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Your graduation ceremony survival guide for a day to remember

by Martin Lewis
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Your graduation is a day you’re unlikely to forget. It’s the culmination of three years (or more) of hard work, dedication and memories set in stone. But, if you’re graduating soon and feeling unprepared, don’t panic. In our graduation ceremony survival guide, you’ll find everything you need to prepare for the big day.

In our guide, we’ll be de-mystifying everything you need to know about your graduation such as sizing graduation gowns, wearing caps appropriately, and more.

Graduation Ceremony Survival Guide, Your Questions Answered

How big are graduation gowns supposed to be?

One of the first things students tend to ask is why or whether their graduation gown is supposed to be so big! Graduation gowns come in various sizes, but sometimes if you’re in between them, it isn’t easy to know which one to choose. We recommend going for a slightly smaller gown if you’re unsure, as this will look smarter on the day. Most of all, you want to ensure that you feel comfortable during the graduation ceremony, especially with all those people watching.

The gown will be below the knee, maybe even an ankle grazer, depending on your height and frame. The arms are also quite large and ‘flappy’, so this will initially feel strange. But don’t worry, everyone else will be feeling the same. While it may not be on-trend or something you’ll see at the next MET Gala, a graduation gown is steeped in history, and when you wear one for your ceremony, you join the ranks of the innumerable graduates who came before you.

What do I wear under a graduation gown?

Again, another very common question. Graduation gowns tend to be a bit on the warm side. So it’s important for the clothes you wear underneath to be relatively lightweight. Graduation days are quite long, and you want to be looking your best at all times. But more importantly, you want to feel comfortable.

Ideally, you want to achieve a classic look by wearing colours that go with your graduation gown and hood. Remember, the photos will be on your relative’s walls for years to come!

Smart-casual clothing is the go-to for many graduates, as it has a professional aesthetic while not making you uncomfortable. Plus, attempting to wear something like a suit under a gown could prove to be a bit toasty. You should avoid wearing jeans, t-shirts and low-cut tops. Additionally, your graduation hood has a loop on the neckband designed to be attached to a shirt button, but it won’t work with certain cuts and necklines. Something to keep in mind when you prepare your outfit.

We’ve compiled an entire guide offering advice and ideas on what to wear under your graduation gown. So if you’re stuck, take a look there for some inspiration.

How do I wear a Mortarboard and Graduation Hood?Graduation Etiquette

Graduation caps, known as mortarboards, can only be worn over simple hairstyles. Meaning that if you plan to spend a long time crafting your hair into the perfect high ponytail or bun or perfectly styling it with hair product — you might want to think again. Your mortarboard will flatten your hair and struggle to sit correctly on top of fancy hairdos.

However, if you have your heart set on a particular hairstyle and don’t mind some additional effort, it is possible. Our advice would be to take plenty of hair grips with you to the ceremony just in case you suffer any mortarboard-related emergencies. You may have to adjust your graduation hat or hood halfway through the ceremony, so it’s wise to be prepared for some hair maintenance.

Where do I put my phone during a graduation ceremony?

Graduation Gown Colours Meaning UK

These days a person’s phone, especially young folk, is pretty much an additional limb. People rarely go anywhere without phones, but what about your graduation ceremony? It’s perfectly fine to have your phone on your person, as you’ll likely want to take photos and videos of your friends. And, of course, a few selfies. But you really shouldn’t be using it during the ceremony to check social media or anything else that’s not essential.

Firstly, it comes across as a bit rude, and it’s a day where you should want to feel present at all times. Don’t miss out on memories because you had to check Twitter!

For the ladies, clutch bags aren’t ideal as you might need both hands free to shake hands and take your award. However, small shoulder bags can work well if your university’s graduation dress code allows it. This way, you’ll have somewhere to store your essentials without having to actually hold anything. Colour-wise, black or plain coloured bags work best to compliment the rest of your outfit.

For men, it’s a lot simpler. All you have to do is store your phone safely in your pocket. However, as smart trousers often have larger, looser pockets, it’s essential to ensure your phone doesn’t fall out of your pocket.

Will it be a virtual graduation?

Woman in red dress and graduation cap spraying champagne

With the Covid pandemic continuing to cause issues, some universities have decided to go virtual, some physical and some are even offering a hybrid experience. What does this mean for you? Although the experience may change substantially from what you may have been expecting, wearing your gown and mortarboard continues to be an important aspect of the graduation process. 

So whether you are attending the celebrations from your university location, or accessing graduations.live from anywhere else in the world, you can ensure you have the best experience possible by treating it as you would a regular physical graduation ceremony.

If your graduation is to be a virtual one, make the most of your special virtual day by looking at these hints and tips.

How not to embarrass yourself during your graduation ceremony

 

For some people, even those with immense confidence, graduation day can be as nerve-wracking as their wedding day. After all, you have to walk up on stage in front of lots of people. It may seem like a simple process, but at any event where you’re being watched and are the focus of attention, it’s natural to feel a little anxious.

While it may not be the most obvious advice, one important tip you should remember relates to your footwear. The temptation, especially for ladies, is to go out and buy new high heels for the big day. There are two reasons why this is a bad idea:

  1. They might rub if they are new, and you’ll be in agony for the graduation ceremony. We’ve all done it at some point and suffered the consequences.
  2. If you don’t usually wear heels, don’t wear heels. There’s a good chance you’ll struggle to walk in them comfortably and may even trip over when you collect your award. You want this day to be memorable for many reasons, but one isn’t that it was the day you tumbled in front of a crowd.

Another top tip which unfortunately may fall on deaf ears for many people is not to drink too much — save it for later on if you plan to get somewhat merry. Yes, the champagne may be complementary, but it’s vital to be on your best behaviour, at least until the ceremony concludes. No one wants to embarrass themselves in front of your proud parents and the University you represent. Especially on a day where you’re celebrating such an incredible achievement.

With that said, feel free to enjoy yourself long into the night with your friends. Just save it until after the ceremony!

How to make your graduation day unique

The structure of the graduation ceremony is probably set in stone already, with strict timings, seating orders and instructions to follow. So, if you’re involved in your cohort’s graduation planning committee, how can you make sure that your ceremony isn’t just the same as every other ceremony at every other university? Small personal touches can help make your graduation day one to remember.

How about arranging to have the choir society or a group from a music degree course singing or playing a song as you walk into the ceremony room and take your seat? You’ll need to choose a song that means something to your academic cohort, or perhaps choose one of the traditional and emotive graduation songs. 

This may take a little bit of organisation but it will be worth it to give the ceremony a unique atmosphere when you see everyone smiling and reflecting on their university memories before the ceremony starts.

You could also try to arrange for you and your peers to wear or carry something that unites you and celebrates your collective success. For example, you could all wear a specific university colour in your graduation outfit or an accessory. 

This can, of course, be placed under your chair during the ceremony, or it could be waved in the air while you cheer on your friends as they collect their awards. How about waving a cute graduation teddy? Think about what would be personal to you and your fellow students and get creative!

How to take the best graduation ceremony pictures

university graduation

During the ceremony, you will be snapped as you shake hands with the Chancellor and collect your award, and a professional photographer may also take your picture before or after the ceremony. But you’ll probably want to take your own pictures to capture more personal memories of the day.

One of the classic graduation ideas for picture poses is a group of friends throwing their mortarboards into the air. This is a difficult one to capture and it may take a few attempts to get the timing right! Other classic graduation picture ideas could be a group of graduates standing on a staircase or steps on different levels, or friends and family clinking champagne glasses.

You will need a few serious pictures to frame for family members, such as the traditional pose of you holding your scroll and smiling, but lots of graduates like taking some funny graduation photos as well. Get ready to pull silly faces, jump in the air or try creating a pyramid pose! Don’t forget to get some graduation photo frames so you display your pictures around the house, or maybe by your computer in your new office?

Great graduation party ideas

Evess Graduations.Live - Header

Who says graduation day has to end after the ceremony? You may have family staying with you or in nearby accommodation, so you’ll probably want to include them in at least some of the post-ceremony celebrations. Plus, they may want to congratulate you with a thoughtful greeting card or graduation gift.

After the ceremony, photographs and bubbly, it will probably be late in the afternoon. We suggest booking a table somewhere in your university town where you can enjoy a nice celebratory meal, perhaps with the family members of your closest uni friends as well.

Involving your family in these celebrations are important, your parents will be extremely proud of you! But, later in the evening, you might want to throw a house party or take the party to your favourite university pubs, bars and clubs. It’s up to you whether parents are invited or not! This could be your last night with your uni friends for a while so go big – you’ve not got any more 9 am lectures to worry about!

We’re thinking fancy dress, body glitter, balloons, confetti and all things colourful, including the cocktails… Cheers!

With all the tips and tricks in this graduation ceremony survival guide to help you get through the day, your graduation celebration should go off without a hitch! And even if something doesn’t go to plan, remember, it’s not about having a picture-perfect day, it’s about celebrating your accomplishments and being proud of yourself and what you’ve achieved.

For more advice and guides about your graduation day or anything else graduation-related, check out our blog. Also, to make sure you’re fully prepared for the big day, check out the graduation section of our online store.

Other useful links

Home graduation tips

Perfect graduation gift ideas

Tips on finding a job after graduation

How you should be wearing your mortarboard

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