In a busy, fast-paced world, many people find it challenging to stay in touch with close friends, see family regularly, and maintain older relationships. When was the last time you saw your old classmates or reconnected with your childhood friends? If you can’t remember the last time, you’re not alone, but it’s been too long. A high school reunion is a fantastic excuse for old friends, acquaintances, and classmates to get together, catch up, and reconnect. If you don’t know how to plan a high school reunion, don’t worry. We can help.
In this guide, we walk you through the entire process from beginning to end. We show you how to break humongous tasks into bite-sized, manageable pieces as we explain how to plan a high school reunion from start to finish. Whether you’re heading up a planning committee or attempting to organize a reunion all on your own, you can accomplish the task following this step-by-step guide.
How to plan a high school reunion your classmates will want to attend
Track down former classmates
Typically, the class president for a graduating class is in charge of planning and executing future reunions. If they’re not interested or unavailable, or you’ve noticed that a reunion date is approaching without an event announcement, you may need to take it upon yourself. Figure out what plans are in the pipeline (if any at all). If no reunion plans are on the books, you’ll need to track down classmates and start the planning process.
Reach out to your high school to see if they maintain an alumni database. Alumni databases regularly update with added details provided by former students. Many high schools, colleges, and higher learning institutions stay connected with former students; they maintain a database to keep track of graduate accomplishments, relocations, students who have passed away, and other important announcements.
Planning Tip: If your high school maintains a database, it’s the perfect place to start. If not, create or check your Facebook Group, invite former classmates, and ask them to extend invitations to others.
Measure interest in the event
Whether you attended a massive high school with a graduating class of thousands or a small, local school with less than 100 classmates, you will still need to meet a threshold of interest to justify the cost and effort of planning a reunion. Your target audience needs to be interested in the event to justify the amount of time, energy, and money invested in planning a high school reunion.
After connecting with classmates via the school’s database, email, or social media, ask former classmates to complete a survey regarding a potential reunion. Ask a range of questions, including:
- Are you interested in attending the event?
- Who is willing to participate in the planning process?
- What would former classmates want to see at the event?
- What events were most significant in your high school experience?
- How much would each person be willing to spend on reunion tickets?
Inquire about general availability, willingness to travel, and preferred type of event venue. Your classmates may want to wine and dine at an upscale restaurant, revisit a local hangout, or take a walk down memory lane through the halls of your old high school.
Planning tip: Use provided feedback to select a reunion date and location.
Enlist the help of a planning committee
Anyone who learned how to plan a high school reunion the hard way can confirm: even if you started the process alone, helping hands will make planning easier. Form a planning committee and get the process started. Ask volunteers to participate in the planning and organizational process and delegate duties accordingly.
You can expect a variety of reunion opinions and visions to come into play, often with conflicting opinions. As a result, you must oversee the delegation of tasks, duties, and responsibilities, but don’t be a control freak. You might coordinate the overall planning process, but that doesn’t mean the event is about you. To plan a high school reunion that feels inclusive, you have to be willing to accept ideas that are not your own.
Planning Tip: Encourage input from committee members and foster a collaborative atmosphere.
Establish an event budget
Before the booking process begins, create a preliminary budget for the reunion. Establishing a budget early in the process helps the planning committee determine the scale of the high school reunion. Planners can estimate that approximately 40% of their graduating class will attend the reunion, and about half of the attendees will bring a guest. For example, if your graduating class had 200 people, you could estimate that eighty alumni would attend. If 50% of attendees invite a guest, planners should anticipate that 120 total guests will attend.
Approximating the attendee count will give the planning committee a starting point to build an event budget. After estimating event attendance, determine how your team will fund the event. Discuss various budget details, such as:
- Can you pull from a previously established school fund?
- Will you request donations or sell tickets?
- How much should tickets cost?
- Who will pay venue and vendor deposits?
- How will you reimburse deposit-payers?
- Will you track reunion payments and funds in a reunion-only bank account?
High school reunion planning committees typically sell tickets to cover the cost of the event. For example, if you were to charge $75 per ticket, selling 120 tickets would provide the planning committee with $9,000 to fund the event. Create VIP ticket packages that include a memory book, VIP parking, or other unique offers, at a higher rate, to raise additional funds for the event.
Planning Tip: Make copies of all ticket purchases, guest payments, and checks before depositing them to ensure accurate financial records.
Brainstorm big-picture details
Based on your budget, review potential event themes, venues, optimal dates, event program ideas, entertainment options, and activities. Do you need to find a low-cost event venue so you can spend more on refreshments and entertainment? Can your budget accommodate event staff, or will you need volunteers to take service shifts during the event?
Determine the event service style you can afford, such as a buffet or four-course plated dinner. Which bar service style will you offer at the reunion: open, partially open, or cash bar? Hosting an open bar will be the most popular option with guests but is also the most expensive option to fund.
As you brainstorm big-picture ideas and define event objectives for your high school reunion, confirm if there are any quirky ideas, activities, or events you’d like to include in the schedule. For example, your reunion may boast a “Prom Portraits” photo booth. Former classmates can change into their senior prom outfits, reenacting prom photos here. Encourage classmates to match their current look to their yearbook photos. Hold a contest to see which attendee can match up the highest number of yearbook photos to guests at the reunion for the chance to win a prize.
Planning Tip: Get creative with high school reunion activity ideas. Don’t be afraid to be silly, look silly, or have fun!
Book an event venue
After determining the best dates for your high school reunion, you’ll need to find and book the host venue. If the event can’t take place at your high school, look for an event venue that can offer the services and resources you need, such as:
- Onsite event staff
- Food and beverage service
- Parking or shuttle service
When contacting potential host venues, inquire about their deposit requirements, cancellation policies, and guest count requirements. Special event venues that provide food, bar, and customer service during events commonly charge based on the anticipated number of guests in attendance.
Planning Tip: Avoid hidden fees by discussing setup requirements, noise restrictions, cut-off time requirements, and other venue policies before signing a contract.
Book vendor services for the reunion
Research high school reunion vendors early to identify the right vendors for your event and retain their services. In addition to hotels and an event venue, you may need to book various vendors to accommodate your high school reunion, including a caterer, DJ, bar staff, and a professional photographer. Many event vendors require a down payment or deposit to secure their services. Keep track of deposit due dates by adding them to your event planning calendar.
Planning Tip: If you’re struggling to locate event vendors in your area, ask the venue director for recommendations.
Set up a reunion website to sell tickets
Once you’ve booked a venue and vendors to host your high school reunion, you should start selling tickets as soon as possible. Before inviting classmates to register and purchase tickets, however, you need to create a place for them to do so. Create a registration process, and sell tickets by creating an online event page with a ticket sales service. Zoom Events, Eventbrite, Aventri, Ticketmaster, and other ticketing sites allow event planners to create an event page and sell tickets to the event, all in one place.
Planning Tip: Use an event ticketing software app to speed up guest check-in at the reunion.
Send official reunion invitations
Mail official invitations to announce the reunion at least six months before the event. Create festive invitations that excite former classmates and encourage them to book tickets early. Outline the date, location, and time of the reunion, and include RSVP information. Send future guests to the reunion website, registration page, or Facebook Group. Invite former classmates to purchase tickets for the event and register through the appropriate platform. Provide contact information for the planning committee, hotel room block information, deadlines, and other important information on your event website.
Planning Tip: Set the cut-off date for purchasing tickets before the venue requires a final guest count to prevent overspending.
Finalize last-minute details
As the reunion date approaches, organize a meeting with reunion leaders to finalize event details, such as the reunion setup, order of events, and vendor services. Use event diagramming tools to plan the layout of your event, experimenting with different arrangements, designs, and configurations. Consider whether open or assigned seating is best for your high school class and the overall flow of the event.
Work with the planning committee, speakers, and special guests to finalize your event timeline and plan the schedule of events for each reunion activity. Set aside time to celebrate the accomplishments of your classmates, former teachers, and coaches. Create a multimedia tribute to your class and include a brief immemorial tribute to honor former classmates who are no longer with you.
Planning tip: Contact the venue, vendors, speakers, or reunion entertainers to ensure that there are no outstanding items or tasks that could cause confusion on the day of the event.
Frequently asked questions about planning a high school reunion
When do high school reunions happen?
High school reunions typically occur at specific rotating intervals, such as every five or ten years. Some schools host more than others, inviting graduates to reconvene every five years, while others only gather for milestone dates, such as their 10th, 20th, 25th, or 50th reunion.
How do you increase high school reunion ticket sales?
Promote the event as the cut-off date approaches to increase reunion ticket sales. Send email reminders a few weeks before the registration deadline and again a few days before. Build buzz with sneak-peek behind-the-scenes video, and share content from your high school days on social media to create a sense of nostalgia leading up to the reunion.
Why do people attend high school reunions?
The most common reason people attend high school reunions is to connect with old friends. If you’re just learning how to plan a high school reunion, you can expect old cliques to form back up at the event, which can be helpful when planning the seating chart or high school-related games and activities.
You just learned how to plan a high school reunion!
Now that you know how to plan a high school reunion, it’s time to start the process. You have the timeline, tools, and tips needed to arrange a high school reunion that your classmates will be excited to attend and will never forget. Get organized, form a committee, and get the party started!
Next up, we take a closer look at the ins and outs of organizing large-scale events. Unlike smaller, intimate events, large-scale events require planners to overcome different challenges and obstacles. We look at the importance of accurate, regular communication between planners, how strengths-based delegation can streamline the planning process, the importance of planning for the unexpected, and more. Join us as we discuss planning successful large-scale events stress-free.