It’s easier than you think.
Recently I had the privilege of organizing my 40th class reunion. Not serving on a committee, but rather brazenly just doing it myself. I’ve always been bossy, but this was mostly about not living in my hometown where I could rally a committee. The locals have done their part for past events, it was time to step up.
It wasn’t all that difficult.
Pick a date – In this case our hometown fair weekend to give people an extra incentive to attend. Establishing a social media site to gather opinions is useful along with sleuthing out preferences a year in advance.
Plan the events – This doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Estimate attendance (50% of the class plus about 1/3 of their spouses is a good guess). Select two evening venues and simple menus. It’s nice to add a Saturday event such as golfing or whatever the local outings are along with a Sunday brunch buffet to say farewells. Arrange cash bars for the evening events. Build gratuities into the per head price. Easy peasy!
Block some rooms – Pick a couple of the most popular local hotels and block a sufficient number of rooms according to their policies. These will likely be released 30 days out but if properly promoted will ensure that accommodations aren’t a barrier to attendance. Some classmates will still have local families, but many will need a place to stay, depending on how many decades have passed since the graduation caps flew in the air.
Build a spreadsheet – It is essential to have a way of tracking names, contact information, reservation details, and payments in one place. Start with the yearbook and build out a list of graduates. As you obtain contact information, share the “lost classmates” list with others to fill in the gaps.
Compile the materials – Create a flyer with the details. This doesn’t have to be a masterful graphic design piece – a simple word document is plenty. Registration forms, ala carte so people can pick and choose which events they and their companion will attend, and an invitation to submit a brief update for a reunion program. The program, also a simple word document, is a popular feature because it gives classmates the chance to read what everyone has been up to, whether they can attend or not. Using graduation pictures with each writeup really personalizes the stories. No need to print – a simple emailed pdf does the trick.
Promote the event – Build a Facebook page (because our generation still uses it), email is free and easy, direct mail if you have addresses and budget, and consider an ad in the local paper. Encourage word-of-mouth sharing as classmates are the best connectors.
Establish a banking plan – The easiest method is to have a reunion account into which you can deposit checks, preferably by mobile, and pay the bills. Getting the payments in advance saves a lot of work at registration.
Make the name tags – Scan senior class photos for the name tags. This makes it ever so much easier to remember the person that now looks vastly different. At registration, put those who paid in advance on one side of the table and those who owe at the door on the other side to facilitate collecting payments due. Be prepared for night of event payments to be in cash so have some change and a tracking method.
Honor the deceased – Sadly but inevitably a few classmates will have passed. Celebrate their memories with a slide show or other tribute.
Take mass quantities of photos – A group photo or two is a must along with as many candid shots as possible. These can be distributed later through a shared photo site and make for great social media posts.
Plan some music – Nothing brings people together like music from the year of graduation. Music apps are a great way to dial in the right tunes and get the party started. If you happen to have class musicians who are still playing, invite them to participate.
Plan to party – Once the work is done, all that is left is to show up and enjoy the festivities.
I must say that I was selfish about this reunion. I wanted to see my classmates and overcome the feeling of isolation from recent years. What I didn’t anticipate was how full my heart would be watching dozens of humans reconnect and engage as if no time had passed. Plans were made to get together. “Remember when” stories were everywhere. Cell phones were out showing children, grandchildren, pets, and homes. Old yearbooks were passed around sparking laughter and jokes. And, importantly, new memories were made to layer onto our freshly rekindled memories of high school.
Will I do it again? Absolutely! In fact, plans are already underway for a 45th reunion. Ten years is too long to wait to reconnect with those who witnessed some of the most influential years of our lives.
The opportunities for your next Montana adventure are unlimited and Cherry Creek Guest House is ready to serve as your home away.