Birthday Party Politics: How to Make Sure You Don’t Leave Anyone Out

Planning a birthday party seems as though it would be so easy: pick a theme, buy some decorations and plan a few games for the kids to play. But before you know it, you have angry parents dialing your number to ask why their child wasn’t invited. With these ground rules, you can avoid the drama of birthday party politics and ensure that everyone feels included.

Plan the Guest List Well in Advance

Think about the guest list several weeks before you plan to send invitations out. The number of invited kids affects all of your birthday party ideas, from the amount of cake you need to the number of adults present to supervise. Planning the guest list ahead of time also gives you the opportunity to check and recheck the list to ensure no one is left out.

Inviting Family or Just Friends

Many choices about the guest list depend on your personal preference and family traditions. Some parents invite grandparents and other family members to all birthday celebrations, while others keep the parties child-only. Although most of the guests may be kids from school, your child may beg to invite a favorite cousin or relative. Make your decisions clear to family members who may expect an invitation, and be consistent in who you do or do not invite to prevent hurt feelings among family.

Sending Invitations to School

Children are naturally enthusiastic about birthdays, and your son may go to school boasting about all of his amazing birthday party plans. This could cause hurt feelings among his peers if the entire class is not invited. Check the school’s policy about birthday invitations. Some schools forbid in-class invitations altogether, while others permit them only if the entire class is included. This prevents hurt feelings and ensures that no one is left out. If you choose to restrict the guest list to a smaller group of kids, issue invitations by phone or e-vites to make sure other children do not feel excluded.

Talk to Your Child About the Guest List

It may seem obvious, but many parents fail to consult the birthday kid when drawing up a guest list. Children’s friendships change constantly; your daughter’s best friend from last year may only be a friendly acquaintance by now. Ask your child who she wants to invite, and include those people on the final list.

Beyond Invitations: Being Inclusive at the Party

Your child may not like everyone in his class equally, but if the entire class is invited, he has to treat them all well. Talk to your child beforehand about including others and being nice to someone who might not be your best friend. If he seems especially anxious about inviting a particular child, use this as an opportunity to find out if anything is happening at school. It may be a clue that your child is bullied by another student or engaging in bullying behaviors himself. Teaching appropriate behaviors and inclusiveness ensures that everyone at the party takes part and feels excited to celebrate with the birthday boy.

After finalizing the guest list, be diplomatic when talking to parents or relatives who feel slighted. Depending on the situation, you may be tempted to invite extra guests to prevent hurt feelings. Do not feel guilty for restricting the guest list over concerns for space and budget. Be firm but gentle when explaining that you simply cannot accommodate more guests. Then turn your attention to the cake, ice cream flavors, decorations and other exciting birthday party plans.


Bethany Ortiz:  Bethany studied culinary arts and later received a Master’s Degree in English Literature. She loves blogging about her adventures in food, and is quick to correct both your tablespoon measurement and your grammar.

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