It’s the first Monday of the month, so guess what time it is? Manners Monday! Yay!
March always seems to be filled with birthdays. I always remembered that growing up as well. It seemed that everyone I knew was born in March and now I have a daughter of my own, I’ve come to realize it’s this way for her friends too. We have been invited to quite a few children’s birthday parties and as I have received different invitations, some with great instructions and others with confusing/conflicting information, I thought what better topic to discuss for the month of March!
Today we’re talking: Children’s Birthday Parties
1. How far in advance should you send out the invitation? The appropriate time frame is 3 weeks in advance. Some people say 2-3 weeks, but the problem with 2 weeks is that most people know their weekend plans 2 weeks in advance. When you send an invite 4 weeks early, then sometimes people forget. Three weeks gives people enough time to prepare, while still allowing them time to rearrange their schedule if they need to. The other thing you can do is spread a word of mouth, “save the date.” I do this for my daughter because her birthday is in June and a lot of people travel in June. Last year I sent out an email to our friends telling them the date of her party 2 months early. This year, I’ll probably just tell people in person.
2. What time should I host my party? This is a tough one depending on the age of your child. Ultimately, it’s your schedule and your child, so you could pick any time of day, but if you are throwing the party for a younger child, then you need to be aware of naptime schedules. Many little ones take a good afternoon nap between the hours of 1:00pm-3:00pm. This is not everyone’s schedule, but I find that many people fall in this time frame. That being said, you really can host your party any time of day, but be aware that if you host your child’s party between 1:00pm-3:00pm, you may not have as many guests than had you planned it earlier or later. For younger children, morning parties are great. Some good times lots include 10:00am-12:00pm and 11:00am-1:00pm. You could also consider an early evening party from 4:00pm-5:30pm. If you have an older child, times can vary according to the type of party and the average age of the attendees. A birthday party should not last longer than 2 hours unless it is a sleepover party, or an older child party (think teenager).
3. Speaking of time, do I need to provide food other than cake at my child’s party? This is going to be dependent on the time of day you host your party. It is expected that some snacks, in addition to cake or cupcakes, would be served at a children’s birthday party, but you may also be required to provide a meal depending on the time of day you host your party. If you host a party during the lunch hour, which would be 12:00noon-1:00pm, then I would say you’re expected to provide lunch. Lunch can include sandwiches, pizza, hotdogs, hamburgers or whatever else you may like. If your party falls anywhere within that lunch hour, people will expect that food be served. This brings up an interesting dilemma as well because if you are hosting a children’s birthday party for younger children and expect the parents to stay, then you are also responsible for feeding them lunch as well. It is a good rule of thumb to include the words, “lunch provided” on your invitation in small print, so as not to confuse your guests. When a guest sees that a party falls within the lunch hour, but the invitation doesn’t state whether or not lunch is provided, it can be very confusing and frustrating. The best way to solve this? Don’t have a party during the lunch hour.
4. I don’t want people bringing my child gifts, can I just invite people and tell them not to bring gifts? This situation annoys me so much and I’ll tell you why. Traditionally, people expect that when they are invited to a birthday party, they are to bring a gift. This is customary and people like the security of knowing that is what they are supposed to do. It is improper to ever make mention of the word gift or present in an invitation. You should not talk about the word, say the word or allude to the word on an invitation. When you tell guests “No Gifts” (or any other clever way of saying it) here’s what you’re really doing; you’re isolating yourself from everyone else who had a child’s birthday party and never mentioned “no gifts.” You have now become the “holier than thou” person that people don’t like. Your motivation is probably not to make other people look bad for allowing gifts at their child’s party, but that is exactly what you’re saying whether you mean to or not. In addition, if you tell people “no gifts, ” some people will bring it anyway, which will make other guests feel bad for not bringing a gift even though they were “following directions.” Depending on your child’s age, your child may not understand why they had to bring Tommy a gift at Tommy’s birthday party, but they don’t get gifts at their birthday party. Finally, when saying “no gifts,” you’re assuming that because you invited someone to your party that they were definitely going to bring you a gift and even though it’s customary to do so, not everyone will and truly not everyone has to. Your best bet is to not make any mention of gifts on your invitation, as it is not considered appropriate. If you really, truly don’t want gifts at the party, then don’t call it a birthday party. Invite people over for cake and ice cream as you would any other friend on the weekend. I wouldn’t do this in a formal invitation kind of way, but more of a word of mouth way. This way you could let them know it’s not a party, just a way to celebrate your little one’s life.
5. Now that we’re talking gifts, is it appropriate to open gifts at a party? So, when we were children, we used to open our gifts at our birthday party and everyone got to see what we received. The latest trend in children’s birthdays, which I have to say I agree 100% with, is to not open the gifts at a party. When you allow your child to open their gifts at the party, you’re singling out people who maybe didn’t bring a gift. In addition, your allowing everyone to compare who gave what and who spent the most money. Also, don’t forget, this is a child’s birthday party and we can’t always control the immediate reactions of our children, so let’s say your child receives a gift they already have or they don’t want, you do not want your child to say, “Mom, I already have this!” or “Eww, I hate this color.” We never want to be ungrateful for gifts and sometimes with younger children, we’re still training them how to be gracious. I think the most appropriate thing to do is to leave the gift unwrapping until after all the guests have left.
6. What kind of activities should I have at my party? This is going to depend on the age group you are serving. When children are young, you can get away with bubbles and sidewalk chalk at one year and two year old parties. I would suggest however, that once you’re at the two year old party, you should have some sort of running around activity, as this seems to be a very popular form of entertainment for that age group.;) After the age of 2, parents expect a little more “fun” at birthday parties their children attend. This doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t have to hire ponies to ride or farm animals to pet, you can have simple backyard fun like tossing water balloons or running through obstacle courses. If you’re having an indoor party, you can be creative and have “game stations” for the kids. Some people like to rent out facilities and have parties at little gyms or music centers, but I’m a fan of old-fashioned home birthday parties, personally.
7. What about favors, do I need to provide them? Yes. Absolutely. Remember, these people are taking time out of their schedule to celebrate your child’s birthday. In addition, as mentioned before, these people have brought gifts for your child. Your favors don’t have to be anything fancy, but just something small to express a token of thanks for their attendance at your party.
8. If I give our favors then do I need to write thank you cards? YES! YES! YES! You have to. It is very rude to have a party where you have received gifts and to not thank the people who gave you the gift. The thank you cards can be generic store bought ones, but you should personalize them to directly thank the person for what they gave your child. I have noticed a trend where people are just sending out a thank you photo card without any hand-written note. This is not appropriate. You should write a personal note thanking them specifically for their gift and for their attendance at your child’s party.
9. Back to the invitations for a minute, what’s up with RSVP? Wow, I almost forgot to talk about this, which is a HUGE deal! A lot of people don’t RSVP anymore. This is rude (sometimes people genuinely forget and I’d be lying if I said I’ve never forgotten to RSVP, but it was still rude even though it was an honest mistake). You should always RSVP, always. I think we have gotten so busy with our lives that we don’t RSVP anymore because we think something better might come up for us on that day. That’s rude too and selfish, but that’s a conversation for another post. Some people will write RSVP regrets only. This is appropriate for an invitation and should be honored as such. If you’re not coming, please be polite and let them know you will not be attending. If you are sending out the invite, the best way to get people to RSVP is to give them a deadline. “Please RSVP by March 31st.” This will also help you follow up with people who do not RSVP, so you can have an accurate headcount, especially if you are hosting a party during the lunch hour.
10 Finally, this seems like a lot of work. I don’t have the time to think about all of this, how can I make this easier? The most important thing about children’s birthdays is to make sure everyone is having fun, so don’t sweat the small stuff. If planning a party is too much for you, then just have an intimate gathering of family and celebrate your child together. With family, you can get away with not following the rules, that’s what makes family so great!
I hope everyone has a wonderful birthday party season! Do you think March is full of birthdays? What’s your favorite way to celebrate children’s birthdays? I’m a theme kind of girl. I love themed parties. Keep your eyes open for my daughter’s themed party coming in June!
Linked up with:
- Cornerstone Confessions
- Time-Warp Wife
- The Better Mom
- Upward Not Inward
- Fancy Little Things
- Women Living Well
*Disclaimer: I am not an etiquette expert, I just really enjoy learning about it. I have no professional training or background in etiquette, but am passionate about teaching manners to friends and family. These etiquette tips are mostly my opinion of what I think is appropriate based on my readings and the way I was raised and are meant only for entertainment purposes.