Select Region
Follow us!

Modern Rules for Responding to Party Invites

Modern Rules for Responding to Party Invites

When it comes to attending parties, most guests forget to respond to invites in a timely manner, or even at all. Here are six modern RSVP rules for invitation etiquette, and three things for hosts to remember.

The letters used to be written in fancy script (in the days before e-vites) and the protocol used to be strictly adhered to (back when a code of conduct actually ruled our social interactions). But these days the letters “RSVP” at the bottom of any invitation are too frequently ignored. Whether you’re the party host or an invited guest, and whether the occasion is a communion, bar or bat mitzvah, birthday party, graduation (preschool or college!), or a simple family brunch, celebrate your good manners by following our RSVP etiquette (please).

boy with birthday cake and three candle
Suji Donnelly
Don’t leave this little guy hanging—reply promptly to his parents’ invitation so the family can focus on what really matters (the birthday boy is turning 3!) with less stress.

Suggestions for Invited Guests.

1. If you receive an invitation via email, take note of the date for the party immediately. Check your calendar, forward it to your significant other to cross-check schedules, or print it out as a reminder—whatever it takes. Just don’t be lazy and rely on your friend to resend a reminder. Sure, sites such as Evite or Paperless Post prompt hosts to send alerts closer to the party, but don’t you think it’s a little disrespectful to make the host wait for your reply?

2. Are you bringing guests? First: Be honest on your reply as to how many will attend. Second: Make sure you were invited with a guest; do not assume. Some party venues cannot accommodate siblings because the space is limited, for example—whatever the reason, it’s a host’s prerogative to limit the number of partygoers.

3. Do not drop off your young child at a party without being certain the host intends for it to be a drop-off situation. At my son’s 5th birthday party held at a local YMCA, my invitation clearly stated there would be food for the parents, and nowhere did I indicate “drop-off okay.” Yet three of the 14 children who attended were dropped off without a word, leaving us a little short on chaperones—and without phone numbers to contact the parents should the preschoolers now in my care have needed them. It was all fine in the end, but these parents’ presumptions caused me angst; as a working parent I do not meet all my son’s classmates’ parents at drop-off, no less have their numbers programmed in my cell—and what if there was an emergency? This one’s a matter of respect for your host as much as consideration for your child’s safety.

4. Reply promptly. That means by the date specified on your invitation—or, preferably, within two to three days of receiving the request.

5. Reply in the manner indicated on the invitation. If a host requests you to call, get over your aversion to the phone and dial her number. If he specifically asks for a text or email, then get typing—perhaps he needs the record to help him keep track. No reply requested? As Emily Post says: “Unusual, but it is always polite to let someone know your intentions. A phone call would be sufficient.”

6. Do not make untoward special requests. Unless you are family or a very close friend, don’t impose upon your host with your child’s special dietary restrictions; you may offer up vegan cupcakes at your kid’s party, but you cannot expect them everywhere. That said, do respectfully engage your host in conversation if your child has special needs that may impact your decision to attend—does your son have sensory issues that may make a loud dance party uncomfortable, or a life-threatening nut allergy? Ask, and if the party host cannot accommodate your child’s needs, perhaps your kids can celebrate together at a smaller play date another time.

Gentle Nudges for Hosts

1. Remember: Your party is not your invited guests’ top priority. Don’t condemn the late responders. Do follow up, and be positive: “Hey, we’re hoping to see you and the family next week—can you make Declan’s party?” or “We want to make sure we have enough pizza for everyone!”

2. Invite the right people. How you define that group will be a very individual thing, of course, but include those who are in your life—not every classmate from your child’s last four years of school, and not the tween from the bus stop who’d rather be babysitting than partying with your toddler. You’re more likely to get responses from people who actually want to celebrate with you!

3. All those offenders—the ones who showed up with uninvited guests, the ones who “forgot” to show up at all after responding “yes” and asking for gluten-free cake—do your best to forgive, but do not forget: You don’t want to repeat their mistakes, after all! Be a good guest.


Also see:

Birthday Party Etiquette: Show Up and Shut Up

How to Handle Awkward Birthday Party Situations


More Birthday Articles:

Latest News:

Family Activities:

Have a Laugh:

Dawn M. Roode


Dawn M. Roode was formerly editorial director of NYMetroParents, where she launched the award-winning semi-annual magazine Special Parent. She was managing editor at Parenting, BabyTalk, Child, Harper's Bazaar, and Latina magazines. She is a strategic content specialist and currently writes and edits parenting, health, travel, and special needs features for various media outlets. Roode is mom to one son and recently relocated from Brooklyn to the suburbs of New York City. Follow her on Twitter @DawnRoode.

See More

Featured Listings: