Is No-Showing to Kids’ Birthday Parties Becoming a Trend?

May 14, 2023 | Party Planning Tips

For as long as there have been kids’ birthday parties, there have been families too busy to show up to them. It’s simply an expected fact of our modern, over-scheduled lives that if we invite 20 people to our child’s birthday party, there will always be at least one or two who cancel at the last minute, or no-show without giving any notice at all.

But it would seem that in the last few years—at least if the #noshow kids’ birthday party posts on social media are anything to go by—that the number of people ghosting on kids birthday parties is on the rise.

Just google “no one showed up to my kids’ birthday party” and you’ll see story after story about parents who spent time and money on lavish parties only to have one or two—or in some cases, zero—kids show up for their birthday boy or girl’s big day.

“No One Showed Up to My Kid’s Birthday Party”: Welcome to Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare

While the internet is full of parenting horror stories about no one showing up to their son or daughter’s birthday party, two in particular have pulled on parents’ heartstrings in recent years.

In a now viral TikTok video, mother Breanna Strong (@breannamstrong) describes how she invited 27 of her daughter’s friends to a birthday party and not one of them showed up. The 12-second video clip pans over an empty party venue that shows her three-year-old daughter Ava sitting by herself eating a slice of pizza. Her mom throws away a pizza box with the text “Money and time wasted” overlayed on the screen.

Since the video was uploaded to TikTok in November 2022, it has received over 7 million views, almost 400,000 likes, and 20,000 comments.

Another mom, Kristen Layne, wrote about her son Mahlon’s sad 9th birthday party. In the article “Parents Please Don’t Forget to RSVP,” the mom of six describes how she threw an elaborate Diary of a Wimpy Kid-themed party for her son, fully expecting a house full of kids, only to have no one show up. Mahlon had been looking forward to the party for a year, as this would be his first real party outside of small gatherings with family.

Although his parents tried to make the best of it by continuing with the plan to eat pizza and cake and open presents, it was tough seeing how heart-broken their son was.

Why You Should Care

Other than the emotional pain that no-showing on a party can cause, this ghosting party trend is significant for financial reasons, too. Kids’ parties run anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to tens of thousands. When no one shows up, a lot of money goes wasted on food, decor, and goodie bags.

People would never consider not showing up to a wedding after they gave their word they’d attend. But what they may not realize is that for many, a child’s birthday party is a lot like a wedding celebration–at least in terms of scope and cost, with wealthier parents dropping $50,000 or more on a single child’s party.

Birthday Party No-Shows: A New Trend?

While flakiness is not new behavior, it has become more common over the last several years.

One survey shows that the average millennial no-shows to almost half of the events they promised to attend. And about three in ten (29 percent) of those people no-show so often, they’ve gained a reputation for being a “flake.”

Part of the reason for the increase in flakiness is that in the digital age, it’s simply easier than ever to just not show up. You no longer have to call someone on the phone to tell them you can’t make it to a party—in fact, thanks to the popularity of Facebook event invites, you often don’t even have to email or text. You can simply just change your status from “Going” to “Not Going”, or as is often the case, just not show up at all.

If someone calls you out for no-showing, you can blame technology, saying “you didn’t receive the notification” or you “responded ‘yes’ by mistake” or you simply forgot all about it.

Facebook also makes it even easier to be non-committal by providing the third option of “Interested.” This makes it possible to click “interested” on everything but commit to nothing.

But technology isn’t the only culprit. We can also attribute the no-show trend to society’s pervasive problem of over scheduling. Everyone these days, but especially parents, are over-committed.

A 2016 survey found, for example, that 52% of Americans are usually trying to do two more things at one time, and a 2018 survey found that 74% of parents said they felt too busy to enjoy life.

A third possible reason for the ghosting birthday party trend is that flakey behavior has become more acceptable, or at least more tolerable. One study found that 45% of millennials see nothing wrong with flaking. 

Why People Flake:

In a partnership with Evite, the market research company OnePoll conducted a 2,000-person survey that discovered some interesting insights into the reasons many Americans often flake out on events they previously agreed to attend.

  • They forget—50% of Americans no-show to an event after RSVP-ing “yes” simply because they forgot about the invite.
  • They’re too busy—11% of people flake on parties and other events because they overbooked their weekends or evenings.
  • They’d rather stay home—One in seven Americans no-show because they’d prefer to watch TV at home.
  • They don’t feel like socializing—One in five bail on an event because they don’t feel like being around people.
  • They think they’ll be bored—15% don’t show up to a commitment because they think it doesn’t sound interesting or entertaining enough.

How to Prevent No-Shows at Your Kids’ Birthday Party

Unfortunately, there’s no way to ever fully eliminate last-minute cancellations or no-shows, especially when children are involved. Kids get sick. They get injured. And their parents often get so busy, they simply forget and double book.

But there are a few things you can do to prevent no-shows. Below are a few ideas.

1. Understand that Parents Get a lot of Invites

Parents already have so little time as it is. Carving out a weekend afternoon for yet another kid’s party can often feel like too much when added on to an already packed schedule of school, homework, soccer games, and cello practice.

Let’s say a child has 30 classmates. That’s potentially 30 birthday parties a year the child would need to attend if they wanted to accept every invite—which equates to 2-3 birthday parties a month.

So if a parent declines your kid’s party invite, try not to take it personally. Instead, focus on shoring up the RSVPs of your child’s few closest buddies. As long as his or her best friend comes, it won’t matter as much if everyone else flakes.

2. Don’t Schedule the Party Close to a Holiday or Busy Season (like Spring Break)

One way to guarantee a flood of no-shows is to schedule your party around a major holiday or big event. When picking a date, keep an eye out for obvious holidays like Christmas or Spring Break, but also for less obvious ones, like another classmate’s birthday or a special school excursion.

Also, know that July, August, and September are the most common birthday months. So if your child was born in one of those months, you might want to move the birthday celebration to avoid competing with a mass of other party invites your child’s friends are likely to receive.

3. Get to Know Your Kids’ Friends’ Parents so you can Invite Them Personally

It’s not enough that your child’s friend wants to come to the party—their parents have to want to come, too. Afterall, the parents will likely be the ones doing the driving and the birthday present shopping. They may even be the ones staying at the party to do kid-patrol duty. Parents will be more likely to agree to the undertaking if they’re friends with you—or at the very least, know you—than they would if you’re just another name on a parent roster.

Good parenting is often about good networking, and sometimes it can be wise to bite the bullet and chat with the other parents in the school drop-off line or invite them over for dinner or a couples game night.

4. Call People Personally a Week in Advance as a Reminder

Technology makes it so easy to be lazy and fall into flakey habits. If you make it possible for people to flake on your party, they will.

To prevent parents from ghosting on your kid’s big day, reach out to them in person or by phone in the days leading up to the party. This way, they can’t conveniently “forget” about an invite. As it is with everything in life, people will be more likely to make the effort if you do.

Bottom Line: Plan for No Shows

Whether the birthday party no-show trend is here to stay or not is yet to be seen. Know that the reality of today’s busy world means that no matter what preventative measures you take, your party is still bound to get a few 11th-hour cancellations.

The best way to deal is to plan accordingly. Research suggests that on average, only 60% of invited guests show up to a party. When only close friends are invited, that number can go as high as 75%, but that’s still nowhere near 100 percent attendance.

So if you invite 20 kids, calculate that you can realistically expect—at most—about 12-15 to attend. And if fewer than that show up? Have some grace. Parents may be flakey, they may be over-scheduled, but they’re most likely doing the best they can. We all are.


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