No RSVPs to kid's birthday party :(
November 28, 2017 10:27 PM   Subscribe

Daughter has her 5th birthday this weekend and we decided to go with a larger party in a rented playspace. The party is on Saturday. The space takes up to 20 kids, so we invited both preschool classes from her daycare, 30 kids in total. Invitations were sent two weeks ago and we have only had RSVPs for five kids. What do we do now?

I don't think we have done anything weird or offensive or off-putting, and our kid is friendly with most kids in the two classes. My partner and I trade off dropoffs and pickups and we are always friendly and chatty with the other parents. Neither of us is from the US originally (one English, one Spanish), so I often worry about whether we are unintentionally violating some kind of unspoken social norms.

If it's relevant, we've been at this preschool for 2 years, and it has been hard to engage with other parents. We're in the Bay Area, which is sort of known for being a place where people don't put down roots. But we've gone cheerfully and with gift in hand to all the parties we have been invited to AND RSVPed in plenty of time to allow the hosts to plan and cater.

We handed out invitations by putting them in the kids' cubbies. They've all been picked up. What do we do now? Do we drop notes in the cubbies to remind people to RSVP? Cater for 7 people? What if 20 additional people show up on the day? I'm getting hives trying to figure out what to do next. We are considering cancelling the party at the playspace and moving it to our home. Is that weird for people who have already RSVPed? Are we overthinking this?
posted by Tamien to Human Relations (37 answers total)
Call (or better yet, email) all 25 houses that didn’t RSVP, just to double-check?
I could see, since it was around Thanksgiving, people might have put the RSVP cards aide while they worked out their travel/dinner plans, and then they just forgot.
posted by blueberry at 10:37 PM on November 28, 2017 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Well... In my experience, people don’t RSVP. They’re assholes, but what can you do? I throw a couple big birthday bashes every year for my elementary aged kids and basically I am That Mom. I text and call and corner people and flat out ask if they’re coming. I play dumb- ‘oh hiiii, so glad I ran into yoooou, I wanted to make sure you had gotten the invite to XXXX’s party for this Saturday???? I’m finalizing everything now, so will we see you there???’

It’s hella tedious, but it’s the only way I’ve gotten kids to show up at the parties. I think in your case you’re either going to have to be a bit of a parent-stalker or put reminders in cubbies and hope for the best.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:38 PM on November 28, 2017 [40 favorites]

Best answer: There is an increasing problem in America, where people don’t fucking RSVP. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s been an FPP about this phenomenon. People don’t RSVP to weddings, and then when they show up complain there isn’t enough food. Many years ago when I was a wee one we had a similar problem with my bat mitzvah. Mom had to hound every last relative. Unfortunately so will you. You could just cater for 20, and maybe this won’t make you super popular, but yeah, you’re going to have to call them all to make sure. Sorry Americans suck about this!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:39 PM on November 28, 2017 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify, we've had 4 yeses and a no. I may have been catastrophizing with my headline. :)

We don't have contact details for most of the parents, so notes in cubbies it will have to be.
posted by Tamien at 10:40 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

In my experience, physical invitations are kind of weird. In like 20 kids parties over the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve only gotten invitations via evite or paperless post. Are physical invitations typical for your school?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:42 PM on November 28, 2017 [10 favorites]

Response by poster: We don't have emails or phone numbers for the parents - the school doesn't share them so unless we managed to get details in passing at dropoffs or pickups, there's no way to get an exhaustive list. Agree evites would be MUCH better. I've only seen physical invitations.
posted by Tamien at 10:46 PM on November 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

You might drop a hint to the preschool teacher or parent helper / homeroom mother (if there is one) that "It's getting about time to finalize how many people to book for my child's party this weekend and so far we have seven of 30. We were planning for 12 to 15, and the space takes up to 20 -- do you think we should book it, or will we need someplace larger at the last minute?"

This is not an unusual question. And changing the venue at the last minute may actually make things harder for the parents, since they may already know where the play space is and are comfortable with it (no dogs, no swimming pools, no climbing trees), but do not know your address. Also, the kids may be disappointed in a home party instead of the fancier play space. Alas, kids complain about that sort of thing, and make comparisons, so I would stick to plan A this year.

A small group is fine, more room to play, fewer lines for special areas, fewer chances for one child to be left out. You may plan to invite a special friend of your child's who is not at the preschool, if she does not then ignore the other children. Maybe someone a few years older who enjoys making a fuss over her, but still likes these sorts of activities.
posted by TrishaU at 10:57 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also... flu season is upon us and our extended family is all getting over galloping crud. This could be a factor in the smaller attendance.
Bring hand sanitizer. Don't be weird about it, but talk with the other parents and come up with a plan to keep hands clean before eating and avoid sharing straws and spoons.
Happy birthday!
posted by TrishaU at 11:05 PM on November 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

The physical invitations sent shortly before a holiday are probably the culprit. We found an invitation buried in my son's backpack a week after the party once. I agree with just buttonholing people in the preschool and asking them if they've had a chance to RSVP.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:05 PM on November 28, 2017 [18 favorites]

I don't have kids and it's been a while since I was a kid, but there's no way you can get contact info for the parents of your child's classmates? I really think calling is the best way to go. Can the teacher or principal or someone help? Maybe you guys can try to ask parents during drop-offs and pick-ups, if there is an opportunity? If putting reminders in the cubbies is your only option, I think you should. I don't know what catering you have planned, but maybe you can see how many kids show up and pick up/order delivery pizza or whatever based on how many kids are there. The kids surely have to wait to eat until after they've tired themselves out playing anyway! If you're not going to move the party, maybe you can make the reminder an RSVP-less invite. You might end up with extra cake, but I don't think I've ever been to gathering where that didn't happen.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:05 PM on November 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Seconding the notion that the invites are floating around in her classmates' backpacks, unseen by any parent and/or completely forgotten due to the holiday break. A few years ago I fished out an unopened invite from my son's backpack, the invite was for a party in 2010.

So, if it makes you feel any better, a party of 5 is perfectly fine for a 5 year old. We always aimed for one party guest per year + bday child so you're just right.
posted by jamaro at 11:27 PM on November 28, 2017 [13 favorites]

Best answer: I feel you. I have a child with a summer birthday. One year we invited 25 and had 4. The next year we invited 26 and had...28.

I can tell you what I’d do. I would keep the venue the same. I would get 1/4 sheet cake. I would have food for 8-10 based on nibbly snacks, but be prepared to order a pizza if 15 kids show up and then the nibbly snack become appetizers. I would bring in 7 loot bags and have another 7 in my car, with a plan of how to divide them further. I cannot tell you how many sheepish calls I’ve gotten (or made) within 24 hrs of the party when the invitation surfaced and no rsvp had been given.

I would not take any of it personally. This time of year sucks. If you don’t know the parents well enough to be connected on social media, it’s not personal at all. It’s either logistics or timing.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:14 AM on November 29, 2017 [31 favorites]

The people who did RSVP - if they did that by phone or email, can you contact them and ask if they have contact details for any of the non-RSVPers?

At my kid's school (admittedly in a different country), there's a parent in the class who's given the job of creating a contact list (name/phone/email) for all the parents in the class (participation optional) (there's also a Facebook group). So even though everyone has access to everyone else's phone/email, there's still a few people we have to chase up for party RSVPs - people forget, or don't see invites, or think they RSVPed already. Creating a contact list like this to share might be a useful thing to do for future use. Maybe talk to the class teacher. In the meantime, I second asking people at drop-off/pick-up - and maybe ask those people if they have a number/email for others.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:18 AM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

I completely get you and this is why all our parties are now in parks or similiar where the number of people coming does not matter much. Just always make more food than expected.

(Assuming you are in a daycare which requires every parent to sign in and out their child) I would suggest you ask the teacher to put a list next to the sign in sheet. Every parent who signs in their child or sign them out will see the list. The list will have ALL the names of the kids in the class. At the top of the "Hi we are finalising numbers now for catering purposes - are you coming to XX's 5th birthday on XX date?". There will two columns next to each name = YES or NO. The parents will have pens ready in their hands while signing in to tick YES or NO.

It would also help to enlist the teacher to help remind the parents to tick the list.
posted by oink at 3:09 AM on November 29, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, it sounds likely that people are just busy and flaky and failing to RSVP. A reminder e-mail would probably root some people out:

Dear friends of little Tamian,

We are very much hoping to see you on December 37th for little Tamian's 7th birthday party. Just in case you didn't get the first invitation, or it fell victim to busy lives, this is a reminder to please RSVP ASAP/by X date so we can prepare a fun party for everyone! Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

-the Tamian family
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:10 AM on November 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would ask the pre-school teachers to send home another little note with the kids asking for confirmation that the invite was received. It’s happened a couple times at our daycare and, horridly, once I was the ass who hadn’t RSVPd because life and business travel and do you think my husband looks in cubbies, never mind actually replies to birthday invites?

It’s hard to parent and juggle scheduling on top of everything else. No one, and I repeat NO ONE, is going to judge you for checking back in to confirm.
posted by lydhre at 5:17 AM on November 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

At my kids’ preschool, they can send emails out to the parents of an entire class. I’ve received class emails from the school that say, “Please respond to so-and-so’s birthday invitation by tomorrow if you haven’t already!” Is that something your school can do?
posted by amro at 5:24 AM on November 29, 2017 [12 favorites]

If it's relevant, we've been at this preschool for 2 years, and it has been hard to engage with other parents

This is terrible and I hate suggesting this, but are you sure that the parents are okay with having their kids under the supervision of someone from another culture? Granted, this was 25 years ago, I recall that my parent was fairly apprehensive about allowing me to invite majority-culture children to my birthday parties because it might put their potentially-cryptoracist parents in an awkward position - I was told that the kids would be fine about the invitation but their parents would veto it at the first chance. Similarly, I would have received invitations from their kids purely out of politeness, but that these parents may have not actually expected me to show up.

Be honest with yourselves - if your kid's showing up to parties but you're having trouble engaging with the parents, and you're different from them...
posted by blerghamot at 5:28 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: are you sure that the parents are okay with having their kids under the supervision of someone from another culture?

They are English and Spanish and live in the Bay Area. As a Californian American who is an actual minority with whom people might have an issue, I can assure you this is the least likely source of the problem. It's far more likely that the holiday has gotten in the way and people don't realize December starts Friday. Coordinating with the teachers, sending a reminder, and reminding your child that people showing up at parties has nothing to do with how much they like them should cover all the bases.

(I mention this last one because as someone whose birthday is even closer to Christmas, it did sometimes make me feel very sad that kids couldn't come but it has served me well to remember when people miss my party it's just because that's part of being born at this time of year. A festive birthday month is the trade-off.)
posted by dame at 5:47 AM on November 29, 2017 [14 favorites]

Blerghamot's depressing point has a corollary that isn't at all about xenophobia. If the parents don't know you or your family very well, they may be hesitant to drop their 5 year old off at a playspace. I'd put another reminder invitation in the cubbies, making sure to emphasize "Parents welcome" so they don't think they are expected to be dropping off their kid.
**MORE IMPORTANT** -- did you put every kid's name on the invitation, or just do a one-size-fits-all memo type thing? If the latter, it's quite easily ignored as a kind of "event" for the whole class. Not good, but the psychology of it is that your kid gets lots of flyers to do various things that are aimed at a large group, and since you don't feel they are aimed at you, you feel less responsibility to respond to or deal with it. People are AWFUL about RSVP'ing even to small parties, as has been amply noted here. But if this invitation seems like a group event, that makes the odds of response much lower.
posted by velveeta underground at 5:49 AM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: People are just flaky. With my youngest kid, every year I end up having people text me the morning of the party asking if it’s too late to come. Sometimes I think that people think they only have to rsvp if they’re saying yes, not no. We’ve also had parties where 30 kids show up and then next year, five show up. (There’s also one or two kids who seem to always show up 20 minutes before the end of the party.) If i haven’t rsvp’d to a party and I get a reminder, I always just feel guilty for my own flakiness, never mad or annoyed at the person sending me a reminder. I’ve also found that in preschool and maybe K and 1st grade, parents are wary of going to things when they don’t know the other family. By 2nd or 3rd grade, parents seem to be over that and will drop off their kids anywhere if they can go to the grocery in peace for once. (I have a 20 year old, a 17 year old and a 9 year old. There has been a vast assortment of party types over the years including a third grade sleepover at a fancy hotel. So weird.)
posted by artychoke at 7:01 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm 100% on your side, this is maddening, etc. But. Truth: this stuff gets done in email these days, and almost always from Evite, occasionally from one of the other invitation services.

Most people just don't have the bandwidth to keep track of paper invitations. You'll need to try to get the parent emails from the preschools. If you can't, argh, it's very frustrating, but you'll just have to try to remind people in person at drop-off and pickup time.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:06 AM on November 29, 2017

Data point: My kid's birthday is right after Halloween, so part of a similar tornado of celebration, and we usually hear back from almost none of the invitees where we don't know the parents, and about half of them come. And that's a party at home, which from what I've seen tends to result in higher-than-average responses. I'd assume that most of the kids are coming and not change your plans a whit.

(One thing you don't mention is how you asked them to RSVP. I'll admit that when someone lists a phone number only, I am WAY less likely to respond, because every time of day seems like a bad one to call a parent of a young kid.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:51 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm so sorry this is happening. This totally sucks and it is a perfect situation for an anxiety loop.

If this were me, I would move the party to my house and use the move as an excuse to put reminders/change of venue notes in the cubbies, making extra sure that the parents who RSVP'd yes get the info. I'd put on the invite that parents are welcome to stay or drop off their kids. In my world at that age, some parents want to stay but worried that wasn't OK, some wanted to drop off but worried that wasn't OK.

This seems like a lot of stress and I'd be feeling it, too. I wouldn't want to have a party at a play place and have three kids come (sometimes people who RSVP yes don't come). At home I would plan on ten or so and plan one or two things and just let them run around and then have cake. I'd get rid of the ambiguity as a way to take care of yourself. The jump here is to just pull the trigger and do it and get out of the decision-making space.

If that doesn't feel right, then sent out a reminder, plan on ten at the play place and let the chips fall where they may.

Neither outcome is bad. It's the not knowing that sucks. I'm sure it has nothing to do with you or your family. People just don't respond. And that's true for evites, too.

As an introvert, to avoid this kind of nightmare, what I do for my very extroverted daughter is we spend a week celebrating her birthday. We do one thing a day with a friend. One day, for example, we'll go to her favorite restaurant and they'll both get desserts. One day with the same friend we'll go to the trampoline place. Another day with a different friend we go to the zoo or have a sleepover. One day is for gifts from us/special dinner out. She LOVES it and it is totally AWESOME for me. Fuck kid parties. Seriously.
posted by orsonet at 8:14 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding asking the teachers to send an email to the classes on your behalf. Should be okay since all kids were invited. That in combination with asking people in person should help elevated the numbers! I totally sympathize, I went through something similar with both my kids' parties.
posted by LKWorking at 8:29 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's been a while for me...are kids responsible for picking up cubbie-mail, or parents? If it's the kids, the parents probably never saw the invites.
posted by kapers at 8:34 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

In my years of inviting the whole preschool class to my two kids' parties, my experience is that some people do show up without RSVPing, but not many. If people don't intend to come, they'll just ignore. They think that "RSVP" is just for Yes and ignore is for No.

I disagree with the answers that suggest you make it the job of the teacher to send out a reminder. You can put a reminder note in the cubbies, but what I would expect is the four who RSVPed yes, and then possibly another 2-4 who will come without notice. I don't think you'll go above your allotted 20 spots, especially in the Bay Area where people have to make an effort to drive a long way for a party.
posted by Knowyournuts at 8:51 AM on November 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

We had 3 preschool kids, 1 sibling plus my son for his 4th and he had a lot of fun. His second party we had about 10 RSVPs and 5 show up without RSVP. Both times worked out.

I'd try to get him to talk free form about his expectations (year to year I am surprised what each kid cares about whether they are only thinking of cupcakes, a certain friend attending, gifts, decorations or the venue).
posted by typecloud at 1:02 PM on November 29, 2017

You could see if the preschool would mind sending out a reminder on your behalf (they must have an email list for your child's class). Or, maybe they would let you put a reminder notice in the clipboard they probably have for parents signing their kids in and out?
posted by kitcat at 1:33 PM on November 29, 2017

IMO this is not the preschool's problem or responsibility on any level outside of providing the cubbies that notes for other parents can be left in.

I'd leave a 2nd note in the cubbies of the children whom you've not yet heard back from, something along these lines....

Perhaps the invitation to Jr's birthday party was misplaced or not received on XYZ date. We're wondering if Bobby is able to join us at ABC location on Saturday for Jr's 5th b'day party. Details.. details.... details.
Please Text or Email Me @ XXXXXX or XXXXXXX so I can know how many to plan for.
Thank You!

Good luck. I just don't understand leaving people hanging like this when you know they're trying to plan on a certain number of people.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 3:16 PM on November 29, 2017

I have five kids. I have found that as they get older, more kids comes to their parties. Most parents of 5-year-olds just don't have the time or energy to bring them to a party, especially if they have multiple children. Or at least that is my assumption (and my motivation for missing parties for my kids' classmates at that age).
posted by tacodave at 4:58 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

One thing I would not do is change the venue at the last minute, especially in light of parents dropping off kids and expecting the party to be in full swing -- when it is now at your house.
posted by TrishaU at 5:13 PM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: People suck, sometimes (self included). We have a kids Halloween party every year. Last year, we invited 25 and about 20 came. This year, we invited 25 and 4 came. About 10 people said they were coming but either no-showed or flaked out at the last minute. Two of the four who showed up were over 30 minutes late. This is typical and it's infuriating. You can be That Mom and follow up with everybody and they will STILL flake out on you or no show at the last minute. Enjoy your small celebration, make the most of it, and consider having a special outing with just one or two close friends, moving forward.
posted by pecanpies at 5:32 PM on November 29, 2017

Response by poster: Just wanted to thank everyone who commented. This was so unbelievably helpful and reassuring, and I really appreciated all the advice and perspectives - especially given I was having a full fledged anxiety attack about nobody coming to my kid's party. For anyone who is interested, I did follow up with the parents, and as of tonight we have 12 kids attending. We are staying at the play space. I also decided to chill out, a LOT.
posted by Tamien at 10:42 PM on November 29, 2017 [23 favorites]

Oh good, that's a nice update! As a fellow parent of slightly older kids, I just wanted to add that the phrase that works for me is 'please RSPV for accurate headcount/goodie bag purposes'. Nobody wants their kid to miss out on the goodie bag (although don't get me started on them; I hate them) and they generally understand that this means you need a number. Note that this doesn't guarantee they'll actually show up on the day, but it gets you much closer...

I use the same wording for adult stuff, just substituting [food order] or similar for [goodie bag].
posted by widdershins at 8:36 AM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

We have the same problem in New Zealand that lots of people don't bother to rsvp, until we found the solution: don't put the location of the party on the invitation, just a number to text. It works beautifully.
posted by tillsbury at 2:16 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'd add to be prepared if no one shows up as well, or maybe just one kid. People flake all the time, even if they say they are coming.
posted by cass at 2:21 PM on November 30, 2017

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