How to deliver, accept and decline party invitations

One of my most popular posts has been the decline of party invitation etiquette. I get a lot of searches arriving at my blog asking how to accept and decline party invites.

Nowadays, with the decline of snail mail and increase in electronic event invitations, people are getting out of the habit of replying to things on paper.  Compared with the old days when that was the only option, and it was unheard of picking up the landline to rsvp. With technology it should be making life easier, but more people seem to be struggling with something that everyone would have known how to deal with before.

Thankfully my experience is that we all seem to be pretty hot on politeness around party invites and rsvps round here. It has helped having everyone’s emails and phone numbers on an agreed school list when our children started school. Unfortunately that list has now stopped so for those coming into school after us, they have a harder job.

how to rsvp to party invites - Bubbablue and me

Tips for the party invite process

Delivery of party invitations

Debretts say that the event type will determine the invitation, suggesting that for formal events, invitations should be sent out 6 weeks in advance.  This seems extreme, but if you need to let a venue/entertainment know numbers by a certain date, then you need to give people chance to respond with plenty of time.

Delivery timings

Send the invite out at least 3-4 weeks in advance for children’s parties.  This will depend on when the party is. If you’re holiday a party a week after school holidays, then think about sending it out before the holidays with a reminder afterwards.  For a smaller party where knowing numbers isn’t essential, then a couple of weeks before would be fine. Just remember that people fill their diaries up, so if your child would be upset if people couldn’t come, then get invites out early

Paper invites vs technology

Obviously a children’s birthday party can be more informal, but a paper invitation really helps lots of people.  It can be stuck somewhere visible, and can be checked when seen, rather than it appearing in their phone notifications only the day before.

Email invites are helpful for ease of getting rsvps.  But if you’re inviting via a Facebook event make sure it’s clear who the invite is for, because obviously you’re inviting the parent and not the child.  And that everyone invited has seen it (making sure it’s a private event).

Whole class or selection

Parties for school children can run into issues when a) children are handing them out and b) only a selection of children are invited.  If you’re not inviting the whole class (or all boys/girls), then discretion is key.

I don’t agree with the rule that the whole class should be invited.  It’s nice to do so, and certainly in the first couple of years is good if feasible.  It helps with inclusion, avoids upset (because young children can’t keep much to themselves), and at that age children don’t tend to have only 1 or 2 friends.  If you’re holding a much smaller party, then try and send invites via email, or hand out outside of school.

If invitations have to go out at school ask the teacher if they can put them into book bags or drawers (allow a bit of time in case children haven’t taken them home before chasing a reply.

Accepting party invites

An invitation should always be replied to.  With texts and email there’s no real excuse because it’s so easy – providing a number or email has been provided.  While mentioning an acceptance in passing is fine, often people are busy, don’t really hear, or like me are forgetful and won’t remember if it was a yes or no.  So follow up with something in writing as requested on the invitation.

Some people nowadays thing it’s ok to not reply.  It’s not.  It’s rude and causes a hassle for the host.  We’re adults, we know that it costs money to put on a party. Nowadays, they’re not usually just a kids party at home where it doesn’t matter who turns up.  They involve specific numbers, often minimum or maximum numbers, food needs to be catered for without over or under catering and creating lots of waste.

If you’re off having a baby or you’ve had problems in the family, then a non-reply is understandable.  But just answer early enough so you don’t forget, and you’ll cause a lot less stress to  the host.

And with children’s parties, we hear of children who’ve had no rsvps, then had everyone turn up or no-one turn up. Neither are great, with the latter causing much upset to children and anger for parents.

Declining a party invitation

We can’t all go to every party but like an acceptance, you should always reply so the host has a definite answer.  I always assume that if someone doesn’t reply then they’re not going. I’d be horrified to not reply, then take my child along to a party only to find they hadn’t been catered for or couldn’t be let into the venue because the numbers were already set. Good luck explaining that to a child if you’re ever in that situation.

Declining an invite doesn’t take much. Just a ’thank you for the invite, sorry we can’t make it and hope you enjoy the party’ is fine.  More information about why isn’t needed.  Keep things short and sweet.

Hopefully this has helped with some guidance on party invitation etiquette.

How do you find the party invite situation?

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9 thoughts on “How to deliver, accept and decline party invitations

  1. Yup. It really is so quick and easy to reply these days that there’s no excuse – I try to send an email/text as soon as I’m at home and have checked the calendar so that I can tick it off in my mind and know that we’re sorted. It is sooo frustrating when people don’t reply and you have to chase them – it’s just extra hassle that the party host doesn’t need #sharingthebloglove

  2. There’s so much really useful information here. We’re not at the stage of parties yet as little one is only 6 months but I didn’t realise how many rules there are. This will definitely help me in the future 🙂 #SharingtheBlogLove

  3. We are well into the world of parties now that Alice is at school. It amazes me how many people take ages to reply, or not at all. I was quite lucky with Alice’s party, but I can see it getting worse. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  4. Thanks for this – we’re about to start getting into parties and it’s good to know all the expected etiquette! I completely agree with you about replying, whether you can go or not. It doesn’t take much and is just polite. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

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