75+ Class Reunion Ideas: Tips for Planning a Class Reunion
5 Subjects You Need to Ace
"What's the point of going if we're not going to impress people?" asks Romy White in the definitive class reunion film "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion." And even if they haven't claimed to invent Post-Its, millions of Americans attend class reunions each year. But for many people, the events were less than ideal, whether they cost too much, were too far away, or were missing most of the class.
ClassFinders.com surveyed more than 10,000 alumni who had milestone high school anniversaries last year (10-, 15-, 20-year, etc.) on a range of topics about their class and reunions. We found out some interesting results (the fourth quarter of the year is reunion season!), but we also wanted to know what alumni thought could be done to improve future class reunions.
For those planning class reunions, our alumni members offer advice and ideas to ensure you pass your upcoming reunion with flying colors. Here are the five subjects you need to ace to make your reunion a success:
The single most common suggestion among survey respondents was to get the word out about the event. That seems intuitive, but according to our survey, the vast majority of reunions had well under half the class attending. And, sure, people may know about an event and simply choose not to attend, but when we sought ideas and suggestions for how class reunions could be improved, by far the most common idea was to proactively contact every person in the class.
What percentage of your graduating class attended the reunion?
How can you do that? According to our alumni members, post on Facebook, but do way more than just that. Plan well enough ahead that you give the reunion committee (you're not doing this by yourself, right?) time to get in touch with people beyond Facebook. Try to track down every single person in the class and get in contact with them personally, whether online, on the phone, or even in person. Publicize the event in local media, such as radio stations and newspapers, and if budget allows, consider a mailing in the local area to help spread the word.
According to our data, only 15 percent of reunions had more than half the class show up, and there's nothing worse than a sparsely attended party. Particularly for those who are traveling long distances, advance notice is crucial. Only 32 percent of our survey respondents still live in town.
Did you have to travel?
Another popular suggestion from our survey respondents was to arrange a tour of the school where you graduated, or even have the entire event at the school. While this will certainly depend on the rules and common practices at your school, giving class members a chance to reconnect emotionally with a place they spent years is something our members said they would find valuable.
If you're not able to arrange at least a tour, see if you can have some reunion organizers take pictures of the school as it is now (when the current students aren't around, of course, for privacy's sake), and create collages comparing what the building looked like in your day to what it looks like now. You can do the same for the area around the school to see how much of the local community has remained the same.
The second most common suggestion was to make the event cheaper. No doubt, "cheap" is a subjective term, but generally our data suggests that a safe price for an individual is under $50, as about half of respondents said their reunion cost was under $50 for an individual and about 62 percent of people said they didn't think the reunion was expensive.
What did your reunion cost for an individual?
One safe way of keeping costs down is having the event at a public venue, such as a community center, church, or park (weather permitting). While there generally still likely will be a fee, chances are, it will be less than what a private business would charge.
If you're just not sure what people would be willing to pay, ask them. Survey the folks you've gotten in touch with before you firm up a location and come up with a fair amount that most people would be willing to pay. You can then use that number to guide the rest of your planning, since you'll know the cost won't scare off most people.
The goal is having the nicest event you can afford to have, and that will depend largely on how many people attend, so the cost question is the most crucial to sort out. But if people have a great time, they likely won't care what their tickets cost.
Depending on how old you and your classmates are, it's possible they will have young children at home and therefore may not be able to attend a night-time event. Another common suggestion was to plan events that were family-friendly.
Many of our alumni members recommended planning events over the course of several days, or at least a morning/evening event where class members could bring their children and families to, say, a picnic in the afternoon and then attend an adults-only social event in the evening.
Our survey found that in 82 percent of reunions, fewer than a quarter of reunion events were kid-friendly. You will know best whether most of your classmates have young children at home and no ability to arrange childcare for the evening. Your goal is making the reunion a success, so if most of your classmates have young kids, perhaps an outdoor, family-friendly event is best.
The reunion year correlates highly with whether or not you will have children under the age of 16.
A / V Club
There's nothing wrong with a reunion where folks sit around and chat in separate groups about old times over a beer (or three). But if you're looking for a more interactive event, our members have some suggestions.
Put together a fun slide presentation showing pictures of classmates then vs. now. Include some noteworthy tidbits about classmates. Every school has that one kid who drove a really great car -- see how many people remember it. See if you can get your hands on video from graduation or other key events.
In the lead-up to the event, put together a quiz with various trivia about classmates. Who had braces? Who was on the track team? Who has the most kids now? Who served the most years in the military. Have classmates take part in the quiz the night of the reunion and hand out prizes to the winners.
Consider hiring a photographer or designate a classmate's spouse the event photographer. Don't just rely on people's iPhones to capture all the action. If your location and budget allow, hire a band to play music from your graduation era.
These are the core classes you'll need to get an A on your reunion planning. If you can master these tasks, you'll be the valedictorian of your class reunion. There was one genius member suggestion we didn't include; let's call it an extracurricular: "DeLorean rides, back to 1987." Sounds heavy.
75 High School Reunion Ideas
As part of our partnership with ClassFinders.com to survey alumni about high school reunions, we also asked respondents for tips and ways that they would improve their class reunion. Here is the big list of ideas to help with your high school reunion planning.
- Definitely cut the cost by making it cash bar and removing the DJ. Lengthen the time of the reunion. Name tags with high school senior picture on it and have us sign our name next to it. Yearbooks on hand to look at. By doing these suggestions, more will come.
- If it's going to cost, have it at a more classy place, where you have to get dressed up, not at a dumpy city bar where you wear your best jeans and plaid shirt.
- Keep costs down so more people would attend.
- A 15-minute slide presentation of yearbook pictures. Then and now.
- Add a live band.
- Add more music variety of the specific era. The Beatles were good, but to dance to?
- Arrange for more music and films.
- Arrange some slides or video. Some entertainment.
- Ask people to submit current pictures of themselves doing their favorite things, or with their family, or on vacation. I'd also make sure that everyone is shown equally.
- Before and after pictures with bios and accomplishments arranged by name.
- Class trivia in emails leading up to reunion -- how many have written books, retired, or other tidbits of info etc.
- Draw name of classmate and have to spend 15 min. with them and get to know each other better. Maybe report one interesting thing you learned about them for future newsletter.
- Gather pictures and fun facts to maybe make a DVD to play during the evening and then take orders for who would want a copy. Maybe people that could not be there send in pictures or a greeting of some sort
- Have a three-day cruise to Mexico on Carnival cruise line
- Have an old-time sock hop. We would need lots of room since most of us would have walkers, canes, motorized scooters, wheelchairs, or oxygen tanks attached. Still it would be fun.
- Have pictures taken by photographer.
- I would have had people introduce themselves and say a little something about their memories of high school. Then having people share what they had done since graduating. It could be about their career/family/travel, or just funny or interesting stories. Some kind of music, even a boom box.
- I would have more formal adult activities. Like let's get a ballroom at a Hilton chain hotel, with a DJ and full bar. Then we can spend time together at a nice beach and cook out where we can possibly stay the night. Also how about a charter bus take us to New Orleans for a day or two so we can enjoy some Louisiana food, music, and culture together?
- Make sure to have old pics from the past so we can recognize people better.
- Make sure we had internet connection w/Skype for classmates that couldn't make the reunion.
- Maybe have door prizes.
- Maybe have fun games so participants can inter-mingle more.
- Plenty of music from the past, photos of past and have classmates bring an updated photo to give to the committee. Yearbooks of 1972 on sale at the reunion. Order T- shirts for the next reunion. Put online as well. Or put a group picture on the shirt from the past reunion. Take orders and send them out before the next one. Trivia game of the years we were there. Sell raffle tickets for something to earn money for the next reunion. If you have it donated, we pay nothing and all the money goes to the reunion fund. If you have more prizes, you tickle people's ears to buy more.
- "Woodstock" might be a cool theme, since that also will be 50-year celebration a few months earlier.
- A day at a park with cookout, games, and activities.
- Add family activities during the day.
- Have a family-friendly afternoon BBQ with light entertainment. Low enough volume to allow conversations.
- Invite children, grandchildren.
- Invite children. Do it during the day with families.
- Add other-year classmates.
- Because our class is small and many have passed away, it would be nice to invite some of the classes ahead and behind us.
- Call on the class to make a concerted focused effort to locate the "MIAs" no one seems to know where they went to. In this day of Google and Facebook, we should be able to find some of them. Not finding fault with this year's planners, they did a terrific job.
- Combine different classes, particularly classes in the late '40s and '50s. A lot of graduates have passed away and the class sizes are sparce!
- Have a few more involved in contacting the strays.
- Try to appeal to those who weren't rich and popular and encourage people to move beyond their groups from high school.
- Use the mailing list.
Planning & Organization
- A year or two before the reunion year I would poll the classmates about what time of year they would like to have it. Then I would do some polling on what sort of activities people might like. The times and activities that work for people 10 years out of high school may not work at 20 or 30 years, you cannot base plans for the 20-year reunion on an exit poll you did 10 years ago.
- Advertise in local paper and spread the word by mouth after that and hope that everyone can still read and talk?
- Announce the date far in advance and plan for June, July, or August, which are normal vacation months.
- Arrange for affordable accommodations at a reasonable rate at nearby motels.
- Ask for more help in locating people.
- Ask the people on social media what events would they attend and who should attend. Only graduates or is spouse included?
- At our age we will need to have it close to a hospital.
- Be more aggressive with the trouble makers on the committee.
- Be sure one could talk to a real person who was involved. Not all of us have computers and/or smartphones. I have neither and go to the library to even get on my email.
- Between reunion years, have classmate get-togethers, such as luncheons several times a year. This would be throughout the country/world. The goal being to bring in people who rarely or have never attended meet with at least one other classmate. Invite teachers and classmates from immediately previous and ahead of our class. We were in many classes with them, too.
- Brochure providing positive advertising. Address making spouses feel welcomed by incorporating them into the event.
- Communicate more. Confirm your reservation, keep you up to date on events planned, spend less time with the group photo, which was complained about by many.
- Communicate! A lot of the alumni are scattered around the country. I did manage to go to the 20th (or 25th) reunion, but I haven't heard anything about any subsequent reunions. Please be better at getting the word out if a reunion is going to occur.
- Contact as many other classmates as possible and choose a neutral location for our reunion site. Planning for classmates with and without children.
- Contact people not just by social media but by the email addresses that they have asked for every time we had a reunion!
- Contact people one to two years early, and send reminders every six months if possible.
- Definitely need more outreach. Next year will be our 50th reunion and to the best of my knowledge, no plans are being made
- Go to classmates' homes and ask them to come.
- Have reminders, advance notices, calls, texts and/or emails about updates, payment plans, fundraisers (if applicable), etc.
- I actually am on the planning committee and what we are doing different is making it simple. Having our era music "in the background" primarily so that we can do more visiting. Also we're working diligently on growing our database and making more person-to-person contact.
- I would send out to everyone in my class and see if at this point in their life if they would rather go on a reunion cruise of all-inclusive resort. I would be willing to donate to those who wanted to go but could not afford it.
- I would try to include everyone, which means I would have a cover charge of $10 per person (for expenses) and would also hold a 50/50 raffle (to cover some of the expenses) and would have a "prize raffle", which would be separate from the 50/50 raffle. We would be giving out "donated" prizes, such as tickets to a concert or sporting event, James Logan baseball cap, sweater, jacket, etc.
- I'd suggest that each graduating class be clearly informed -- when they graduate -- regarding which class officers are responsible for planning the future reunions. And train them regarding their resources -- school, internet, community, etc. Why, for instance, doesn't our principal visit two or three Reno venue sites and negotiate a "Future Wooster High School Class Reunions Agreement?" Each venue would have a preferred status for hosting our reunions and in return each class would receive a discounted price or some other incentive.
- Make it known to the entire class through mailed invitations instead of social media. Only a certain group was targeted, which was the clique groups of the school year which caused others to feel uncomfortable.
- Publicize who was coming.
- A daytime (Sunday after church, Saturday afternoon/early evening) meetings for lunch/discussion-- seriously. Honest conversation about education, Blair, the '60s!
- A group tour of the school, a chance to see the alumni museum and an opportunity to meet and share with current students.
- A new venue, maybe a cocktail party.
- Add something for the next day. A picnic or a hike or both. Some people traveled from a great distance, and I just wanted to spend more time with them.
- Arrange a tour of the high school.
- Casual, inexpensive activity during the day and nicer, more expensive formal reunion in the evening. If money was an issue for some classmates they could choose to just do the daytime activity.
- Definitely more notice and maybe a more structured event. I work at a school that hosts reunions for all the reunion classes every year, and they begin organizing about a year in advance for each class. I was surprised at how casual our reunion events are in comparison.
- Ditch any thought of a sit-down dinner. Make the evening more relaxed for the attendees. We don't get to see our classmates other than reunions, so make it fun for all.
- Find a more casual setting. Start announcing the plans two years in advance and have everything finalized a year in advance. Lower the price, make it more festive, something that everyone can enjoy, even those with children.
- Good old-fashioned kegger.
- I travel over 700 miles to attend and one night for 3+ hours just isn't quite enough. I'd pick a bar/restaurant on a previous night and just let everyone know where it is and what time...come if you are available. Or have a picnic somewhere for a few hours on an afternoon.
- I would call around and get price quotes from hotels, country clubs, or restaurants for banquet facilities and what is provided. It should be done by each one of the reps in charge of planning the event themselves and not use a secondary vendor that supposedly specializes in reunions. The packages would be narrowed down by price, menu and value. I would reach out to all classmates and ask for help in any way they are willing to assist. And plan a year in advance.
- Make it involve the school. The 10-year reunion was far from where we went to school and overpriced for the little bit of food we got. Would rather have an activity where we have a gathering at the school. Some of us haven't been back since we graduated and it would be nice to see how it's changed.
- Move it to Homecoming week for our high school in the fall.