Birthday Party Invite Etiquette

Updated on January 13, 2008
L.M. asks from Buffalo, NY
36 answers

My daughter attends a Pre K with approximately 9 students.(she will be 5) Her birthday is next month and she wants to invite a few of her little girlfriends from school. Is it wrong to just invite, say 3 children, instead of all 9? Her party is at a place we pay per child, so financially it would be a strain to invite the whole class . She also has family friends to invite. What experience have you veteran moms been through regarding birthday party invites?? Any and all advice welcome! Thanks !!

ETA~ I would be mailing invites, not handing out in school.
Thank you all for your advice, I am still on the fence!

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So What Happened?

We did end up inviting the whole class- only 2 didn't come. It was a wonderful party and I am glad we decided to invite everybody.

Next year, I told my daughter she may invite 2 close friends anywhere she wants to celebrate with her ( so I dont have to end up inviting 25-30 kids)

I really appreciated all the advice and time you moms gave to give me advice!

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D.

answers from New York on

No offense but Give me a break. Just invite the kids you want there and no others. We are so raising a society of children who aren't going to be able to handle disappointment. We can't have a baseball game because one of the teams has to lose. You can't have a b-day party for your child because someone might be offended. This is so ridiculous and out of hand. I don't think that any school or group has a right to tell me what to do in MY home. I mean really. Who cares what the policy of the school is, this is your home. They don't pay your bills. Do what you want. Do you honestly think that you now have problems in society because you weren't invited to little Johnny's party as a child. Stuff like this drives me crazy. Invite who you like, that fits your budget. And if there is a problem tell the school well my daughter is 5 and she's only allowed to invite 5 friends to her party and 2 of those are family friends. It's trully none of their business.

2 moms found this helpful
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J.F.

answers from Rochester on

My daughter, now 8, never invites every child in her class. She has more than 9 but still. I usually end up with a mix of about 13 girls, but not all from her class. There is NO reason you should have to -- or feel obligated to -- invite them all. Do a snack at school for her birthday and do her party with her friends. If any parent gives you grief about it, they probably have issues anyway LOL :)

1 mom found this helpful
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L.C.

answers from New York on

Just invite all of the girls in the class, it wouldnt be fair to invite only few of the girls in a class so small. Keeping it to her gender is fine as long as you include all of that gender in the class.

1 mom found this helpful
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P.A.

answers from New York on

My daughter is now 7 and I have always invited the whole class that she has schooled with. Some schools have rules that you need to invite the whole class.

I would definetly reccomend inviting the whole class, it would be a shame for the class to be talking about the party and the children who didnt get invited feel sad :(

Usually when you invite 9 children only 5 end up showing up.

1 mom found this helpful
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T.S.

answers from New York on

My daughter is also 4 and goes to Pre K. It always amazes me how perceptive these little ones are. They will notice is someone gets an invite and another doesn't. They will also talk about it and feelings will be hurt. I know it can be a financial strain, but I think it's best to invite all or none. Let the parents decide if they want their child to attend. Try to find a place that has a set price for a certain number of children.

I hope this helps and I hope she enjoys her party!!

1 mom found this helpful
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S.M.

answers from New York on

It's fine to only invite a few, but I would call, or send the invites to the parents directly, instead of sending them to school(preschool) with your daughter. That way the other students won't know that they were not invited, so no hurt feelings. My daughter has had several "girls only" partys, and although I think generally the boys would understand ( they don't want to make bead necklaces), none the less I set the invites to their homes, to keep it from being public knowledge. We do always send in cupcakes to school on her actual birthday. Let's face it if you consider this a playdate not every child would be invited right. I'm not sure when pre-school became so P.C. When she is in middle school, junior high, or high school she will not be inviting every person in her class. Your daughter should be able to invite who she is closest to. And any parent who can't get that, maybe needs to do some growning up themselves. My daughter fell into this trap of feeling pressured to invite everyone, including a classmate that she didn't even like. As a result that little girl made a big scene at her party and ruined the day for her. Something to consider. Hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful
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B.P.

answers from New York on

There are a few things you could do: if you are friendly with these girls' mothers, you could give them invitations privately, say when you are waiting to pick up the kids at school. Or, ask the teacher if the school has a policy and what it is. Some schools say either the whole class or (if it's a girl's party) all the girls in the class. I have twins and when they were in Pre-K, they were in the same class and we invited the whole class. Last year, in Kindergarten, they were in separate classes and got to invite 5 girls each from their classes. I handed the invites out myself, so there was no problem with other students seeing and not being invited. Hope this helps...

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D.A.

answers from New York on

I do understand why you want to do it that way - financially - but be prepared for the other parents to possibly show some resentment towards you if you do not invite everyone.

Maybe you could mail those invites to those kids houses w/o doing any of the "inviting" through the school / daycare.

It's real easy for the other parents to find out about the party and everyone's different - some parents might not care - a lot of parties work that way where parents just invite the other kids that your child is "close to" or that you know the parents of and are freinds with...

But I think you'll run into problems if you don't invite everyone and then they find out. Just my opinion....

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R.C.

answers from New York on

Why not ask the pre K teacher if you can bring in enough cup cakes or a small birthday cake, some paper plates, plastic forks, some napkins into the class room so that all 9 students can share in the fun and no one gets hurt being left out. And even a little favor gift for all to go home with ((((from the dollar store)))) shouldn't come to much in terms of $ as well....or not, that's up to you. I'm sure the teacher would even have some fun game they can play during that time, that wont cost you anything.

I tend to think when children get left out, they get hurt. And be sure they will hear about it from the kids who were invited when they return to class. So think how your daughter will feel when in turn she's not invited to those who were left out of her party????

If the teacher agrees....Explain to your daughter, the family party is for family and since everyone can't be invited to it...it will be more fun for all her classmates to join in, in the class room, so no one gets left out or hurt.

The guide lines one sets with this stuff while children are young do follow as they get older, year after year....and the older they get, the more expensive things become. So I tend to think starting off family traditions as small as possible is the way to go.

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T.T.

answers from Fargo on

Hi I ran into the same problem when my oldest was in kindergarten. I was told by other moms and the school I should either invite all the boys or all the girls or everyone. I hated all these options. I did invite all the boys.
The following year I was more discreet and now I just invite a few close friends.
I think many families make such a huge deal on parties and spend tons of money. I prefer to have the parties at home and keep it simplier. Hope this helps. Denise at [email protected]____.com

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L.H.

answers from New York on

It isn't wrong to invite fewer children as long as you mail the invitations to the homes of the selected children and don't distribute them through the classroom...otherwise that would be hurtful.

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J.S.

answers from New York on

For the most part, I invite all of the kids in my son's class and more often than not, about 1/2 of them can't make it anyway so rather than causing hurt feelings, you should invite all. This year my son is in pre-k and there are 30 kids combined in his class so I can't invite that many...might just invite all the boys instead even though he likes girls too.

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T.H.

answers from Rochester on

Hi L.,
We just went through this. My daughter is 5 and her birthday is next week. We invited a few friends outside of school and she decided to invite only one special friend from preschool. It worked out great because we just quietly put the invitation in the child's mailbox at school.I think it's better to keep it small. IT would be too expensive for you to invite everyone and too overwhelming for your daughter.
Good luck!

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Q.F.

answers from New York on

i don't know about now adays, but i know when i was young (i think through most of elementary school. my mother would throw a small party, invite ONLY the children that i liked most (and actually spent time with outside of school) and then the friends through family, and family. as for the rest of the class...to not leave anyone out, she would make cupcakes for the class (always 1 extra for the teacher) and if for any reason she was feeling really generous, she would just make up little favor bags that she would for the party, and make extra for the kids that weren't being invited. i feel that cupcakes are really good enough, but if you really feel bad, just make up those extra few goodie bags for the kids not invited. they have to learn sometime that not everyone will be invited to everything, at least they were included in some way! i plan on doing it this way once my child is in school. good luck, hope this helps.

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M.T.

answers from New York on

Hi L.. In my experience, at this age it's pretty typical to invite the class (or all the same sex kids in the class) when it is still a small group, not an elementary school class of 24. With my kids' birthday parties, I typically found that anywhere from 1/3 to 2/3 of the kids can't come so if you're inviting 9, nine aren't necessarily coming. But you are not under any obligation to invite every child in the class and if there are just a few that your daughter gets together with outside of school for play dates, etc, it is fine to invite just them, so long as the invitations are mailed and not given out at school.

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S.J.

answers from New York on

I experience the same feelings, not wanting to leave anyone out, but let's face it....I'm a SAHM of 4 children, 2 of which are identical twins, so I totally understand the financial strain when it comes to birthday parties. I have found that by mailing the invitations as opposed to giving them out at school alleviates any bad feelings. I try to encourage my kids to not talk about any parties that they've been invited to or any parties they might be having, especially if you aren't including everyone. No one wants to be left out, but then again people need to understand, and teach their kids to handle the fact that not everyone can be included everytime. Invite her friends via the good ole USPO and don't give it another thought!

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L.B.

answers from Elmira on

A good rule of thumb to follow, especially in these early pre-k and elementary years, is to invite the entire class, later on in elementary school, all the girls. You could either do all family, no school friends, or separate parties for friends and family. You should definitely invite all of the little girls; it teaches a wonderful lesson to your daughter very early on. Imagine how she (or you!) might feel if another little one was having a party and your daughter was left out (it has happened to me and it hurts the mom even more than the kids!) To save on money, just keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be a big extravaganza, just a simple little cake, ice-cream and simple games, lots of balloons! The kids just want to get together and play; and it’s the kids that count!

A little background info about me: I am a stay at home mother of two; girl age 13 years, boy age 22 months. I am also a former elementary school teacher.

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A.G.

answers from New York on

It's nothing wrong with inviting three of her friends from school just tell her three of her bestfriends & she'll see it different also let her know where not balling with cash to be spending on her class mates most the time people say they will attend your party and do a no show and no call !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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B.T.

answers from New York on

The best way to invite some of the class and not all of the class is to invite just the girls. This seems to satisfy my daughter and not insult any of her classmates or their parents. If some of the pre-K friends your daughter wants to invite are boys (or if the guest list is still too large) I would have your party with your family friends and then invite the three friends over for a cupcake playdate on or around your daughters birthday. Or perhaps your daughters pre-K allows a cupcake celebration at school. I also do not invite someone unless I have their home address. This way no one gets hurt by seeing someone else get an invitation.

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K.M.

answers from Syracuse on

My older children, who have had the "big" birthday parties are 8 and 7. Every year we invite every child in their class. Most of the time only a few of the kids show up, like 6 out of 20. The further it is from your home the fewer who will show up. I always felt like I had to invite all the kids so noone felt left out. But seriously, how PC do we have to be? This last year when my 7 yr old had his party I sent him to school with enough invitations for everyone, but told him he could invite whoever he wanted even if it wasn't everyone. So invite only the children your daughter would want there. I don't think it would be fair to your daughter to have kids at her birthday party that she might not even want there. Maybe you could descreatly hand the invitation to the parents while dropping off your child. That way the other parents won't even have to know about the party, therefore sparing the feelings of the children who are not invited.

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L.C.

answers from New York on

I don't think it would be a problem inviting just a few of your daughters girl friends to the party. The only thing I would recommend is not giving out the invitations in front of the children who would not be invited. Some schools actually insist on it so that the other children's feelings aren't hurt. If you find it too difficult to do it on the sly something that I did was stamp the envelopes and ask the teacher or secretary of the school to mail them only to children invited. I did that once and it worked out fine.

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N.C.

answers from New York on

In my daughters school we are not allowed to hand out birthday invitations to the children we have to give them to the parents or to the teacher to give to the parents it has worked so far because you can invite the friends she wants and the other children wont get their feelings hurt

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J.W.

answers from New York on

You invite who you're little girl wants there.
I just went though this same issue with who to invite to my son's 3rd birthday that's now in a couple of weeks.
We're apart of a Playgroup of 11 girls, and he goes to school 2 mornings week. There was NO WAY I could invite every child! I only invited the 2 children from the Playgroup that we actually see outside of the Playgroup, and he knows! And only 3 children from his class that he likes and I know their moms.
There comes a time when the parties become about them, and it becomes who they want there (not like the first year(s) when the child's b-day is really for you to show them off!) =-)
Good luck.

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J.M.

answers from Syracuse on

I understand how you feel, every year we go through this same thing. I have found that if you give the invites to the teacher to give out discreetly, then there seems to be no problems. Don't feel bad about the expense with too many children. As the years go by it only gets worse. I never think its the number of friends they have at the party, but how much fun they have. good luck and have fun yourself.

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J.D.

answers from New York on

I agree that you don't have to invite all the kids in her class, but you really ought to mail the invites, or use evite to the parent's email, but don't hand the invitations out at school, and definitely don't let them be handed out in class to the kids.

Jess

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S.R.

answers from New York on

Most schools require that all children in the class be invited, to avoid hurt feelings, so I would invite all or not at all. Maybe you can have a playdate after her birthday, but if word gets around that there was a party and some kids were not invited, it may be hurtful to some children. That said, small children depend on parents to bring them everywhere, and even if the child wanted to go, it would depend on the parents. I would expect less than half of the invitations would be responded to.

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C.D.

answers from New York on

At my son's school, if you hand out the invites at school you have to invite the whole class, but if you mail them to the child's home, you can invite however many or few you want to. Last year my son was one of five in his class so it was no big deal. This year he's one of ten so I'm not sure what I'll do yet, probably mail them home... or else invite them all and hope most don't come! :) good luck!

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L.B.

answers from New York on

Have a big party at the school. It's cheap & the teacher & assistant - free help. Do it during story & snack time. Act out a story with the kids on the rug or play freeze dance as the teachers put out plates with identical snacks & juice for the kids. Give out cupcakes. Have your childs be special in some way.(i.e. big #5 candel on it). Everyone leaves w/ a goody bag. No one feels left out. This is for her "school friends". This way you only have to invite family & friends to the other party.

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M.C.

answers from New York on

It's perfectly fine to only invite a few children, and you don't owe anyone an explanation. If your child wants to bring cupcakes to class (or if you want to) great, if not, you shouldn't feel pressure to do this either. If any parents have hard feelings, I'm sure in time they'll learn -- they'll be faced with a similar situation and it'll give them clarity. But I wouldn’t expect any issues or plan you child’s event in anyway other than based on what works best for your own family. Someone once told me that as a rule of thumb, when they’re little all they need is the same number of children as their age.

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A.S.

answers from New York on

You absolutely need to invite the entire class, considering the class is quite small. I have been in this same situation, and TRUST ME, you need to invite everyone to avoid hurt feelings.

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H.E.

answers from New York on

In my neighborhood it is a given that if the invitation arrives by mail then the whole class is not invited. If the invites are given out in class via backpacks, then it's safe to say that the whole class is invited. Our school has always held that policy too. Although then you have to explain to your child that the party shouldn't be discussed in class as others may get their feelings hurt. It's a sticky situation for sure...one that you may assuage by bringing cupcakes to class (if your school allows that). good luck.

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A.J.

answers from Albany on

I see nothing wrong with inviting only a few. I think it is ridiculous to expect a parent to have to entertain a large group of kids like that. Not necessary. Just try and avoid involving the school at all which means find a way to send invites out other than handing them out there.

When my daughter turned 5 we invited just the girls. I simply explained to my daughter that the boys might be sad if she talks about the invites and the party at school - so she didn't. She completely understood and it worked out quite well.

Don't stress out about it. Invite whomever you want and enjoy the day.

A.

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C.D.

answers from New York on

Hi, if you call the 3 and don't send invites and tell those moms that you are keeping it small.

Also you can have "just girls" and everyone understands and no one is upset.

Hope this helps...C. (mom of 4 boys!)

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J.A.

answers from Binghamton on

If you invite only 3, I would talk to the parents of the children and explain your situation. If they don't tell their children too early they won't talk about it at school and will avoid hurt feelings. I've done large parties and small parties and the small parties are always best (more relaxing for you). Your daughter will also have to realize that she may not get invited to everyone's party. Usually on the day they return to school they don't even talk about the parties. I have done ice skating and gymnastics parties when we had large parties and the rates were reasonable they worked out well but I always worried if anyone would get hurt so I got cell phone numbers as they were dropped off. Your kids are young now - wait until the overnights are requsted -- Good luck

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A.S.

answers from New York on

I had the same dilemma except my son's pre-K class has 21 kids! At another child's party I discussed this with several parents who all agreed that you do what works for you. About half of my son's class are invited to his party this weekend.

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H.P.

answers from Rochester on

L. - I have found a good guideline to follow: that until the children are teenagers, don't invite any more children than the age of the child. Also, if you are inviting the children from "ONE" group yet not ALL the children in the group find a way to get the invites to the parents without the other/uninvited children knowing about the 'event'. It will save a lot in hurt feelings as well as jealously and/or retaliation (they find ways to treat each other badly, even in PRE-K) issues. I am NOW a SAHM with our youngest [age to be 5 next week] – our oldest of six children is now 22. Been there, a few times. GOOD LUCK.

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