declining etiquette of rsvps to children's birthday party invitations

Is there decreasing etiquette of rsvps to children’s birthday party invitations

Are people really that rude that they think it’s fine to not reply to children’s birthday party invitations?  Or that they don’t respond but then turn up anyway….possibly with extra siblings in tow who weren’t invited?

We’re in the planning stages for N’s joint birthday party.  But invitations (in general not just children’s birthday parties) and the lack of etiquette around them is a real bugbear of mine.

declining etiquette of rsvps to children's birthday party invitations

My first experience of inconsiderate replying to invitations was my wedding.

Admittedly we’re talking 12 years ago, so fewer people had mobile phones, but there’s really no excuse when there’s a phone, email or letter option.  With our invites, we even included a labelled postcard for replying, so all they had to do was tick a box to say yes or no, stick a stamp on and post it.  Even then we had to chase some people.

Impoliteness in my view:

  1. Not replying at all
  2. Not replying then turning up (with or without people who weren’t named on the invite)
  3. Replying to say yes then not contacting the host to say you’re no longer coming.

My view is that if people don’t reply, they’re not coming, I don’t cater for them, and I can invite other people in your place.   If you then turn up, it’s extra cost, hassle, and embarrassment – and you’d probably be oblivious to that if you don’t care about replying in the first place.

With children’s birthday parties, just because it’s a kids party doesn’t mean you don’t rsvp.  Especially in this day and age, where everyone has mobiles,  email and many use social media.  There’s really no excuse (unless of course you’re on a 2 month sabbatical, don’t get the invite thanks to the dog or child chewing it up, you’re in hospital, or have major life issues going on where you’ve no contact with anyone who could pass on a message).

I think I’ve been lucky up until now.  Last year’s ‘non-birthday’ party, we only had 2 non-responses, neither of whom turned up.  So I’m assuming that the one of those people being invited this year, won’t reply or come again.  But at least we’ll have a better guess on the outcome.  I’ve also not had people turning up with siblings so far.  Well, 2 people who asked because of last minute childcare, and it turned out to be fine for their toddlers to come along, with them just being casual at home/outdoors parties.

But the experiences of other mums have disgusted me.  Stories of 20+ kids being invited but only 7 or 8 responses.  The worst was nearly 30 invites given out, 7/8 responses but then 15 turning up.  You can’t manage that much difference to the number you think are coming

After hearing such horror stories and more about rsvp issues that friends have experienced, I’m wondering if our party invitees will be any politer.  I’d like to think so.

I think the odds are weighed in our favour.  Assuming everyone gets the invites, even if we don’t see the parents at school drop off or pick up, we’re able to follow up by text or email because of the year class list the school provides for these purposes.  There’s also 2 mums to hassle, as well as N’s friend’s dad who does a lot of the school runs.

My reasons why you should reply

1. It’s rude

2. It’ll annoy the parents, potentially upset the birthday child, and potentially mean people will stop inviting you in future

3. It’s inconvenient.  Parties take planning, many are paid for and organised on the basis of a set number.  If extras turn up they might not be catered for in the activity, space or food.

4. It’s hard to plan…for food, costs, space and activity provision

5. It can mean more waste.  If parents always have to presume more may turn up than have responded, they may over cater food just in case and end up with lots going spare.


We’ve also had debates in the past about mentioning siblings or not.  I’m of the view that people aren’t stupid and should be aware that if there’s one name on the invite, then that’s the person who’s invited.  Not like in the case of our wedding where one couple didn’t reply, but then turned up with a school age child in tow…to an evening reception. Rude and not appropriate.  If this was a children’s party and there’s age specific activities, there could end up being one very upset sibling at not being able to join in or parents being charged an additional cost for an extra child.

You could state it on the invite, but it’s really hard to write so it doesn’t sound rude.  Yes, sometimes there’s childcare issues if only one child is invited to a party where the age means parents would likely stay to chaperone, but the not replying doesn’t help try and find a solution.   Obviously I would expect that any babes in arms would be brought along if the parent was staying during the party.

Just one of my party etiquette bugbears.  I’m just hoping we get a clean sweep of rsvps, and all will be calm.

Until of course I despair at the number of boys charging round a room fuelled on party exuberance.

If you’re not sure how to do things the right way, then do check out my post on how to accept, decline or send birthday party invitations.

What’s your experience of getting party rsvps back? Have you had any embarrassing moments with surprise attendees?  Or are you a non-replier?

Why not take a look at these similar posts.

answering party invites
party convert
science party
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  1. So since I’m a first time mom throwing a birthday party for my child that goes to preschool, what is sufficient notice to send invitations? 1 month ahead or less?

  2. This is so true! I’m so worried about not getting RSVPs to my wedding and then people just arriving!!

  3. Great post! The amount of times I’ve seen this discussed in parenting forums, on Facebook (and now here!), makes me think it’s a widespread thing. Not RSVPing, not RSVPing & turning up, bringing uninvited siblings plus expecting them to be a part of the party is rude, in my opinion. We haven’t done an ‘all class’ type party yet so I’ve always known the mums and been able to chase any I haven’t heard from. I think it’s probably prudent to have a bit of extra food / party bags just in case, though you’ll also get kids that can’t make it on the day due to illness. Venues like soft play places tend to cater for how many guests turn up on the day. Good luck with the party – I am sure it will be fabulous!

  4. Great post, I hate this too and especially about the siblings as I always have to take both children to all parties as we have no family or someone to watch over them I always contact the hostess make sure to pay for her entry in a soft play area or pay for her food if it’s a party for her brother or vice versa and usually keep the child on the side of the party but being able to be there for both my children. Can’t stand people that don’t say yes or no most parties need a head count people. Laziness I say and very rude Totally agree. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme

  5. So many things stress me out about having parties, including replies to the invites! We haven’t had any yet while the kids are really young, but I will if they want them once they are older and have real friends. I’m sure I will get really stressed by it. But, yes, I agree that you need to respond so people know what they are organising, and need to tell people if you can no longer come too.

    Saw a thread on one of forums about the sibling thing recently! I don’t know why you would assume a random sibling was invited! I can see why you might ASK if you can bring a really little one if that is the only way you can attend and you are required to attend with invitee. &, if it is a younger sibling who will cost no extra (or you are paying the extra), & room is not an issue, I don’t see why anyone would object to that. But I don’t see why you would do it without asking, and obviously that is only something you would consider with babies/toddlers, not actual children who are not friends with the birthday kid. That’s just weird. #thelist

    1. Yes, we do the same. I’m surprised at other people saying they’ve had invites which don’t ask for replies by a certain date. Asking for non-replies without it I think.

  6. I understand you. It happened to me too. I always reply, always! At least for say thank you 🙂

    Sorry for my english (I’m learning the language)

  7. My son is only just turning three but we won’t be organising a party for him again until he actually has some friends that he wants to invite himself. We’ve had people cancel on the morning of his 1st and 2nd birthday parties so now we’ll just do our own thing for his 3rd – saves us the hassle!

  8. I have to confess, I was a bit slack with RSVPing when I was young, free and single! But organising my wedding showed me the importance of making life easy for people and just being polite in letting them know in plenty of time if you’re coming or not.

    I haven’t had problems with birthday parties yet, but that’s maybe because we haven’t had big parties, as my daughter’s not at school yet.

    1. I think younger birthdays are certainly easier when you know everyone. With weddings and school parties, you don’t always know the people invited so it’s hard to know what will happen. Thanks for commenting

  9. I’m planning my wedding at the moment and this is one of my biggest fears, that people won’t RSVP and will just turn up expecting to be fed. It’s not hard to let people know a yes or no!

    1. Exactly. In the end you just need to get on the phone to them and let them somehow know that the assumption is they’re not coming unless they say yes.

  10. I honestly couldn’t say whether there is or isn’t a lack of RSVPs to kids birthdays (seen as I don’t have kids). But you do raise some very interesting points about events in general. I’ve been to a few blogger events where people turn up without an invite from the PR firm, or who never bothered to RSVP when they were invited. Part of it may be that they forgot, or it’s a once off, but it seems more like a lack of wanting to commit for a lot of people.

    1. Must be so inconvenient for PRs with people not / or turning up. You could be right – people hedging their bets because they don’t want to lose a place, but then they shouldn’t take up someone else’s space if so

  11. I had the same before my son’s first birthday – drove me crazy when some people that had rsvp:d didn’t show up and sent me a text later to apologize and others that showed up with uninvited guests. It was his first birthday so only adults. I found the whole experience too annoying. Think we’ll just go away and celebrate on our own instead next year!

    1. Thankfully this is probably the only year we’ll do such a big party. In future I’d think it’ll be just a few asked or going out somewhere.

  12. iv never had to experiance this yet – little ones too young for parties and we havent got around to planning our wedding. but i can totaly see how rude it is!

  13. I am sometimes guilty of being tardy on response time but I believe that once you commit you stick to your arrangements unless there is a real emergency. I don’t like it when people have changed plans and it feels like they think they have a better offer elsewhere!

  14. I always always let them know, even when there’s no rsvp. How else are people meant to cater for numbers turning up? It’s so rude when people don’t come back to you and leave you chasing or wondering whether they’re going to come at all. At my brothers wedding my dads friend brought his daughter and daughter in law (neither invited!). With a venue where we had a seating plan I nearly lost my mind. Thankfully we managed to squeeze them on somewhere. People are bonkers sometimes.

    1. Weddings in particular I think is just wrong. They’re organised down to the nth degree, I can’t believe that people think its fine to turn up and strass out the bride.

  15. Don’t get me started! I always reply but I seem to be in the minority. I have 4 children from 15 mths to 9 and it’s the same for all of them. Last year my 7 year old invited 25 children – 23 turned up, one wanting to leaving a sibling as well but only 7 had replied. i always do extra party bags but not that many extra. I think it is really rude and unhelpful not to reply. #sharewithme

    1. That’s disgustingly rude.

      If they came to ours like that, there’ll be no food for them (we’re not at home so can’t even cobble anything – they’d be eating the adult nibbles) although we may have enough cake, and hopefully the entertainment will have enough goo for everyone to make – which is their take home. It also screws up the games – so we’re doing a pinata – the plan was 2 little packs/bars each, but if lots more turn up that won’t happen, and pass the parcel. Well, I’d fix that so those didn’t win. But so unfair that the parents are basically being an embarrassment, and potentially it’s the kids that miss out.

      1. it totally messes everything up you are right – total nightmare. I always see if we are free, ask my child if they want to go and then reply yes or no thank you. It’s not hard. We are all busy but that’s no excuse . grrrrr x

  16. Hand’s up, I’m guilty of this, but then so are 99% of my children’s classmates! 🙂 I think we’re maybe a little bit more relaxed about such things in our remote island environment. If I invite 20 kids to my children’s parties (and I throw some seriously awesome parties, if I do say so myself), I make sure there’s enough to cater for all of them, plus a few extra just in case some younger siblings come along too on the day (the more the merrier!). If there’s leftovers, there’s leftovers… so be it. I think the most important thing is that the kids who do show up have a good time. We never know why a parent might not show up on the day with their child (tummy bugs, forgotten dentist appointments, etc). This post was quite an eye opener for me. I’ll try and be more diligent about RSVP-ing in the future.

    1. If it’s an open invite – so just turn up, then that’s expected (although I would still expect a general we should be there), but when it’s an organised party at a venue which covers a specific number – some still charge the full amount, and is could screw up specific numbers.

      If someone can’t come last minute, I would expect them to text or call to let me know.

  17. It is difficult to plan any party when people don’t RSVP. The food prep alone is the hardest part. Great post. I do hope more read this and pass it along. My kids are grown now and I don’t throw many parties, but when I did, I remember the frustrations of never knowing how many to plan for. Good thing leftovers was never a problem! Happy New Year! Koko 🙂

  18. I always reply, it is just the polite thing to do, sometimes I have to take my other two along due to daddy working weekends but I always ask if that is okay and don’t let them take part in the games and food etc as they were not invited. my 6 year old has to sit with a book with me and to be honest the baby is happy in the buggy at the moment or i ask a friend who is going to the party anyway if they’d mind watching my child while I take the other two somewhere else for an hour or so.

  19. Not there but having seen some of my mates I think some of them might be overwhelmed. My friend has three school age children and there are about two parties every weekend!

  20. I agree with you that it is simple rudeness not to reply to an invitation and not to turn up when you say you will. All it takes is a phone call to let the parents know.

  21. I am so with you! It is so rude and really not that hard at all to RSVP. I generally reply to invites the day that they arrive, so they do not mount up! My 6yo had her first party a few months ago and it was shocking to see how so many did not reply, and then some turned up anyway. The one that irritated me the most was the parent who text me saying her son really wanted to come but no-one could have his brother, so could she bring him? What choice but to say yes? And then, and then, they didn’t turn up, with no word! Rude! Best of luck, hope your RSVP’s go better!

  22. In with you on this. I hate planning parties due to this. Last year I asked a mum who claimed she hadn’t seen the first invite and even then she didn’t reply. What was worse was her son thought he was coming after the event. Also people seem to respond last minute if nothing better comes up! I did have a bad Mummy incident once where I didn’t reply as it was in my sons bookbag just before the summer hols and I used his brothers old bag instead. Felt terrible and apologised 5 weeks after the party. Did find it odd the Mum never checked though as we talk quite often. Told her I wasn’t rude but I am unorganised!

    1. Ah you can’t help something like that. Weird she didn’t mention it – seems a bit dodgy, o rmaybe she was just really relaxed about it.

  23. I ALWAYS reply to invites. Usually by text message where possible as it’s most direct but absolutely hate it when people don’t RSVP. So rude! x

  24. Wow, I’ve all of this to look forward too, we’ve only had family parties so far but with Jack’s first year at school nursery this year I’m feeling I should do a proper party

  25. God I feel you, not replying is so rude especially if it is for something important like a birthday or wedding reception. That would be my biggest fear noone turning up to something.

  26. I always reply to party invites…It’s just good manners isn’t it!
    Luckily my girls birthdays usually fall during the summer holidays so we don’t have parties for them so have never had to deal with invites. I can imagine how annoying and frustrating it can be. x

  27. Really enjoyed reading this – I also think it’s so impolite when people just don’t bother replying at all! Not just for children’s party invitations, but for any sort of invitation at all! x

  28. You’re right people should take the time to reply & with all the communication methods we have available I really don’t see why some people don’t
    I think it’s really rude & remember the amount of chasing around we had to do for our own wedding It’s such a shame as you’re already busy enough organising something & then having to chase people up!
    I haven’t had a situation yet where anybody turned up who I hadn’t actually got a yes or no out of….not sure I might respond to that!

  29. It’s just polite isn’t it? Especially having children themselves, you’d think they would understand the importance. Although I don’t have any kids as of yet, I shall bare this in mind for the future x

  30. I’m not at this stage yet but I had no idea people were so rude! I will always respond to an invite. With today’s technology there really is no excuse at all.

  31. I do agree with you and I have been guilty of not letting some parents know about if my child is coming or not because I forgot. I have told them more than I haven’t told them – so I guess that’s better lol. My eldest was invited on a school day (after school). My partner works full time and usually not home until 6pm. The party was 3.30 until 5pm. I told the parent I had no one to look after my youngest. She didn’t offer so I just said I wasn’t going as I found her pretty rude as she brought all 3 her kids to my childs party when I was paying per head and told her about what was happening in the party.

    1. That is rude considering she turned up and you were letting her know and not just turning up. It does amuse me the number of people who do afterschool parties. Fair enough just a tea party when they pick up one kid from school, but so many people work how would they get the child there!

  32. This is one of my pet peeves when I send any kind of invite out! It isn’t that difficult to say yes or no! You put it all so well in this blog, and exactly what I was thinking too!


  33. I think we had this conversation before Monkey’s birthday. Drives me mad – you invite 5 children and 2 never reply at all, it was a bowling party so clearly I needed numbers and it could potentially have stopped 2 other children having the opportunity. I just cannot understand in this day and age with mobile phones, why people cannot send a quick text saying thank you but unfortunately xxxx can’t come. But then people don’t send thank you notes either anymore. I could moan about this for hours!

    1. It’s just sooo rude. Maybe the woman who charged the family for not attending and not telling her in advance they wouldn’t be coming, was right.

  34. I do tend to get replies, usually because I send out invites through text. But when some one says they’re coming and then on the day they pull out. That really bugs me, because it does cost and it’s really inconsiderate.
    If I didn’t get replies to my invites that would also annoy me greatly!


    1. Thankfully we’ve got everyone’s mobile numbers and emails, so we can chase up that way. as well as at the school gate. Hopefully we’ll get 100% replies in some way or another.

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