Dear parents, why can't you just RSVP to my kid’s birthday party?

This happens every time I throw a birthday party. I write clearly on the invitation to please RSVP yes or no, yet parents still fail to respond—and I'm left wondering if I should buy extra loot bags just in case.

Photo: Courtesy of Leslie Kennedy

It was two days before my son’s fifth birthday. We’d invited 17 friends to his party at a local indoor play place, and on the invitation, I wrote in very clear, underlined, capitalized letters, “RSVP—YES OR NO!” That was my not-very-subtle way of telling parents: don’t just tell me if you’re coming—please tell me if you’re not coming, too. Répondez s’il vous plaît.

Yet there we were, two days after the RSVP date, with 48 hours to go before the party, and we had only three kids confirmed to be attending.

I was certain we’d have no problem meeting the 10-kid minimum for the play place we booked. Yet with only two days until the party, I was waiting on 13 RSVPs. Thirteen!

One of my friends suggested I get loot bags for at least some of those 13 kids in case they showed up, but I was already gearing up to pay for not making the 10-kid minimum. I didn’t want to spend more money on loot bags for kids who were likely not coming.

In the end, none of the kids whose parents hadn’t RSVP’d showed up. And somehow, with just 12 hours to spare, I managed to invite some friends’ kids to fill up the extra spaces.  A little girl smiling and holding a Pokemon cardStop the madness! No more invite-everyone birthday party school policies

You see, this isn’t the first birthday party I’ve thrown for my kids where parents haven’t bothered to RSVP to my invitations.

It has been a theme since my daughter’s first real birthday party, when she was three. I’ve come to realize that people who don’t RSVP don’t come, and that people who can’t come don’t RSVP. In fact, in all the years I’ve been doing this party thing, I have never, not once, had someone RSVP to tell me they’re not coming.

My invitations have my phone number and my email so people can call, text or email me. I give all the options! Doesn’t matter how you contact me—just do it. Heck, I would settle for a carrier pigeon at this point.

While it might not seem like a big deal to not RSVP, here’s what happens in my house when you don’t.

First, the birthday boy or girl asks daily who is coming, and you have to tell them you’re not sure yet (while avoiding eye contact because you don’t want your kid to see your internal panic). Try explaining to a seven-year-old that Jimmy’s mommy hasn’t let you know if they’re coming—with one day left before the party.

“Can you ask Jimmy to tell his mom to let me know?” I subtly ask my son. I mean, if I’m lucky, Jimmy is a kid I know and I can ask his mom myself. But my kids always invite friends I don’t know to come to their parties, and I’ve already said “RSVP yes or no,” so I don’t know how much effort I want to put into hunting Jimmy’s parents down. I still have to purchase and stuff loot bags, order the cake, pick up the decorations, including the balloon bouquet my son is expecting, and you know, somehow fit in working and keeping my house running and my family alive. Now I’m supposed to chase after parents so they can tell me if their kid is coming to my kid’s party?

Second, the numbers matter. We need to let the venue know, we need to pay for food, we need to plan for loot bags and we need to wrap our heads around hosting 17 versus six children. If you’ve ever hosted a party, you know there’s a big difference!

Third, you make us wonder if we did something wrong. Did the invitation not make it to Jimmy? Did I forget to write “RSVP” on it? Should I be the one hunting down parents to find out if we can host their kid and feed them yummy food and entertain them for two to three hours? Is this somehow my fault?

Your child is likely going to get a few invitations to birthday parties this year. If you got them last year and didn’t RSVP because you thought the host would assume you’re not coming, take it from me: we expect you to RSVP and we find it really, really, really frustrating when you don’t. It’s one of those common courtesies that should be extended to someone who wants to include your kid in their child’s special occasion.

So, please, whether or not your child will attend the next party they get an invitation for, when you get that invitation, respond, please! Yes or no.

Leslie Kennedy lives in the Greater Toronto Area and has been writing about all things parenting for the better part of a decade. She is mom to a seven-year-old and a nine-year old who provide endless inspiration. When she’s not writing, Leslie enjoys rocking out to Zumba, zenning out with yoga and relaxing in front of her latest Netflix addiction. 

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