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.
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.
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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