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Birthday Party RSVPs and No-Shows

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Birthdays > Birthday Party RSVPs and No-Shows


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Families RSVP'd but they didn't show up

Oct 2010

We just had a birthday party for my 2 year-old daughter. We invited 3 families in the neighborhood with kids to get to know them. All RSVP'd yes, but not one showed up (this was 10 people in total). No calls. Nothing. It left me with a lot of extra food and feeling frustrated. And luckily we invited other people. Is this to be expected? New to the b'day party scene


This is going to happen. Be prepared. Up to 10% of your guest list will be a no-show. I first encountered this at our very expensive wedding. What to do? Answer is, never, ever, ever, invite them again unless they come to you with some outrageous and beliveable reason as to why they couldn't make it and apologize profusely. No shows, rarely have the manners to do that, so if they do, you are pretty well assured that it was indeed a lapse.

As I host parties now that are far less costly than our $150 ea wedding, I now view no shows as a small lesson. These folks don't understand entertaining, so don't invite them. It's that simple.


This is a pet peeve of mind. I had people who did this for my WEDDING!

But, I have to say, for kid birthdays, especially at that age, ANY number of things could happen--from a tantrum to a terrible accident (though, it's not a practice I engage in...I'd at least call to let them know that something happened at the last minute). I guess you could always ask the parents when you see them, ''Hey, I'm so sorry you missed X's party! Is everything ok? You said you were coming to the party but then didn't so I hope no one ended up in the hospital.''

For my daughter's 3rd birthday, three of her friends didn't show up because the mothers of her friends were all pregnant and all ended up either giving birth before the party or going into labor. We just made the most of it.

As the kids get older, they come because once the parents can drop off the kids, birthday parties are free babysitting. Suddenly, they show up. (they don't, however, always RSVP!). etiquette is for everyone


It depends on how the RSVP was given. If it was just in casual conversation, I always follow up with a phone call to make sure they are really coming. If they called you to RSVP, then it's pretty rude that none of them came. I would expect they would follow up to explain why they did not show up. Sandy
I can totally relate! We just had my son's 3rd birthday with the exact same result. It's made me lose faith in one of the simplest of human interactions, common courtesy. I've also vowed to keep future birthday parties to a bare minimum: buy less food and invite only the closest friends. Of course, this offers no guarantee, either; one of my closest friends completely forgot the date of the party. It was a huge bummer since she has twins so this meant 2 less friends for my son. I had to excuse her though, since she was 6 months pregnant.

Ok, i see i'm not offering you any solid advice here. Just commiserating, i guess. It's extremely sad to me that we can't even expect the simplest courtesy from people we consider ''friends''. What is this teaching our children...? disheartened


Some people can be so selfish and rude! Unless there were extenuating circumstances for ALL three families, I see no reason for the no-show, and worst yet, no call! Sadly, I wouldn't give them the time of day,UNLESS they had a very good reason for being so blatantly apathetic. Are we so over scheduled and harried, that our lives are becoming meaningless affairs? All three families? Come on! on your side
Yessssss indeed. CRAZY making. Yes, you have a right to be annoyed. I have a personal boundary for this issue to keep my sanity: I'm always willing to issue two invitations to a person/family. If they blow me off twice, then I make a promise to myself that I'll never invite them again. Setting a limit on this behavior can help keep you sane in the long run. Three strikes? You're out.
Geez--how rude! I'm sorry that this happened to you and your family. Such crass behavior is not the norm, at least in my experience. Grownups need manners, too!
I'm also a parent of a young child, and I share in your frustration about party prep/let down on guests who show. I do think that one should call as soon as they can with an excuse- even if it's after the fact. Being a busy parent doesn't mean you have to be rude. (FYI We had a family friendly party. We stressed that it was infant baby toddler friendly. 28 people RSVP'd yes including the children-6 maybes. We had 13 no shows. LOTS of extra food, overspent on supplies, time cooking and I threw out food. I even had a baby sitter hired to help out. She ended up taking my son for a walk when he needed an nap. Luckily most of our friends contacted us later to apologize -rashes, naps, just too much work for parents to get away) anon
Yes, there is a protocol for b-day parties. You say you will come, and you do. Except when you have a reason. Then you call, text, fax, email, drop a note, knock on the door the next day and say hi, sorry we couldn't make it but everyone got the flu, or, my 1 month old ate the calendar and deleted your number from my cellphone, our ipad broke down and we just can't go anywhere without it ... Something, at least, right? Anything!

I hope this was just a blip, and that in the meantime you were able to hear back from some of those parents about why they couldn't make it, and couldn't let you know. If you haven't heard back, we probably live in the same neighborhood. 30-smthg and not old fashioned, but very scared about the lack of social graces I am noticing.


I know!! I remember my daughter's 6th birthday, when we invited the whole class, not because I wanted to deal with a big crowd but because I thought it was important to include everyone. More than half did not respond at all, some RSVP'd yes and didn't come, some didn't RSVP and did come. I was a bit shocked and amazed at the time, as it seems to me like pretty rude behavior, but I chalked it up to parents being busy and overwhelmed (and believe me, spend a few more years on the birthday party circuit and you'll be overwhelmed...its endless). However, it did bring home to me how incredibly important it is to at least respond to every invite, and to teach my kid to be flexible in her expectations for these events. Your neighbors' behavior was very rude, but not unusual at all. Respondez s'il vous plait!
I thought the b'day scene is dictated by adults who bring their kids so the little ones can learn how to socialize. Evidently, it must be the other way around: the kids are the ones who hope their parents will pick up some social skills at the party!

I don't get it. We had a tangentially similar experience recently in our neighborhood but with a couple who just moved in and seemed very eager to connect further since we both had babies recently. We weren't expecting much, but, you know, kids same age, will grow up on the same street, ... maybe play together, maybe not, ... whatever. A couple of messages later with no response, we decided to drop off a little treat and remind them of our contact info. Eventually, my wife got a call back with a rather bogus explanation for why they lost our phone number, and more of that ''we should get together, go for a walk'', etc. But, nothing. As in, nothing. The really awkward thing is that we see them in the neighborhood, but there is not even any visual acknowledgment!

I was hoping that our experience was an anomaly, but after reading what you wrote, I am guessing it may be a more general trend. Maybe charm school needs to be mandatory for parents Nick.


I'm shocked and will say that I've had a few individual no-shows for birthday parties (as in one out of 20 invited parties), but usually they were followed by apologies with the explanation of why. I understand that people forget things occasionally, but 3 full families that is extreme. Hope it's not a new trend. Next time, try a reminder ''we are looking forward to seeing you at XYZ's party tomorrow!'' by email if you can... many bday parties mom
Just wanted to add a few other thoughts.

1. I was raised on the East coast and feel that it was more ingrained in me that answering invitations and keeping to commitments was good manners than the people I know raised in CA. I know, I know, I am sure some of you were raised here and also think this is good manners, but I also think a good portion of people in CA have more of what they would consider a ''casual'' attitude about responding to or showing up at events. I've gotten used to it-I feel like the more we can accept people for who they are and let go of emotional energy around little stuff, the more open and loving our lives are. I am sure this makes sense to them. It doesn't to me, but whatever. I'd try to just let it go if they are otherwise nice people or good friends.

2. I would like to throw in the ring cultural considerations. We live in a diverse area and we cannot attribute motivation to our own cultural understanding. Over the years I have become aware of people who are raised to believe for example that it would be rude to tell any friend asking you to come to something face to face or in an invite of other kinds that you won't come-they always say yes they will be there even when they have no intention of showing up or if they are unsure. In some cultures it is completely appropriate to invite your friends and extended family to events you were invited to and the people would never have any idea how many people will come. In some communities the hosts always have 40 times as much food as might be needed b/c no one ever rsvps. In some cultures people always show up with food to share so it seems not to matter to them if you say you're coming b/c it will all even out in the end. So I encourage you again to just consider these factors if relevant. And by the way, I don't just mean cultural factors as in non-white people-my in-laws live in the south and I have heard a derivation of this response issue explained there as good manners to accept invitations rather than good manners to follow through. just breathe


I missed the original post, but I've also had problems with this -- no shows or late shows, even very good friends. I think email is part of the problem. An email invitation, an email response. People start to expect email reminders, etc. Having said that, now that we're on our 4th kid I'm starting to think that birthday parties for little kids should be family affairs. Maybe family and close family friends, but not every three year old from preschool. It's a lot of stimulation for the three year old, it's a lot of social commitments for the families (10 birthday parties to attend each year with your 3 year old). And yes, little kids are often breaking down or having crisis and therefore causing people to be late, so maybe that's a sign that their social calendars should not be full. party pooper

Parents not RSVP'ing to party invitation

June 1999

Nonresponse to RSVPs is an ongoing pet peeve of mine for all the reasons you stated. I did a little asking, and some people don't know what RSVP means! Others think it means to call only if you can't come to the event. So now instead of RSVP, I put a note on the invitation asking them to "call by [date] to let us know if you're coming." Maybe add something in a light-hearted way to the effect that we want to be able to have enough cake. Or something about having to have an accurate head-count for the facility by that date (in many of these away-from-home party places, you pay by the number of kids, and it grates to pay for kids who might or might not show up.) Or a note about how my kid gets to invite 8 kids because it's his eighth birthday. But even people who know what RSVP means don't always bother. I've taken to calling everyone who hasn't responded by the deadline date in the invitation. Some people don't return those calls, either! If that kid's attendance is going to make a difference in the price at the facility (eg, $100 for 1 to 10 kids, $125 for 11-15), I don't count him. If he does show up, there may be a last-minute absence, the facility may not really care, or I may have to pay more. I do, however, make him up a goodie bag. I don't think the kid should suffer for the parents' lack of social grace. If he shows up, he gets the bag like everyone else. (I supposed the goodie bag is a problem if provided by the facility itself, as they won't have more than you've signed on for...) I have stopped inviting certain families to parties because of the lack of response to the RSVP and phone calls. It's not worth the aggravation to me.


I have found it helpful to put on the invitation, "Please RSVP by ___", rather than just "RSVP". Putting a specific date seems to increase the number of timely RSVPs. I usually wait a few days after the stated date before I call those who haven't responded. They're often very embarrassed and apologetic. I think people lead very busy lives and just forget to call even though the invitation may be on the refrigerator door and they have every intention of attending.
By all means, call the parents directly to find out if their child will attend your party. I've always encoutered friendly courtesy when I've done this, and some parents are relieved when I call, because they've sincerely been trying to get around to RSVPing. Calling directly also solves the problem of a few invitations that tend to go astray.
I had the same question, which I posted to another parenting list I'm on. It generated a lot of discussion! The general consensus was that *not* everyone is going to RSVP, and most people suggested a call to the parents by some deadline (1 week before the party?) to make sure, since often times you will need an accurate head count. If you have invited all the kids in her class, then certainly it would be ok to place something in everyone's box. But what seems to be the case is that you will never have a perfect world here... What I find almost as bad is parents who invite *some* kids in a preschool class, but put the invitations in those kids' cubbies! I think if you're going to do it at school, it should be an invitation (or reminder, or whatever) for all the kids, or do it off-site.
You are entitled to push a bit to get some commitments. Go ahead and put a reminder in the artwork folders. A short explanation such as "please get back to me so that I can get a headcount and make sure I have enough cupcakes" should make it abundantly clear to all why they should RSVP. Reading this post was a good warning for those of us who will be planning such parties in future and a noodge to flaky RSVPers everywhere. Thanks.
Don't even get me started on the lack of RSVP'ing that goes on these days. But, since you asked...I am not surprised at the lack of responses you've received. I too have experienced similar problems with past parties. I have had 3 parties at my house in the past two months, including a baby shower and my daughter's 4th b-day party. I have had problems getting people to respond to them all. I thought, at the very least, people would respond to a baby shower. Nope! I'd say less then half the guests bothered to respond. I have tried all different sort of tactics too. I figured email would be easy for people to reply. Didn't work. Do people have a problem with understanding what RSVP actually means? Maybe the french throws people. It means RESPOND. It doesn't mean call me if you can come or call me if you can't. I've been wanting to start an email/internet campaign to come up with a phrase that would actually encourage folks to respond. So, for those of you out there that have received party invitations in the past that you have just let slip or slide, what does RSVP mean to you? What word or phrase would help you to call the party giver and let her know if you will attend or not? I would also say that you have every right to know if these children will be attending this party. It is completely appropriate for you to slip a reminder in the art folder or to call their houses and ask. Don't assume anything. This problem seems to be more pervasive in mellow, laid back California then in other parts of the country.
I've hosted 2 parties recently and had the same experience. One was an adult party and the other was my daughter's 4th birthday party where I also invited all the kids at the pre-school. In both cases the RSVP rate was less than half by the date of RSVP requested on the invitation. I stomped around the house and complained to my husband about the lack of civil behavior in our modern society but it didn't do much for determining how many guests would show up at my party. I then got on the phone and started calling. As a gracious host I think you need to always treat guests with respect and be as nice as you can when calling. In my case I said something like 'Hi, this is Kathy. I was just calling to see if you'll be able to join us for the birthday party this weekend (at this point they usually profusely apologize for not responding).' You can then say something like 'Don't feel bad, you are not in the minority I'm having to follow up with lots of people, I understand everyone is really busy these days. We would love to have you join us for the party.' It hopefully minimizes the embarrassment of not responding and gives you the headcount that you need to adequately plan the party. For the pre-school parents I asked people as I ran into them at pick up and drop off times and then called the ones I hadn't seen. A note is probably OK but you still may not get a response which really leaves you looking like a pest if you still have to call them. Another friend of mine didn't call and then scrambled on the day of the party to fit in 2 kids that showed up without RSVPing. She asked close friends to 'loan' their goodie bags to the extra guests and scrambled to find food for the kids since the party was a fixed seating type of thing.
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