How to organise a graduation ceremony

How to organise a graduation ceremony

Some mile­stones in life deserve a spe­cial cel­e­bra­tion, and grad­u­a­tion is def­i­nite­ly one of them. It marks the end of a peri­od of study and the begin­ning of new hori­zons, an impor­tant tran­si­tion for stu­dents.

The grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny is a moment that stu­dents will always remem­ber, and organ­is­ing it requires spe­cial atten­tion. To help you make this event a suc­cess, focus on these 6 key points.


  1. Project overview
  2. Send invi­ta­tions for the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny
  3. Logis­tics and equip­ment needs
  4. The grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny pro­to­col
  5. Prepar­ing the grad­u­a­tion speech
  6. Organ­is­ing the grad­u­a­tion din­ner and par­ty

1. Project overview

Like any oth­er event a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny needs to be well planned, detailed and coor­di­nat­ed. The first step is there­fore to define the project and thus estab­lish the struc­ture with­in which you will organ­ise it.

a) Identify the organising team

Depend­ing on the estab­lish­ment and usu­al prac­tice, either the stu­dents or the school itself will be respon­si­ble for organ­is­ing the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny itself. It is com­mon for both to col­lab­o­rate to a greater or less­er extent. For this col­lab­o­ra­tion to be agile and effec­tive, good organ­i­sa­tion and a clear divi­sion of tasks are nec­es­sary.

It is a good idea to des­ig­nate one project man­ag­er on each side: the stu­dents and the school.

b) Determine the type of graduation ceremony

It’s dif­fer­ent to host a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny for a mid­dle school, a high school or a uni­ver­si­ty. What tone do you want to set for your grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny? Do you pre­fer a for­mal cer­e­mo­ny or a more relaxed one? Do you want to have an “Amer­i­can-style” cer­e­mo­ny? How big will the cer­e­mo­ny be?

All of these deci­sions will help guide the rest of the choic­es you will have to make when organ­is­ing your grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny.

c) Setting the date and venue for the ceremony

Grad­u­a­tion cer­e­monies usu­al­ly take place a few weeks after the end of exams. Set the date as ear­ly as pos­si­ble to ensure the avail­abil­i­ty of stu­dents and their guests, as well as any speak­ers and con­trac­tors you wish to involve.

The most com­mon venue for grad­u­a­tion cer­e­monies is the audi­to­ri­um of the uni­ver­si­ty or school itself. If such a set­ting is not avail­able or does not exist, it is also pos­si­ble to hire a venue for your grad­u­a­tion. With a lit­tle patience, you will cer­tain­ly find the ide­al venue for your grad­u­a­tion.

In either case, make sure that the venue is acces­si­ble to peo­ple with restrict­ed mobil­i­ty, that it has good light­ing and sound, that it is the right size for the expect­ed audi­ence and that it is eas­i­ly acces­si­ble both by pub­lic and pri­vate means of trans­porta­tion.

d) Budgeting

The bud­get is the light­house of any event and a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny is no excep­tion.

This basic ele­ment of event plan­ning is often feared as a bur­den, but it is the bud­get that will allow you to pri­ori­tise the var­i­ous expens­es and to make informed deci­sions.

2. Send invitations for the graduation ceremony

There is no grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny with­out guests. Pri­mar­i­ly, you are expect­ing grad­u­at­ing stu­dents, their guests and your own guests. Depend­ing on the venue and the num­ber of stu­dents, teach­ers and oth­er insti­tu­tion­al guests, will impact on how many guests can be invit­ed per stu­dent.

The next step is to send out the invi­ta­tions for the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny. These days, it’s com­mon to send out dig­i­tal invi­ta­tions, but regard­less of your choice, you can get inspi­ra­tion by search­ing the Inter­net for grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny invi­ta­tion tem­plates. Gath­er the best ideas and adapt them to fit your iden­ti­ty.

To prop­er­ly man­age capac­i­ty and mate­r­i­al needs, which we will dis­cuss short­ly, it is impor­tant to have an idea of the final num­ber of expect­ed atten­dees. The eas­i­est way to do this is to send a link where guests reg­is­ter to con­firm their par­tic­i­pa­tion. Ide­al­ly, each stu­dent should be respon­si­ble for con­firm­ing their and their guests’ pres­ence.

The reg­is­ter­ing sys­tem is espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing as it allows addi­tion­al data to be col­lect­ed through a reg­is­tra­tion form: from dietary restric­tions, spe­cial needs, to vot­ing for ‘teacher of the year’!

Hav­ing an online reg­is­tra­tion and invi­ta­tion sys­tem will also allow you to quick­ly and eas­i­ly con­trol access to the venue by scan­ning the QR codes on the tick­ets.

3. Logistics and equipment needs

Depend­ing on the type of grad­u­a­tion event you are host­ing, its style, loca­tion, etc., you will need to call on a num­ber of ser­vice providers to ensure the fol­low­ing needs:

  • Equip­ment: chairs, tables, stage, audio, visu­al etc.
  • Dec­o­ra­tion, match­ing the style of your cer­e­mo­ny
  • Music: cre­ate a playlist to set the mood for the dif­fer­ent moments of the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny — from the arrival of the par­tic­i­pants, through the tran­si­tion­al moments and the clos­ing. You can also include an anthem or song that is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of either the insti­tu­tion or a song that stu­dents feel reflects their time at the school. You might even con­sid­er hir­ing a band for the occa­sion.
  • Pho­tos and video: If your bud­get can accom­mo­date it, hire a pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­ph­er and video­g­ra­ph­er. In addi­tion, it is a good idea to cre­ate a hash­tag so that any­one tak­ing pho­tos or videos can share them on social media using it. This cre­ates a sense of uni­ty and helps to bring the shots togeth­er. Pho­to­calls or adding a pho­to booth are nice touch­es.
  • Video edit­ing: Cre­ate a video mon­tage with pho­tos of the stu­dents dur­ing their time at the school to show on the day of the event — they will enjoy see­ing pho­tos they may not have remem­bered, rem­i­nisc­ing about fun moments and shar­ing them with their loved ones.
  • Cater­ing: After the cer­e­mo­ny and before mov­ing on to a din­ner or par­ty, offer a small cater­ing ser­vice with drinks and snacks to round off the event.

In the days fol­low­ing the cer­e­mo­ny, com­pile a file with pho­tos and videos of the grad­u­a­tion and send them to the par­tic­i­pants as a sou­venir. You can seg­ment the audi­ence into stu­dents, their guests and insti­tu­tion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives to select what should be sent to each group of peo­ple. An e‑mailing and CRM tool, espe­cial­ly if it is con­nect­ed to your online reg­is­tra­tion soft­ware, will be a great help in this task.

4. The graduation ceremony protocol

Grad­u­a­tion is an offi­cial cer­e­mo­ny and is full of tra­di­tions, such as the wear­ing of grad­u­a­tion caps and gowns. Although you can embrace a more casu­al touch, it is best, if not nec­es­sary, to follow a pro­to­col:
With or with­out a gown, the attire must be appro­pri­ate. Choose for­mal and sim­ple cloth­ing, and don’t for­get to remind your guests about the dress code of the event when you send out the invi­ta­tions.

The pro­gramme for the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny should cov­er, at least, the fol­low­ing essen­tial points:

  • an intro­duc­tion
  • a speech by a school rep­re­sen­ta­tive
  • the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny
  • a few words from one of the new grad­u­ates, often the vale­dic­to­ri­an
  • a farewell mes­sage
  • a clos­ing cer­e­mo­ny

With­in this struc­ture oth­er ele­ments can be added. The idea is to cre­ate a nar­ra­tive that holds the atten­tion of the par­tic­i­pants and makes the event mem­o­rable. This can be done by using a mas­ter of cer­e­mo­ny to lead the event and even an exter­nal speak­er to give an inspi­ra­tional speech to put the icing on the grad­u­a­tion cake.

The seat­ing arrange­ments for the par­tic­i­pants should also be tak­en into account. It is nec­es­sary to allo­cate some seats for admin­is­tra­tion, teach­ers and speak­ers. If there is a pres­i­den­t’s table, it is advis­able to have an odd num­ber of peo­ple at this table and to leave the cen­tral seat for the guest of hon­our. For a more order­ly grad­u­a­tion, stu­dents should be seat­ed in alpha­bet­i­cal order, or by field of study.

5. Preparing the graduation speech

Both the speech from the insti­tu­tion’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive and the stu­dent rep­re­sen­ta­tive are cen­tral and will not go unno­ticed. The most impor­tant tip for a suc­cess­ful grad­u­a­tion speech is to prac­tice! Reread the text to remove any super­flu­ous mate­r­i­al, look for new ideas and prac­tice to get the rhythm and emo­tion spot on.

Some­times an exter­nal speak­er is invit­ed to give a grad­u­a­tion speech. This may be a pub­lic fig­ure, some­one from the grad­u­ates’ field of study or an inspi­ra­tional leader. There are some clas­sic speech­es of this type that can serve as inspi­ra­tion or even just to get you in the right frame of mind for deliv­ery! An icon­ic exam­ple of this type of grad­u­a­tion speech is the one by British writer Neil Gaiman, called “Make good art”.

6. Organising the graduation dinner and party

After the grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny, some schools hold a din­ner. This pre­cedes the evening par­ty, which is almost sys­tem­at­ic. These addi­tion­al steps are a very pos­i­tive con­clu­sion to the stu­dents’ aca­d­e­m­ic life.

The grad­u­a­tion par­ty lends itself more to a relaxed atmos­phere, with music, danc­ing and enter­tain­ment. It can be a more or less inde­pen­dent event, which is often organ­ised by the stu­dent office.

If you pay atten­tion to all the top­ics cov­ered and the advice giv­en, grad­u­at­ing stu­dents will enjoy the most impor­tant, and last, of their stu­dent events.

Dis­cov­er all that Weezeven­t’s solu­tions can offer you to man­age grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny reg­is­tra­tions, con­trol access, and send email com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Si vous prêtez atten­tion à tous les sujets abor­dés et les con­seils don­nés, vous obtien­drez la sat­is­fac­tion des étu­di­ants dans la célébra­tion du plus impor­tant, et du dernier, de leurs événe­ments étu­di­ants.

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