gift, keep in mind that announcements do not necessarily translate to a seat at the commencement ceremony or invite to the graduation party. Replying to the announcement with a sincere congratulations graduate and sending a card to commemorate the day is appropriate though if you’d like to. Be sure to craft a sincere graduation message and try including a few graduation quotes as inspiration for the graduate. Etiquette also states that no matter your relationship with the honoree, if you want to send a gift you can choose to do so.

graduation announcement displayed on grad party table with cupcakes

However, if you’ve been invited to a graduation party or commencement ceremony, you should definitely bring a gift with you to the event, along with a graduation card. If you’re unable to make it to the party or ceremony, you can still send a graduation gift or card in the mail and let the graduate know how happy you are for them. If you’ve been invited to a graduation party, the host likely considers you important so you’ll want to acknowledge their invite with a gift, whether small or big.

Take these three factors into consideration to determine who’s on your graduation gift list:

  • Consider the type of graduation you’ll be celebrating and the degree achieved. Gifts will be more appropriate for a high school or college graduation rather than a elementary school or middle school graduation.
  • Consider your relationship with the honoree. You will most likely send a gift to your niece who is graduating rather than your neighbor’s child. Think about your relationship with the honoree when deciding what you should give him or her for graduation.
  • Consider the needs of the graduate. Is the new grad traveling across the world? Are they headed off into the working world?  Consider where he or she is headed in this new and exciting chapter of their life and how your gift could help.

When to Send a Graduation Gift?

There are no set rules for when to send a graduation gift. Anytime after you receive the announcement is appropriate but, the sooner the better. If you are planning on attending any of the graduation celebrations you should arrange to bring your gift then and give it to the graduate. If you can not make it to the celebrations you can send a gift in your place.  On the other hand, if you didn’t receive an announcement or invitation but would like to honor the graduate’s accomplishments you can choose to send a gift, the same etiquette applies.

What Are Popular Graduation Gifts?

Personalized items are popular gifting options for graduates, as well as traditional flowers or cash. Meaningful gifts are the perfect way to mark this occasion if you’re unsure about giving cash or gift card. Whether you’re shopping for the trendy graduate who wants to show off style or the practical grad who has been saving up for a big move, you’ll want your gift to be useful to the honoree, sincere and heartfelt — something that will remind the graduate of their dreams and the adventures that lie ahead.

cute personalized graduation gifts at dorm desk for student

Personalized Graduation Gifts

High school graduates going off to college are looking forward to moving away from home and having a space of their own. Send them off with little reminders and personalized items to make their dorm feel just like home. College graduates may also be in need of a piece of home as they enter the working world. A personalized graduation gift can elicit sweet memories from their four years at school and can be cherished for years to come. From home decorating pieces to desk plaques and custom photo books, you can give your grad the gift that keeps on giving.

What Kind of Flowers Do You Give a Graduate?

You don’t have to splurge on an expensive gift to let the graduate know how proud you are. Flowers are given as a gift to celebrate many of life’s occasions so, it’s no surprise that they are given at graduations too. Flowers are traditional graduation gifts that are usually given to the graduate before the commencement ceremony in the form of a lei or after the ceremony as a bouquet. Beautiful bouquets are an easy way to celebrate the graduate whether you can be there in person or not and will really make a statement.

Types of Flowers:

With so much variety, it can be hard to choose the perfect flowers to celebrate the new grad. Popular flower bouquets for graduations include carnations, roses and orchids. Although, you can never go wrong with selecting flowers that match the school’s colors or picking a bouquet of the honoree’s favorite florals. Flowers also make for great keepsakes when dried and saved between the pages of a photo album.

Hawaiian Flower Leis:

Bouquets of all different types of flowers are commonly given to graduates as well as Hawaiian leis. As the Hawaiian tradition goes, leis are given to people that are coming and going. Seeing as graduation symbolizes the graduate leaving one chapter behind them for the next, it is an appropriate gift option. Plus, the lei looks great with a cap and gown and if you select a unique lei, you may even  be able to spot your graduate during the commencement ceremony.

cute custom grad gifts with photos of grad

How Much Money Do You Gift for a Graduation Gift?

Money is also a common gift for graduates. Few of us are sure what amount is appropriate to gift and carry the notion that graduation money gifts may seem too impersonal. But in fact, many graduates would prefer to receive money as a gift and you can get creative with your cash.

If you’re not close to the graduate, you should give a cash gift in the range of $20-$100 to remain modest and appropriate in light of your relationship. If you’re close to the graduate or a family member, you can give a larger amount of money if your personal finances allow for it. However, the bottom line is to give whatever you are comfortable giving. You can get creative with your money gifts and make a presentation the grad will never forget. This time don’t just slip cash into your graduation card, use one of the creative graduation money gift ideas below:

  • Graduation money lei—Lei of one dollar bills
  • A money tree gift
  • Calendar with money attached to each month
  • Money flowers

Graduation Gift Ideas for Her

You’d be surprised by how a little personalization can go a long way. There are endless possibilities with custom photo gift keepsakes to commemorate her high school graduation or the end of her college journey. Ensure your high school graduate stays caffeinated during those rigorous college courses with a personalized coffee mug or help her cherish some of her college memories with a personalized journal that has some inspirational graduation messages.


Graduation Gift Ideas for Him

Moving a tassel from one brim of his cap to another represents more than just a degree. It represents the tireless hours studying, the highs and lows and the people he spent these moments with. Make sure your graduation gift reflects all of his hard work and create something unique with the personalized options below.

Select a gift that will celebrate your grad’s unique personality and the adventure that lies ahead.

Make sure the note or heartfelt graduation message in your greeting card reflects just how proud you are too. After you send your graduation gift or take part in the celebrations keep a look out for your graduation thank you card from the newly-grad!