To Give, or Not to Give (a Graduation Gift)? That is the Question!

May 13, 2013    |    By +
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Graduation gift etiquette can be completely confusing. Between kindergarten graduation, high school graduation, and college degrees, graduation is a potential gift giving mine field. When are you expected to give a gift and when is it OK not to? With all of our purse strings as tight as they can be, you need to know the hard and fast rules to help you smoothly navigate graduation season.


Basically, there are only 2 essential rules for when you DO give graduation gifts:

1. Always send a card if you receive a graduation announcement or invitation. You do not have to put cash in the card. You can still send a gift or bring one with you to the event.

2. If you do attend the graduation ceremony or graduation party, you must bring a gift.

 And, a quick explanation of when you DON’T give graduation gifts:

1. If you are invited and don’t attend, don’t worry about sending a gift.

2. If you receive a graduation announcement you are not required to send a gift.

3. If you aren’t invited to the graduation ceremony or graduation party you don’t have to send a gift.

That being said… rules shmools! Rules are made to be broken and the same holds true for graduation.

When considering what to do for the graduates in your life remember that they need all the support and guidance they can get right now. If you can, you should send them a little something to commemorate their efforts and encourage a bright future.

Some people take these types of events more personally than others, you know who they are, so weigh your choices carefully; especially if you’re family. It may be worth it to send a gift, no matter what the rules are, to keep things kosher.

So, now you need to figure out what to give. I wrote a post a few weeks ago on how much to spend on graduation gifts that should help you out. And, you can see all of our favorite graduation gift ideas too.

* this post was originally published on May 7th, 2012.  Due to its popularity, a few updates were made and we re-posted it! Let us know if we can answer any other graduation gift related questions in a future post!



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Meet the Gurus

Kathryn D.W.
Kathryn Drury Wagner is the senior manager of content at She was formerly the executive editor at Honolulu Magazine, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Shopping on Oahu. Her career has included staff positions at Country Living Gardener and Power & Motoryacht. Her latest book is "Hawaii's Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!"

Gwen P.
Gwen is the Editorial Curator at In addition to writing blogs, she creates gift guides, curates the site, and produces content for our social media channels. As a freelance writer, she created blogs on fashion, art, travel, health and lifestyle. A talented jewelry designer, she's also a yogi and a hospital volunteer with her therapy dog, Lilo, a Pomeranian.