Birthday Party Etiquette 101
By Cristi Driver
Children are invited to many birthday parties from the time they start preschool and beyond. Whether you are the host or a party guest, these events are a great opportunity to teach a few basic rules of etiquette to ensure your child is one that is invited back again and again.
These reminders aren’t just for the children; many adults could use a refresher course in basic etiquette. Here are a few basic Do’s and Don’ts for being a good party guest and a great host.
RSVP is French for “Répondez S’il Vous Plaît,” which translates to “Please respond.” This is a biggie. The most important and most considerate thing you can do as a party guest (or the parent of a guest) is to RSVP promptly to the invitation. Not only do hosts need to plan an accurate head count for food, games, treat bags and more, it’s just plain rude not to RSVP.
When your child receives an invitation to a party, try to put it somewhere you will be reminded of it, such as on the fridge door, by the phone or another high traffic area of your house. Try to respond within a few days of receiving the invitation. Most hosts are now supplying email addresses so RSVPing is as easy as sending a quick email. If not, pick up the phone and let the hostess know if your and/or your child will be attending.
Not only is it inconvenient for the party host to have to call invited guests closer to the event to see if they intend on coming, but it’s also awkward for them. Try to alleviate this discomfort with a simple, quick yes or no response. Put yourself in the host’s shoes. Consider how you’d feel if your guests did not respond and you planned for 20 guests and then 26 guests show up. You don’t want to have crying children because you’re short on drinks and treat bags. Embarrassing, huh? Just remember to RSVP, it’s that simple.
If you are the host, make it easy for guests to RSVP. Include both a phone number and an email address on the invitation. If you choose to use electronic invitations instead of mailing them, you can send reminder emails.
Don’t show up empty-handed
You should always buy a gift for the birthday child. Don’t show up empty-handed, you’ll break little hearts this way—not only the birthday child’s, but your own child’s, who will feel embarrassed that he was the only one who did not come with a gift. Unless the invitation specifically states “no gifts,” you should bring a gift for the birthday child. It does not need to be expensive or extravagant. Children are just thrilled to open presents. Even a few small tokens from a dollar store are fine.
Use the party as an opportunity to teach your child about good manners
Teach your child to be a gracious party guest. Those magic words—“please” and “thank you”—can go a long way. Use parties as an opportunity to teach your child to be polite, practice good table manners and generally how to behave when in someone else’s home or an outside venue. Games and other party activities are a great opportunity to teach younger children about taking turns and sharing. Always have your child thank the host for inviting them to the party and always have your child wish the guest of honor a happy birthday.
Similarly, if your child is the guest of honor, teach him or her about being polite and gracious to guests. Remind them that yes, this day is about them, but it’s also important to be nice to everyone who comes to the party by thanking them for coming, thanking them for gifts and being inclusive of all their guests.
Send thank you notes
This applies to the parent of the birthday child, or if the child is old enough, they can write the thank you notes. Anytime a child receives a gift, they (or you) should send a hand-written thank you note to the gift-giver. This is something that many people no longer do, and it’s a shame. You can even get creative with the thank you notes—take a photo of your child with the gift and write a thank you on the back of the picture or have your child create their own thank you notes. This also helps teach your children the importance of gratuity. Try to mail them out within two weeks from the party.
Don’t be a no-show
Things happen, children get sick, scheduling conflicts arise and so on. Parents understand. Therefore, be a considerate guest, and if at the last-minute you need to cancel due to illness or another conflict, please notify the host by phone. Many times parents who host a party at an outside venue such as a museum or a bounce house have to pay per guest, and if your child cannot attend, you need to let them know as soon as possible so they do not get charged extra for no-shows. Again, it’s just the polite thing to do.
If you practice good manners as a parent, you’ll be modeling them for your child. Children need to be reminded often. If you follow a few simple basic rules of etiquette, when it’s your turn to host a birthday party for your child, parents will be more likely to reciprocate with good manners.