The artists who crafted the song “The Best Things in Life Are Free” clearly did not have reunions in mind when inspiration struck.
While the warm feelings and gleeful smiles that accompany the reconciling of long-lost friends and relatives are priceless (and free), the process of bringing the event together is quite the opposite. Even if Aunt Mary and Uncle Red foot the bill for airfare, a rental car and a hotel room en route to your reunion, there are still a myriad of other expenses that can do considerable damage to a planner’s checking account.
The best way to ensure a reunion will transpire economically and on time is to establish a budget early in the planning process. Here are some pointers on preparing and organizing a budget.
1. Understand the budget’s objective
That objective, of course, is to avoid going broke. You also don’t want to upset the attendees, so it’s best to determine the reunion’s finances early and meticulously, so when you ask family and friends for money, you only have to do so once.
2. Determine the reunion’s attendance, date and location
In order to gain an initial understanding as to the event’s cost, it’s important to roughly establish how many will attend the reunion and when and where it will take place. Creating a separate list of invitees in checklist form will help keep track of those who accept an invite. Email is a recommended, cost-efficient route for the invitation process, saving you money on stamps and invitations and saving you the aggravation of licking a multitude of envelopes. Determining the event’s date and location can be tricky, especially if attendees are scattered across the country. If that’s the case, choosing a centralized location is the most efficient way to encourage guests to make an appearance. Adding a list of potential reunion destinations (covered in the macro expenses section below) will help you narrow down promising sites. It is strongly recommended this portion of the budget is resolved 12 to 18 months prior to the reunion.
3. Calculate macro expenses
These are major and necessary expenses virtually every reunion planner will encounter. Create a category listing these expenses below:
Venue: This will help a planner determine where to hold the reunion. The number of attendees (and the size of their pocketbooks) will give you an idea as to whether the event would best take place at a restaurant, banquet hall, a park or at grandma’s house. If a more casual location is chosen, tables, chairs, plates, glasses, napkins and silverware should not be forgotten.
Food: This goes hand-in-hand with the venue. If the reunion unfolds at a restaurant, the food options will most likely be limited to what that establishment serves. If it takes place in a banquet hall, at a park or at an individual’s house, the food can be catered. For those looking to save some money, a potluck is an excellent cost-saving option.
Drinks: Alcohol, be it from a keg, on tap, or offered by the bottle, alcohol is a major expenditure. Especially if bartenders are involved and the menu includes a variety of wines and cocktails. Calling establishments and getting prices on their alcohol offerings are a must while creating a budget. Not surprisingly, holding a BYOB event will drop the reunion’s dollar amount significantly.
Guest lodging: Depending on the size of the reunion, a planner will have to determine whether guests should stay in hotels or make other arrangements (IE: Sleeping on grandma’s pull-out bed). Group rates can be negotiated at some hotels, so research is recommended before booking.
Travel accommodations: Airfare, most likely, will be handled by those flying in, but if this duty falls on a planner’s shoulders, arrangements should be made early so attendees don’t risk being priced out or having flights fill up. Once family and friends are actually in town, a shuttle to and from the reunion is something to be considered if alcohol is a part of the plans.
4. Don’t forget about micro expenses
No detail is too small or insignificant when planning a reunion. While it may be a hoot to print up T-shirts with Uncle Bob’s infectious grin across the front, that cost still adds up. The same can be said for other possible purchases that don’t immediately spring to mind, including:
- Decorations (balloons, banners)
- Trinkets (Keychains, embroidered napkins, etc.)
- Printing costs for invitations, family tree chart or a newsletter
- Name tags
- Postage for invites
- Taxes that will be paid on everything that is purchased
5. Remember the miscellaneous expenses
Even if your family and friends are a laugh-a-minute bunch, there’s a chance you could be convinced to book some last-minute entertainment. Make sure to add such a scenario to the budget so you aren’t scrambling for ideas and begging for change as the reunion draws near. Here are some such options to consider:
- Disc jockey
- Gifts and prizes
- Unexpected costs (It’s recommended to budget an extra 5 to 10 percent for unforeseen expenses)
6. Decide on a revenue stream to fund the event
Reunions aren’t cheap. And unless you invented Google or have struck oil at some point, you might need help funding the festivities. There are several ways to earn enough capital to get the event off the ground. Creating a revenue section that is separate from the expenses section will help you deduce how much money will be coming in verses how much will be going out. On that list should include such ideas as:
- Donations (either financial or auction items)
- Miscellaneous fees (IE: T-shirt sales)
- Cost each attendee will be charged
7. Determine the cost per person
At this point, it’s time to break out the calculator and count up how much money is in the revenue section of your budget and compare it to the expenses portion. If the total cost per person will force your attendees to get second jobs, you should probably trim the fat a bit. After all, you probably don’t need to employ both the sword swallowers and fire jugglers for this year’s reunion. Maybe next year.
By Jason Paha