We’ve all been in one of those awkward party situations where we just don’t know what to do. From RSVPs to who to invite, bringing siblings and more, Sara Keli answers the most common party etiquette dilemmas.

Sending invites

You don’t want to send invites too early or people will forget about the party but if you send them too late people will likely already have plans. A good rule of thumb is to send invites 3-5 weeks before the party with an RSVP date one week prior to the event date (unless you need confirmed numbers earlier for whatever reason).

Facebook invites have become quite common for kids parties these days. This is great as events will pop up as a reminder for people to either RSVP or to remind them that the party is coming up. You can also share event updates (e.g. location change because of weather etc.) However, it is still nice to send an invitation to each guest, whether that is a paper invitation or via email.

Often with kids at school or preschool, you might not know all of the parents so paper invitations it is! If your child is at school, you don’t need to invite the whole class to the party, although if you want to you can. Invite whomever your child wants to celebrate their birthday with.

RSVP basics

There is no question around this one. You should 100% RSVP to any event you are invited to. I myself have been guilty of forgetting to RSVP and doing the last minute dash but I do try to RSVP as soon as I receive an invite, whether we can go or not. I have organised many parties where a good chunk of the guests (more than 10) haven’t replied. I always over cater so last minute RSVPs are never a problem but that isn’t always the case with everyone. When you receive an invite, check the diary straight away. If you can go, reply with a yes and pop it in your diary. If you can’t go, reply with a no. Simple!

As the host of a party, if you haven’t had replies from guests you have invited, it is totally fine to follow up. If you don’t receive a reply after following up, assume they will not be attending. Follow up with a phone call if you can but otherwise use whatever form of communication you have.

Bringing siblings

Most parents will understand the juggle of multiple kids and getting them to birthday parties and other commitments on the weekend. But parties can be expensive, especially if the parents are paying a per head fee for an entertainer or venue. Parties in a park or at home may have more flexibility.

If you are ever in any doubt you should always check with the parent as to if it is ok to bring a sibling or not. They may offer you the option to bring them and pay for them yourself or they may ask you not to bring them. Either way, let them know that a sibling is coming as if everyone suddenly turns up with a sibling they may quickly run out of food!

All things gifts

We all know that when you go to a party, you take a gift. But what happens when the invitation clearly specifies no gifts? For whatever reason, the family has requested no gifts and that is something you should 100% respect. In that case you could take a handmade card or get your child to do a drawing for the birthday kid.

As for how much you spend on a gift that is totally up to you and your personal family budget. Hosts should never ever be dictating how much guests should be spending on gifts (horrifying, but it does happen!). A handmade gift can be more meaningful than something you have purchased so don’t be tied to a certain amount and rather fill the gift with love. If a group of guests decide to pitch in together for a present and it is out of your budget, don’t feel pressured to participate and simply explain that you have already purchased a gift.

These days it is more common to not open gifts at the party, because let’s face it, it’s way more fun to be playing rather than watching the birthday boy or girl open their gifts. If you do decide to open gifts at the party, make sure you have spoken to your child about being gracious and thankful for each gift they receive so you don’t end up with any awkward moments.

Thank you notes

It’s really important to teach kids that they should always be grateful for the gifts they receive. Every year we have our daughter draw a picture on a small card for each of the guests and we include it in their party bag. We teach her that the party bag is our way of saying thank you for the gifts and for attending the party so we put a lot of thought into what goes in to them.

For thank you notes after the party, for younger kids an SMS, email or Facebook message from you to the parents is a really nice touch to say thank you for the gifts and attending the party. For older kids, involve them in the process by either helping you determine what to say in those messages, or even better having them hand write the thank you cards themselves (or even just writing their name at the end if they are too little for that much writing).

Party etiquette is really about common sense. There is a lot that goes into organising a kids’ party so as a guest be respectful of the host who has invited you in to their home/celebration. As a host be thankful that your kid has so many friends/family who want to celebrate with them. Life is busier than ever before but surely not too busy for a few simple manners!

About Sara

Sara Keli is the Editor of Kid Magazine. When she isn’t writing, designing or creating, you can find her enjoying the sunshine on her back deck with her two daughters or escaping into a good book.

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