The Best Birthday Party Etiquette

The anniversary day of anyone's birth is a day to celebrate joyously. Birthdays celebrated with parties, friends and family should be worry-free. Guests can help create a worry-free celebration by following five basic birthday party etiquette rules.

1. Respond; RSVP

RSVP, short for the French phrase "Respondez, s'il vous plait," means please reply. Anyone receiving an invitation for a birthday party should respect the host's wishes and reply to the invitation. Be sure to respond by the date listed. Party planners need a head count to prepare the proper amounts of food and other details. A guest count also may be needed for preparing favor bags or even when arranging party games. If it is a birthday party with a sit-down meal or one held at a venue like a skating rink, the host needs to be able to tell the business how many people are expected. Do not bring a guest to a birthday party unless the invitation specifies your name plus a guest.

2. Respect gift-giving requests

When a birthday party invitation specifies "no gifts," etiquette requires the guest to respect the request. You will not be thought as cheap or inconsiderate. Bringing a gift when a no-gift request has been specified can make the birthday person uncomfortable as well as the other guests who followed the celebrant's wishes. If you feel you absolutely need to give the birthday person something, consider sending flowers or an arrangement of edible fruit after the party. Send it with a thank-you note that says "Thank you for including me in your birthday celebration."

3. Dress appropriately

Best birthday party etiquette requires appropriate attire. While tank tops and shorts are fine for a backyard barbeque in July, they are not the fashion for an evening birthday party at a fine restaurant. Always read the invitation thoroughly, as attire recommendations may be included. If it is a theme party and the host requests guests to dress in costume or other specific attire, ignoring the request is poor etiquette. Frilly party dresses are adorable on little girls for birthday parties. However, if the children's party is an active party being held at a park, skating rink or bowling alley, a fancy dress is inappropriate.

4. Never be the braggart, the whiner or the wallflower

Party games and birthdays go together like cake and ice cream. When playing games, the best birthday party etiquette requires guests to practice good sportsmanship and to participate. Performing a wild victory dance when you win at Musical Chairs is rude and immature, especially if you are more than 12 years old. Likewise, whining that others cheated and you would have won if everybody had played fair is poor etiquette. Accept defeat, congratulate the winner and enjoy a piece of birthday cake. Standing aside and not participating in any of the party activities is poor guest behavior. Even if the games seem silly, relax and join in. It is the celebrant's day and everyone should take part in making the day special, even if it means playing a game or two.

5. Be on time

When a birthday party invitation is received, always read it carefully. Note the party's start and end time. Even if an invitation lists the party time as "8 p.m. until ?" a time limit should be observed by the guest. Overstaying your welcome is never good etiquette. If you do end up as one of the last guests, be sure to ask the host if any help is needed with clean up. Parents dropping children off at kids' parties need to pay attention to party time specifics. If the invitation states the party is to run from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m., be sure to have your child there promptly at 1 and arrive to retrieve your child before the party ends. Be there about five minutes early so when the party concludes, you can help your child gather belongings, say thank you and leave on time.

Both children and adults should follow birthday party etiquette at celebrations. Ignoring etiquette guidelines can insult the birthday celebrant. Practicing good etiquette is not difficult. It simply requires a little thought and consideration. When the five etiquette rules have been acknowledged, remember one more. Always remember to wish the birthday person a very happy birthday.

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