In the scheme of reunion planning — the food! the location! the date! the activities! — invitations may seem like an afterthought. After all, it’s just the final step, right? Put the time, date and place on a postcard and let it do its stuff. But the truth is that skimping on your invitation prep process can mean fewer attendees. And this process starts well before you even begin comparing invitation design templates. In this article, we’ll show you how to manage the entire invitation process, from the very beginning until the very end.
Before You Send: Getting the Word Out
Your first step is to publicize your reunion. Outside of a small family reunion, where a few quick phone calls can take care of spreading the news, you’ll need to recruit just about every outlet there is. Start by creating a reunion website and a Facebook page. You can also use Twitter, LinkedIn (for professional reunions) and other social media sites to pass the word.
If your reunion is through a school or a special interest group, see if they will post information about your reunion on their website and social media pages. If you’re holding a large reunion, contact the local media and ask if they will publicize it. Or place ads in the relevant newspapers and magazines.
Now that you’ve done the large-scale publicity, continue to a more personal outreach. Start by emailing or calling anyone who might be interested. Direct them to your website or Facebook page, where you should have basic surveys (date, duration, place, budget) for them to submit. You can also ask them to contact anyone they know who might like to come. At this stage, you’re building excitement and anticipation — and word-of-mouth advertising is great for that.
Finding Missing Contact Info
It’s very rare that you’ll have a complete list of all your classmates, fellow servicemen and women, or extended family members. In that case, it’s time to do a bit of specialized detective work.
Your first resource should be lists of attendees from former reunions (if available) and personal networking. You can also do quite a lot using social media and online people searches to find attendees. For example, if you know someone’s general whereabouts, you can enter their name and state into WhitePages’ search engine.
If you set up Facebook event and group pages, some reunion attendees may find you! The process is easy; if you have an existing Facebook account, you can enter basic information about your group or event, set the pages as public, add a photo and publish them.
Some reunion types have additional help available when it comes to finding missing invitees:
- High school and college reunions can check their class, school or alumni websites for information. Many other websites, like com, let people connect with former school buddies, but only if these have a profile on the site.
- Large family reunions often have an unofficial family “genealogist” who keeps track of far-flung relatives. If this isn’t available, check out sites like com, which can show you where your family tree leads. Again, using Facebook or another social media site can be a great help in tracking down family reunion invitees.
- Finding your old military buddies can be challenging. Fortunately, many organizations can help you pass on a message; there’s a comprehensive list on this gov page.
In all cases, don’t underestimate the power of making personal appeals to other attendees — most will be glad to help you find your “missing” invitees.
What the Best Kind of Invitation?
Sent invitations come in two flavors — traditional paper invitations and today’s digital e-vite. They both have their pros and cons.
Paper invitations are more formal, easier to remember and more expensive. They range from $1 (DIY) to $10 (custom design by a pro) each, not including postage. If you send customized save-the-date postcards (about $1 each, plus postage) as well, you’re looking at a minimum of $2.50 per address.
Digital invitations are much more cost-effective. Evite offers customized e-mailable invitations for free (with branding shown on the invitation) or for $.10 – $.33 each with delivery included and no branding. Just like paper invitations, digital invitations can be customized or even designed from scratch. They can also be delivered in various ways, including through social networks and text messages. (Check to see what your company of choice supports.) The downside is that electronic invitations might get overlooked, sent to the Junk folder or labeled as unimportant because they’re not perceived to have the gravitas of paper invitations.
In the end, the final decision is going to rest on your budget and how tech-savvy your attendees are. Either way, you have no shortage of companies competing for your business — Vistaprint, FedEx, and Shutterfly are just three well-known options.
What to Include on a Reunion Invitation
Keep the actual invitation short and simple. You can begin with an introductory sentence or two (“Our roots make us strong.” “It’s that time again!”), but other than that, stick with the basics:
- Date (If this is a multi-day reunion, list the opening and closing dates, i.e. June 2-4,)
- Special Occasion, if any (25th anniversary, etc.)
- Events and Activities, if any (Dinner, Dance, Show)
RSVP information can go on the card if it’s simple (“Call Meg at 555-1212 by January 21”) or if it’s a link to your website or Facebook page. Otherwise, add a line to let guests know if additional information is included or will be following shortly.
In the past, it was considered mildly taboo to mention money on an invitation, but you can include a short announcement of ticket cost (or per-person donation) if you feel it is appropriate. If you want to play it safe, list this information on the RSVP reply form or on the website.
Are you done? Maybe not. If your invitations went out well in advance of the event, you may need to send a follow-up postcard or email. In addition to event reminders, include any changes to the per-person costs and the finalized schedule of events.
It helps to think of reunion invitations as their own multi-step process rather than as a one-time task. This way, you can get the maximum amount of attendees to your reunion and keep the communication cycle flowing.