The Ceremony of Graduation

This past weekend, Kyle and I participated in our university’s graduation ceremony. This was the fourth time we’ve celebrated finishing our PhDs, and definitely the least fun or important of any of them. Just shy of a year ago, Kyle defended and we had a big family dinner. About nine months ago, I defended and we hosted a party for our friends and family. Eight months ago, my parents threw us a party where they live. And finally, nearly a year after we officially became “Drs.,” we got to walk in our graduation ceremony. (We officially graduated last summer and last fall, but at our university PhDs only get to walk in May.)


We weren’t sure if we would attend graduation because we didn’t know if we would still be living in Durham and it didn’t seem worth traveling for, but we haven’t moved yet so we decided to do it. It was really more for our parents than for us – as much as we tried to tell them that the defenses were more important, they wanted the pomp and circumstance as well. Almost all of our immediate family members came into town for the ceremony.



laughing at our outfits



The good parts of the weekend were: looking ridiculous (me) and distinguished (Kyle) in our regalia, taking lots of photos, and spending time with our families, who we don’t see often enough and for sure don’t see each other often enough.



waiting to enter the baccalaureate service



The not-so-good parts of the weekend were: all the graduation stuff. We participated in three events: the baccalaureate, the PhD hooding ceremony and reception, and the commencement. Each of them was pretty nice but overall quite boring, especially because we were instructed to get everywhere very early so there was a lot of waiting around and lining up. For instance, the hooding ceremony was one good, short speech by the person who won the distinguished alumni award, and then over two hours of people walking across a stage having a piece of fabric placed over their heads, one every 30 seconds. Getting hooded and seeing our friends get hooded was exciting, but watching the other hundred-some other people was pretty repetitive.


Kyle being hooded by one of his committee members

Kyle being hooded by one of his committee members


Anyway, back to the good parts – and, because this is a personal finance blog, their cost.



Saturday lunch



We didn’t make restaurant reservations early enough, so between the two graduations that weekend and it being Mother’s Day, we didn’t even try to eat out. We cooked and ate lunch at our house with all our family members Saturday and Sunday, which was definitely the lower-cost option. Kyle and I paid for the groceries (maybe $80 or so?), but then both of our sets of parents sneakily left cash lying around to partially reimburse us. 🙂 So it was fun and low-key to just hang around our house in between all the ceremonies.


oops - did we mix up our robes?

oops – did we mix up our robes?


I liked wearing the regalia more than I thought I would because it really was so silly! Can you believe these outfits cost about $900 each to buy? We rented ours for $139.75 together since we are not planning to become academics.


Really, the brunt of the expenses for the weekend was borne by our families as they had to pay for travel and lodging, so we appreciated them coming to town quite a lot. Thankfully all the graduation events themselves were free and we got a pretty nice meal after the hooding ceremony.


my regalia from the back

my regalia from the back


Overall, I think walking was a good decision (even if graduation ceremonies are rather pointless). The boring-ness was bearable because Kyle and I got to be together the whole time except the hooding ceremony, when we were seated by department. Of course, it was a good excuse to have another celebration and get our families together. And I’m definitely glad we got so many pictures of us in our rented regalia!


Have you participated in all your graduation ceremonies or did you skip some? Do you own your own regalia? Do you wait for a reason to have a party or just initiate your own?


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14 Responses to "The Ceremony of Graduation"

  1. Congrats Dr Emily. I always attend my graduation ceremonies. It’s one of a life time and is very memorable experience to share with family and friends.

    1. Emily says:

      That’s true – you only finish those particular degrees once! I’m glad we marked it with an official ceremony, though a belated one.

  2. We bought copycat regalia, as did most of my dept. it turned out to be much higher quality than the official regalia, despite being a fraction of the cost.

    1. Emily says:

      I did not know that was a thing… probably because I don’t know anyone who was considering purchasing! That makes sense, though, as a lot of official university stuff is overpriced.

  3. Kelly says:

    Haha – I totally read the beginning as the 4th time you had been in a PhD graduation ceremony… as in your 4th PhD, which sounded quite impressive and miserable at the same time. Guess I need some coffee 🙂

    Congrats though! I definitely think getting a PhD deserves multiple celebrations!

    1. Emily says:

      Ummm yeah no. One is plenty! Thanks!

  4. E 2 says:

    Aw, congrats again! My husband and I are going to be walking in graduation soon too (he finished last summer and I did this spring). We’re going to the PhD hooding ceremony, skipping the commencement to picnic with our families, and then going to my department’s smaller ceremony afterward. Can’t sit through as many as you did! I am really just excited to get a ridiculous family picture of the two of us in robes with our baby in our school’s T-shirt.

    My family is renting a big place nearby for a long weekend, which is awesome and generous because we have moved away. Agreed that the ceremonies can be more important to the families than the graduates! We just have to cover gas, robe rentals, incidental food costs, and entertainment costs for any meet-ups we have with friends who are in town. Not too bad, though our robe rentals are apparently twice the price of yours 😛

    1. Emily says:

      Congratulations on finishing and on being able to walk together! I think it’s so fun when couples wear the regalia simultaneously. 🙂 One of my friends from college has a great silly picture of herself in her regalia with her five(?)-month-old baby and it is amazing.

      That’s really nice that your department has its own ceremony. Apparently mine has in the past, but this year there was only a lunch – not sure why they cut it.

      It sounds like it’s going to be a great weekend! Have fun!

  5. Leigh says:

    Congrats! I think the PhD gowns are way cooler than the normal gowns 🙂

    The alphabetical order by last name put me right next to one of my best friends from college, which made the long, boring ceremony much easier! I’m a little sad my boyfriend and I graduated at different times though or we would have a photo of both of us together we could have hung up with our degrees instead of separate photos.

    1. Emily says:

      There have been a small number of scenarios in which it has been convenient that Kyle and I now have the same last name, but graduation wasn’t one of them. Aside from the hooding, everything was organized by school but not alphabetically. Also, I found out for sure that my engineering PhD was not granted by the engineering school but rather by the graduate school, despite the fact that the engineering school grants bachelor’s and master’s degrees and other schools grant doctoral degrees. I was a bit unsure up to this weekend!

      Yes, it would have been nice to have those photos together… There’s always Photoshop! 😉

  6. Jenna says:

    We’re planning on skipping B’s graduation as it will be an expensive plane flight and several nights in a hotel. We’re going to celebrate with a dinner out instead.

    1. Emily says:

      I’m sure that will be just as enjoyable!

  7. […] The Ceremony of Graduation – Evolving PF – Here is one blogger’s account of her recent graduation ceremony. The interesting part: it was her 4th PhD celebration! […]

  8. […] We walked in our graduation ceremony, so we had family come to town for the weekend. The associated costs included our regalia and extra […]

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