Class reunions are the perfect opportunity to reconnect with “lost” friends, see what everyone has been up to, and show off a little bit yourself. But planning a class reunion can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never done it before – and even if you have. Follow these 3 steps to plan and host the perfect reunion!

Plan

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Promote

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Host

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Plan Your Class Reunion

The Checklist

Select your Planning Committee

Ideally these folks will be your back-up and help to lighten the load. Therefore, when choosing who you should have on your planning committee, pick people who you will not only get along with but people who have enough free time to help you out.

And those closest to you may not be the best choices – it may lead to disagreements or even arguments that waste valuable time and resources.

Also, keep in mind that having a diverse group of committee members means that each will bring a different set of skills to the table.

Hold Your First Meeting and Set the Date

It is very important to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. So when you’ve narrowed down who will be on your class reunion planning committee, get together at the earliest opportunity. The first thing you should do is set a date. That way you have a concrete timeframe in which to get everything done. That will help immensely when you start laying out your reunion’s timeline.

Plan the Hijinks (A.K.A. “Activities”)

The point of having a reunion is to get people who haven’t seen each other in years together but then what? Chances are things will be quite boring (picture crickets chirping) if you don’t have some sort of structured activities for the guests to engage in.

Ideally you should have some sort of ice breaker game to get tongues wagging right off the bat. You should also have a video or slide show – something that helps you all reminisce about the way things were – which will probably earn some laughs and go a long way toward getting people to interact.

Quiet time is also highly recommended or set aside a given area so people can catch up on their own terms without feeling like they’re holding the group back. Whether your reunion is a one-night affair or takes place over a long weekend, pacing is important. Giving people a little breather between events allows them to de-stress and refresh.

Plot Out a Budget

Once you have your activities planned you’ll be able to estimate how much money you’ll need. The venue rentals, catering, production services (videographers, DJs, and photographers), outside activities, and any service related fees vary tremendously, so do some footwork in order to get the best price/value combination. And it’s always a good idea to overestimate so you don’t run into problems as the date approaches.

Recon and Reserve Your Venue

The biggest ticket item you’ll have to foot the bill for is your venue. However, you may not need a fancy ballroom that holds three hundred people. Some of the best reunions are laid back affairs in intimate settings. However, once you have an estimated attendance rate and a budget within which to work contact possible venues immediately.

To avoid SNAFUs with double-bookings, rate discrepancies, and “lost” reservations book early and get everything in writing. (Also, call to confirm a month or so in advance).

The Timeline

24 Months Out

Form a committee of enthusiastic and energetic alumni to help you with all of the “heavy lifting.”

Brainstorm ideas for venues, entertainment, and catering (and remember it’s okay if you don’t want to do a big fancy production; however, even backyard barbeques take a lot of planning when large numbers of guests from all around the country and beyond – some of which you’ve no doubt lost contact with – are involved.)

Plot out basic activities to do during your reunion: school tours, homecoming games, rounds of golf, spa dates for the ladies – everything and anything right down to the ice breaking games you’d like to try.
Set the date or dates (keep in mind that a multi-day reunion gives your guest the chance to really connect and will create a very memorable experience for them all whereas a single evening event, while fun, may just be too short.)

Begin to shop around for venues (go online, make calls, visit these places in person.) The venue is probably the most important part of your reunion planning and will determine what else can and will go on from the catering right down to the number of people you can invite.

Develop a budget that fits your needs based on the number of people you intend to invite. (This preliminary budget can be altered once the details are nailed down but going into the planning phase without an estimate of how much you can and should spend is a bad idea.)

Start digging up those addresses – email or otherwise – telephone numbers, and friend-of-a-friend contacts so you can track down all of your old classmates. This process can sometimes take time so start soon.

18 Months Out

Finalize your venue. Doing so this far in advance will not only ensure that the place is available on your dates but will provide you something to “hang” the rest of the reunion on during the planning process.

Another thing to keep in mind – especially if you’re planning a multi-day reunion or are planning to invite large numbers of alumni – is to make sure there are hotel facilities available for your guests. One option is to reserve blocks of rooms at one facility. That way everybody is right in one place and the reunion can carry over even after the guests have left the venue.

Now is also the time to line up any services you’re planning on having: catering, valet parking, photography/videography. These professionals are often in high demand and reserving their time this far in advance will help avoid scheduling conflicts and help you to choose the right provider.

12 Months Out

Send out the initial invitation announcing the reunion, the venue, and the price per ticket (something you’ll have to figure based on the number of guests you’re hoping for and the budget within which you are working.)

Promote your reunion. It’s not enough to send out paper invitations anymore. Publicize the event with emails, web pages (an excellent way to create a “one-stop shop” where your guests can get all the info they need and order tickets), put ads in the newspapers, contact your old school or alumni association and ask them to get in on the act (most have newsletters that go out monthly).

Put down deposits on all your purchases, venue, service providers, and entertainment.

6 Months Out

Send out the registration material. This will help you determine the actual number of guests you are having and finalize any planning.

Call all of your service providers – including the venue – to confirm your date. This is a very important step and will help avoid any last minute SNAFUs that might derail your reunion.

Meet with hotel and reunion venue staff to go over your expectations and their limitations.

1 Month Out

Finalize the last minute details and take care of any crises that may have arisen.

Promote Your Class Reunion

The Checklist

Create Your Event’s Web Page

Having one central webpage from which your guests can gather all the information they need (date, time, location, price), and from which they can purchase tickets is extremely helpful. Anything you can do to make the process easier for your guests will not only leave them with a better impression of you and the reunion as a whole, but will also increase your attendance rates.

Make a List of Alumni

You can start by contacting your old alma mater to see if they have a list of names and addresses (they most likely do) or you could check with the alumni association if one exists. From there, you can ask those for which you have contact information about others who have “disappeared.” And keep in mind social sites like Facebook and Twitter make it so much easier to find people you’ve lost (and send them to your reunion’s web page).

Set Ticket Prices (and Put them Up for Sale)

Set-up your online and offline ticket-purchasing as soon as you’ve narrowed down the venue. The sooner you can get the word out, the more likely it is your guests will push that buy button.

Keep in mind, ticket prices can be used to offset the cost of the affair but they may not cover the whole thing. If you set your prices too high, you’ll have fewer people – too low and you’ll be stuck paying off a huge bill. Find somewhere comfortable in the middle and promote your event like it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

It may also be helpful to quietly suggests donations to help cover whatever gaps between cost and ticket sales might arise.

Send Out the Invites!

Ask, tell them that you asked, and ask again! Invitations have a way of getting lost – in the mail or once they’ve arrived at the addressee. So after you’ve sent your invites, follow up – either through telephone, snail mail, or email (which is by far the easiest). Doing so will also help you nail down those crucial RSVPs.

Tips

Finding old classmates

The internet is a lovely way to connect with old classmates. You can use Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and even dedicated services like Classmates.com. However, your fellow former students may be the best resource you have available.

When contacting a potential guest, ask them if they have information about any other former students. And don’t forget to ask about relatives of those people as well – sometimes your former classmates may “drop off the face of the earth” but often their parents or siblings may be easier to find.

Getting everyone to show up

You need to promote your event. Don’t just send out invitations. Build a web page on which you can easily display all of the necessary info: location, time, ticketing info, contact information. Then get in touch through snail mail, email, and even telephone. Also, don’t forget to remind those folks once the date gets closer – people forget.

The best day of the week to have a reunion

Ideally, weekend days work best with Saturdays being the best out of the bunch. People tend to work on Fridays and spend time with family, etc. on Sundays. However, if you’re planning a multi-day event, beginning the festivities on a Friday will optimize the amount of time you have available.

To Cater or Not to Cater

All reunions should have some sort of food competent – eating is a social activity and can break the ice easier than any name game you might want to play. However, that doesn’t mean you need to hire an expensive caterer and serve a four course meal.

Some reunions work just fine as pot luck dinners, others work better with professionally crafted hors d’oeuvres. And, if your reunion is a little more elegant you’re probably going to want to cater a sit-down dinner of some sort. Again, what you offer to eat depends a lot on what type of reunion you’re planning and which venue you choose – so start planning early to explore all of your options.

Host Your Class Reunion and Have Fun!

The most important part! Your class reunion should be a blast—not only for your guests but for you as well. Don’t let the planning and hosting duties overwhelm you. Give yourself permission to have a good time and let your guests do the same.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should we start planning?

You should, ideally, begin planning your reunion two years from the date. However, 12 months should be enough time to allow planning of a successful event. Keep in mind, though that may sound like a lot of time, allotting that much can ease the planning process and help minimize the effect planning the event has on your personal life.

What sort of event should we plan?

That depends highly on your class as a whole. Whether you’re planning an elegant and refined event or a backyard barbeque it’s important to take into account the attitudes and demeanors of your former classmates. Some may enjoy a more relaxed event – which are generally more “fun” and allow people to really catch-up – while others are looking for something a little more refined. In the end, it boils down to personal taste.

How big should our budget be?

That depends on the number of people you’re inviting and the estimated cost of your event. One of the biggest costs will be venue rentals. The next highest will probably be catering, followed by entertainers (if any) and reserving hotel space for travelers. Once you have a ballpark idea about those costs – which depend on the type and length of class reunion you’re planning – you can then narrow down a budget.

Where should we hold our event?

Again, that depends on the type of event and the number of guests. While many reunions are held at conference centers or even dedicated events centers, some reunions are held on campus (especially college reunions). And, if simple is the name of your game, one of your classmate’s backyards or camps may be the ideal place. Wherever you choose to hold your event, securing the venues should be one of your first priorities as these types of places tend to be very busy – especially during certain times of the year.

How can we find the best venue at the best possible price?

That comes down to good old fashioned footwork (which the Internet has made a whole lot easier). Do some Googling, look in your local newspaper, or even the Yellow Pages to get a feel for what sort of venues are available in your area. Next, contact those venues and ask questions until you’re blue in the face. How many guests can you have? What’s the best price? Are there any discounts? Next, visit the venue in person to see if it suits your needs.

What sort of activities should we have at our reunion?

You can go extravagant and plan spa days for the ladies, golf games for the guys, a full-on concert with a local band, or as “crazy” as you want – based on your budget of course – but there are a few things that every class reunion should have:

  • Ice breaker games to get people talking
  • Some sort of walk down memory lane (slideshow, video, yearbook presentation)
  • A memorial for classmates who have passed away
  • “Quiet time” so small groups of classmates can catch-up at their own speed
  • Presentation of “awards” (The most changed, the most similar, etc.)
  • Recognition of individuals and their achievements (somebody raised two children? Published a best-seller? Started their own company?)
  • Giveaways or gifts (anything from flowers from a local florist to full weekend getaways and anything in between.)
What sorts of giveaways/gifts should we have?

Gifts are something that your guests can take away and remember the reunion by. You may choose to have small remembrances for each guest (photo packages, a DVD of the reunion’s proceedings, tickets to a homecoming game) or bigger “prizes” you can use for “awards ceremonies” or as incentive for participation in ice breaking games.

These can range from floral arrangements to spa day gift certificates or even weekend getaways (ask the venue for special rates). It all depends on your budget, your guests, and how much time and effort you want to put in.

How can we avoid a crunch-time crisis?

Start early and double-check arrangements often. Don’t wait until a week before the event to call the venue and confirm. Also, get everything in writing and pay deposits. Putting money down will add weight to your arguments and make service providers and venue rental staff less likely to “forget” or “misplace” your reservations.