Resources for Graduation Event Professionals

Considerations for two lines of graduates at commencement

The majority of commencements across North America have graduates crossing the stage in only one direction, either right-to-left or left-to-right.  When commencement professionals talk about a ceremony having two lines, they are referring to a process by which graduates approach and cross the stage from two different directions simultaneously.  (The word "simultaneously" is important.)


The illustration above is an example of a single-line ceremony, which is most common.  A very small number of institutions split their graduates into two halves, with the first half crossing in one direction, while the second half cross in the other direction, as shown in the illustration below:


This example above does not constitute a dual-line ceremony. Instead, this is simply a single-line with a procession reversal mid-way through. A ceremony is not technically considered to be a dual-line event until graduates from two separate lines are on-stage simultaneously. In the example above, graduates from the first line are recognized and re-seated before graduates from the second line approach the stage.

Example of a Dual-Line Commencement

A true dual-line commencement is one where an even-numbered graduate is announced and crosses in one direction, and then an odd-numbered graduate is announced next and crosses in another direction. There are several variations of dual-line ceremonies, but the illustrations below provide good examples.


If your institution is considering a transition to dual-line commencements, there are four important things to remember.

1. Dual lines are almost always cosmetic, not functional.

While some may consider dual-line ceremonies to be more visually appealing, this is typically the only benefit. There are a very small number of venues where it’s difficult for graduates to flow from their seats to the opposite side of the stage, which makes the use of dual-lines appropriate. However, this scenario is very rare. At the vast majority of commencements, marshals are easily able to guide each row of graduates around the rear of the seating area and into a single procession line.

2. Having two lines will not significantly reduce the length of your ceremony.

Some schools have experimented with two lines in an effort to reduce the amount of time it takes to recognize all graduates on stage. Almost universally, dual lines have been unsuccessful for that purpose. In fact, sometimes the recognition of graduates takes even longer with two lines.

The takeaway is that if graduates are going to be individually recognized on stage, then decorum dictates there needs to be a short but appropriate pause between the reading of each name. Having two lines is not going to expedite that process. If your institution is searching for reasonable ways to reduce the length of its commencement ceremony.

3. A larger event staff will be needed.

If graduates are announced with reader cards, which is ideal, then public address announcers are needed at the top of each line. Additionally, you’ll need more ceremony marshals, twice the number of administrators shaking graduates’ hands on stage, twice the number of photographers, and more personnel handling the distribution of diplomas and/or covers. That’s a significant amount of additional staff to train and manage for this stressful event.

4. Photography considerations

From a photography standpoint, it is never ideal for graduates to cross the stage with their tassel on the side of their cap nearest the handshake photographer. For dual line ceremonies, this means half of all graduates may run the risk of having their tassel in front of their face during this important photograph.

For Additional Information

If you are a GradImages client with questions about dual-lines or anything else related to your commencement, please don't hesitate to contact your Client Service Specialist.  They are here to assist you in any way possible.

Topics: Terminology Commencement Photography Commencement Preparation