The Etiquette Bitch says: RSVP, parents!

I hate throwing parties. I mean, I love having thrown a party but the actual planning part consumes me with stress.  

What if no one comes? What if they say they will come and don’t? What if everyone hates each other? What if it rains so no one comes? What if it’s sunny so no one comes? What if the party is crashed by a group of drunken hooligans? What if the drunken hooligan is Nate? And he’s on on a long rant against religion? And he’s right? And I’m forced to defend him?

Really, it’s a problem possibly requiring medication.

A couple years ago, deeply in the horrific money-scrounging phase of our lives, we scrounged all our money to throw Sage a birthday party–more for the adults. Nate’s birthday sangria is legendarily worth a trip to Brooklyn. The morning of the event, half the people bailed on us. Yes, every excuse was perfect and relevant and acceptable and la la la la la. One kid wasn’t feeling well. One mom forgot. One mom was tired. I ran out of gracious ways to say “Don’t worry about it”

I get it. I’m a mom too. Sometimes you are, simply, tired.

That said, I am forever traumatized by the experience. Do you know what a pasta salad for 40 looks like after a party of 15 people?

A pasta salad for 40.

Yesterday, we threw our first real birthday party for Sage. In fact, it was our first real birthday party for either kid; the kind with entertainment and organization and cake and balloons. And as we parents know, all good things end with balloons.

I had a fabulous time, and left with nothing but happy feelings. But this morning, I felt a little squidgy as I realized several of the parents who RSVP’d yes were no-shows. No-calls and no-emails either.

I am not without sin in this department and so the Etiquette Bitch in me hesitates to throw this ugly, jagged stone. I have said yes to PR events that totally slipped my mind or were pushed out of the way for some other unfortunately pressing obligation. In times of major stress and overcommitment, I have ignored a flurry of invites in my inbox, some of which I probably should have made time to respond to. And yes, I once sent Nate to a friend’s wedding alone at the last minute, because I was 2 weeks postpartum, fat, depressed, leaking from my size 86 DDDDD boobs, and would have been probably kicked out for showing up in sweatpants anyway.

So let me say for the record: I suck at times.

But a kid’s birthday party seems different.

It’s not just letting down a host (who may have already paid for your kid, ahem), but about letting down a little girl who doesn’t understand why her friends didn’t come.

Fortunately, Sage is resilient and awesome. It’s her mother that could use a few more of those attributes.

My mom and I talk about this often. We’ve debated as to whether this is a New York thing, or a Generation X/Y thing, or a technology thing. Are people less considerate than they used to be? Are we just too busy? Have we lost our sense of empathy and courtesy? Or do invitations and requests flood us with such great frequency in this digital age that they’ve really lost all meaning?

I’m not sure what it is. But I know it makes me want to do better. I want to be the kind of person who says yes and means yes. Or the person who sometimes says yes but, or who simply says no–because that’s okay too.

Is it too late to make a New Year’s Resolution in mid-May?


98 thoughts on “The Etiquette Bitch says: RSVP, parents!”

  1. Our two drunken hooligans ought to get together and rant against religion. Preferably at a child's birthday party.

    I have to admit that I've found more than one birthday party invitation crumpled at the bottom of backpacks, two weeks after the party took place. Likewise, I have found undelivered thank you notes written by my girls for birthday presents received, also crumpled at the bottom of backpacks.

    Obviously, I need to check the depths of the backpacks more often. But it's also served as a reminder that invitations in the hands of kids often go MIA.

  2. This bugs me too. Prior to Noah's birthday party, he would ask me almost daily who had said they were coming and how hadn't. Then when they don't show up–you really miss them (and have paid for them).

    I also get upset when people don't RSVP either way. I am not perfect and I say no more often than I have to–but it does seem like people have become more rude–as if an electronic RSVP isn't real.

  3. This bailing on a kid's birthday parties after RSVP'ing yes drives me crazy too! I mean, you need time to plan the most straight forward party. You spend money on party favours, food, decorations, no matter how simple. And your child, if she/he is five like my daughter, spends months planning their own party.

    I understand it from a parent's point of view – kids parties can get boring. But it's only a couple of hours. And it means SO much to the birthday kid.

    We have a few parents in my daughter's class who treat parties as a “yes” only if nothing better comes up at the last second. Gah…

  4. I hosted a birthday party last month for my little girl's 4th birthday. This was her first year in “school”, so it was the first time we were inviting people who aren't close personal friends of ours to the party.

    After an incident last year where only 2 kids (out of the 5 invited) could make it to my son's birthday party, I decided to be more open with the invites for my daughter's party and let her invite as many as she wanted.

    She invited about 10 kids from school. Of those:
    – 4 said yes (one didn't show)
    – 1 said no
    – 5 didn't bother answering at all

    I really had no idea what to say to my daughter about the ones who didn't reply. For the no-show, I said “she was probably sick” or something.

    To make matters worse, a few weeks later she was at a birthday party for a classmate and at least three of the no-RSVP kids were at that party.

    I don't get it.

  5. Yes yes yes! I remember when I was a child having people say they would come to my birthday and not showing up. I didn't understand. I was devastated. That fear lingers with the thought of throwing my children parties. Genuine and honest RSVPing is proper etiquette. Great post!

  6. I'm finally on my way to being the person who doesn't have to bail at the last minute for whatever reason, and the key is very simple: I now say no to 3/4 of the stuff I used to say yes to. Because a sick kid or a bad day or work will not keep me from some place I really want to be, but they're fantastic – and true-ish – excuses when I really don't want to leave my house or my sweatpants.

    Of course, that's not going to make you feel better, because it may mean that the people who didn't show really didn't want to be there in the first place. But better to have a small guest list ahead of time than on the day of the party.

  7. A friend of mine threw a going away party for us this weekend. She went through SO much work. I was so embarrassed to learn one family we had thought of us friends didn't even bother to respond to the party planner's emails.

  8. My daughter just had a birthday party and there were ZERO children in attendance! People who RSVP'd didn't come. Good thing she's only 2, but I can't imagine what would happen if she were older and realized that her friends didn't come to her party. RSVP and come, folks!

  9. Is it evite? Does evite make it easier than paper invites? Because I'm not sure either but I had the exact same experience this year for Michael's party and it was miserable. Waste of money and time and effort.

  10. The egregious behavior that happens to me more is people just not RSVPing. What is that about? Waiting for a better offer? Forgot about it? It's one of my enormous peeves. Don't even get me started on how nobody writes thank you notes anymore, either. xox

  11. This makes me positively MENTAL. I had a NYC wedding, and invited 306 people. One the RSVP date I only had maybe 1/2 of the responses. It was a shock to my system.

    I find that now happens when I plan my kids' bday parties. I mean, COME ON. I am inviting everyone in my kid's class to come to a place you all know I need a headcount for. Why not just say yes or no? Why leave me hanging? Why refuse to allow anyone outside the teacher and class mom have your personal info for me to hunt you down and get a damn RSVP outta you?

    And as for technology? If you say you are coming to my party and now can't, you have the option to email, mail, text, Tweet, Facebook, courier, messenger pigeon, snail mail, leave a note in my kid's school backpack, or tell a mutual friend to tell me. Just bailing with no notice is bulls***.


    I think etiquette is going downhill, fast. It drives me crazy.

    Almost as crazy as deciding on goodie bags.

  12. My approach now as party host is to send out the invitations, and then, a week before the party, call everyone who didn't respond. This accomplishes two functions: I can make sure they received the invitation (seems like there's always someone who didn't receive one for whatever reason–Evite didn't get delivered, the kid lost it, wrong address…), and then I can get a response. Or at least an “I'll get back to you!” Yes, it's more work, but I also don't host parties for an entire class. One other trick is to invite a couple more kids than I really want to host (say, I really just want 6 kids, so I invite 8), and we usually end up with enough kids for a fun party.

  13. I have been guilty of this too, but I also think it's rude. One thing I really appreciate is when parents include an e-mail address to RSVP, not just a phone number. Because when I get a minute to respond, it's likely to be 10pm. Also, if it's an Evite, the reminders help. I like to think it's that people are busy & overextended and not just jerks.

  14. It's happening everywhere, not just NYC. I'm not sure which is worse, the people who don't RSVP at all or the people who say they're coming and then don't turn up (without a call or email). Drives me batty.

  15. Wow. I am shocked! And I'm thinking it might be cultural?
    I'm American and live in Toulouse, France. I've been hosting my kid's parties for six years here. In that time, the people who've rsvp'd have always shown up. Once a kid was sick so, get this, one of his parents stopped by to say hello and drop off a gift. So kind. This year my son invited a lot of (new school) classmates. The ones who did not RSVP'd didn't show and I was ok with that. In my book, no RSVP = no. What would surprise and shock me would be for someone to say yes and then simply not show without a follow up call. It would make me feel like they could care less about me and my party. Maybe in that situation I would be inclined to be exclusive with my guest list and only invite people I or my kids know very well.

  16. Oh, and I'd like to be at the party with Nate and Julie's husband ranting about religion. Sounds like a good time. 🙂

  17. Aargh. We are just beginning to plan a 6yo b-day party and fearing this will happen to us. We just attended one of his classmates' gatherings, and only one other friend from school showed up — and we know everyone in the class was invited, as the invitation came home in the school folder. Not sure whether people RSVPed or not, but you'd think more people would show up. I mean, what kid doesn't enjoy a friend's birthday party? We had a disastrous “going away” party for our family in Brooklyn where we did the whole goody bag thing, etc. and only one other family showed up. We had lots of booze left over to drown our sorrows, though.

  18. We went to one of our daughter's friend's party about a month ago. There were 12 kids there. It was a blast. She had her daycare friends (where my daughter was from) and some neighborhood kids and cousins. Our daughter's party was 3 weeks ago. NO ONE SHOWED UP. One girl RSVPed no, and planned a playdate later. (Bless them) one RSVPed yes and did not come, and one RSVPed yes and couldn't come because his mom was sick. No one else even responded, including a family I would have considered close friends. I don't know all the parents, but the fact that all of them went to one girl's and not to my daugher's is really sad. She is three, so didn't quite realize there were no kids there. Her uncles were there which made her day but it was still sad. I didn't even mention her friends coming as the day was coming up because I didn't want to crush her.

    The parties are for the KIDS guys. Please don't disappoint them!

    As for the food, I made a lot, but there were plenty of adults (all of which RSVPed) who ate their weight. At least we had that.

  19. Wow, you guys are making me appreciate my day care crowd.

    People generally RSVP (yes or no) and they generally do what they said they would in the RSVP.

    I have had to bail out last minute when my daughter woke up with a 102 degree fever, but in general, if I say I'll be somewhere, I'm there. I have had to train my husband in the fact that kids birthday parties start on time, but otherwise the birthday party scene is pretty low stress.

  20. I say, sing that message out LOUD. I mean for gods sake we all now have about fourteen gazillion methods of communication so at very least, tell me you're not coming, especially (particularly) if you've already said you ARE coming. And then could you write a follow-up post, please, on why people think “thank you” notes are optional? At very least a thank-you email from the parent? But I mean thank yous all the way around, for gifts, for being invited to a dinner party, etc etc. I had a mom–who I like a lot–say to me “oh we just don't do thank you notes, so consider this a blanket thank you.”
    Um…howzzat? So I say get that etiquette bitch a new riding crop and have at it.

  21. Lots 'o comments, you pick the best topics Liz. I am a committed RSVP'er. It is simply rude to not respond when clearly you should. Busy-ness or not, is our society so far past the elementary rule of respect to use an excuse that you can't take 5 minutes to respond to an invite? Most even give options where you can email a response back, I mean GAH! heaven forbid a personal phone call be made. I mean really, what's happening to the personal touch anyway? And absolutely, absolutely people, do it for the kids!

  22. Technology should be a better reason to make sure that you RSVP. Hell, I'm a phone phobic person, but give me an email address and I'm all over that shit.

    I don't get it either, and really, suck it up and go for your kids. I hate people and I manage to show up because I know my daughter loves it.

  23. Oh. My. God. I want to give you a hug right now, because at long last someone feels my pain.

    Not RSVPing to an event — any event — sucks. But when it's in honor of a small child, who just wants their friends to show, and doesn't understand “Sally's mommy was too busy,” it's heartbreaking. It's also a logistical pain in the ass! I've been a children's party planner for 16 years now, and it can cost time, money, and stress when the guests don't respond (or do respond then don't show anyway).

    I have a lengthy rant about it here:

    Amen, sister. A-MEN!

  24. It is an epidemic I'd say. Last year we had only 2 kids show up to Nicky's birthday party. This year we invited 10 from his class and several others (kids of my own colleagues). I think we had like 2 rsvps. I tracked down my colleagues to find out if they were coming myself. In the end not only did many not rsvp, some didn't rsvp and showed up! Luckily I was prepared, but that is only because it was all homemade stuff, not an event type thing. I can't imagine doing something where I had to prepay based on attendance.

  25. Oh man, your stories are heartbreaking. 1 kid showing up? No kids?

    I'm always going to have these comments in my head the next time I feel too busy to hit the RSVP button right away.

  26. I feel like no one wants to call out this behavior because everyone does it — we all forget, don't RSVP, lose the invite, drop the ball, get crazy, etc. But that doesn't make any of us right. We should all try to be better even if we know we'll never be perfect.

    You can say, “you should have called/kept your word” even if you sometimes have to say, “I should have called/kept my word.”

  27. I have learned not to trust evite because it goes into too many people's spam folders. With that said, I've also been known to send out follow-up emails the week before a party saying “Yo! I need to get a headcount.”

    It's ridiculous that people need to be reminded to be courteous. I mean seriously. I've got kids…I don't have time to baby the adults in our life too!

  28. I threw a party for my husband when he earned his psychology license. it was a big deal for us (and not cheap). and it snowed that day — not a white out, 3 feet of snow blizzard, just some snow — and a number of people completely didn't show and didn't bother to call. It pissed me off.

    I almost always make a point to RSVP when it is requested, even if the answer is no, and especially when it's a kid party. I like “regrets only” rsvp's because they let you off the hook if you're not able to attend. You can just toss the invite.

    Of course, all that said, I recently was going through one of my daughter's folders and came across a classmate's invitaion to a birthday party. On May 1. So I felt like a giant heel. we couldn't have gone anyway because we had a conflict, but I felt bad about it.

    To answer your questions: yes, sometimes we are too tired and too busy. Sometimes we have to pick and choose and say no — and, yes, we have to let other people off the hook. Because sometimes — at least speaking for myself, I need to be forgiven for faux pas.

  29. Thank G-d for my community in Oak Park, IL. People might take longer than I deem necessary to RSVP, but at least they show up at the kid birthday party they've RSVPed to.

    Adult parties… notsomuch.

    I had the Etiquette Bitch for a mom. I wish everyone else did too.

  30. I haven't had any experience with kids' parties yet (although almost everyone in the family that RSVP'd to Monkey's baptism showed up – a miracle in itself based on past experiences). But I noticed a definite lack in RSVP etiquette when getting married.

    A friend of mine getting married about the same time said that she had never thought about it before she got engaged. She often ignored RSVP inserts, and just showed up if she had time. In planning her own wedding, she suddenly felt awful about it.

    I don't completely understand the drop myself. Maybe we're busier than we used to be. Or maybe technology has made certain courtesies, like a handwritten thank you note or simple RSVP, seem obsolete, so we're not taught to worry about it. Maybe the guilt of wanting to “do it all” has made us not want to say no – I've definitely delayed responding to events I knew I couldn't attend.

  31. I've got to agree with red pen mama — it's hard to be judgmental when all of us (at least it sounds like) have neglected to rsvp at one point or another, or been a no show.

    I certainly try not to, but I won't say that occasionally I'll find something that I opened or left in my email weeks later. The few pathetic groveling emails/phone calls mostly cured me of doing it again.

    But: “I like “regrets only” rsvp's because they let you off the hook if you're not able to attend. You can just toss the invite.”

    Regrets only means only call if you are NOT coming — so sort of the opposite of what's said above!

    Thank you notes though? Gaaa. If my child is at your child's party and your child thanked my child in person? Really, they don't need to do it again! If you send a gift or weren't at the party or something like that? Then, sure send a note thanking me.

    If I have you over to dinner? Feel free to email a thank you, but also, feel free to just say it! If I invite you to a fancy catered thing at some exciting place (fat chance, but it could happen), and you weren't able to specifically thank me there, feel free again to email.

    I think that some of the repetitious obligations have made us tired of all obligations!

    And now I have to respond to a graduation party invitation!

  32. I think that some of the repetitious obligations have made us tired of all obligations!

    @Jenn I think this is very astute. But maybe we need to reset a little? Aren't things like courtesy and graciousness what make us civilized? Or if less fancy than that…aren't these kind of the fun things in life?

    I'm not sure either. And trust me, I'd be the first to breathe a sigh of relief when thank you notes are no longer obligatory. But I don't want to be the first to call it quits on them either. At least not intentionally. Heh.

  33. Popping over as a follow-up to your Tweet…

    RSVPs = Obligatory. Even if “sil vous plait” means “please,” the response is mandatory.

    Thank you-s = Obligatory, and preferably, in writing—even if it's a 3-year-old scrawl or drawing.

    Yes, people are getting ruder. Feels like we're one step away from the Planet of the Apes ending… 😉 The monkeys are taking over (Damn, dirty apes!)

    Far from perfect, I've lapsed on occasion and STILL feel guilty. Now especially as a “role model” for the ever-watching eyes.

    If you'd like to send me a mailing address, I'll send you a written token of appreciation for such a needed post. 😉

  34. I always try to RSVP, but like you have missed a deadline or two. I find that most people are forgiving, so I try to be as well.

    However, last year a mother brought her daughter to my son's birthday party, even though she hadn't RSVP'ed. I knew she only came because she had nothing better to do, because she was one of those moms who thought she was better than everyone else. Once she arrived she freaked out because both her and her daughter have latex allergies. And the place was filled with latex balloons. If she had bothered to RSVP, she could have mentioned this and maybe I would have stuck with the mylar balloons.

    But most people aren't that obnoxious!

  35. I think it's all of the above. Some of us just aren't considerate. Some of us are too busy and too tired. And sometimes? Things just come up. Or like Julie said, sometimes you find a crumpled invite three weeks later.

    That being said, I have two daughters who are very popular. Having them invited to every single birthday party from August 20th – June 1, makes me a little grouchy. I get tired of parties every weekend. I get tired of buying gifts. Tired of sugar crazed, strung out from not sleeping at a slumber party, kids on Sunday night. Tired of the non-stop drama that happens at nine year old girl birthday parties. So…sometimes I don't say anything. I don't RSVP no, because then that kid comes to school asking my kid why they aren't coming and my kid then can't handle it and begs to go.

    Basically I'm admitting to being an asshat at times about these things.

    Personally, I do always send thank you's for gifts and I make my children do the same. I also always RSVP when I'm invited somewhere.

  36. Page 520 of Miss Manners Guide for the Turn of the Millenium

    In a passage discussing children's birthday parties and related gifts and the thanking thereof, there is this line:

    “Written thanks are not required for such presents delivered in person. If a present is sent, the child must write;…”

    See? I knew I'd seen it once somewhere and felt it should be a touchstone! Of course, she does mention ahead of that, that the child must thank verbally upon receiving the gift.

    Now, if only people knew this and could utilize it. Think of the hours of forced writing and complaints that could be avoided!

  37. Good to know Jen!

    But if in your social circle, thank you notes are de riguer, then it doesn't matter what Miss Manners says. It's still rude to them, right?

  38. I also hate when people just don't RSVP either way – I went to the trouble of inviting you to a party, and the least you could do is let me know whether or not you can make it. But I will say that it's worse to say that you'll come and then not show up without warning (or valid after-the-fact excuse, like their child was in the ER or something). Because as you pointed out, the host planned for those numbers and may have actually paid for you and/or your kid, so the least you deserve is the common courtesy of a phone call or text letting you know of the last minute change in plans. But I've often said that common courtesy is just not that common. (Neither is common sense.)

  39. I know, that's the problem! I feel like I should have my child copy that into a thank you. ;-D

    We did tell the grandparents this, though — mailed or presents that were given but they didn't get to view it or get the thanks — those get a thank you. You were there, saw the thrill, received a personal thank you? We consider you thanked.

    But that's easier with relatives, eh?

    It's so bizarre though that people take hours to write thank-yous for things that have already been thanked for and yet can't take two minutes to RSVP. It's like we've gotten it backwards.

  40. No, you are awesome and so right. I have the same problem. And I, too, have been guilty of saying I will be somewhere or do something and then canceling at the last minute. But at least I cancel. I do think that people have become less accountable in the internet age.

  41. “I get tired of parties every weekend. I get tired of buying gifts. Tired of sugar crazed, strung out from not sleeping at a slumber party, kids on Sunday night. Tired of the non-stop drama that happens at nine year old girl birthday parties.”

    Attitudes like this are why I give my girls the choice to have a big gift (and small party) with a best friend–or a big birthday party (and small gift). The best friend's mom won't blow your kid off because it feels like a good sweat pant day.

    And I hope I never become so jaded that I'm rolling my eyes over my Popular Girl's 3rd slumber party invite of the month. Good grief. The mom hosting the damn thing is the one suffering–and try paying a babysitter $20 in a cheap card for your next date night. Sounds like a bargain to me.

  42. Just a reminder: Let's keep the discussion civil please.

    This is a safe space for people to share different opinions thoughtfully, whatever they may be.

  43. Depending on the day, I can be really bad at remembering to RSVP in time. But that's to events of lesser importance, such as weddings. I would hate the thought of hurting a kids feelings.

    Speaking of weddings…someone RSVP'd to mine TWO days before the thing. At least they didn't just show up.

  44. Thank God you wrote this right now because there is an invitation to a pre-k birthday party in my inbox and I'll be damned, but I forgot all about it and didn't RSVP. Doing it now.

    Thanks for helping me not be an asshole.


  45. We have the same issues here. My biggest pet peeve is the yes and then no show and the same day rsvp yes. Um…I don't have enough goody bags? Were you waiting for a better invite?

    My kids are happy just to have friends over but I cringe for a second before enjoying the party. With a million ways to contact me, please just let me know.

  46. This is just one of many, many, reasons that I'm pretty much not going to be throwing birthday parties for my kids (my oldest is four). When I was a kid, we invited one or two friends to spend the day on the nearest Saturday and we'd go on a small outing (bowling or ballgame or something). I'm thinking this was before the word “playdate” was invented. I actually like it that way. I think this started because my older brother was terribly unpopular and invitations for larger numbers could have been an exercise in humiliation.

    I'm also terrified of the birthday party drama with older kids. I know that “on paper” it is always the invitee's prerogative to accept or decline, but what are the obligations around accepting and reciprocating? What if we accept one sleep-over, but it's a disaster? Are we obliged to accept all the future sleep-overs? How DO you explain regrets – to the hosts (parents) and birthday kid? What if the REAL reason is “my kid is too immature for sleep-overs” or “we can't afford to buy birthday presents and my kid is too humilitated to show up with a handmade craft,” which other parents may understand but kids don't want to discuss. How do you stay above the popularity politics but still teach your kid how to navigate them ethically and maturely? This is the stuff of nightmares for me.

  47. No means no. Oh. Wrong post.

    There's no excuse not to RSVP now–every single one of the invitations that my kids receive is via email. How hard is it to hit “reply”. (The issue about people who “reply all” with “Yes! We'll be there!” requires its own post. Hurry, please!)

  48. I'm late to this party, (ha ha) but have been in both spots. My 40th birthday that I planned and planned for 50, ended up being 17 – mostly due to a nasty flu bug – but I know what you mean about all that pasta salad! But I'm an adult. I would have no idea how to explain to my 6 year old what had happened to her party.

  49. The pasta salad thing actually made me LOL and I DON'T use that term lightly! ha!

    We just had a b-day party this weekend for my son here too and I have the same stresses you do before every party. Ours went well, as they usually do, but I think it's just human nature to have those fears.

    And you know what I find funny is that people send out invitations (at least here) only like a week or so before the party so there's hardly any notice. So, I would have to add “send out invitations earlier parents” to your title… 😉

  50. And THAT is the perfect example of why I will be the MEANEST MOM EVER and never throw another birthday party. Ever. So sue me.
    Yes, some of the kids are obnoxious, but I simply cannot deal with the parents.


  51. I'm sorry to hear that VinoBaby. I actually adore the parents. Which is in part why I was so bummed when they didn't show up.

  52. And this is why I dread planning birthday parties. I still remember when my son turned 5 that we had so many people who didn't RSVP that I had no idea what to expect and was nervous about who would or would not show up. In the end we had two kids show. But one was my son's best friend. So I don't think my son cared that not everyone could come.

    I'm putting myself through the madness all over again as we've just sent out invites for my son's 7th birthday party.

  53. I have been known to actually call people a day ahead of time and use some excuse (“Does your kid like chocolate or vanilla cupcakes?”) to ask whether they are actually coming.


    That said I am terribly absent-minded myself and often forget to RSVP until the last minute, despite my best intentions of being helpful and polite. So I try to be very accommodating and forgiving when people forget to send me their party-going status (or change it without telling me).

    And I've told my kid that there are A LOT of reasons why friends might not show up to a party – someone got sick, someone's car broke down, someone had a family member's party on the same day that they couldn't miss, etc. I also make a point of NEVER telling him specifically who is definitely coming and ALWAYS telling him that even people who have told him they are coming might not be able to make it for whatever reason. So far he has never really been disappointed that someone failed to come to a party.

    I'm dreading the middle school years and all the “who went to whose party” drama that will come with them, though. Ugh.

  54. (Oh I should add that when I said I forget to RSVP until the last minute I don't mean LITERALLY calling ten minutes before the party starts. Heh. But I've certainly forgotten until a couple of days before a party before, and felt bad about it. When I do that I always call ask if it is still all right to come, rather than just saying I will.)

  55. Having just thrown a bday party for my son, I can relate. One parent (out of 12) did not RSVP so I guess that's pretty good, although it still bugs me. And everyone received two invitations, because I had to change the place (moving indoors because of weather forecast). No response to either of them. I like to solicit responses over email so I have a record of correspondence in case I need to email them back some detail (like a changed location).

  56. I did this one time to one of my son's friends and I felt sick with guilt when I realized my mistake. I called the mom and apologized profusely. She of course said it was OK and still came by with the treat bag (um..hello MORE GUILT) I try to be better with my calendar now.

  57. @Jaelithe, great idea on the poor-excuse-phone check. I'm thinking, “Oh, I forgot to ask about allergies on the invitation…”

    Also, at what age does it become the KID's responsibility to RSVP? or at least a shared responsibility? I.e., at what age do you stop sending the invitations to the parents and start sending them to the kids?

  58. I'm so glad it's not just me! When my daughter had her 5th birthday in February, I had to get obnoxious and send out RSVP reminders. I felt like such a weirdo, but the party was in a place that I needed to inform ahead of time the number of party attendees. In the end, one kid showed up who never RSVPd and two who did RSVPd were no shows. One of her classmates had a party this past weekend and we were the only ones from her kindergarten class who even showed up! I felt horrible for the little girl. Her Mom told me at least two others had said they'd be there. I always RSVP and the one time my daughter got sick on the day of a party we'd accepted on, I called the Mom that morning to tell her we couldn't be there. What is wrong with people??

  59. I agree that it is a hassle and even infuriating when Yes's don't show and some people don't RSVP…

    But I also think we have some control here. Presumably everyone falls into one of two camps: occasionally forgetful/something comes up OR repeat offenders. Therefore, the three stages of party planning…

    RSVP: If you're inviting people with whom you're not close, head them off at the pass: “Sally is really looking forward to seeing her friend Tommy at her small birthday party. He will be missed, so please let us know if we can count you in.”

    YES's: A week before, take the Yes's and send a group email: “Sally is excited for her party. Let us know if something's changed and you can't make it.”

    NO-SHOWs: Call them. If they truly forgot, you won't need to hold onto your aggravation. If they are a repeat offender, maybe you've taught them a lesson. And if you feel they are not properly groveling, don't invite them again 🙂

    I agree wholeheartedly with all the comments about manners. And I loved the commenter who tells her kids that some people mightn't show up and a good time can be had anyway.

    Sadly, we can't control other people. But we can control our reactions to them, and if we are inviting people whom we like, or whom our kids like, then it seems like a good idea to get personal and to make a real connection. It's a little more work to send a personal email or a phone invitation. But for what reason are we having a party if not to establish relationships? Skip the impersonal evites and mass emails if at all possible (exception being if you throw big parties often–we have friends who do, and they always get a good crowd bc they invite people who really want to be there, and most of them make the effort). Maybe if we make invitations more personal on our end, we'll get a better response. And if we don't? Cull those people unless your kid can't live without their kid. It's better to be happy than to be right. 🙂


  60. Joe, I have no idea who the heck is a repeat offender. I invite the kids in my daughter's class, because they're friends. Not because I know the parents (Although one of the nice things about the preschool birthday party circuit is getting to know the parents.)

    Can I control how I feel about it? Sure. I feel annoyed by rude people. And I probably always will.

  61. I agree, a child's birthday party is far more significant than a regular social or PR event. I'd be damned sure to call if I had to cancel an RSVP for that.

    You're not the only one who sees a lack of etiquette these days, and I think it's both a Generation X/Y thing and a technology thing.

    It's a paradox–we have more and faster ways to communicate than ever before, yet we actually communicate less than ever. Most of us never mail letters or cards, or even call one another on the phone–even within families.

    Perhaps we take communication for granted, in the Digital Age.

    It saddens me that more people didn't show up for Sage's birthday party, after RSVP'ing for it. No child deserves that. And you are absolutely within reason, in pointing it out.

  62. I truly don't know anyone who thinks it's okay not to RSVP or to show up without RSVPing or to not show up when you've said you will.

    But we've all done it. Because we all screw up. And we're all mortified when we do.

    So, hurtful as it may be when I'm planning a party, I try to have a little compassion. And not take it personally.

    This is also why I love Evite: So easy to send reminders! And you can disguise them as “updates.”

  63. @Jaci My daughters are in multi-aged classes. That's 52 kids per class. It gets to be a bit much. By June, I'm allowed to be tired of it.

    It's also why my kids have family parties only and then a special activity with them and a friend or two. I don't do those big parties for all of the reasons I listed.

    I'm allowed to have that opinion.

    Also not that it matters, but I'm a divorced single mom of three. I do the best I can. Maybe it's just not good enough for other people, but it has to be for me. So yes, at times I roll my eyes when I see another invite. Especially considering that I give up half my weekends already.

  64. Feeling your pain! Our son is turning 6 in a few weeks. He attends a public school class one day a week and his homeschooled the rest of the time. For his homeschool friends I sent an Evite, as that is how everyone seems to do it since we live in the digital age and got 100% responses. But for the school friends (13 of them) we made really cute notes and the teacher sent them home in the kids folders. NONE of the parents have replied from his little class. Now all our son does is come home from his class and talk about who will be at his party… the kids are aware! yet no one RSVPd. Party in 4 days. Do I make goodie bags for an extra 13 people? 13 people plus parents could require a larger cake as well. Just frustrating. I am assuming none of them are going to show up but will plan for 5 just in case.

    I do like the evite because I can send out a reminder about the party and not feel like I am being a pest.

    Either way, please bring sangria! I may need it! Our son is an aspie and has a rough time socially but his classmates have embraced him and I think it will crush him if they don't show.

  65. An amazing woman once said, “If you can't say a resounding 'YES', say 'No'. If you change your mind and say,”yes,” everyone will think you are a heroine. But if you say yes and then change your mind-or forget to say anything-everyone will remember. And blog about it. And you will feel like skunk po.

    We've raised a generation of Me children who forgot about Us. Who forgot manners. God knows what they will send into the world. Thank goodness Thalia and Sage will be able to rise above it all and bear witness.

    I don't know anyone else who gives her word and keeps it the way you do, Mom 101.Do not be afraid.

  66. I will sing this song with you, as I continue to try to answer questions about why so-and-so wasn't at my daughter's 5-yr-old bday party. A party that was four days ago!

  67. With two babies in May, I've managed to squeak by with one huge combo friend and family birthday bash in our yard. Until this year, when Lucas remembered I promised him a separate boy party when he was in kindergarten.

    So we planned a big shindig at a gymnastics center and invited every boy in his class and a handful of close friends not in our school. I feared the worst and was a wreck.

    EVERY single parent RSVPed and all but one kid could be there. It was awesome. Lucas was thrilled to be surrounded by friends, the boys were amazingly gracious and I had to choke back tears more than once.

    This is not to gloat, but perhaps show that there is hope…

    And for kickers, one mother even sent me an email after the party, thanking ME for including her son. Since he lost his hearing, it is a rare moment that she can see him let loose and have fun like every other six year old boy.

    I cried. And I made a mental note to drag ourselves to every party we can attend. Because it's about the kids.

    Happy belated Bday to hilarious, spunky little Sage. She and her big sister have friends far and wide.

  68. The thought of no one showing up for a little kid's birthday party makes me want to go to her party.

    I just planned my sister's bridal shower, and the cavalier approach to rsvp'ing by even close family and friends was very upsetting to me. I got responses the day before, from people who I know know better. I gave an email and a phone, and they knew how to get ahold of me.

    I don't know if the number of events is overwhelming to people or what, but I still think that to rate a place on an invitation list is special, and maybe people could act accordingly. And especially in situations where little kids are often limited to a certain number of invitees, it stinks if they choose people who don't bother to respond. (And yes, I forget things sometimes, too…I just think it's pretty easy to rsvp.) That said, I do see that the birthday party culture in some communities is rough on my friends who are parents. Next time maybe invite some single blog friends? I for one show up with great auntie presents and will travel for birthday sangria. 😉

  69. Dear Mom-101,

    I feel your pain, like most on this blog I am trying my best to keep it classy & casual while in the midst of playing the wait game.

    My son just turned 4 and is all psyched about his first kid party. The invites were mailed out two weeks prior to the party, with an option to email or call. TWO out of the 15 invited have RSVP'd (one with a “no”). On top of that we found out today that there is another student hosting a party on Friday- that my son was not invited to. OUCH.

    The kids are all pretty friendly from what I've picked up on. However, the parents involved are another story. Somewhat cliquey. There is a select group of mothers that double park their Subaru's on the regular to shoot the shit after dropping their kids off. I really hope that my lack of participation isn't a factor. That would be insane and petty beyond reason right?!?

    The party is in 4 days…needless to say I have let my over-active imagination take control. It's disheartening to feel outnumbered by those with such indifference. The dreams I have had the last few nights have been incredible and unnerving. It would be a lie to say that I wasn't already looking forward to next Monday. I feel like I need to go sit on my hands b/c the claws feel like they want to come out. BS aside, it's time to remember that I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity be exposed to all that is good and bad in parentland 🙂 The show will go on and it will go well regardless!! Thanks for reading my rant 🙂

  70. I have yet to host a birthday party for anyone other than family and a few close family friends. Mira has already been to 4 birthday parties for classmates in the past month, but I explained that we're having a family only party for her this year.

    It's partially due to my own issues. In elementary school, I had one party where my entire class was invited. I helped my mom pick out invites, hand delivered them, picked out the perfect party decorations and games, etc. And on the big day…no one came. No one. Some made excuses, others just didn't show, and some didn't RSVP at all.

    I was crushed, and never again asked to invite friends to a birthday party.

    Someday I'll get over that anxiety and have a big birthday party for my daughters. But I can't quite do it yet.

  71. 1 – people suck. 2 – it's not a NY thing. In fact, while living in LA, where this whole rsvp thing is SO FUCKING BAD YOU CANNOT BELIEVE IT, myself and all the other former NYers used to bitch about WTF is up with all these people who totally ignore invitations or treat their RSVP replies like… Oh, that's just how I was feeling “at that moment, y'know? I mean, I didn't know you'd take me SERIOUSLY when I said I MIGHT come.” Because everyone there has serious commitment issues to everyone/everything but themselves.

    Here's how I deal with it: I am a bitch. If it has to do with my kid, I am a bitch on PMS-strength steroids. Fuck you if you fuck with my kids and their hopes/dreams/expectations. If someone doesn't reply, you bet your ass I am going to email until I get an answer. If they don't reply to my email, I call them. If I still don't get an answer, I basically tell my kids (cause again, I'm a bad mom in many ways) that people suck and this person is probably not coming and that the parent of their friend isn't particularly nice or thoughtful to leave us hanging in this manner.

    If they rsvp'd, but didn't show? Then I will definitely email and/or call… and I will pretend (badly, so they totally get that I'm scolding them for not coming) to be all concerned, like “Oh, I was so worried when you didn't show for blah blah's bday party! Just wanted to make sure you guys were all okay!” (not! you inconsiderate fucker. fuck you, this is my kid we're talking about. seriously.)

    I always build into my party plans the fact that not everyone will show, going back to rule #1 — people suck. This is also a rule my kids know well. But conversely (is that the right word? Hmmmm), this has also enabled me to teach them that people who don't suck are awesome and should be treasured.

    I also use these moments as life lessons about how these things are hurtful and how I hope my children can remember these times and never perpetrate these kinds of behaviors themselves, or I will be super disappointed (and pissed off).

    Now I also try to limit how big my parties are and try really hard to only invite people that are LIKELY to show up.

    And, I am also a shameless, pestering nag… constantly reminding people that the party is coming up…

    I am really annoying.

    But fuck it. These are my kids.

    And as for my own behavior? I decline a lot of shit these days. I believe it was @Selfish Mom who said something similar. I just know myself now. I am overextended and would rather say no to begin with than end up bailing or disappointing someone, because I know how much that SUCKS.

    Hope this was helpful. And weirdly — I have had the total opposite experience since moving to Western Pennsyltucky, where EVERYONE has not only rsvp'd in a fairly timely manner, but also lived up to their commitment to attend. The coasts are the worst. In the middle… people still have manners. (though don't get me wrong — I would move back to NY in a humanity-loathing heartbeat in a second if I could!)

  72. I had a crazy party last week where we invited 15 kids, and we had 30 when we were done. My problem is with the parents bringing to siblings along, wanting to be fed, etc. My budget is only so big. The best thing I have ever done with RSVP's etc. is put my email address on them. People love that!

  73. Amen! This is definitely not just a NY issue because it happens here in IL all the time too, and it drives me nuts! My take is that in this digital age, people are just so busy that is seems more acceptable to have poor etiquette. Grrrrrr…… Thanks for the great post. Heather

  74. The way I get around this issue is by not throwing my kids parties.

    …and, I'm not kidding on that either. We do family parties, or occasionally, a handful of kids for a movie outing or sleepover. I can't imagine we will ever do a big kids' party because the stress would kill me.

    That said, I have definitely been guilty of RSVP-ing at the last moment. And I have also found the invitations crumpled at the bottom of the backpack or found out via a classroom grapevine later that there was a party and I never got the invitation at all.

    I think part of the issue (not necessarily for you personally, Liz) is that a lot of parties have become these sort of impersonal events with 20-30 kids invited who may or may not be good friends with the birthday kid. If you actually knew the other kid or knew the parents or had occasion to hang out with them you'd hear it being talked about or maybe your child would remind you. The last time I found that crumpled-up invite in the backpack? When I asked my child why he didn't remind me about the invitation, he just shrugged. He didn't even know there WAS a party!

  75. Also, I'm much more prone to forget to RSVP if I'm NOT coming. I can't think of a time I've ever RSVP-ed to a party and then not showed! So I wish they could come up with the opposite to the “regrets only” RSVP. And, I LOVE it when parents call and “pester” me for my response.

  76. You are not wrong at all for expecting some sort of reply. I once left 2 messages for a mother (who's daughter didn't go to my sons school) letting her know of the impending birthday party. I got no response. On the day who shows up but the little girl AND her brother. Guess who didn't get goody bags that day?

  77. Preach it sister. I hear you. Nothing makes me go on a self-righteous manners tirade more than when people just don't come to my kid's party, or don't respond…and we've got legos waiting for them, and they're one of 10 kids invited, for the love of pete!

    I've forgotten once or twice. But even if I call the morning of the party with my lame, sorry, self, I still call. I try to anyway.

    It's a sticky wicket, this RSVP business.

  78. I don't know the answer, but I do think it transcends geography. I moved to the mid-west 5 yrs ago and I have become very jaded wrt throwing a party. My husband and I tried multiple times and we would always have a whole lot of people say yes, but then not show up. There is also the “We have to get together some time” that are never followed thru.

  79. i hate when that happens to me. although i don't blame the visitors, because something just might be up that they can't go. rsvp should really be in order!

  80. Ooh. I believe in doing unto others. I wouldn't want someone to just up and skip my child's party after saying I'd be there, so I wouldn't do the same to another child/parent.

    That said: Sometimes things come up and we just can't help it. But I think a phone call or at least an e-mail is definitely in order. Nothing is so important, short of a car wreck or spontaneously bursting into flames, that a parent can't find time for a polite acknowledgment and an I'm sorry. Preferably prior to the soiree!

  81. Ooh. I believe in doing unto others. I wouldn't want someone to just up and skip my child's party after saying they'd be there, so I wouldn't do the same to another child/parent.

    That said: Sometimes things come up and we just can't help it. But I think a phone call or at least an e-mail is definitely in order. Nothing is so important, short of a car wreck or spontaneously bursting into flames, that a parent can't find time for a polite acknowledgment and an I'm sorry. Preferably prior to the soiree!

  82. When you plan your own wedding you realize how stressful the RSVP process is. It was only after I realized how helpful a prompt RSVP was for my own wedding that I started RSVPing as quickly as possible.

    Same thing with kid's parties.

    In my world, a kid's birthday party invitation is sacred. We RSVP yes/no and if something comes up, we drop off the gift during the party.

  83. Totally agree. I wondered if maybe nobody understands what RSVP means? After my daughter's 4th party (at Monkey Joe's, a bouncy indoor crazy place) to which we invited everyone in her class and only heard from a couple of them, this year we had a party at home. I again invited everyone from her class but I didn't really make a big deal about it. Not one single person RSVP'd, and I provided email and phone numbers. One kid did show up from her class unannounced.
    I get it; we're all busy blah blah, but really? You can't let someone know how many cupcakes and goody bags they need to prepare?

    My daughter had a great time anyway, but I was not impressed. I felt bad on behalf of my daughter.

    I would never show up at a party without RSVPing first. That's just rude. And what a lesson to teach our kids!

    Maybe Etiquette Bitch could start a campaign – Just RSVP Already! I'll design a poster!

  84. I am going to be smug and say that I don't ever drop the ball on kids parties or any parties. I always RSVP early and then show up on time with present. I actually enjoy attending kids parties with my kids. The one time I did not show up was because of illness on my part and I called ahead of time and let the mom know and still gave the present later. Another time one kid was sick so my husband took my other kid to the party and I took the sick kid to the doctor. Again, I called and told them ahead of time. I keep my obligations. It is honestly not that hard and I don't understand why others can't manage it.

    I have a strict rule. If I invite you to a party I host and you fail to RSVP properly or fail to show up when you said you would or show up very late, then you get a strike. After three strikes you are out and I will no longer invite you to a party I host. My husband's family failed this and they are no longer invited. I have cut off my friends who could not handle this either. I have tons of people clambering to come to my parties and I am no longer wasting an invite on someone who can't behave with dignity or appreciation about being invited. So I cut them from the list and invite someone else in their place.

    Just get a calender and write the date of the party down immediately and check your calender daily. That way you never forget. If you are the type of person who will be lazy and just not come, then RSVP “No” from the get go instead of wasting their time, money, and resources.

  85. I think one of the problems is that parents are now invited to TOO MANY kid birthday parties. Parents seem to throw parties every year and invite every classmate. What if you have 2 kids? What if your cousin or sibling also throws birthday parties? I know kids enjoy them but it’s just TOO MUCH and I think parents feel bad about declining so don’t RSVP at all.

    It’s okay to miss some kids birthdays — you can’t possibly go to all. However, I think parents should always RSVP, even if you don’t have a great excuse. If you have to cancel, call or email (a no-show is rude). Don’t say Yes if you or your kid doesn’t really want to go. You’ll probably end up bailing and the host is stuck with tons of leftovers & extra expenses.

  86. Party invitations via email… I’ve never received one of those. Aussie mums really need to catch up. Last year I found a party invitation addressed to my daughter under the driver’s seat of my car – a month AFTER the party!

    An email invitation would have saved me from being a naught non-RSVP’er to this party. (And so would cleaning out under the seats of my car more regularly, I know.)

  87. :::cringing:::

    Yes it’s rude, and I can’t speak for everyone but at least some of us ARE overextended and disorganized and not just plain jerks. I’m that mom who probably four times out of five calls up the night or two before, usually 2 days after the RSVP date, and apologizes profusely for losing track of the days, and how if it’s a problem we can just try to set up a playdate for later (but most of the time these are at-home parties rather than a “we paid for a specific number” kinds of things, which would make me feel even worse)…

    I’m not making excuses. I suck. It’s rude. I’m working on it. It’s getting better. And on behalf of all moms like me, in the face of moms who have been on the receiving end of our shortcomings…I apologize deeply and ask your forgiveness. I’m trying really hard.

    That said…even I can’t imagine RSVP’ing yes and then not showing up, nor have I seen that happen at any parties of my kids or anyone else…that’s just nuts.
    (who just, amazingly, mailed back a wedding response card 3 days after receiving the invitation–SCORE!! I DID IT!)

    1. I’m the mom like you Jenn. Big time.
      But after this, I’m really really trying to be better.

  88. Thank you for this write up!! I thought I was the only that felt this way!

  89. Interesting. Last year, my 7 year old daughter sent a birthday invitation to a friend with a clear RSVP deadline. This girl’s mother is the only one who didn’t respond. Day of party, everyone who responded shows up to the location of party. And the girl whose stupid ass mother didn’t respond showed up as well. So I am one gift bag short. Clock is ticking and party is well underway. I can’t leave to drive all the way home and grab a leftover gift bag. I make a quick call to someone who prevented an even more awkward situation and a hurt little girl. Lesson learned!

    Fast forward to this year. Sent birthday invitations out with clearly defined RSVP deadline. Same little girl gets invited again. I keep reassuring myself that her stupid ass mother can’t possibly be so inconsiderate as to pull last year’s stunt again this year. Everyone who responded shows up to my daughter’s birthday party. Guess who’s mother doesn’t RSVP and shows up? This year, per last year’s lesson learned, I ordered gift bags for each invitation sent out — regardless of RSVP status.

    So what is this woman’s problem? Is she too stupid to understand what RSVP is — even though they have birthday parties of their own, and attend other parties my daughter attends as well where RSVP is implemented. Or is she just being a deliberate thoughtless bitch?

    Thoughts for handling this next year?

    1. “Thoughts for handling this next year?”

      Next time you send out the invitation, address her DIRECTLY.
      I’d say something like:

      “Dear (deliberate thoughtless bitch) Mom,

      Please let me know by …. if your child is attending my daughter’s party on… at…..

      I noticed that you haven’t RSVPed on previous occasions. So, please be so kind this year to let me know by … if your child can make it.

      Thanks a ton and best regards.”

      There is NO excuse for not getting back with the parent who’s hosting the party. If she shows up again without having RSVPed before, I’d take her aside and point out to her that it is absolutely not ok.

      1. I like that! Guess I’ll have to speak her language. Thank you.

  90. Oh my…I’m so glad I found this. I feel way better now! I sent out 11 invitations to my son’s 4th birthday and have gotten only two RSVP’s so far.Needless to say that I am absolutely stressed out over that.I am going to camp out at my son’s school next week and ask ever single parent IN PERSON if their kid is gonna show up or not or what. I ALWAYS RSVP right away. It is absolutely horrible not to.

    1. Try to assume the best – stuff happens. People are busy. I have also not rsvp’d right away (or had my daughter forget to give me the invitation.) But if they don’t respond to a second email…or third… Be furious. Then rise above.

      But ack, I know how stressful it is.

Comments are closed.