Why is it so hard to RSVP to a child's party?

Please parents, just RSVP and stick to it.
Please parents, just RSVP and stick to it. Photo: Getty Images

Ten invitations, 10 kids and no RSVPs! With one week to go until my son's party I started to panic - what if no-one really was coming? How would my nine-year-old cope? How would I cope?

I went into mummy-stealth mode and my mission was to hunt down the RSVPs one by one. For the parents I had a phone number for, I sent a quick text message to see if they were coming. For the mums I accidentally-on-purpose bumped into in the school yard, I dropped a quick 'oh-by-the-way-are-you-guys-coming-to-the-party?'

And this is the part that made me a little angry, if not annoyed. All the answers were "of course, yes, we wouldn't miss it!"

So I cannot help but ask the question: why, parents, why didn't you RSVP?

The lack of RSVPs, whether they are a yes or no, seems to be a common trend these days - or so I discovered after a lengthy discussion with other mums ... at no other than a kid's birthday party.

Angela, mum of two, vowed after her daughter's tenth birthday to not throw a birthday party again. "We sent out so many invitations and only two replied, and in the end three girls came to the party. My daughter was devastated, which is the last thing you need to be on your birthday."

My boys received an invitation to a laser tag birthday party a few weeks back and the invitation had three reminders to RSVP - three! All on one small piece of A5 paper:

  • You must RSVP on time to be included
  • Please RSVP as it is very important for our party planning
  • Make sure you RSVP by Monday

Are parents too busy? Too lazy? Or have we all plain forgotten our manners?

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The lack of a RSVP can cause chaos, especially when minimum numbers need to be booked and paid for in advance at most birthday venues. Even for the birthday parties catered for at home, an RSVP is essential to planning. Food and drinks need to be prepared, a cake baked, party bags prepared. Trying to do any of these party basics without knowing the number of guests can be nothing short of a nightmare.

My boys and I attended the laser tag party - the one with the three RSVP reminders - and of course Party Mum was anxiously watching the door, waiting for guests to arrive, mentally counting them, trying to stay calm as the venue hosts kept asking "is everyone here yet?".

At one point she turned to me and said "Do you know what's worse than parents not replying for a party? Parents who do that and then don't come, without any notice at all."

I stood beside her in support, counting little heads and knowing all too well what she was feeling. At my son's party we had one child who did RSVP yes and never arrived, one came 45 minutes late, and one child, who didn't RSVP yes or no, came along as if it was the plan all along. My stomach turned somersaults for the first hour of his party.

"Whenever I'm organising a function or party, I always have to chase people up. I think everyone is just lazy, and puts off sending their RSVP and then they forget. It drives me mental," says Melissa.

"Call me old-fashioned but I think a RSVP is essential, and I don't buy the 'too busy' excuse," says mum of three Michaela.

So what can parents do to keep their RSVP manners in check?

1.  Once you receive an invitation have a game plan. Mine is to RSVP straight away and then the invite is stuck on the fridge and reminder put in my diary for the party.

2.  Is the whole class invited? Ask the teacher if you can place a check list on the classroom door - parents can tick yes or no next to their child's name.

3.  Do you have the class parent email list? Send out a reminder before the RSVP cut off to give parents another chance to reply.

4.  Give guests plenty of time to RSVP, as last minute invitations are a recipe for late or no RSVPs.

So tell me: are parents too busy? Too lazy? Or have we all forgotten our manners when it comes to RSVPs for parties?

Josefa Pete is a writer and mother to two boys. You can follow her on Facebook or read her blog.

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