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What’s the hardest thing about planning a birthday party?

Image Chances are, if you’ve ever thrown a child’s birthday party, this has happened to you: The invitations have been sent; a few RSVPs have trickled in, and then … nothing.

You e-mail a reminder. A few more parents respond, but you’re nowhere close to a head count for the bouncy- castle. You check your e-mail obsessively. Where is everybody?

It’s become a huge hot-button issue: people who respond late, don’t answer at all, or, most aggravatingly, don’t reply and then show up with two siblings in tow.

What to do?

  • First off, try not to immediately condemn the laggards. “Things get lost in cyberspace, and we don’t always know what’s going on in other people’s lives,” Possibly, your child’s party is not their top priority.” Ouch.
  • Still, there are ways to goad them into action, start with a paper. Yes, it’s more effort, but you’ll get a higher rate of return. “Research shows people respond more when you’ve given them something, even if it’s small,” Jotting a note creates a further sense of obligation (“Looking forward to having Sean join us!”).
  • If your initial invitation is sent electronically, prod parents with an e-mail: “Please RSVP so there isn’t a pizza shortage!”
  • Send the first invitation four weeks out. Have a B list of friends ready, and then, as soon as a “No” comes in, send out another invite, up to a week and a half before the big day.
  • Doing an auto-reminder? Make the final RSVP date two days before the actual one. Then send your own e-mail follow-up: “I know everybody is so busy, but we need to give a head count by Thursday and just want to make sure your child is included.” If the party is days away, suck it up and call to ask if the child will attend.

Try out these 5 tips next time you are planning a birthday party.