There's a lot of reasons you want people to respond to your party invitations. Maybe you need to give a head count to the party venue or plan enough food for your party at home. Perhaps you wanted to personalize the favors. No matter the reason, placing an RSVP note on an invitation means you expect a response. Since you were courteous enough to invite someone, they should return that kindness with a simple reply.
It's not always that easy. There are always going to be parents who don’t RSVP just because they can’t be bothered. Other parents may not have even seen the invite. Some parents may not actually understand what RSVP means.
So, what’s a party-planning, I-really-need-a-head-count parent to do? The truth is, other than to only invite the kids for whom you have some kind of contact information; there isn’t a surefire way to guarantee an RSVP from every invitee. There are, however, a few methods you can try to help encourage a better response.
Include Digital Response Choices
The more options you can give parents the better. Many folks feel awkward calling someone they don’t know to turn down a party invitation. By adding a less personal option allowed some a chance to avoid an awkward conversation yet still RSVP.
It seems that the more options you provide for responding electronically, the more likely you are to collect more replies, so go ahead and add an email and text option to your invitations.
Reverse the "Regrets Only"
The term “regrets only” on an invitation means simply that you don’t need to RSVP if you plan to come, but please call and let the hostess know if you can’t make it. Unfortunately, most folks seem to do the opposite: reply if they are coming and ignore the invitation if they are not.
Instead of using the term “regrets only,” why not add a note that says something like “RSVP only if you plan to attend. All non-responses will be considered a no.” Since this is what most people do anyway, it’s an efficient way to clarify that someone who doesn’t call should not show up anyway on the day of the party.
Yes, this could come off as rude but planning a party for a large group of kids is difficult enough without having the lingering question of whether 16 people who never replied are going to show up at the last minute and create a shortage of birthday cake. If your event is being held at a kids’ party venue, indicate in your note that the venue is requiring an accurate headcount by a certain date and won't be able to accommodate more than is accounted for.
Give Them a Reason to Reply
You may not be able to entice everyone to respond, but you can fish out a few responses by adding notes about why you need a response (other than the obvious headcount). For instance, you could personalize the birthday party favors. If you do, add a note that says, “Please respond with the correct spelling of your child’s name for personalized party favors.” This would encourage some of those last minute folks to make a commitment sooner and avoid showing up and having their kid be left out of the fun.
You could use this same strategy to indicate that you need an accurate response to make sure you have enough cupcakes or prizes for the party games. Sometimes, parents really don’t realize that the numbers matter when planning a birthday party, so there’s nothing wrong with gently pointing it out to them.
In the end, there really is no way to ensure every guest will respond in a timely manner (or at all), but a few of these strategies should encourage more of a reply than a standard “RSVP by 10/12” is likely to garner.