In light of a recent UK scandal where a five-year-old child received an invoice for not attending a friend’s birthday party, the topic of kids’ birthday party etiquette seems to be a very important—yet sometimes controversial—topic. People have different views on what’s right and what’s wrong, from RSVPing to a party to sending a gift. To help shed some light on some important dos and don’ts, here are a few of our tips for good birthday party etiquette!
RSVP on time (and in a timely fashion). When we say a timely fashion, we not only mean to send your reply by the RSVP date, but also continue to be timely, and let the host know if your child’s status changes. In the UK scandal/situation, the parent had RSVP’d that her child would attend, and then the child was a no-show (hence the invoice after the fact). If your child wakes up with a fever the morning of the party, let the host know that he or she can’t make it—even if it’s just hours before the party starts. Your updated RSVP is better late than not at all.
To send a gift or not send a gift? This is an often-brought-up question—if your child is invited to, but can’t attend a classmate’s birthday party, should you still send a gift? The easiest answer is whatever you are most comfortable with. We are firm in that if the birthday child is a good friend of your child—or if the parent is a good friend of yours—the answer is definitely send something. But when you get into the gray area of your child being friendly but not really friends, just classmates, a gift is not absolutely necessary.
Siblings not allowed (unless they’re invited). Basically, if only one of your children is invited to a birthday party, it’s not ok to bring your other child to sit on the sidelines—that is, unless you have properly asked permission (we’ll discuss in a minute). We know it can be hard to find childcare, and it’s not fun for parents to split up for different weekend activities, but many birthday parties charge per child, so it’s not fair to add an uninvited guest to the bill. On the topic of asking if you can bring a sibling, it’s only ok to ask if you are good enough friends with the parents AND if you truly can’t find alternate plans for your other child. Otherwise it’s just plain nervy.
How many kids should make the birthday list? Kids’ birthday parties can be pretty expensive, so it’s not always feasible to invite every member in a child’s gymnastics lesson, twos program, or kindergarten class. The answer for this one is, it depends. If you’re child is turning one and is in a class every week, you don’t have to invite everyone—at this age it’s more about parental relationships than child friendships. However, if your child’s elementary school has a policy that if you invite one, you invite them all, then you have your answer. Even if this policy doesn’t exist, if your child is in a small, tight-knit class, it’s hard to exclude just a few kids. Luckily there are birthday parties available for every budget, so you should be able to find a party that won’t break the bank.