We asked 10 mom bloggers, “How do you get around school’s invite-all policy for birthday parties if you have a limited budget?”
They were kind enough to share their thoughts on the controversial school policy and give out tips to get around specific concerns such as birthday-party-invitation etiquette, managing parent complaints, and more. Their firsthand experience and advice provide guidance and valuable wisdom to any parent facing this dilemma.
What Moms Think about the School Policy
The invite-all policy imposed on some schools in the country rests on the fundamental principle of inclusivity. Rejection at an early age can, after all, be detrimental to the self-esteem and emotional development of the child.
The invite-all policy also helps promote diversity, interpersonal intelligence, and a cohesive community. But what exactly do moms think about this well-meaning policy in their children’s schools?
These hands-on moms weigh in on the following issues.
Who Should Be on the Guest List?
Crafting the guest list for a children’s party is tricky with an invite-all policy in place. But at the end of the day, it’s still the parents’ decision that makes things possible. As a responsible yet considerate parent, how do you decide on the guest list that treads the fine line between inclusivity and privacy?
Jo Middleton, Slummy Single Mummy
“I think the idea of forcing children to invite people who might not even be their friends to their birthday party is ridiculous, and I quite simply would not have done it.”
Jo Middleton is the creator of Slummy Single Mummy, which is among the best mummy blogs in the TA1 postal code area. She has won a good clutch of awards, including the Vuelio Best Parents Blog award for 2018. Slummy Single Mummy is currently ranked by Vuelio as the number one parent blog in the UK.
Amy Kossoff Smith, Momtini Lounge
“Some schools mandate that you invite the entire class to avoid hurt feelings, etc. Being inclusive is WONDERFUL, of course, and if your space/budget allows, go for it!
However, if you invite the majority of the class and only exclude a few kids, that is hurtful and wrong.
If the school mandates an all-class celebration, consider bringing donuts to school if allowed. Families should be allowed to do what suits their budget and their child’s wishes.”
Amy Kossoff Smith is a nationally recognized source on parenting and has appeared on The Today Show, and in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and on multiple local TV networks.
Michelle Olson-Rogers, Modern Boca Mom
“In our family, we have birthday parties every other year. They are expensive and tend to be really exhausting for the party planner, a.k.a. MOM. This year, we held our daughter’s party at a fancy spa for little girls.
Because there’s an unspoken rule at our school about inviting the whole class to birthday parties, I found this to be a great way to get around hosting at least the male half of her class. And because of the nature of the venue, no one seemed to be offended!
The last thing I want is for any child to feel excluded, so this is one way to get around the ‘whole class’ rule.”
Michelle Olson-Rogers seeks to take advantage of everything Boca Raton has to offer. In her blog, she chronicles her adventures as a mom living the best life in southern Florida.
Claire Kirby, Life, Love and Dirty Dishes
“I don’t agree with enforcing an invite all policy. In my experience, if parents are putting on a big party, they will invite the whole class.
But big parties are expensive, and sometimes, kids have smaller parties with just a few friends. I think everyone should be inclusive as much as their budget permits.
But we are grown-ups, and it doesn’t need to be enforced. There can also be exceptions. If your child is experiencing problems with another child, then maybe they don’t want them at their party, and that’s okay.”
Claire Kirby lives with her husband and two sons in Southampton. She has been blogging at Life, Love and Dirty Dishes for five years and writes lighthearted musings about parenting, with a bit of lifestyle thrown in.
Handing Out Invitations
There was an incident back in 2008 when a parent filed a complaint against a teacher to the Swedish parliament for confiscating the invitations his kid handed out in the school premise because two kids did not receive one. This is the classic conflict between private preference and collective benefit, which yet remains a gray area not properly addressed by the invite-all policy.
Every parent has their own reasons for excluding certain individuals in a private affair, and it’s more often than not what counts at the end of the day. But how do you do so in a way that will be understood by the excluded individuals? Or at least be better handled by parents intelligently?
Brianne Manz, Stroller in the City
“Our school does have an all-students invite policy but only if the parent decides to hand out invites during the classroom hours.
I used to invite the entire class when my kids were in kindergarten and first grade, but now that they are older, we keep their parties small, only inviting close friends.
I do make sure to tell my children not to publicly announce that they are having a party so no one will feel left out.”
Brianne Manz lives in New York City with her husband and three children and enjoys their fast-paced city life. Her blog, Stroller in the City, boasts about city living, family travel, kids fashion, and all things that are mommy.
Susan and Janice, 5 Minutes for Mom
“I don’t believe that schools should create policies that extend to events scheduled by parents outside of school time. But I do think it’s reasonable for a primary school to send out an email asking that parents and students are sensitive to the issue of party invitations and that they send electronic invitations if possible.
The school my children attended did not have any invitation policy. But in the early primary grades, I made an effort to invite all the girls in the class to my daughters’ parties.
After about the 2nd or 3rd grade, I felt the social groups were more established and inviting just their group of close friends was okay.
I think the key is that you don’t leave out just one or two kids when you’re doing the invitations.”
About Susan and Janice
Janice and Susan are identical twins and are the founders of 5 Minutes for Mom. Their mission at 5 Minutes for Mom is to provide an essential, go-to site for moms that entertains and inspires while promoting the online mom community.
Diana Sweeney, Forever My Little Moon
“To be honest, I’m fine either way. I think it’s great to include everyone, but I also understand that it can be expensive, depending on class sizes, to entertain and feed that many kids.
I think it is totally okay to pick a select amount of friends, but instead of handing out the invites in school, mail them.
Stamps aren’t that expensive and most schools have parent contact sheets. Or you can do digital invites and email them to save a little money. I think this is one way to get around the ‘invite all’ policy as well.
It’s more of an issue when invites are given out in school as every kid can then see them. It can make them feel left out, especially if the majority of the class was invited.”
Diana is a Minnesota mom of a sweet girl, Little Moon, who was born on Christmas Eve in 2016. Besides blogging, Diana loves reading, running, and crafting. She is also a mental-health advocate that loves all things Disney and Harry Potter.
Trista Perot, Mommy Upgrade
“‘Invite all’ policies at school are obviously a way to make sure everyone feels included but with class sizes as they are these days, that can get pricey for a mama.
If I applied the ‘invite all’ rule across the board to the many teams and activities my girl is in, that party would be EPIC - and break into her college fund.
Our general rule has been that if she wants to invite half or more of the class, then she invites everyone and brings the invitations to hand out personally at school.
When there are only a few school friends that she wants at her big day, we mail those invitations to the guests privately or use a digital invite so they can see the guest list.
The next time I visit with the parents in person, I will share with them politely that not all of the team/class/club was included so they know to encourage their child (or themselves) to not discuss the event with anyone who might get their feelings hurt. It also helps to plan the party on a long weekend or over the summer so guests are less likely to remember and talk about the event after it’s over.”
The one thing Dallas mom Trista Perot loves more than blogging is her family. She enjoys all things creative and is passionate about making moms’ lives around the world a truly rewarding and enjoyable experience.
When Your Child Is Not Invited to the Party
An invite-all policy is directed toward the protection of children themselves. But at this age, it’s most likely nothing personal. Most of the time, the invites are sent to parents of kids who already know one another, and their kids don’t necessarily have to be from the same class. Other times, it’s the kids’ preference themselves.
No matter how the guests are chosen, the whole affair is entirely left to the parents to manage among themselves.
But how do you deal when it is your child who has been excluded from a private affair?
Carly Crawford, Mom of Two Little Girls
“I don’t believe that schools should enforce an ‘invite all’ policy. The school should not be allowed to dictate to parents about children’s birthday parties for two simple reasons: (1) financial constraints, and (2) parents do what is best for their child and wider family at the time.
When it comes to planning the party, I also don’t believe that the school should be involved in any way, except for providing a list of children’s names, and possibly handing out the invitations to the children, but even this can end up causing a problem because children are rubbish at taking home any correspondence to their parents.
We have had a number of invitations that only came home after the date of the party—this puts everyone in an awkward situation. I don’t have all the answers, but the whole idea of class parties is very controversial and is a seriously stressful time for the parents and the kids. What happened to cake and balloons?”
Carly is a South African mommy blogger, and she blogs about everything mommy related, from the importance of parenting with a sense of humor, to traveling with kids, to managing their emotions, to the reality of how hard this job really is.
Beth Feldman, Role Mommy
“It’s time as parents that we teach our children about the importance of resiliency.
I will never forget the time my daughter wasn’t invited to a birthday party for one of her ‘friends’ who was in a different class than she was and so the mother decided to not invite kids who weren’t in her class anymore. Was I upset for my daughter? Absolutely. But it is not my place to get involved in the dynamics of why a child isn’t invited to a birthday party.
The reality is, if they don’t invite you, you don’t have to invite them. And they are probably not a good friend anyway. As our kids got older, we stopped throwing parties and told them to invite their closest friends to a special dinner where we’d celebrate with them.
This year, my son took his four closest friends to the Mets game. You don’t need to have a crowd to celebrate your birthday. You need a few good friends and family to make your day as special as it can be. Quality over quantity every single day of the week.”
One of the brightest, most inventive minds in media, Beth Feldman is an industry-renowned executive with more than 20 years in public relations, marketing and branding, social media, talent relations, event planning, crisis communications, and public speaking.
When Parents Ask to Bring Siblings
Invites are sent out for a reason. Mostly because the party is on a budget and the food and activities are planned according to an anticipated number of guests.
Unfortunately, some parents may ask to take other kids to the party. A parent may have failed to find a sitter and has to tag the sibling along. In most cases, the anxious parent will inform you at the last minute to apologize for the situation. While the call is appreciated, you’re still left to deal with the dilemma.
What do you do in these situations?
Lee Cordon, Do Say Give
In her post on children’s birthday party etiquette, Lee Cordon suggested, “Unless it specifically states on the invitation, do not bring siblings.”
And if you’re the one hosting the party, here are a couple of replies she suggested that you can use when asked if parents can take other children to the party:
- “Oh, I am so sorry but the venue only let us have X number of children, so there isn’t enough room for siblings.”
- “I know you’ll understand, but we are trying to keep this a small (nonchaotic!) gathering this year, so we aren’t inviting siblings.”
- “I am sorry, we aren’t inviting siblings this year, but you are welcome to drop [their kid’s name] off for the party.” (Only say this if it’s a drop-off party!)
- “We aren’t having siblings to this party, but [another parent’s name] is coming with her little boy. Maybe reach out to her to see if she could bring [kid whose parent is asking] too.”
About Lee Cordon
Dallas-based Lee Cordon is a wife and mother of four who, years ago, had a dream to create a place where women can be encouraged to love their friends and family well. Do Say Give is now a go-to destination for gracious etiquette, meaningful gift ideas, classic style, and intentional motherhood.
True Story: When No One Shows Up to Your Child’s Party
Conor is turning 5. The venue is ready; food is set. Only a few minutes before the guests arrive. Conor’s excitement is only stifled with the assurance that this is going to be the best day of his life.
The clock starts ticking. Five, twenty. Conor asks his mom, Elaine, where his friends could have been. His mom muttered a gentle reassurance, “They are going to be here soon.”
But the waiting dragged on. Elaine feels the panic creep in. In his eyes, Elaine can see his little Conor’s heart sinking. And before long, an hour has passed. Elaine cannot believe what has just happened. By this time, little Conor has stopped asking.
When she tucks him to bed that night, she hugs him tight, as if this temporary affection can shield him from the lifelong wound of early rejection.
Elaine cries and cries and cries. How could they have been so cruel?
Little Conor was born a female but identifies as a boy. He is different. And while his friends indeed may have wanted to go to his birthday party, their parents thought differently.
This is the true story that broke hearts from all corners of the world, as it only made manifest what parents always feared for their own children—especially the ones struggling to belong.
The invite-all policy may help protect children like Conor. But at the end of the day, it is still the parents’ decision to participate.
As a parent, it is on you to make sure that your child never experiences the trauma that little Conor did.
Following the advice of these esteemed mom bloggers, here are a few important takeaways to keep the party-related stress that most parents go through to a minimum:
- Don’t force your children to invite classmates they don’t like, especially the mean ones or kids whom they are not comfortable with. At the end of the day, it’s your kid’s special day and not the guests’.
- However, it’s not okay to invite the whole class while excluding one or two classmates. Take for example this open letter from a mother whose child with Down syndrome was the only one not invited to a classmate’s birthday.
- Getting around the invite policy of the school is to simply be discreet in handing out invitations and, if possible, not to hand them out in the school premises. Call the parents, mail the invites, or send digital invites.
- When you can’t invite everyone and they are looking forward to being invited, find a way to be inclusive but, at the same time, not to spend your kid’s trust fund just to throw an expensive party. Consider bringing snacks to school instead.
- Make sure guests who RSVP’d actually come to the party by calling them a day or two before the party for confirmation so you can make last-minute adjustments.
- For parents whose kids are invited, please ask if it’s a drop off party and if you can take along your other kids.
- On the other hand, when your kids are the ones being left out, it’s up to you to teach the importance of resiliency so they understand that it’s okay if they don’t get their way. It’s part of learning about life.
Most important, however, is to make sure your kids have fun on their birthday and for you not to worry about every little thing that may go wrong or whom you may offend for making decisions on a private occasion.
A huge thanks to all the mom bloggers who took time away from their busy mom jobs and blogging responsibility to provide us such informative insights and useful tips. We are extremely grateful for and proud of the result!
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