The 10 Rules of Birthday Party Etiquette

Children Party Etiquette
Image: Ruby & Roo/John Nassari

Siblings, sugar and staying too late. The 10 unwritten rules of the children’s party…

Is there a social dilemma that can rival the children’s party for inducing anxiety in parents? Whether you are the host or the guest, the rules vary from age to place and nowhere are they written down. So how much do you spend so you don’t come off stingy or blow unnecessary cash? Should you stay or should you go? To save you the agony, we have hit up a bunch of modern mothers to bring you the definitive rules.

Host rules:

    Invite the whole class (in pre-school and reception) and get an entertainer. This is the biggest expense, but essential and worth every penny. There is nothing more terrifying than trying to cajole a circling pack of bored children into playing musical statues while six pizzas burn in the next room. Once you get to 7+ let your child pick a clutch of friends and head off to the local cinema or climbing wall.
  2. FOOD
    Kids are wired enough after cake and chaos, but add a handful of sweets to the equation and it’s impossible to wrangle them into bed. Make yourself immensely popular at the school gates by avoiding unwelcome E numbers in the party bag.
    The cost quickly ads up, but guess what, that bouncy ball will be chewed by a dog, and all other plastic crap you can fit in a tiny bag is nothing short of a choking hazard for younger siblings. The solution? Buy multipacks of books or a single harmonica. Same cost, far better value.
    As host it’s your job to prescribe whether over-zealous parents should head off, or if the drop-them-and-run types stay and help keep watch. Rule of thumb: expect to accompany under-fives while older children are usually dropped-off. Decide what suits you and be clear on the invitation so that those with other children can make weekend plans. Saturday afternoon parties that include parents are far more tolerable if a glass of wine is provided. Note: Ask a big brother or uncle to play doorman and count them in and out. There’s nothing more impolitic than losing other people’s children.
  5. THEME
    Themed parties are great but two every weekend can also be seriously tedious and expensive for parents. If your child has to have a pirate party, get on Amazon and buy a pack of eye-patches and swords, in lieu of a party bag and let parents know in advance.
Kids Party Etiquette

Image: Ruby & Roo


Guest Rules:

    The appropriate value of the gift will vary according to the school/age and local precedent, so ask around. Top tip: write somewhere inside the card what the gift is – that way tired parents know who to thank for what when cards and gifts inevitably get separated, and duplicate presents can conceivably be re-gifted without rewrapping – imagine!
    Never assume that siblings are invited. Your children are separate entities and while you may fancy an afternoon off, a bored 9 year old girl at a 5 year old pirate party is a total buzzkill. If you do manage to shoehorn them both/all into one party, don’t even dream of swiping extra party bags on the way out.
  3. CAKE
    Don’t ask the host if he or she made the cake. If it’s a superb creation and it wasn’t outsourced, that will have dropped into the conversation already. If it’s a dripping monstrosity, it clearly wasn’t paid for and you will come off as snarky.
  4. RSVP
    It’s just rude not to. The Daily Mail had a field day this week after a mother invoiced another parent for the cost of a no-show. A bit extreme, but if you would RSVP a grown-up party, then the same rules apply –grown-ups do the planning (and paying) after all. And if you’re going to drop out on the day, at least send a text – it is common courtesy.
    If the invitation says 1-3pm, then it’s your duty to do one by 15.01. The host no doubt has an over excited child to get home (even more acute if you are in their home) and nothing is worse than a hanger-on.
Get more on throwing a great’s kid party in our new Parties and Gifts section: healthier party food, unique ideas for party bags, checklists, inspiring cakes and much more.

1 Comment

  • Rosa says:

    “Invite the whole class” Thats 30 kids!!!!! When you’ve added siblings, cousins and family friends that sounds like chaos. I’ll stick to < 20 thanks 🙂

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