Birthday Invitation Etiquette

The first task to tackle for a birthday party is usually the guest list. Your child will likely have a good idea of who to invite, but be sure to guide them through this delicate process of selection. While you shouldn’t feel obligated to invite everyone in your child’s class to the party, it’s important to be considerate of others’ feeling. This consideration also applies to how the birthday party invitation is extended. Avoid handing out invitations in class, on the school bus, or at the playground. It’s better to hand-deliver or mail the invites. Also, encourage your child to be discreet and not talk about the party at school to avoid hurt feelings.

Birthday parties for children are informal, so have fun with how you word the invitation. See our wording ideas if you need a little help. Be as imaginative as you’d like as long as you convey enough information about the party so that guests know where and when to come. Consider adding a map and directions directly on the back or front of the invitation card. If you’d like some extra adult supervision, be sure to explicitly mention it (e.g., “Parents welcome” or “Parents are very welcome to stay”) on the invitation. In fact, some parents are reluctant to leave their child especially if it’s their first party, so inviting the parents is usually a welcomed gesture.

Birthday invitations for kids or adults should be distributed two to three weeks before the party. It’s a good idea to provide R.S.V.P. information on the invitation to get an accurate count of how many people will be attending. Don’t hesitate to call parents if they forget to reply to your invitation. Occasionally parents will bring along a sibling who hasn’t been invited, so be prepare and set aside a few extra chairs and servings of food.

Should you accept gifts or not? There’s really no right or wrong answer. If you don’t want guests to feel obligated to bring gifts, it’s fine to indicate “No gifts, please” discreetly at the bottom of the birthday party invite. Even so, some parents will still insist on having their child bring a gift. Give some thought to whether or not you want the birthday child to open gifts at the party. Young givers may be reluctant to part with their gifts and the birthday child may not be enthusiastic about every gift. To avoid this situation more and more parents are opting to wait until after the party to open gifts, especially when the guests are under five. If, however, you choose to open gifts at the event, be sure to teach your child to be a gracious host and to say an enthusiastic “thank you” after opening each gift.

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