Party Etiquette 101

%uFFFDWhile a birthday party is meant to be a fun and memorable event, the social dos and don’ts of planning and attending one can be a source of stress for many parents—especially if it’s their first one. For some tips on birthday party etiquette, we spoke to Lisa Kothari, author of “Dear Peppers and Pollywogs: What Parents Want to Know About Planning Their Kids’ Parties.” For more tips, visit

How far in advance should I start planning?

Start planning your child’s party and sending out invitations three to six weeks before the party date, or even earlier during busier times of the year. Invitations should include an RSVP date set about 10 days before the party, and feel free to start calling those who haven’t responded as soon as the RSVP date has passed.

Do I have to invite everyone in my child’s class?

If your child plans to distribute invitations at school, check the school policy because it many require that everyone in the class be invited. If you aren’t bound by any invite policies, the number of kids is really up to you and your child. Keep in mind what your budget is and how many kids you can handle as a host. Your child’s age plus one more tends to be a good number.

Should presents be opened at the party?

While there has been a trend to save the presents until after the party to avoid hurt feelings or jealousy, opening them during the party lets the birthday kid feel special and teaches him or her how to be gracious and polite, even if they don’t like a present. In addition to thanking guests for their presents at the party, thank you notes should be sent one or two weeks after the party.

When can kids start having sleepover birthday parties?

Nine is a good age to start hosting sleepovers; however, when a child feels comfortable, spending a night away from home can vary.

How much should I spend on a present?

Up to $20, unless the party is for a very close relative or best friend. If you can’t attend the party, there is no need to send a present.

When should I accompany my child to parties?

It is expected that a parent or nanny will accompany kids at parties for ages 6 and under. If your child is older than 6, and the invitation doesn’t specify whether you should attend or not, it is always better to ask the host if you are expected to attend, rather than showing up as an unexpected guest.