By guest blogger Andrea Turk
It's official, you're old. You just received an email from a former classmate that it is time to start planning your next high school reunion. Once the shock wears off, the next question settles in. Where do we begin? Fortunately, I have assembled a to-do list that will help you organize a successful reunion (sorry, I can't do anything about your age).
Don't panic. Planning a high school reunion is a lot of work, but if you follow these simple steps, the process can be a lot of fun and virtually painless.
- Plan early for your reunion. Begin at least 9 months or more in advance. (Trust me, you will wish you had started a year ago!) Planning a reunion is a big production; make sure that you have ample time to complete all the important tasks.
- Enlist classmates to help. The more help you have, the less stressed you will be. Make sure that the committee is a diverse group from your class. You don't want the reunion to be focused on one group of people with one set of interests. Delegate, delegate, delegate.
- Budget wisely. When setting your ticket price include all the costs of the reunion, not just the meal. This includes the cost of entertainment, venue rental, tax, gratuity, postage, printing, decorations, Web site hosting, long-distance phone calls, etc. Be conservative when estimating attendance. You don't want to be stuck footing the bill because an item was omitted from your budget or fewer classmates attended than expected. Set up a bank account to deposit payments and pay bills.
- Pick a location and date early. Weekends fill up quickly with weddings and social events, so availability can be hard to find if you wait to book the event. Make sure to ask about deposits, caterers' food and beverage minimums and extra costs. Pick a menu with variety.
- Assemble and manage the guest list. Put a complete list of your classmates together using your commencement program, senior annual and information from previous reunions. This list should be in a database or spreadsheet that is easy to update and manage throughout the process. Include a method to track RSVPs, orders, payments, meal choice, etc.
- Start locating your classmates now. I cannot stress this enough. This is a huge, time-consuming process. You may have to call parents, siblings, old roommates, etc. to track them down. Use the Internet. Online phone books, alumni Web sites, and community Web sites are all beneficial.
- Create a fun, simple, and easy-to-read invitation. Make sure to list all the essential information (date/time, location, ticket price and attire). Also, include contact information of the committee member in charge of answering questions and responding to complaints. Don't forget to let your classmates know where to return the reservations and make their checks payable to. Include payment deadlines to encourage early registration.
- Get the word out early. People are busy during the summer months, so make sure your event is number one on their calendar and get the invitation out at least 4-6 months in advance.
- Make time for the "extras." The memorabilia displays, event program, name tags, memory books and table decorations are the things that people will remember years down the road. This will help make your reunion special, giving it character or charm (depending on theme, setting, decorations).
- Collect personal information on your classmates. You can compile it into a memory book for each alum to take home as a memento of the reunion.
- Remember, this is your reunion. Don't get so caught up in the details that you lose sight of what is really important. Reunions are about reconnecting with old friends, reminiscing about the good ol' days and looking forward to the future.
If all this prep work isn't up your alley, consider the alternative of hiring a professional reunion planner. Many companies provide reunion management services, handling all the behind-the-scenes details such as coordinating with vendors, locating your classmates and managing the database, paying bills, covering liability insurance for the event, staffing the event, and more. You can find a professional reunion planner at the National Association of Reunion Managers. Happy reunion planning!
Andrea Turk works with Reunions with Class, Inc., has been in reunion planning since 2001, and has helped more than 400 reunion committees organize successful reunions.