Birthday Party RSVPs and No-Shows
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Birthday Party RSVPs and No-Shows
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
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
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,
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.
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...?
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
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)
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
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
I was hoping that our experience was an anomaly, but after
reading what you wrote, I am guessing it may be a more
Maybe charm school needs to be mandatory for parents
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.
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
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.
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
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.
this page was last updated: Sep 24, 2012
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