Planning a child’s birthday party is hard work. So much time, effort, and money goes into the process, especially during the early years when inviting an entire class from school is customary. Finding the space, ordering enough food, producing a large enough cake, and purchasing the right amount of party favors is enough to make any mommy’s head spin for 20+ children. So when an adult shows up with more kids than what I’ve planned for, than I’ve invited, than what I have room for, it becomes incredibly challenging and even a little awkward. It’s best to refrain from bringing a child’s siblings to a class birthday party unless specifically invited, and here are 3 reasons why, according to the etiquette queen herself, Emily Post:
1. “An invitation is addressed to the people the host wants to invite–and no one else.”
As someone who hosts her fair share of large birthday parties, so much detail goes into the extravaganza–so much thought, organizing, and even more money. Inviting an entire class, plus family and friends, adds up in my wallet. Adding even more children, especially children my child has never met before, adds to my bill that would exceed my budget. Most birthday venues have a child headcount limit, and once exceeded, an extra fee of sometimes even $14+ per head goes into effect. This adds up so quickly and is an expense one should not expect the host to pay.
2. “It is rude to ask the host to make an ‘exception’ for children or to subject them to the embarrassment of having to say no to such a request.”
This question gets brought up often I’ve noticed. “Are siblings welcome?” It’s even more awkward now with social media. If a parent posts the invitation on the class page, and just one person inquires about siblings, you have a handful of other parents waiting to see your response. If you say yes, then you’re potentially opening up the floodgates to a plethora of party-goers. If you say no, then you risk upsetting some parents. Why put the host in this incredibly uneasy position? Even if a parent offers to pay for the admission price for siblings, it still adds up for the host in other ways. Everything has been budgeted: the food, the drinks, the cake, the materials for the activities, and the party favors. I once ran out of party favors for my oldest son’s birthday party because we had several uninvited guests arrive. This isn’t fair for the invited children (my son’s closest friends) who miss out on the favor, and it’s unfair to the host. Even if an invited parent offers to refrain from grabbing a party favor for the sibling, what am I to do when an adorable big-eyed, chocolate-covered little 3 year old sibling comes up to me with his hands out expecting to get what everyone else is getting?! I can’t tell that sweet face no. I’m put in a very unpleasant position and someone gets gipped.
3. “Parents shouldn’t request to bring their [other] children.”
I get it. For plenty of kids, a classmate’s birthday party is the social event of the week, or the month even. FOMO is definitely a legitimate feeling when everyone is talking about the party the following Monday at school, so plenty of kids and/or parents will make every attempt to attend the birthday party. But, if that means bringing along a sibling, then it’s best to politely decline. If a parent can’t make arrangements for the sibling/s or a sitter backs out, that’s okay. Explaining that to the host over the phone or via text will be understood and appreciated. Sometimes, in that situation, a host might even tell you to bring the sibling, but you should only do so if you feel the host is sincere.
As a host, I try my hardest to please everyone, and the more the merrier, in some cases. But if I invited every sibling of every child to every birthday party, I’d lose a lot of money and possibly even control of the party. It’s a wonderful idea to include everyone and to celebrate with every family, but while my little ones are still in the phase of including their entire class, I’d have to politely request no siblings at birthday parties, please.
To each their own. I assume if the parent has small children they will have to bring them so it’s never been a big deal.
I come from a larger family. When one of the kids received a birthday party invitation, one parent took the child while the other stayed home with the rest. If my classmate invited me, it’s because I am their classmate and friend, not my brothers and sisters. But those were the days when “RSVP” meant something that people regarded courteously.
I’ve hosted kids’ parties and have had no RSVPs, yet invitees and their entire families (cousins) showed up. Not realizing what was going on, I assumed they were dropping off the child while they were out running errands, but no, they all came for the free food.
I also had the occasion where the entire class was invited (30 invitations) but only ONE showed up, and the venue we rented offered their employees as guests, which was fine since we had excess, but depressing since they were strangers who just ate the food without even wishing my child a “Happy Birthday!”
By far, the most difficult part of not getting responses is when the invitation indicates a headcount is needed for a reservation. Most places do not have cancelation/refund policies within 24 hours of the event. If we didn’t get the courtesy of either an affirmation or declination of attendance, we had to be prepared by paying for them anyway just in case they showed up in order to avoid extra fees for modifying the reservation.
We have the same situation this year. We need to know in advance how many will show. The only way I’ve devised to get a closer estimation is by withholding the location of the party UNLESS they respond. The invitation simply reads, “RSVP for directions.” It’s still not a guarantee, but at least the ones who RSVP are more likely to follow through.
So, a resounding YES to people needing to demonstrate etiquette and RSVP when requested, and NO to assuming extras including siblings are welcome.