As any good event planner will tell you, organization is key. Planning a reunion is fun, meaningful and full of purpose, but it’s easy to get carried away and miss important details if you don’t plan carefully from the start. Whether you’re planning a reunion for four or 40, start early and keep records from start to finish. Check out the tips below to get you on your way to planning a reunion that is sure to keep everyone talking for years to come.
Make a plan
It can be tempting to jump right into the planning phase without a clear path ahead of you. Perhaps you envision a nice outdoor reunion set at a local state park, or maybe you’re planning a destination reunion complete with hotel rooms and entertainment for all. Whatever your plan may be, don’t begin until you’ve put pen to paper (or computer) and drawn up an outline of how you would like the reunion to play out. And, of course, don’t be shy when reunion planning. This is a big undertaking and going it alone can add unnecessary stress to what is otherwise a memorable time. When mapping out your reunion, be sure to think through the following:
- Location: Will this be a destination reunion for some or all of the invitees, or are you keeping it close to home? Reunion locations can range from a picnic space at a local park to a rented venue within a hotel, complete with all the amenities.
- Travel: How will guests arrive at the reunion? Perhaps driving in is possible, but you also want to research flight options and consider how each of your invitees may travel to the location. Will you need to reserve a block of hotel rooms?
- Entertainment: For some, the entertainment of a reunion comes simply from catching up with old friends, while others may prefer live music or attending a show to go along with THEday. Consider your guests and what would be the best option for everyone. Asking for feedback on several ideas beforehand is a great way to get help with the planning phase.
- Food: Perhaps you are planning a multi-day reunion out of town and have scoped out tasty local restaurants for the group. Or maybe you’ve reserved an event space and will have food catered. Whatever the case may be, food is one thing that you can be sure brings people together – so be sure not to overlook this important reunion planning detail.
- Invitees: Start putting together a contact list of invitees. This is also a useful list when it comes to keeping track of everyone’s preferences, any food allergies, or notes on when they will or will not be available for the reunion.
Get in touch
As you start the planning process, it’s best not to wait to get in touch with your invitees. Instead of picking out the perfect destination, booking entertainment and then sharing with everyone your grand plan, first get input from all of those you plan to invite. An email invitation is a great way to do this, as it allows for easy feedback. You may even choose to reach out before setting an official date. The online Doodle poll service, for example, lets you set up a poll to see when guests are available for an event, ensuring that you maximize attendance. If you reach out to invitees via email, this is also a great chance to get any feedback or thoughts on what you’ve been planning. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or opinions.
After you’ve been in touch and have a sense of date and preferences, you can send out a formal invitation either in the mail or electronically. Be sure to include your contact information, or designate a friend or relative for this job, so that leading up to the event there is an easy way to stay in touch for any reunion-specific inquiries.
Lay out a budget
You don’t need to break the bank when planning a reunion, but it’s best to outline your finances before setting out to select a venue and pick out entertainment. An outdoor gathering at a local park may just require a simple reservation in advance, while booking out a conference space in a hotel or convention center could run the budget up quickly. If you go into the planning phase with this in mind, you’ll be prepared to ask the right questions. A space alone isn’t enough to host a successful reunion – of course you’ll need food, entertainment and any other extras that cater to your guests’ tastes. For event spaces in particular, costs may be determined by number of guests, and there may be additional fees for extras such as catering, security, sound system and more.
Offer something for everyone
Reunions come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps it will be five generations of a single family, a close group of high school friends celebrating their 40th reunion, or a small and dispersed family getting together after over a year apart. Whatever the makeup may be, this is sure to be the biggest influence on where the reunion takes place and what activities will be available. Families may head to beach, while a group of old friends may take up relaxing in some Southern hospitality. It’s important to outline something for everyone in your reunion party, and be sure that there’s enough variety, and taking into account the mobility and level of activity among everyone in your group.
Have a backup plan
As any successful event planner will tell you, planning for a successful event also means considering what could go wrong. Could weather affect the location of the reunion? Did you reserve live entertainment that could back out at the last minute? Of course, it’s not fun to envision these scenarios, but doing mental damage control before an event and putting together a list of backups may save you trouble during the event and you’ll be glad you put time into planning ahead.
Keep everyone in the loop
Communication is key to a successful reunion. Should guests bring anything to the reunion? Are there any special travel instructions (for example, where/how to park at the venue, preferred airports for guests flying in, rental car information, etc.?). For a reunion of any size, guests are sure to appreciate the effort that goes into the small details, and everyone will be more at ease if they’re prepared ahead of time. Consider your guests and what might be the best way to keep in touch during the planning process. Between the invitations hitting the mail and the day of the event, guests shouldn’t be left with radio silence. Start a Facebook group, an email chain, a Google chat, or for those who are less inclined to technology, consider sending out an update by mail with relevant info that they can pin to the refrigerator.
By now you may have started scouting out the perfect reunion destination, or maybe you already have one in mind. Whatever stage you may be at in the reunion planning process, don’t forget to check out the wealth of resources available here for inspiration, ideas and contact information for destinations across the country.