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Party Etiquette

Being British, the importance of having good basic party etiquette is crucial to me.

It became even more important as I became a mum and had cause to attend and host many a child’s party and, importantly, to witness some appalling behaviour amongst parents and children alike.

Sometimes the parents are worse behaved than the children when it comes to parties.

With that in mind, I’ve written and would like to share my top tips for good Party Etiquette:

  1. Invitations

There’s a way of inviting people to a party where you don’t offend and upset those not invited.

It’s impossible to invite everyone to a party, so there will always be someone missing out – and that’s just life. You can, however, be respectful to those not invited.

For example, if it’s a child’s birthday party, be careful about how you handle the invitations. eg, if there’s 10 boys in the class and you’ve invited 8 of them to the party, then that’s pretty mean and it’s not teaching your child kindness either.

Likewise, giving out party invitations at school can be heart-breaking to children not receiving an invitation. I’ve seen a little girl fighting back tears before as another girl paraded her party invitations to the whole class and made a song and dance about singling out those invited.

Likewise, with the addition of social media, posting photos of yourself and others at your party onto facebook and Instagram can give others FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – so be respectful and try not to show off if you know there are others you couldn’t invite.

TIP 1 – be humble about the invitations and respectful to others. Send invitations to homes or hand-deliver on a weekend. Think about how your own child would feel if they were the only one not invited to a party – and how you would feel as the parent. You can’t invite everyone but at the same time, don’t just leave 1 or 2 out.

  1. Receiving gifts respectfully

Something about birthday parties brings out the worst in some children. I’ve been to parties where kids have snatched the present from me as I’ve walked down the driveway and ripped it open straight away. Only to throw it on the floor and grab the next unsuspecting guest.

I’ve also been to parties (and hosted them) where you have to fend off greedy grubby hands from stealing the lollies and decorations of the birthday cake.

And oh…those children who keep asking me for their ‘take-home bag’ as the party is ending.

TIP 2 – Receive the presents respectfully – we have a large bucket/ box which I decorate with balloons and ribbons and that is the birthday present box. My children have been taught that it is rude to ask and expect a present but if someone does happen to bring them a gift they must politely say thank you and put it in the box to open later.

At the end of the day, after cake and before all the guests go home, we sit them in a circle around the birthday child and each guest child gets to pick their present out of the box and hand it to the birthday child. Then the birthday child can open it nicely and really appreciate and understand what has been bought for them. Not only are they more aware of the gift that person has taken the time to buy, but the other children love seeing their friend get pleasure from something they have given them.

(it also allows me to write down the present list by each guest’s name which makes life easier for thank you cards!).

  1. Arriving and leaving on time

It sounds like common sense but it is incredible how many people turn up rudely late and, worst still, outstay their welcome at the end.

Chances are the host/ hostess has put a lot of investment into this party and are feeling pretty frazzled and looking forward to putting their feet up at the end of it.

Respect the time on the invitation and turn up on time. They have probably spend a long time carefully planning the running order and timing of the day and they don’t need a rude guest ruining it.

Likewise, leave when the party ends – don’t outstay your welcome and if you are collecting a child from a child’s birthday party then make sure you collect them on time – not an hour after the party has ended.

  1. Always turn up with something – even if the host tells you just to bring yourself. ‘Just bring yourself’ is code for turn up with a bottle of wine or box of chocolates or something to contribute. ‘Just bring yourself’ is your host’s polite way of saying they have dinner under control but a gift or bottle of wine for the host/ hostess is always welcome.
  1. “No gifts please.”

When the party invite says, “No gifts please”, does it really mean ‘no gifts’? Here’s the thing – it probably doesn’t. It’s just the birthday girl/ boy being humble.

  1. Thank you like your mother taught you

It used to be completely expected to write a thank you note after the party (whether it’s thank you from the host for the gift or thank you to the host for having them).

Nowadays, with technology and the internet taking over, it should be easier than ever to write a simple thank you text or call the next day if you can’t find the time to sit down and write a note. Yet it’s getting rare to get thank you’s at all

Basically,  a thank you to the host is always a must-do.  As a host, it’s nice to receive acknowledgement of how much effort you have put in for the dinner or party you have hosted

If it’s a birthday party, you or your child should write thank you notes for all the presents they received. You as the adult are teaching your child the art of appreciation – basic skills and lessons your child will learn for life.

And….it doesn’t cost much to send a quick text and it goes a long way to the host feeling appreciated.

For the full Paul Henry interview click here:

Written by

Jacqui Lockington is a working mum. Jacqui works full-time for an advertising agency in New Zealand and juggles life at work with being mum to two young children, Jack and Sasha. Jacqui is married to John and has published her first book with co-author, Nat - If Only They'd Told Me. She does public speaking and regularly blogs and records podcasts. Jacqui trained in journalism in London and worked in radio, newspapers, public relations and advertising before moving to New Zealand where she currently lives with her family. You can contact Jacqui at