I will never forget my 8th grade graduation. I went to a small private school that was K-8th, so graduating from 8th grade was a big deal. And, lucky me, I received some pretty great gifts. But there was one gift that stuck in my mind, and the only one I definitely still have today: Emily Post’s Etiquette (15th Edition). Granted, at 13, I was about as excited with this gift as a surprise pop quiz, but in the 18 years since I received it, it has come in handy more times than I can count, especially when I need to know how to set a table. Two parts in particular, the Celebration and Correspondence sections, are in desperate need of a reread for pretty much everyone, especially when it comes to children’s parties.
Why do all manners go out the door when it comes to children’s parties? Why is it now ok to not RSVP (by the way, if you missed it, Reno Mom’s Blog contributor Jessica Santina had an excellent article on the necessity of an RSVP here), to show up an hour late without prior notice, and to think that an invite for one child automatically means the rest of your extended family is invited, too? And as a host, are thank you notes required anymore? Should we accommodate kids with food allergies?
It isn’t ok to forget the niceties of life that make things easier. Usually, the host (aka mom) of a children’s party has been planning this event for weeks, stressing over who has decided they are now on a gluten-free diet and can’t eat pizza, renting play equipment and praying the weather holds, and spending way too much time and money making party favors. She’s the poor sap who deeply regrets suggesting a big party and looks like she needs a drink. So when you, the invitee, don’t bother to RSVP, or show up so fashionably late you’ve missed half the party, you’re sending mom into an early grave.
After all, let’s be honest, kid parties are expensive, and they are made vastly more so by wasting money on food, favors, and prepaid reservations when you don’t know who is coming to your event or when they’ll be there. I recently attended a party for a friend’s daughter who invited all of her classmates and not a single one RSVP’d. She had no idea whether zero or over twenty people were attending. Another friend this past week was on Facebook reminding everyone to RSVP since out of her forty person invite list only five bothered to.
So let’s make a pact now, Reno Moms, to stop causing our fellow sisters to go gray and start respecting decent party manners. That means:
For the Guests:
- RSVP, even if the RSVP is no. You won’t be hurting anyone’s feelings if you can’t attend, but you’ll be pissing a few people off if you never take the time to respond to an invitation.
- Unless you’ve got something planned beforehand and already informed your host, remember 15 minutes is fashionably late, not an hour or more. Show your host the courtesy of your timely presence. And for the love of all that is holy, unless you’re arriving early to help set up and have made this explicit arrangement beforehand, the host does not want to see you until the party starts!
- Your child was invited, and unless otherwise stated, that does not mean your child’s siblings, cousins, or best friends who are just hanging out. If you have a baby in tow obviously that’s fine, but please don’t assume all children in your home are invited. If you must bring your other kids, make sure to check with the host first.
And for the Host:
- Food allergies: Remember the days when you could take a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school? Those days have gone the way of the VCR, friends. It’s wise as the host to have a reminder on the RSVP to contact you if there is an allergy concern and then make sure to provide alternatives to children that have them. Also, be careful handing out candies in goody bags or have special ones set aside for children with allergies. When in doubt, save the food package for the parent to examine.
- Make sure to thank your guests for the gifts your child receives. Here’s where darling Emily and I disagree. I am a firm believer in thank you notes and consider them a dying art, so I send them out. However, Emily Post says that a thank you in person will suffice for children’s parties. Either way, someone took time out of their day and spent money to celebrate your child’s birthday. You need to thank them.
Basic manners go a long way to making the party a more enjoyable experience for everyone. And a word of warning to those who don’t give a damn about manners: what goes around in partyland comes around. That mom you never RSVP’d to and showed up late to her kid’s party? She’s getting you back, times a surprise extended family gathering showing up right at your door.