High School Reunion Ideas: Planning a Class Reunion in 75 Days (Part Two)
Planning a Class Reunion in 75 Days, Part The Second
This is part two of my series on planning a class reunion, and will explore selecting a venue, contracts, deposits, essential vendors and negotiation with those vendors.
We planned a class reunion at the 11th hour - on a shoestring budget - and you can too!
Part one can be found here: Part One
Where should you have your reunion event? What types of contracts will you have to sign? What types of vendors should you consider having for your event? How do you negotiate with them?
1. Location, location, location
A common adage in real estate is that it’s all about location, and this is just as true when it comes to planning a reunion. Now, let’s clarify: the event itself is about your classmates and reconnecting, celebrating what you’ve done in the years since you graduated, and having a great time, but the location you pick will have a great impact on the amount of planning that goes into it, the cost, and the accessibility to your attendees. Some common locations for a reunion are parks, banquet halls, pubs, hotels, and amusement parks.
We opted for a hotel and their ballroom. Initially, the committee had selected a very high end location with its main thing going for it being its lofty reputation in the area. Admittedly, it was a beautiful property, but the main drawback was the price tag, which when adding everything together, was over $18,000.00. Much pricier than we had room for in our budget when I became involved at the 11th hour and looked at the situation (i.e. we hadn’t raised dime one yet). Once we decided to cancel the initial location it became akin to extracting an impacted molar to get some of our deposit back, but that’s a tale for another post.
Why a hotel? There were several reasons for this:
1. Out of town attendees traveling in for the event would have a place to stay right at the location where the event was being held.
2. Locals would have a place to stay that would allow them to stumble off to bed afterwards without having to worry about driving home. Many of our classmates continued the party at the hotel bar after the ballroom closed for the evening without having to drive to another location and then were able to simply walk to an elevator and go right to their rooms - very convenient.
3. The bartenders in the banquet hall, the catering details, basic table decoration, and room setup were all handled by the hotel staff and included in the price tag. Coordination and final decorating details were handled by us, but it made it a lot simpler by having one point of contact to work with. We were even able to get a final diagram so that we knew where everything was going to go the day of the event.
Hotels will require a signed contract and a deposit from your group to move forward. I was able to provide the debit card tied to the reunion account for the deposit, catering bill (paid for 3 days prior to the event based on the final count) and the final bill for our open bar cocktail hour and 2 extra plates for last minute attendees. This made things much more convenient for us and the hotel since I didn’t have to write checks for each item.
Be sure to have detailed discussions with your chosen venue, covering all of the details, including what fees are charged for any extras such as using their AV equipment. Once you have discussed and confirmed that you and your event coordinator are in agreement, you’ll receive a contract for approval. Read your contract very carefully. Most contracts require a commitment to a minimum dollar amount, meaning that even if only ten people show up, you’re on the hook for the dollar amount you agree to. You need to be sure that you are as conservative as possible and have a good estimate as to how many people are actually going to attend by who has actually paid for their tickets. I made sure that the contract included verbiage that allowed us to increase our final number without a penalty so that we could start out with a lower number. If it doesn’t say what you think it should, or there are any errors, contact your event coordinator and propose the changes that you feel are needed. Our contract went back and forth three times before I signed it. Remember, once you make your deposit and sign the contract, you’re committed to it. It’s very important that you interview your venue beforehand and feel that they are accommodating and excited about helping you make your event a success. If they aren’t helpful and responsive, pick another right away.
By holding our event at the hotel, we were also able to negotiate special room rates for a block of rooms and provide a link on our website which allowed our attendees to book their rooms easily. We had a separate rooming contract which showed the rate for rooms, the dates, and allowed us to have 1 free room for the committee to use to change for the event after setting up. We also were able to use this as a give away for the night if we had a guest that had too much fun and couldn’t drive home.
Your needs may differ, but we had several vendors involved in the process. Some you might consider essential and others optional. Once thing that you will want to keep in mind is asking your classmates if they know someone that can perform any of the functions you are looking for. This is a great way to save money, since they might be able to get you “friend prices.”
Music is an essential part of your evening. A good, professional DJ will be able to put together a list of essential songs that you want to have played as well as have a great magazine of songs that your attendees can request. Professional is the key word here, since having a sound system and the right equipment which doesn’t need to be supplemented by using the hotel’s AV equipment will save you a bundle. Our DJ not only gave us “friend prices,” but worked with us to run our video presentation through his sound system, announced winners to our contests, and allowed us to use his microphone for our few speeches for the evening.
A former classmate from a different graduating class provided us with great discounts on beautiful centerpieces and votives for our tables.
Our photographer helped us document our evening and did group photos of our class, active or retired military members, and couples. He didn’t charge us for the event, opting instead to make the photos available for purchase on his website.
We worked with a very inexpensive and accommodating signage company to have a beautiful banner designed to display and have our class photo taken under, since our school had nothing of that nature.
A printing company that our high school uses for programs for banquets, fundraiser events, and school plays was able to give us a great deal on programs.
We were lucky enough to have both some talented hobby artists and amateur designers among our classmates, as well as having one of our classmates married to a professional graphic designer which meant that we received pro bono design work giving our printed materials and website that extra level of sophistication.
Video Production Studio
An alumnus from our high school pursued a career in video production and gave us great prices on studio time and production services, allowing us to take old photos and old videos and combine them into a great presentation that elevated the typical boring slide show and video presentation into something incredible. He was also able to convert all of the analog materials into a slick DVD that we played at the event and provided copies of as free keepsakes to our classmates after the event. We also had a classmate that was a film major that helped coordinate and design the presentation.
Again, asking around and being creative can really payoff. We gave free program advertisements to our vendors and listed them as sponsors on our DVD as a thank you for their support.
Based on the popularity of the first two parts, I will be including two additional parts which will take the form of an e-book. It will also include expanded information for parts One and Two.
Part Three will deal with money raising activities, finding missing classmates, ticket pricing and sales, and in kind donations.
Part Four will give things that you will want to have at the event, final details, checklists, and links to resources we used for our planning.
More by this Author
High School Reunion Ideas In this series of articles, I’ll share how we planned a class reunion at the 11th hour - on a shoestring budget - and share some helpful tips, as well as some pitfalls to avoid.