Detailed Reunion Planning

Reunion planning should be fun! Everyone will have their own ideas of what your reunion should be like, so it takes good leadership to find just the right mix that will make everyone happy and want to attend. For the VHS Class of ’68, our planning meetings were like mini reunions. We eventually had to publish and distribute an agenda before each meeting so that we could get some tasks accomplished and decisions made as we enjoyed visiting and catching up on news so much it was hard to get on with business. We made time for visiting before and after our meetings. The fun you have in the planning will be reflected in the event you hold!

How do we form a reunion committee?
Every reunion begins with the formation of a reunion committee. Start by forming a core local team of dedicated and enthusiastic individuals who are willing to go the extra mile to ensure a successful reunion. Appoint a reunion chair who will arrange and drive meeting agendas. Appoint a treasurer to create a budget and oversee finances, a secretary to record and circulate the minutes and agendas, and a registrar who will lead the search for missing grads and handle registration for the events. Beyond these 4 key individuals, solicit classmate volunteers who can actively participate and be assigned to work on various reunion tasks. Don’t underestimate the work involved. Share the work among as many people as are willing to help. There are many details and arrangements that have to be taken care of.

Successful reunions are the result of successful committees. Committees that are active and well organized will be positioned for success. Organizing a successful reunion can be a truly enriching and rewarding experience where old friendships are re-established and new friendships formed.

When do we start?
Some reunion committees begin forming and start planning up to two years in advance of their reunion. The amount of lead time you need really depends on how elaborate an event you want, but generally the more time you give yourselves the better! Whether you are planning a simple family picnic or a formal event, you will want to start planning at least 12 to 16 months in advance. Don’t expect to pull off a successful reunion if you start planning just 6 months before the event, as many of your classmates will need significant lead time in order to participate, especially those living far away. Another consideration is that prime locations and other services you need for your reunion may require 1-2 year advance booking.

Where do we start?
There are good resources available on the VHS Alumni website www.vichigh.com  Read what other grad classes are planning by looking at Upcoming Reunions and descriptions of successful reunions on the Past Reunions page. The Alumni Association has two Reunion Co-ordinators who can offer advice – contact them at reunions@vichigh.com  The website also has sample forms for registration, budget planning, and Silent Auction.  As you are contacting your classmates, encourage them to register on the Vic High Alumni website. 

How often should we meet?
Your reunion committee should plan to meet once a month either in person or via conference call. You may even consider augmenting some of your meetings by using an online chat room or message boards. This can be a convenient and inexpensive way of discussing some of the finer details of the reunion and may make it easy for non-local classmates to participate and contribute.

What work items do the reunion committee need to consider?
Consider dividing the work activities of your reunion committee into subcommittees or work groups. Here are some of the tasks you will need to consider:

  • date selection
  • event venue(s) and format
  • event program (speakers, tributes, etc)
  • event location / lodging selection
  • create a timeline and logistics list for every event
  • financing
  • classmate contact listing
    • contact reunions@vichigh.com for a class list
    • create an Excel spreadsheet that includes postal addresses, email addresses and phone numbers
    • divide among committee for initial phoning
    • search for missing classmates (Canada 411, Facebook, internet search)
  • website development / maintenance/ updating
  • decorations
  • entertainment
  • photographer
  • registration & name tags
  • silent auction
  • mementos
    • reunion / memories booklet
    • novelties
    • prizes / awards
    • the Alumni Assoc. sells VHS Wear
  • marketing & communications
    • mailers, emailings
    • newspaper and internet advertising (Facebook and a website)
  • tribute to deceased classmates
  • additional reunion activities, such as school tours, pre- & post-reunion events, golf tournament
  • class gift to school or the VHS Alumni Association

What are some of the upfront expenses we might incur?
Expenses might include: stationery supplies, postage, printing (reunion booklets, name tags), gifts / novelties, decorations, website development & hosting, liability insurance, reunion facilities deposit, entertainment deposit, deposits for additional activities (tours, etc).  Ask your committee members for their registration fees early to provide start-up funds. Some committee members who have incurred expenses may be willing to wait for reimbursement until after the event. Seek sponsors and donations! Plan a Silent Auction in case of unforeseen expenses.

TIMELINE FOR SUCCESS
While it’s a good idea to begin planning your reunion as soon as possible, here is a timetable to consider for planning your event.

Twenty-four months before
Form a committee
Recruit and appoint subcommittee members
Survey classmates for ideas and venue preferences (optional)
Determine event format
– picnic, dinner-dance, etc
– informal, formal
– single day event, multi-day event
Brainstorm additional activities (school tours, etc)
Set date(s) **
Create a simple website that includes Reunion dates, event descriptions, registration info, a Missing Grads page, a Who’s Attending list, Silent Auction info
Scout potential reunion facilities and hotels
Develop budget ** (this is very important!)
Start developing mailing/email list

Eighteen months before
Select and reserve reunion facility and hotels
Arrange for and hire entertainment, caterer, photographer, etc.

Twelve months before
Determine cost per ticket (as per budget)
Send a Save the Date mailer/email announcing date and location of reunion
Publicize reunion information
– public web sites
– newspapers
Arrange for additional leisure activities (sightseeing tours, etc.)
Pay deposits if required

Six months before
Confirm all reservations, caterer, entertainment, etc.
Select menu
Meet with reunion venue staff

Four months before
Make payment arrangements with all suppliers for group functions
– meals, tours, photographer, DJ, etc.

One month before
Finalize any last-minute details
Write a time line for each event so all committee members know exactly what and when things are happening – click here to see a sample______(available soon)

When should we have our reunion?
Friday or Saturday are the most desirable dates to consider for your reunion. The most popular times of the year to have a class reunion are spring through late fall. Thanksgiving weekend is also a fairly popular time as many classmates may be in your home area visiting family for the holiday. There are several factors you should consider when selecting a date. Certainly the weather is more accommodating during these periods.  If your classmates are in the child-rearing stages of life, the summer months might be a more ideal time while children are out of school, especially for those classmates travelling from out of town. Of course fall is also a wonderful time of year as it evokes memories of homecoming.

Should we have a single day or multi-day event?
Some classes just have a one evening reunion event while other classes host multi-day reunions. Those classmates who have attended reunions repeatedly echo the same words after the reunion is over – “the evening went by too fast” – “there just wasn’t enough time to talk with everyone I wanted to.” How do you pack 5, 10, 20, 30 years of each other’s lives inside of 5 hours? The answer is you can’t. Hosting a multi-day reunion however gives your classmates additional time to relax and get reacquainted. This is also a far more attractive option for those travelling from afar to attend the reunion. It may involve a little more work to host a multi-day reunion but offers many advantages to your classmates. Following are some suggestions for the weekend should you choose to hold a multi-day reunion.

Friday night
Many classes kick off their reunion activities with an informal Friday night get-together that are referred to as ‘Mixers’, ‘Warm Ups’ or ‘Icebreakers’. This is intended to loosen classmates up in an informal and relaxed atmosphere prior to the grand event. Typically these are held at a local restaurant or bar. Usually light appetizers are served and classmates pay for their own cocktails. Keep this event simple. Don’t put a lot of extra stress on yourselves as you need to direct most of your energies toward planning the big event. If a Mixer is not offered, consider getting together informally on your own with some classmates you were close with in high school. It gives you extra time with those you were closest with.

Saturday 
While the night is typically reserved for the big event, consider adding some daytime activities. One of the most popular ones is a tour of the school. After 10, 20, 30 years, this can be a wonderful rejuvenating experience to once again walk the hallowed halls of your youth. If your event happens to coincide with the school’s homecoming or a school event, encourage classmate participation and try to organize special seating arrangements so your class can all sit together. Some classes also organize activities such as a morning golf outing or a local sightseeing tour.

*No matter what pre-reunion events you plan, don’t underestimate their value in terms of making classmates more comfortable attending the reunion event. They all serve as relaxers or anxiety reducers that can help make the big event a smashing success.

Sunday
If your class isn’t already burned out from Friday and Saturday festivities, you might want to consider a wind-down event such as a Sunday picnic. This is a chance for any last- minute catching up and saying goodbyes in a less hectic atmosphere. For younger classes, make it a family event with spouses and children invited.

What kinds of activities should we provide at the reunion?
If you are planning a more formal evening event, the night will probably include a sit-down dinner and likely musical entertainment.  You can add some formality to the evening with an official opening welcome and a few brief speeches and awards before dinner.  Perhaps a tribute to classmates who have passed away. One thing you need to remember is that people are coming to the reunion to catch up with old friends. You need to allocate the majority of the evening to free socializing. You might also want to consider setting up a continuously running slide show of old class photos in one corner of the room – this is always a great attraction. Consider setting up a nostalgia table for classmates to view memorabilia and artifacts from your class past – this is a great way to jog faded memories and spark discussions amongst classmates. Ask each of your classmates to bring one piece of personal memorabilia for the nostalgia display. If you want to encourage dancing, make sure your music provider plays music from your era. Consider booking the fabulous Vic High R&B Band.

Staffing the event
Unfortunately the reunion committee’s job isn’t over after all the plans and arrangements are complete. On the day of the reunion there is still the work of registering guests as they enter. You’ve worked hard and you too deserve to enjoy the reunion. You might consider asking friends or family members to handle this for you. You might even be able to make arrangements with volunteers from the class year ahead of you or behind you to provide this service in turn for providing this service at their reunion. Given the likelihood that they may know people in your graduating class, it could be an attractive opportunity for everyone.

Make sure there is a plan in place for the end of each event for the clean-up and collecting of memorabilia, lost and found, etc.

(… with thanks to Centerville Elks Alumni website)

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