Preparing your Family Reunion Plan. You have done your research and you are finally ready to host your family reunion. Does your plan include these? If you are still using pen and paper to plan your family reunion then you should read this!
- Updated: March 11, 2018.
In the first part of this series planning a family
I talked about how the current system can be a bit tedious and arduous. Don't get me wrong,
it works and exceptionally well in some cases.
In this part, I will be discussing a much more relaxed guide, tips and tricks in preparing for your family reunion plan with an executable approach.
Theme, Fee, Date and Address: These are the four pillar stones of any reunion; the really basic things to get right in order to set the ball rolling
Committee Setup Depending on the size of the reunion party, it's usually better to setup a committee
Instructions and Introductory Message This is the part where you set the tone. Get it done well and everyone coming gets the idea
Fees & Line Items Talks about reunion fees, and a simple way to get guests to donate.
Donation, Donation's List & Merchants Most family reunions has fees and require donations. How do you accept donations quicker?
Inviting Guests Inviting guests should be a lot faster than what it is now. See how in this section
R.S.V.P. & Guests List Once your guests r.s.v.p., do you know how many are coming altogether? Do you have a list of all their names?
Hotels & Other Amenities You can help your guests select hotels, theme parks and so on. Guests like suggestions
Events & Activities What events and activities do you have lined up?
Announcements & Updates Your plan will change at some point, how do you inform your guests?
The four most important things when planning a reunion are mainly:
1. the theme of the event,
2. the date of the event,
3. the address
4. how much do you think the guests will have to contribute.
Let's break these down one by one:
Think of the superbowl games, they always have a title associated with it; Superbowl L, Superbowl LI and so on. Imagine if they were just called NFL Final Game? Boring right...so you want to make sure your reunion has a cool title. Adding the year to your reunion is okay but it's usually not the best. (I will tell you why shortly). The title is what most guests remember, it sets the tone. Think of it like this, you are invited to a "90s Reunion Party"; first thing you think of is the 90s. So you will want to dress in a 90s outfit for the ball room or some special hall event right?
That feeling or thinking is what you should aim for... what can I call my family reunion to make it stand out? Here are some pointers:
- Seasons - Think of the season you are having the event
- Tradition - Does your family have that particular thing they do every time or a name you have always called yourselves? Can you describe it in say 5 words?
- Are you honoring a certain generation with this reunion? Try to title it to signify that
Always keep an open mind with the dates. Here are some questions to ask:
- How long is the event for?
- Can you get hotels during those dates?
- What is the weather like during those dates?
- Same dates as last time?
It's important to be familiar with the address so you have a list of things to do in that area. You can also go with a city one of your family members or relative lives in. This will help as you can delegate tasks and quickly get answers to your concerns regarding that location.
- Do they have open fields and parks around there?
- How is the social life there? Do they have lots of places to go?
- What is the nightlife like?
- Are there any historical venues [e.g. list of places to go in Alaska] to go to around there?
- What is the nightlife like?
- Are banquet or ball-room halls around there affordable?
While some family reunions are completely free, most require guests contributions. These are called fees or donations. The aim here is to make sure the guests can have a fantastic time together and also not burden you as the host, financially. It is best to split (in a way) the cost for the event.
Reunion fees can be tricky; here are some pointers...
- Remember most guests come as a family; so try to break the cost down by age group
- Do a random poll for your guests' financial capability; this will help you know if $300.00 fee per adult is asking way too much
- Can you break the cost down by line-items? Guests like to know what they are paying for
- Do you have a reunion bank account? Get yourself one! We will talk about this in the execution part of this series
- Try not to include accommodation i.e. Hotel cost in the fee, this can deter guests
- Try to only include costs of group activities in the fees. Like 'Banquet Hall' cost, and perhaps feeding for the special night
Just to reiterate, in the execution part of this series, I will show you how to setup these four pillars in less than 2 minutes.
Also the execution part of this series, I will show you how to setup a committee. Here is a brief on what a committee is and when you should or might be needing one.
- What is a Committee?
According to Google, a group of people appointed for a specific function, typically consisting of members of a larger group.
2 things I want to point out here:
- If you don't have a large family you do not need one. It will slow your planning down, somehow.
- If you have a large family, get one now! You will find delegating specific functions to other committee members drives the plan faster.
Planning with a committee comes with its challenges, try to avoid friction if possible.
Every reunion should have a website. It is as simple as that!
There are many online resources for this but try to get a free one.
What do I need a reunion website for?
- Welcome to the twenty-first century
Anyone between the ages 18 - 50 probably does one or two things online now more than ever before. You probably pay bills online, check out the latest news, jump on social media (if not on your PC maybe via apps on your phone), google this, google that, do all sorts of things online.
Point here is, if you carry out almost about 50% of your communication online... why not move your reunion information online?
Before you put everything on social media, here are things to consider:
- Is it safe and private? Do not put your family information online if it is not safe and private.
- Is it free? If you are paying for a reunion website, you probably stopped at the first research you made a while back! Check out this site - amazingreunion.com; it is fee to have your own reunion website.
- Can you use a reunion code to restrict access to it? So only your guests can view it?
- Paper work is expensive and you want continuity with your family reunions right? Yes having a reunion website might seem irrelevant to the event itself, but the measure of success of an event starts from the day you started planning.
- If the information you have is not easily accessible to all your guests, the chances are you will have to deal with guests saying "I didn't know we were supposed to wear white today" kinda ordeal.
- Say you plan the reunion this year, and next year you are thinking of doing something similar in another town, your reunion website provider should allow you to create a reunion using same information and all you will need to do is edit minor details.
This is one of the reasons why you need a reunion website. You use this opportunity to set the tone right and pass valuable piece of information to your guests. If you do get a reunion website, you can use the necessary sections to set them, keeping these in mind:
- Instruction Tips:
- When do they need to pay (if your reunion requires fees)?
- When do they need to R.S.V.P. by?
- How much does each reunion t-shirt cost?
- Introductory Message Tips:
- A nice warm message about the past, present and future
- You can include shout-outs to family members
A really cool feature about the reunion website mentioned above is when you make an update, your guests will get notified immediately
If your reunion requires fees, use the following tips to help you plan for it
- Age Groups
Make sure you split the fees by age groups. Infants can be free; Kids maybe a bit more; and so on.
- Line Items
Think of these as a break down of what the fees entails. If your reunion fee is $100.00, you can break it down accordingly, for instance:
- Food and Drinks: $40.00
- T-Shirts: $30.00
- Photography: $10.00
- Tour: $20.00
Now that you have listed the items, you have to decide how to collect the fees. You can use PayPal, Stripe and so on. These merchants charge a percentage for using their services. The benefit you get however is, they provide a secure way of transferring money from your guest's account to your reunion account.
- Bank Account Transfers and Checks
These are conventional ways of paying the fees. Checks do bounce but I guess this is a different issue. Bank transfers can be really quick; some banks charge a certain fee usually for transfers between different bank accounts.
Donations are an essential part to your family reunion, if it requires fees. Keeping track of donations is one thing you want to stay on top of. With your family reunion website you can achieve that easily. If your family reunion plan does not include a way to track donations or fees paid, you are asking for discord between family members. So make sure you have a really good and organised way of tracking donations!
So say you have setup your family reunion website and
eager to get going, your next agenda is inviting your guests.
The most common and traditional way includes sending out letters to your guests. We have already covered how expensive this can be.
Another downside with that approach is you'll be requiring your guests to make an effort in order to follow the instructions in the letter. Take for instance:
- How do they pay their fees?
- Say this is included in the letter, and it says something like..."pay to this bank account". That means the guest has to find time to go to the bank. Most guests don't have time for that. This also delays the process. The delay affects you as the host; as you probably have set in your mind what, when and how to utilise the funds.
- You sent out the first letter, now you have fresh updates to send out
- How do you resend the letters...oh wait, you can't. You have to do it all over again. Let's say there was a typo in the bank account information in the first letter, how do you correct that?
The point am eluding to here is, you want to invite your guests and also give them the opportunity to act fast on the information you are providing. Your invitation strategy should contain these 4 key things:
- Use the fastest means of reaching your guests
- Everyone checks their text messages and emails... why don't you send them one.
- Send them the reunion website instead
- The website contains all the information you need... send that to them.
- Allow them to rsvp and/or donate in few seconds
- Most guest wants to attend, reduce the friction of having them go extra length. Send them the rsvp web page (this should be tied to your reunion)
- Have updates? Send it out fast
- You are bound to have important updates and/or change in plans, your "reaching out" strategy must allow for that.
See here for how it should be done reunion invite, rsvp and donate page
If you are still keeping track of RSVPs on a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet somewhere, you are simply creating more work for yourself.
- Your guests have RSVP'ed, what next?
You keep track of the list on your reunion website
- A guest RSVPs and later changes his/her mind or
decides to invite close friends to the event,
how do you track this?
You keep a dynamic guest list by using your reunion website to achieve that!
- You need the list of guests that have paid, how do
you do this?
Your reunion website should also give you a list of guests that have paid up. Basically it should tie your donation list to your guest list for completeness and accuracy!
- Your guest is not sure how much they have donated,
she thinks $50.00 but in actual fact, she
has donated $100.00, how do you avoid this?
Your guest should be able to see how much they have donated; same reunion website should reveal this to them to avoid confusion! Give them the opportunity to clear any doubts.
Your family reunion plan should include at least one Hotel you have been able to secure a group discount from.
This will set the ball rolling for your guests and it is one less thing they have to think of.
Researching the area well is key. Try to see if there are any amenities in that area that will be of particular interests to your guests. For instance, if you are having your reunion in Orlando, Florida, try to see if you can get discounts for the famous parks in Orlando. Or at the very least, include that in your itinerary and leave it up to the guests to figure it out.
Keep in mind, you are most likely not going to entertain your guest non-stop during the reunion event, folks traveling in from all over will want to explore the town. The more options you give them the better.
Know this: On an average, 80% of the folks that attend reunions love to travel and explore. The feeling you get doing that with family members you haven't seen in a while lingers forever. That is what makes them enjoy reunions the most!
Your reunion should include some of these:
- Top family reunion events
Basically these events should be short and competitive. Goal here is to match families up and have a go. Remember to always make your events fun and engaging, don't leave anyone behind. Those who cannot compete, make them the judge or something, as long as everyone is involved you are bound to have fun.
- Family Trivia
- Story Telling
- Time Capsule
- Eating Contest
- Dance Competition
- Scavenger Hunt
- Jokes & Stand-ups
- Karaoke contest
- Sack Race
- Fitness challenge
- Guess that voice challenge
- Best Poet
- Family Feud
- Tug of War
- Fashion Show
- Top family reunion activities
Make your plans for the common or group activities. Family trips are usually really fun, and best way to get the kids tired!
- Family Trip
- Family Photo
- Family Video
- Gift Sharing
- Ball-room event
- Banquet Hall Event
- DJ Night
- Motivational Guest Speaker (this is really good to encourage the kids and young adults)
- Family Goals and Dreams Discussion
- Family Lunch
There will be changes in your reunion plan as the date approaches and you will need to send your guests updates;
one of the benefits mentioned earlier about having a functional reunion website is you can easily update your
guests of any changes.
When planning your family reunion, make sure you can easily send out updates to your guests. Sending letters out is not going to work! It is expensive and contigent on the guest actually receiving it.
You need to contact them via email or text messages or via an app. Keep this in mind when setting off with your reunion plan.
This article is second of 7 in this series. Once I have the next post available I will update this section and send out a message to all subscribers. Feel free to subscribe to our articles (you can go here to subscribe).
Part 3 - The Execution
Part 4 - Guides & Tips
Part 5 - What Happens Next
Part 6 - Sit Back and Relax
Part 7 - Conclusion - Job Done