Birthday Invite Etiquette - Help!

Updated on August 02, 2012
S.S. asks from Lake in the Hills, IL
20 answers


SO I have a question about birthday party etiquette: My son will be turning 5 in the next month, and we are having a smaller kid birthday party for him at a local rec center. He wants to invite a few of the kids from daycare/preschool. 3 of the other children he wants to invite have siblings that are a bit older like 6,7, and 8 and one that is 3, when I was talking with some of their parents I was getting the feeling they assumed that it was for the siblings as well. I was hoping to keep it to under 10 kids (for cost and space reasons, I'm a single parent so trying to do this on a budget) so I was trying to avoid inviting the that bad etiquette? I don't want to look rude or anything, but the party is geared to the 4-5 age group. We have 8-9 kids that he wants to come that are his age and should I handle/word the invites without offending or upsetting anyone?

On a side note- just wondering what other parents spend on birthday presents?... For your own child and for other kids friends? I get the feeling from some of the other parents at his school that they spend extreme amounts and I was just looking to see what some other parents consider normal?


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answers from New York on

People do assume that siblings are invited, which is kind of strange to me because I don't recall that being the trend when we were kids!

For my son's party, we addressed the invite to the child and then included a little note:
"Jumpin Jakes is great fun for children under the age of 6! John can't wait to celebrate with his classmates!"

I was really pleased to see that the folks at the front desk enforced this too. We had a couple of guests show up with older siblings (without asking) and the girl at the desk let them know that the older child needed to stay with the adults because the play equipment was not age-appropriate. We paid for a package party that included 15 children and the place asked us for a guest list. If the name wasn't on the guest list, the receptionist asked the parent for $8 the non-invited child to "play". We were left out of the whole thing and it was great!

As for what to spend on a gift, it depends on the child. If it's a "good friend" we do a $10 item and a $15 TRU gift card. If it's a classmate, we'll do the $15 item and include the gift receipt!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would say, "Due to the venue and other considerations, we must limit the guests to the children in his class only. I hope you understand." I think you often DO need to spell it out, as people assume all are able to come.

I get a nice gift within my budget. It might be $10 or $30. Recently I gave a friend's daughter 3 books in a series that were only $4 each. It wasn't that I only spent $12 but that I got her the whole series and happened to luck out on the price.

5 moms found this helpful

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answers from San Antonio on

Whenever my kids get an invite to a birthday party, I never assume the other three are automatically invited. Why would they be? They all have different friends. Granted my middle two girls do have a lot of the same friends, but if they're invited to a party, then both their names are on the invite.

I would address the invitations to the child only.

As far as what I spend, I usually spend around $20.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Nowadays, people seem to have no manners where kid parties are concerned, so I would spell it out on the invite, as if you were talking to a little kid, that ONLY the friend of your child is invited, not his 3 siblings, 2 cousins, etc., etc. I had parties when I was a kid & my friends' siblings never stayed. Of course, this was in the '80's when people actually had common sense ;-p.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Bloomington on

Since it is at a place that doesn't really have much else going on (like an entertainment place....skating, bounce house, etc.) where parents can pay extra for the siblings and stay near the party, AND the fact that the kids are old enough to be dropped off, I would spell it out on the invite.

Put only the invited kid's name on the invite and then add drop off and pick up times with one or two cell numbers for in case of emergency. Also ask for contact numbers at the time of RSVP. That will make it very clear how the party should be handled.

I also buy gifts at a VALUE of $15 - 20. If I get it for less with a coupon or good buy, I don't worry about it.

That's my $.02.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Address the invitation only to the child that's invited. I never, ever assume that siblings are invited. It's rude and presumptuous. If it's family or a family friend, that's different and there are conversations ahead of time indicating who's expected to attend.

When you asked about spending amounts on birthday presents, did you mean what to expect for them to spend on your own child? Or did you mean what should you spend on party favors to give the other children?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I repeatedly had this happen when we were giving my daughter b-day parties. I had one kid show up with her 3 cousins to a pay-per-person event. Some parents don't seem to understand that the invite is an individual request, not open for siblings too, so please don't just bring them and work them into the party. The party isn't for the siblings and that should be spelled out, since you are footing the bill. However, be prepared, because there is always the mom who will bring a sibling along. A lot of parents feel that, if they cover the cost, then it should be ok for the siblings to come.......but it's not about or for the siblings.

At one party we hosted, a mom brought the sibling, who was maybe a year older than the invitee and the sibling cried her eyes out because she couldn't sit at the party table with the invitees. The mom just sat there and basically said, "She has to learn that she won't be included in everything that her sister is......" Now I thought that was cruel, because I felt like they could have easily found something else to do at the facility or simply should have left. I got what she meant, but geez! I prefer when the parents drop and leave, then I don't have to divide my time between the kids and the parents.

I also learned that it is best to keep the age range of the guests the same as the party guest of honor. I mistakenly allowed one older sibling to attend a party once and he had the nerve to say, "This party is no fun!" I simply replied, "You weren't invited anyway!" I didn't care if he told his mom or not.

I will spend $15-$20 for a gift, depends on the kid and their relationship with my kid, but I always try to get something the kid will like/use. Ask the parents for suggestions.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I never think it's safe to assume siblings are invited unless specified on the invitation. One of us takes our oldest daughter to the party and one of us stays home with the youngest daughter unless the invitation is for the entire family.

My oldest's party is in a few weeks and I specified on the invitation that siblings and parents are welcome to stay and play! If I were having it in a venue and didn't want to include siblings I would specify on the invitation by saying due to limited space/time in the venue only the friend/classmate is invited. I'm sure most people can/will understand that but sadly most people need a gentle reminder on the invite. Those of us with proper "home training" as my Mom called it, would NEVER assume it is ok to bring others not listed on the invitation. But alas, I find many people do not follow those rules so I make a point to be very specific on all invitations to avoid embarrassing situations on the day of the party. Nothing irks me more than not having enough treat bags to hand out because Sally's mom decided to bring her entire crew. (Of course I always make extra treat bags just in case but you get my point.)

What I spend for the gift depends on who it is and what they are in to. Meaning if a little girl is really into barbie I will get her a barbie which may cost $15 but a little boys spiderman toy may cost me $20. I usually will not spend over $30 on gifts.

Peace and Blessings,
T. B

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My suggestion is to send the invitation addressed to the child that is your son's age...
I wouldn't assume siblings are invited. And I think it would be a bold move to bring extra guests--very bad taste if they do.
We spend 20-25/birthday party gift.

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answers from Philadelphia on

i spend as little as possible for a gift that is around 20-30 value
meaning if i find a cool toy half off i'm fine with spending 10 dollars---as long as the gift is valued around 25 i feel fine
i think whatever is in your budget should be fine. i dont feel a need to compete with rich moms that can but 100 dollar presents for thei kids friends

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Don't invite the siblings. Send a paper invitation - not an evite - and specify only the 5 year old's name on the envelope. If you want to double up your efforts, put "John is invited to celebrate Steve's birthday." That should give them the hint that the rest can't come.

As for gifts, I spend between $15-25, depending on how close we are to the birthday child.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I had no problem telling parents that if they wanted to bring siblings to a venue party, they would need to cover the cost.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Do it at the park. Make it a picnic, let them play at the playground... no gift bags, just set up a table with good snacks and the dessert and let them play.
Make sure the parents stay.... that way, they can deal with the sibs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Presents for friends are $10 - 20 depending on the friend.

For your invite. Address it to just the child invited.
Under RSVP say something like:
RSVP: ###-###-#### by Monday 8/4 so I can get a head count.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Because of your situation and parents actually hinting around Hazel had a great idea and that is to do it at the park.Everyone invited, no problem. You cannot do what everyone else does all the time so you just do what you can.


answers from Medford on

It depends. If it is a drop off birthday party then leaving siblings out. But at the age you mention, parents might not want to drop off, so then you have to be willing to include the older siblings. That being said, if they are older they usually understand the no goodie bag idea, but include them in refreshments and cake.

As for $$, we budget $150.00 including presents/party. The better the party, the smaller the gift. The larger the gift, the smaller the party.

For other kids. Family/close friends we spend around $25.00. For school friends, $10.00 (including kids usually make a card).



answers from Chicago on

I have to agree with the others. Spell it out that the invite is just for "Johnny".

Some people are so rude when it comes to birthday parties. My daughter was invited to a bowling party this year. Kindergarten so they were turning 6. The mom paid not only for bowling but for the kids to have pizza, drinks and cake. Invites came to each child with their name on the envelope. I guess that's not enough for some people. One little boy had his entire family with him! Mom, dad & sister! They didn't bowl but they all ate. Everything. I couldn't believe my eyes. The birthday girl's mom didn't have an extra treat bag. The boy's sister started crying, so the mom throwing the party took the birthday girl's treat bag away from her so that the sister would get one. The crasher parents stood by and allowed this mom to take away her birthday daughter's treat bag. I was floored. Some people feel, seem, & act so entitled!

My daughter's never are allowed to stay. If one is invited, one stays. I have to say that I personally have never had an issue with siblings being left or brought to one of my girl's parties.

I really hope that you have good luck!!!

$20 for a school friend. Closer friends a little more. Never more than $30. As far as spending on our kids, it depends on if it's a need (like a bigger bike) or a want (like a video game or doll). A need trumps a want. We are more willing to spend extra on a need.



answers from Chicago on

I end up spending a lot of money on birthday parties because I have to pay for a babysitter for my other 2 kids when my husband is working. When I had to RSVP "no" to a party because my husband was working and I couldn't get a sitter, the mom graciously invited my other children but I would NEVER assume I could bring my other children. I often wondered if it was okay to bring a younger infant sibling, such as a crawler or early walker -- particularly at a bouncy place -- because the baby clearly can't play and doesn't have to be fed at the party. I don't think they get counted in the totals.

As for my gift budget, I try to stay in the $15-20 range for a child that's not a good friend and up to $25-30 for a friend. I now have my kids make cards because that's $4 that goes towards the gift.

Because people don't seem to get it even when you address the envelope to the invitee only, you might be better off going with an evite if you have everybody's email address. That way, you can be explicit in the party description about space limitations, so no siblings. Our daycare/preschool doesn't give out email addresses, so I asked if they would send an email to a list of parents asking them to reply directly to me so that we could send an evite for the party. Good luck!


answers from San Francisco on

Ditto OneAndDone, though at that age I only spent around $15-20.



answers from Seattle on

At 5yo, this could be a drop-off party. That will help eliminate the siblings, but it will require that you get someone to help you with the party.

$15-$20 is what I expect to pay for a present.

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