Barn Manners: Graduation Announcements and Gifts

May 26, 2010 - 4:27 AM

Question: A bunch of the girls at the barn are graduating from high school soon. One has mailed me a graduation announcement. Am I obligated to send her a gift? And if I give her a gift, shouldn’t I give the others a gift as well?

Answer: ‘Tis the season of graduations and weddings, and if you’re been invited to several, your joy may be somewhat tempered by the inherent gifting obligations that accompany these celebrations.

Graduation announcements are intended to spread good news and carry no obligation to send a gift. Because many people are unaware that this is the case, graduation announcements should be sent to family and very close friends only, or should include a line that says, “no gifts, please” on the bottom. If you receive a graduation announcement, it’s good manners to at least send a card of congratulations.

Graduation announcements are not the same as invitations to the graduation ceremony or to a graduation party. If you’re invited to a graduation ceremony or to a graduation party, it’s customary to send or bring a gift.

In many families graduation is a big deal. Some parents will splurge for a car or computer, and this year an iPad will probably be a popular gift, but usually people spend less—anywhere from $20 to $150. Rather than using price as a benchmark, choose a gift with lasting value or one that the graduate will need for the next stage of life, be that college, independent living or the workplace. Computer accessories, books, dorm room supplies, luggage, gift certificates and even cash are all appropriate choices.  

If you can’t or don’t attend a graduation party that you’ve been invited to, mail a gift or bring it to the graduate in person.

Since you have a few graduates at the barn, I would recommend doing the same thing for each three. If that’s just a card, that’s fine, but if you give a gift to one, I would give a gift to each of them. The gifts don’t need to be of equal value. Each gift should be based on your affection for and closeness to the graduate, as well as your budget.

Elizabeth Howell grew up riding on the hunter/jumper circuit in Massachusetts. Now she is a horse show mom. She holds a day job at The Emily Post Institute and slings horse manure on the weekends.  Her web site is



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