By Susie Hudson
What do family, friends, co-workers, classmates and special occasions have in common? Memories! One way to celebrate those memories and to continue them is with a reunion. Reunions can be planned any time of the year. Life gets busy and busyness makes time pass rapidly. Our time is valuable, so it’s important to make the best of it. Celebrate, grab those happy moments, and reflect on them when you can. Most of us have to make an effort to create those moments. Spending time together away from daily distractions with all the relatives, friends, classmates, or co-workers creates quality time as well as lasting memories. You might only see one another once or twice a year or maybe it’s been several years. Reunions make it count, but they don’t just happen — someone has to make them happen.
Plan your work, and then work your plan.
Planning is an essential part of any reunion. Reunions come in all shapes and sizes. First, decide what type of reunion you would like have. It can be a huge, activity-filled gathering; or a small, low-key event. It can last for several hours or several days. Some are more formal and others very casual. You may decide to hold the reunion on the same weekend every year or once every five years. Some reunions return to the same spot each time, while others move around to accommodate travelers or to provide a change of scenery. If you’re nervous about starting too large, you can begin with a small, simple reunion and grow to a big, elaborate one in future years. The choices are numerous and each has its advantages.
How do you get started?
Remember that the focus of any reunion is to bring the guests together to celebrate, reminisce and for everyone to get to know each other better. No matter the type of reunion you choose, you will need to create a guest list with current mailing addresses. Choose a target date and then search for the perfect location. The location should be one that provides activities for everyone, regardless of age, is affordable, and can accommodate any disabilities. Unless your group has already expressed an interest in specific locations, it’s best to choose one that is centrally located among those attending. Choose one leader to be the sole contact person with the venue staff in order to avoid confusion and then to communicate to reunion attendees. The group leader should call to check dates of availability. Many locations offer the services of a professional planner to schedule the event and to guide you through the planning process.
After a date is set and a location booked, the next step is to begin preparing the invitation letter with all the details. Be creative. The more interest you stimulate, the better your chances to have a well-attended reunion. Include directions to the event location and options for overnight lodging. It is best to start planning at least one year in advance. Set a deadline for guest responses. You will be well on your way to creating memories of a lifetime.
What do you do at a reunion?
The most important thing to remember in planning a reunion is to be super-organized beforehand and super-flexible during the event! The more details you take care of ahead of time in the way of scheduling, cooking, delegating and planning, the more you, your guests and everyone else will be able to relax and enjoy the event. A variety of activities should be planned to include all ages that bring individuals closer to one another in a beautiful, relaxing setting. Some activities to consider may include picnicking, camping, hiking, fishing, canoeing, crafting, museums, eating out, concerts and more. Include indoor and outdoor activities to offer variety and provide alternatives for inclement weather. Allow your guests the flexibility to participate in everything or nothing at all.
Start with a welcoming reception.
Plan a gathering to begin the reunion. This will “kick-start” the event and is a simple way to provide detailed information to everyone at the same time. Each attendee should receive a reunion packet. In the packet, you should include a name badge; an agenda for the reunion, including times of all planned activities and locations; a map of the facility where the reunion is being held; and a key to the pre-arranged overnight lodging facility if applicable.
Food is a key focus of any reunion.
Feeding a large reunion group with a minimum fuss — again — requires careful planning. Will you provide your own food or hire a caterer? If your reunion is over several days, you may want to have different options for different meals. Make decisions ahead of time. Include a questionnaire with your invitation letter asking about special dietary needs and food allergies. Don’t forget to give some thought to serving and cleaning up.
Expect last minute changes.
With any event, unpredictable circumstances occur. Be flexible. Expect last-minute changes. Just go with the flow and be as adaptable as you can. Remember, this is a fun, exciting occasion. Reunions are times to enjoy and not to stress.
Got any suggestions?
I’m glad you asked! For your next (or first) reunion, consider gathering at Advent Christian Village. Our Conference & Retreat Center has everything you’ll need to put together an unforgettable reunion: lodging, meeting rooms, food, activities, a beautiful and peaceful location, and a lot of nearby attractions. Our repeat customers can attest to the fact that hosting reunions is one of our specialties. If you’d like to schedule a tour, give us a call at (386) 658-5200. You can also visit us online at www.acvconference.net.
About the author: Susie Hudson is the Director of Guest Services for Advent Christian Village. She manages all aspects of the Conference & Retreat Center and ACV’s retail operations. Susie moved to Florida from Louisiana in 2001 with 18 years’ experience in health care administration. Susie is a pastor’s wife of 27 years; the couple ministers together in Mayo, Florida. They have three children, three grandchildren, and another grandchild due in February.