Birthday Party ‘Gift & Invitation’ Etiquette

kids birthday party gifts, rsvp, invites, etiquette

Your child just got invited to a friend’s birthday party. Now what comes next? Normally, you will just RSVP yes for the party, attend and have an awesome time. But sometimes it is not as simple as that…

Here are some common scenarios for a birthday party and how you should respond –

RSVPing to the Party

kids birthday party invitation, rsvp, gift & etiquetteYou receive an invitation card or save the date card for an upcoming kids party. When should you RSVP?

Try to let the host mom know as soon as you can of your attendance at the party. Make sure you mark your calendar with the date & location.

Just got an invitation card, and you are not sure if your child can attend just yet – what do you do?

Contact the host mom and thank her for the invitation. Let her know that you are still checking the date and will get back to her as soon as you know if you can attend.

You forgot to RSVP to a party and the RSVP date has passed. What do you do?

You can still call/email the mom to let her know that you forgot to RSVP and your child would like to attend the party. Make sure you indicate that you understand if the party venue is already full and not to go to any extra trouble on your part.

It is the day of the party – you didn’t RSVP, and now you want to attend. What should you do?

Unless this is a really good friend of yours, you should not go to the party. It is very rude to show up unannounced, and also rude to call and make the host mom scramble to include your child in the activities. If by chance you do decide to go to the party, do not expect to receive a goodie bag for your child, as the host mom might have limited quantity.

Changing your RSVP

You RSVP YES to the party and the day before the party your child gets sick or for some other reason you can’t go. What do you do?

You should email and/or text the host mom to apologize and let her know that you will not be able to attend. You should still send a gift.

It’s the day of the party and your child is sick – what do you do?

You should text the host mom as soon as you know you will not be attending, do not send just an email.  She will be expecting your child at the party and they might be delaying the activities until all the kids arrive. And as before, you should still send a gift.

You RSVP NO to the party and now you are able to attend. What do you do?

If you have more than 1 week left before the party, it is ok to email/call the host mom and let her know of her situation. Make clear that it is ok if she is unable to accommodate your child and you completely understand.

Bringing Extra Guests

kids birthday party gifts, invites, rsvp, etiquetteOnly one child was invited to attend the party. You want to take your other child as well (the “sibling”). What do you do?

If you are unable to get child care and have to take your other child with you, then

  1. You should ask the host mom well in advance of the party if siblings are also invited;
  2. Offer to pay for the sibling (especially if the party is at an outside venue and there is a cost per child to attend); and
  3. Understand if the host mom says no.

DO NOT just bring the sibling unannounced (even if you are paying).  It is very, very rude. If it is an emergency situation, at least text the mom before you show up with extra party guests.

You want to bring an extra adult (besides both parents), like a visiting relative, nanny or helper? What do you do?

You should ask the host mom if it is ok to have an extra adult attend the party. Many times party space is limited and extra adults require extra space.  Sometimes there is also a cost per child and a cost per adult to attend the party. Moreover, the host needs to account for the extra food and drinks that will be required (no host wants to run out of food).

The Gift

kids birthday party gifts, invites, rsvp

Of course you are planning to take a gift, but don’t know what to buy. What do you do?

You should text the host mom and ask her for suggestions. If you are buying a gift you might as well give the birthday child something they want. When in doubt always include the gift receipt!

You are bringing more than one child to the party? Do you have to give two gifts?

If you bring a two or more kids to the party (and or an uninvited sibling), you should make sure you either give two gifts, or the equivalent value of two gifts combined.

How do you know how much money to spend on a gift?

The gift you buy for the birthday child is usually based on three factors:

  1. Your budget;
  2. Your relationship to the child / host; and
  3. What type of gift (if any) you received in the past from the child. This is only relevant if they gave you a very expensive gift, so it would be nice to also reciprocate accordingly (if it is on your budget).

It is important to note however that most kids don’t look at the actual cost of the toy, but rather what it is. The excitement of the birthday child far exceeds the actual value of the gift and that is the most important when selecting something to buy. So even if the gift is only $10, it might be the best gift the child receives.

These are just a few scenarios (the answers were discussed and voted on among my mom friends). If you have a question you need answered free free to leave a comment in the box below. Host mom party etiquette tips coming soon!

Have fun at the party!!


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  • Bellenza

    Great read!