Graduation Gifts – Who, What, How

Who should you give graduation gifts to? What’s appropriate? How about flowers or cash? Learn when to give, what’s appropriate, and how best to say “congratulations!”


It’s a celebration! Sometimes, it’s a party!

But whatever it is, graduations are special events that happen once in a lifetime.

It’s about the graduate:

  • recognizing their achievement
  • celebrating their transition
  • wishing them well on the future that awaits them

Graduation is a great opportunity to give a memorable gift and show you care. Learn the basics about graduation gifts - when to give and what’s appropriate.

Jump to:

Should I give a graduation gift?

Well, that depends. What events are you a part of?

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

Graduates only have a limited number of tickets to the ceremony, making each invitation that much more meaningful.

Graduation parties are also a day of food, drinks, and fun for the guests. They can be expensive to host, and a gift is a great way to show your appreciation.

Graduations can also be expensive to attend. Costs can include:

  • travel expenses
  • hotel
  • time off from work

Bottom line, don’t give more than you feel comfortable giving. Inexpensive gifts such as homemade cards or craft gifts can be very unique and memorable.

The most important thing is that you’re there to celebrate!

I just got an I send a gift?

Well, did they invite you to the graduation ceremony? If so, they consider you very close, as each grad often only has a limited number of tickets. Bring a gift if you attend.

If you were invited and cannot attend the graduation, let them know as soon as possible so they can invite someone else.

If you cannot attend and still want to show your support and appreciation, send a gift (especially flowers) to arrive a few days before the ceremony. It lets them know that you are there in spirit.

Did they invite you to the graduation party? Don’t feel obligated to send a gift if you don’t attend.

I just got an I send a gift?

No, an announcement's just an announcement.

Some grads don’t even send out announcements because they feel it’s too much like asking for gifts. Most that do include “No gifts, please.” somewhere on the announcement.

The grad and his / her family are very proud, and they thought you’d want to share in the moment. Feel honored!

If you want to, send a card or give them a congratulatory phone call.

Bottom line, don’t feel obligated to give a gift because you received an announcement.

graduation cap

What’s an appropriate graduation gift?

Is your gift appropriate? Well that depends on your relationship with the graduate.

Would you give underwear to someone you barely knew, or a back hair trimmer to your neighbor?

Probably not unless you wanted to raise some eyebrows...and maybe get your mail box run over.

How close are you to this person?

  1. close family / family friend - consider a more substantial gift
  2. classmate / neighbor / distant relative - a card, flowers, or thoughtful trinket is meaningful and more than expected. Consider a homemade gift.

For common gifts or a few ideas to jog your brain, check out our graduation gift ideas.


Mail the graduation gift or deliver in person

If you’re going to the graduation party, take the gift with you. If you can’t make it, drop the gift off in person a few days before.

If you are unable to stop by in person, send your graduation gift so that it arrives a few days before the ceremony. Consider sending flowers, too.



Flowers are a great way to show your support for the graduate!

If you can’t attend the graduation, sending flowers a few days before the ceremony shows that you are with them in spirit.

It is also traditional to give the graduate flowers before or after the ceremony. These flowers can be:

Flower Leis - Nowadays, flower leis are becoming more popular. If the school permits them, these flower necklaces add color and a sense of celebration to the ceremony. Guys also usually feel OK about wearing them...which is a lot to ask considering they’re flowers!

Corsage / Boutonniere - Tradition says that the parent should give these to their graduate before the ceremony. In recent times, this tradition is not followed as much. However, a corsage or boutonniere can still be a special gesture to show your support of your son or daughter.


Bouquets - More recently, these are often given to the graduate immediately following the ceremony. It’s a good replacement for a corsage or boutonniere, and makes for great pictures!

Sending a bouquet is also a great graduation gift, particularly if you can’t make the ceremony or party. Send it early so it gets there a few days before the ceremony.



Cash is great, accepted anywhere for anything! Sometimes it’s even preferred. Ask around if you think this might be the case. It’s OK to ask the parents, as they probably won’t tell you otherwise. It’s hard to imagine the parents calling you up and saying “If you do give Johnny a graduation gift, make it cash!”

Spice up cash gifts with a card and hand-written message. Or, create the card yourself. Another idea - put the cash in a nice money clip or wallet.

Also, know that cash can be less personal than a specific gift that you pick out. For example, when you visit the graduate, they will often still have the gift you gave them and remember it. Cash isn’t quite as memorable. But hey, a gift’s a gift! Right?


Thank You Notes

If you’re the graduate, thank all those nice people for their gifts!

1. Send it promptly

It’s polite, particularly so that grandma doesn’t stay up all night worrying that the mailman stole the check!

2. Write and address the notes by hand

Can you think of the last time you received a hand-written letter in the mail? How did it make you feel?

The reality is that society is drifting towards impersonal electronic communication. If you write it by hand, it shows that you took time out of your busy schedule to thank and appreciate this person. So do it!

3. Write it well

You don’t have to be the next Hemingway in your thank you letters. But you do need to show your appreciation.

So before you write, take a moment to empathize. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes:

  • what special thought did they put into this gift?
  • what could they have bought instead of buying a gift for you, paying for travel / hotel, etc.
  • how are they hoping that you will respond to the gift?
  • how have they helped you out all those years prior to graduation?

Got a clear picture? Great! Now just write. It doesn’t need to be long, just be thoughtful and appreciative.writing

If you don’t receive a thank you note within a few months...

Then it’s OK to ask the graduate if they received it. Although this may seem pushy, it’s actually a great way to stay in touch. And who knows...maybe the mailman did take the check!


Now find that graduation gift!

Graduation gifts are a great way to show your recognition and appreciation.

Want another helpful article to jog your mind? Take a look at this guide to creative graduation gift ideas.

Also, take advantage of our interactive community. Check out our gift reviews for feedback on graduation gifts given by others.

Or, search through our gift questions and answers for more gift ideas and advice. If you don't find the answer you're looking for, please post a new question!

Share Your Graduation Gift Advice

Do you have a useful tip to add to this page? Have you given or received a great graduation gift?

Please share your experiences and help others give better graduation gifts.





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