Planning the Perfect Class Reunion
The following is meant to serve as a guide in planning your reunion. No two reunions are alike but every reunion requires upfront planning to be successful.
How do we form a reunion committee?
Every reunion begins with the formation of a reunion committee. Start by forming a core local team of dedicated and enthusiastic individuals who are willing to go the extra mile to ensure a successful reunion. Appoint a reunion chair who will arrange and drive meeting agendas. Appoint a treasurer to oversee finances. Beyond these two key individuals, solicit classmate volunteers who can actively participate and be assigned to work on various reunion tasks. Don't underestimate the work involved. Share the work amongst as many who are willing to offer their help. There are many details and arrangements that have to be taken care of. Successful reunions are the result of successful committees. Committees that are active and well organized will be positioned for success. Organizing a successful reunion can be a truly enriching and rewarding experience where old friendships are reestablished and new friendships formed.
When do we start?
Some reunion committees begin forming and start planning up to two years in advance of their reunion. The amount of lead time you need really depends on how elaborate of an event you are planning but generally speaking the more time you give yourselves the better! Whether you are planning a simple family picnic or a formal event you will minimally want to start planning at least 12 to 16 months in advance. Don't expect to pull off a successful reunion if you start planning just 6 months before the event as many of your classmates will need significant lead time in order to participate especially those living far away. Another consideration is that prime locations and other services you need for your reunion may require 1-2 year advance booking.
How often should we meet?
Your reunion committee should plan to meet once a month either in person or via conference call. You may even consider augmenting some of your meetings by using an online chat room or message boards. This can be a convenient inexpensive way of discussing some of the finer details of the reunion and may make it easy for non-local classmates to participate and contribute.
What work items does the reunion committee need to consider?
Consider dividing the work activities of your reunion committee into subcommittees or work groups.
Here is a listing of some of the tasks you will need to consider:
- date selection
- determine event venue and format
- event program (speakers, tributes, etc)
- event location / lodging selection
- classmate contact listing
- postal addresses, email addresses, phone numbers
- search for missing classmates
- web site development / maintenance
- registration & name tags
- reunion / memories booklet
- prizes / awards
- marketing & communications
- mailers, emailings
- newspaper and internet advertising
- deceased classmates tribute
- additional reunion activities
- school tours, pre & post reunion events
- class gift to your school
Here is a listing of some expenses you might incur along the way. One thing to consider to avoid these expenses is to use a professional reunion planning service. Many of these services will handle all your upfront costs for you.
- Stationary supplies
- Printing (reunion booklets, name tags)
- Gifts / novelties
- Web site development & hosting
- Liability insurance
- Reunion facilities deposit
- Entertainment deposit
- Deposits for additional activities (tours, etc)
Timeline for success
While it's a good idea to begin planning your event as soon as you know you are going to have one, here is a timetable to consider for planning your event.
Twenty-four months before
Form a committee
Recruit and appoint subcommittee members
Survey classmates for ideas and venue preferences
Determine event format
- picnic, dinner-dance, etc
- informal, formal
- single day event, multi-day event
Brainstorm additional activities (school tours, etc)
Scout candidate reunion facilities and hotels
Start developing mailing list
Eighteen months before
Select and reserve reunion facility and hotels
Arrange for and hire entertainment, caterer, photographer, etc.
Twelve months before
Determine cost per ticket Send initial mailer announcing date and location of reunion
Publicize reunion information
- public web sites
Arrange for additional leisure activities (sightseeing tours, etc.)
Six months before
Mail reunion registration materials
Confirm all reservations, caterer, entertainment, etc.
Meet with hotel and reunion venue staff
Four months before
Make payment arrangements with all suppliers for group functions
- meals, tours, photographer, DJ, etc.
One month before
Finalize any last minute details
When should we have our reunion?
Certainly Friday or Saturday are the most desirable dates to consider for your reunion. The most popular times of the year to have a class reunion are early summer through late fall. Thanksgiving weekend is also a fairly popular time as many classmates may be in your home area visiting family for the holiday. There are several factors you should consider when selecting a date. Certainly the weather is more accommodating during these periods especially in areas of the country where the winters are cold. If your classmates are in the child rearing stages of life the summer months might be a more ideal time while children are out of school on summer vacation, especially for those classmates traveling from out of town. Of course fall is also a wonderful time of year as it evokes memories of homecoming and football games. You may want to consider coordinating your event around your high school's homecoming as it offers an opportunity for classmates to participate in additional activities on your reunion weekend.
Should we have a single day or multi-day event?
Some classes just have a one evening reunion event while other classes host multi-day reunions. Those classmates who have attended reunions repeatedly echo the same words after the reunion is over....'the evening went by too fast'...'there just wasn't enough time to talk with everyone I wanted to'. How do you pack 5, 10, 20, 30 years of each others lives inside of 5 hours? The answer is you can't. Hosting a multi-day reunion however gives your classmates additional time to relax and get reacquainted. This is also a far more attractive venue for those traveling from afar to attend the reunion. It may involve a little more work to host a multi-day reunion but offers many advantages to your classmates. Following are some suggestions for the weekend should you choose to hold a multi-day reunion.
Many classes kick off their reunion activities with an informal Friday night get together that are referred to as 'Mixers', 'Warm Ups' or 'Icebreakers'. As these names imply this event is intended to loosen classmates up in an informal, neutral and relaxed atmosphere prior to the grand event. Typically these are held at a local restaurant or bar. Usually light Hors d'houevres are served and classmates pay for their own cocktails at these gatherings. Keep this event simple. Don't put a lot of undo stress on yourselves as you need to direct most of your energies toward planning the big event. If such an event is not offered, consider getting together informally on your own with some classmates you were close with in high school. It gives you extra time with those you were closest with.
While the night is typically reserved for the big event, consider adding some daytime events. One of the most popular events you might want to consider arranging is a tour of your old high school. After 10, 20, 30... years this can be a wonderful rejuvenating experience to once again walk the hallowed halls of your youth. If your event happens to coincide with your school's homecoming or a school football game, encourage classmate participation and try to organize special seating arrangements so your class can all sit together. Some classes also organize activities like a morning golf outing, local site seeing tour or a group shopping trip.
*No matter what pre-reunion events you plan, don't underestimate their value in terms of making classmates more comfortable attending the reunion event. They all serve as relaxers or anxiety reducers so to speak that can help make the big event a smashing success.
If your class isn't already burned out from Friday and Saturday festivities you might want to consider a wind down event such as a Sunday picnic. This is a chance for any last minute catching up and to say your good byes in a less hectic atmosphere. For younger classes, make it a family event with spouses and children invited.
What kinds of activities should we provide at the reunion?
If you are planning a more formal evening event, certainly the night will contain a sit down dinner and likely music entertainment. You can add some formality to the evening with an official opening welcome and a few brief speeches and awards before dinner. Perhaps a tribute to classmates who have passed away. One thing you need to remember is that people are coming to the reunion to catch up with old friends. You need to allocate the majority of the evening to free socializing. You might also want to consider setting up a continuously running slide show of old class photos in one corner of the room....this is always a great attraction. Consider setting up a nostalgia table for classmates to view memorabilia and artifacts from your class past....this is a great way to jog faded memories and spark discussions amongst classmates. Ask each of your classmates to bring one piece of personal memorabilia for the nostalgia display. If you want to encourage dancing make sure your music provider plays music form your era.
Staffing the event
Unfortunately the reunion committee's job isn't over after all the plans and arrangements are complete. On the day of the reunion there is still the work of registering guests as they enter. You've worked hard and you too deserve to enjoy the reunion. Some facilities may provide this service for you or you might want to consider asking friends or family members to handle this for you. You might even be able to make arrangements with volunteers from the class year ahead of you or behind you to provide this service in turn for providing this service at their reunion. Given the likelihood that they may know people in your graduating class it could be an attractive opportunity for them as well to help out.