Planning Your 20 Year High School Reunion
So you want to plan a High School Reunion
If you're like me and somehow ended up in charge of planning your 20 year High School reunion, you may not know the best way to go about doing so. I just finished mine, and wanted to share a few tips and tricks we learned along the way. My basic outline for the event was to focus on Past, Present, and Future - in that order.
The first step was to organize a committee. I used our class Facebook group and quickly found about 10 people who committed to help, and ended up having about 5 strong people who followed through to the end. This was a huge help, and we coordinated our efforts in a separate Facebook group and with Google docs that made things really easy.
I then typed up the list of our classmates into a spreadsheet from the yearbook. Looking back, there were probably more efficient ways to do this (one of our classmates later on posted all of the yearbook photos up and he probably could have made the list much quicker than I did). We used this to track who had been invited and who was planning to attend. One of my goals with the reunion was to ensure it was well publicized so that no one had the excuse "I didn't know about it". I wasn't expecting everyone to be there, but I didn't want people complaining over something I could help control!
Our class has an organized Facebook group that had about half of our classmates in it when we started publicizing the reunion. The first thing I did was encourage people to add their friends, and we soon reached about 80% of the class through Facebook. The other 20% or so seemed to be "Facebook free", but as the reunion got closer, we were able to reach out to many of them by posting lists of names of those we were looking for.
Once we had the group organized, I created an album for those who had passed on - with their high school photos and any other information I had. I then asked people to contribute information on others we may not have known about. It was hard to see all of the names - we had about 15 out of our class of 600 that we knew of - but it was good to see all of the memories people shared about them.
The next step was to have people share their own history of what's been going on for the past 20 years. This was the part that really helped people get to know each other again and many of our classmates were very open in sharing both the good and the bad that had happened. It was a great time to reconnect and I think it helped make the actual reunion more fun since we didn't have to start with a blank slate for everyone.
The event - invites, planning and execution
We settled on a location (the school), a caterer (Mexican food), and a price ($25/person) and started inviting people.
The photo above shows the steps we used for invites to the actual event. It ended up being a bit more complicated so we could avoid some of the fees different websites choose, but if you build the fee into the price it might be easier just to sell tickets on Eventbrite or a similar site.
We actually held four separate events for the reunion:
- Family picnic: On the day of the reunion we held a bring-your-own-lunch picnic in the park. People could come with their families and we were able to socialize in the park. We had about 100 people show up for that event, and a few people who only came to that part so it was nice to see them there. The only thing I might have done different is to have people bring dessert to share.
- Dinner: This was the actual reunion, and we charged $25 a person as mentioned above. This covered the dinner and desserts, and with the reunion at the high school it was a "dry" event. People were able to show up early and tour the school to see the changes that have been made over the past 20 years, and it was a fun night. We had about an hour to socialize before dinner, then after we ate we had a program that lasted about 45 minutes. The program was two videos - one about those who had passed away since we graduated and the other was to honor those who have served in the military or police/fire and other services. We played a game to get to know people with categories such as who had the most kids, married the longest, moved the most, etc. and gave out gift certificates to the winners. I then took some time to speak, along with one of the other planners. We then took a big group photo and many other smaller group photos, to include Elementary School groups. One of the planners came up with the great idea to make signs for each elementary that fed into our high school and we could meet up with others from that school to take a picture and reminisce. It was great!
- The after-party: One of the planners reserved a roof deck at a local bar for those who wanted to continue to party. We also had a good number of people who didn't want to pay for the dinner but were able to show up just for the program part of the reunion and then went to the bar. With that and the picnic it gave people different ways to attend depending on their personal preference.
- Virtual Reunion: We broadcast from each of the events in the Facebook group so people who weren't able to attend in person could participate. I hadn't tested my connection at the school beforehand, and this is one thing I wish I had done a bit better in planning, but someone else was able to broadcast and we were fairly successful in getting most of the program accessible online. It was fun to also be able to go back and see some of the videos after.
Overall, I feel the event was a success! We had great participation online before the reunion, and altogether had nearly 200 of our class of 600 who attended one of the events. Keeping the costs low, making a variety of events for people to attend, and being proactive in tracking people down made a big difference, and I believe led to a more successful reunion.
Who knows if Facebook will be around for the 30th, but I'm sure many of the lessons we learned and memories we made will make it a great event in 2028!