Plan a high school reunion

So you’re the chosen family member who gets to organize and plan the upcoming family reunion! If that’s you, Reunacy has done the major leg work and created an in-depth planning guide and a family reunion planning checklist to alleviate your duties. 

We spoke with dozens of family reunion planners, event planning experts, and production coordinators to create the ultimate guide to planning a family reunion. With guidance from experts, you’ll have a comprehensive and detailed understanding of what you need to do to plan and execute a successful family reunion. We’ve also included a downloadable checklist that you can print out and fill in as you check off each detail!


Phase One: How to Start Planning Your Family Reunion

Phase one occurs 8-12 months before the Reunion


Identify Your “Why”


A family gathering is more than just an event, it is the reunion of people who love each other and want the best for each other over a lifetime together. 

Family reunions can have different purposes. Maybe your family is a bit estranged and all lives far away from each other. In that case, a family reunion can help strengthen new bonds for the future. Maybe your family gets together often and just loves to be together! 

wine glasses


What motivates you to plan your family reunion?


As a family reunion planner, it’s helpful for you to know your “why.” Whatever your reason is, you can turn back to that motivation in moments where the details of planning can feel overwhelming.

“Events of any type can be stressful, but especially when you’re planning for people you love and care about. Throughout the family reunion planning process, remind yourself that you’re planning for an entire family; one full of personalities and opinions. Keep focused on the goals, plan from a place of love, not obligation. Keep fun and feeling and memories at the forefront of everything you do throughout the planning process.” Saundra Severtson, Event Planner and Founder of wyldmynd.

As you plan your family reunion, always remember your why. Remember that the whole point is to expand the love and joy within your family! It’s okay if every detail isn’t perfect, the purpose is to gather, connect, and get together.


Consulting the Family For Your Family Reunion


Now that you know you and your family want to get together, it is important to iron out a few details and communicate with your family. This is the information gathering phase.

organizing on phone

At this early phase, making a few phone calls or sending a large family email or text message can help you discover the appetite across the board for a reunion.

You can also discover how much people in your family are able to spend to attend the reunion, as well as what time of year would be ideal for them to get together.


Info Gathering for Your Family Reunion

As you start initial communications within your family, ask a few key questions to gather information that will inform your planning.

“As you start planning a family reunion, ask each family – where are you coming from? What kind of budget would you be comfortable with per person? How many people from your family will be attending? That’s the best place to start.” – Michelle Maiello, Moonwood Marketing and Events

Once you gather information, it’s time to think about how to get more organized. If you can enlist a few volunteers within the family to help you with the planning process, you can split up the tasks and delegate throughout the process based on each person’s skills.


The Essential Early Details


As you start the family reunion planning process, there are a few key details you will need to focus on first. As you start brainstorming, keep an open mind. 

One of my mantras is: get curious; then get to work! Every seasoned events planner knows that the details are crucial, which is why we ask so many questions.” -Saundra Severtson, wyldmynd.

Be clear when asking your family for information, yet be flexible enough in this early stage so you can make any needed adjustments.

family at beach together at sunset


Choosing a Date for your Family Reunion


One of the first and most important decisions is to lock in a date that works for the entire family. Much like planning a wedding, you might be targeting a certain time of year — like the spring or summer. 

Planning and organizing

If you pick a date for the family reunion early, that gives you more time to plan.

“When it comes to planning an event, six – nine months in advance is the sweet spot for nailing down what you’re dreaming up. When you’re in a time crunch for planning, it may not allow the correct window to customize things for your event. During the planning process, details will change, new ideas may come to fruition, and when there is extra time in the process it is easy to make those accommodations and adjustments.” – Sarah McClure, Marketing Director, LUX Events

Lock in the Date for the Reunion


The most popular time of year to hold a family reunion is the late spring, summer, through early fall. Summertime is popular for family reunions because parents with children and teenagers can more easily plan a vacation around the family reunion since school is off!

Try picking two weekends within the summer and ask your family members which weekend works better for everyone.

Another reason to choose a date early in the process is to respect the travel budget of your family members. The earlier your family can reserve plane tickets or hotel reservations around the family reunion date, they can lock in lower travel prices and save money.

Some in the family may even decide to turn the family reunion into a road trip, or a vacation!

father and young son at on a dock at the lake


Your Family Reunion Budget


Besides the date, the budget is one of the most important elements of the family reunion planning process. The amount of funds in the budget will determine what kind of location you can secure, as well as the type of food and entertainment.

On average, family reunions can cost $25 – 75 a person, per day. Depending on the location you choose, the vendor costs, or the season, expenses will vary. It’s important to have a budget discussion early on in the process as some initial funds may be needed to reserve locations.

“When planning a family reunion, start by knowing the overall budget and the flexibility of all the family members in terms of travel. If people are coming from out of state and they are flying in and need accommodations, that’s a big part of the picture. Once you know what people are able to do in terms of travel costs, that can help you determine if you have the funds to rent a large venue for the reunion, or rent an AirBnb and have the family all stay in one place. If everyone already lives in the state or is within driving distance, then you’re able to spend the budget funds on things like catering, a private chef, or entertainment.” -Michelle Maiello, Moonwood Marketing

Keep in mind, another way to lower the travel expenses for your family is to reserve a block of hotel rooms for the family.


Consider Location Options For your Family Reunion


After you’ve had some initial budget discussions, consider the type of location you want for your family reunion.

Locations and venue rentals are typically the highest expense of an event. The more time you have to prepare, the more options you can consider for locations. 

“Starting as early as possible is key to giving yourself time to find your ideal venue and negotiate the contract. Making decisions on the larger spends early will allow the planner to spend wisely on the little details along the way. Larger spends include venue, catering, transportation & housing (if needed). Negotiate those contracts early!” -Saundra Severtson, wyldmynd.

group of friends enjoying wine

Many locations require early reservations. If you wait until the last minute or until 3 months before, it will be difficult to secure your ideal spot.

When you are brainstorming locations and venues for your family reunion, be open minded. Sometimes you need to visit a place in person to really understand if it can be the perfect fit for your family.

Family reunions can be held at a variety of locations, such as:

  • Local Church
  • Favorite restaurant
  • An outdoor park with a Bar-b-Q
  • Country club
  • An outdoor garden
  • A museum 
  • Family home backyard
  • Pizza joint
  • A brewery or winery

“Family vibe and personality should be a consideration when looking for locations, but not the main consideration. I would absolutely look at a variety of ideas – even ones that seem outlandish or too expensive. Have FUN in the planning process. Get creative!” -Saundra Severtson, wyldmynd.

friends around the fire camping

Another thing to keep in mind about location is parking and transportation. Does the venue have a large parking lot?

Date, budget, location – these are the initial details that are essential to the early planning phases of organizing a family reunion.

Once you have gotten started with these key details, you can start the creative process of envisioning the reunion!


Phase Two: 3 – 8 months before the Family Reunion


Now that you’ve decided on a date and started the planning process, here are the next steps.

mother and young son at the ocean

Staying Organized is Key to Planning a Family Reunion

While it may seem like annoying advice, staying organized can make or break the planning process. Before we get into all the details you need to arrange for the reunion, here are a few ways to stay organized.

Create a “Hero” Family Reunion Planning Document

This step is VERY important.

To keep all the reunion details organized, create a virtual document or spreadsheet to house all the planning information. This document or spreadsheet is where you will list your vendors’ contact info, the plans for the food, the schedule, etc. 

planning at home with cat

Google spreadsheets are very easy to use, and you can even use a pre-made Google Wedding template … and change the name “wedding” to Family reunion!

As you narrow down vendors and event details, update the document or spreadsheet so the planning committee can all be in the loop.


How Clear Communication Can Shape a Successful Family Reunion

“A gathering starts long before guests walk through the front door”

-Priya Parker, The Art of Gathering

Planning a family reunion (especially for more than 50 people) requires clear communication between the main family reunion planner and the family/attendees. 

“My perspective is that the leader should communicate from a ‘coach’ perspective. We’re all on the same team, we each bring unique skills and perspectives, let’s work toward combining those to achieve our goals.” -Saundra Severtson, wyldmynd.

family and friends laughing together

As you communicate with the family, having a positive, team-focused attitude can go a long way. 

How to Communicate with the Family During the Planning Process

Part of the planning process is communicating with the attendees for information updates. Starting with a family email chain or text group can be a good method. 

“Setting the tone and communicating effectively helps the team progress toward a successful event. Effective communication allows an opportunity for guests/invitees to learn more about what to expect – and to get excited about attending the event.” -Saundra Severtson, wyldmynd.

Once you start planning more officially and wish to track RSVPs, you might want to choose a more dynamic platform. Reunacy provides a seamless and private platform for your family to create groups and stay in touch. 

Unlike Facebook groups, Reunancy keeps your family’s information completely private and there are no advertisements. Family members can RSVP through the platform, and you can easily track how many people are planning to attend.


Brainstorming a Vision for Your Family Reunion

friends gathering for dinner at night

Create a unique vision for the event to set the tone of the reunion. 

“Make your family reunion YOU! You want your family reunion to resemble the parties in attendance and be a fun and enjoyable experience for all!” 

There are so many ways you can personalize the family reunion to your family’s personality. 

You can pick a unique theme, family colors, or even a cultural theme unique to your family heritage.


Consider Family History For the Reunion Theme

For example, if your family is Italian and loves Italian food, you can easily create a theme around the various types of Italian dishes. You could also include special recipes from grandparents! 

pasta and meatballs

Focusing on family heritage will create a heartwarming tone that encourages your family members to honor and connect with family history.

“I envision the tone and feel of an event months before by delving into the core objectives and desired atmosphere. This involves creating a vision and understanding the overarching message of the event, allowing for a more intentional and purposeful gathering. Every aspect, from the initial anticipation to the moment guests walk through the door, contributes to an impactful event.”- Brendan Sweeney, Producer

Whatever makes your family unique, delve into those unique traits and trust your instincts! 


Solidify the Family Reunion Details


By now, you and your committee should have a short list of potential family reunion locations. Visit the locations and see which location is available for your date. 

group of college age people in a park

Lock in the Location for Your Family Reunion 

“Budget is so important here. And I’d add that family vibe/personality should be a consideration, but not *the* consideration. I would absolutely look at a variety of ideas – even ones that seem outlandish or too expensive. Have FUN in the planning process. Get creative!” -Saundra Severtson, wyldmynd.

mother and sons at a lake

Lock in the location at least 6 months before the reunion date if possible. As mentioned before, the contract negotiation may take a few weeks. 

By this point in the planning, you will want to have a rough estimate of how many people will attend, even if you don’t have all the RSVPs returned yet.

Communications – When do we send the family reunion invitations? 

Again, you will want a clear way to communicate with your committee and your guests. As soon as you have locked in the location, send the invitations to your guests.

Invitations should be sent at least 3-5 months before the family reunion. 


You will need to have all confirmed RSVPs no later than 5 weeks before the event.

With Reunacy, you can actively manage all your family reunion RSVPs within your Reunacy group.


Choose Your Vendors

Food and Catering: Dial in your food and catering choices

One of the most important elements of the family reunion is deciding on food that will fit within your budget that your family will enjoy.

friends gathering at a wine party

The location you choose might have a kitchen with an in-house chef, which would make the catering a bit easier. 

If you are planning to hire an outside catering service, look at a few vendors in your area and check the Yelp and Google ratings. Check your budget to make sure their pricing works within your range.

If you and your family are planning to do your own cooking, delegate menu creation and shopping lists within your family reunion planning committee. 

Confirm Equipment Rental

Are you renting any chairs, tables, tableware, cups, napkins, or outdoor tents? 

As you envision your family reunion, decide if you want to buy these items yourself or rent them from a party planning service.

decorations for a garden party

Contact a local party vendor and make sure to ask if they can also include delivery and pick up service. 

Tables, chairs, and tents are the most essential items to rent, as families usually don’t have 50 extra chairs lying around!


Photos really do last a lifetime! With all the planning and effort that goes into a family reunion, those photos will be priceless for you and your family to enjoy after the reunion.

“If budget allows, I’d strongly recommend a photographer or photo booth or an area with selfie sticks for folks to use. If you can afford a photographer, that’s always my preferred method of commemorating an event. They capture those candid, unstaged moments that can spark so much joy. Check with a local arts school or community college to see if a student would be interested in snapping your event. They’ll appreciate the experience and money – and you’ll get a semi-pro for less money. Win-win!” -Saundra Severtson, wyldmynd.

photographer with a nice camera

If the budget does not allow for a photographer, consider assigning a few family members with photography and creative skills to focus on the photography for the event. 

Capturing the memories through photography is an essential part of the planning process that you do not want to miss!


If you want to make the reunion a little extra special and fun, consider additional entertainment like group activities or hiring live musicians.

One important thing to keep in mind is that because this event spans generations, a variety of activities should be a focus. That said, you will never please everyone (!!), so consider the larger group rather than one age group or specific group within the family. At the end of the day, everyone is gathering to enjoy each other, catch up, reminisce…everything else is gravy. :)” – Saundra Severtson, wyldmynd.

man playing guitar at sunset

Here are some additional ideas to consider for your entertainment:

  • Live Music – Are there musicians in the family? Consider renting a stage or sound system for a family performance.
  • Trivia or group games. 
  • Outdoor Events (Sports, water slides)
  • Professional entertainers 
  • Hired musicians and bands
  • Family talent Show


Start Planning the Family Reunion Schedule


Back to your “Master Planning” document. As you make decisions with vendors, food, and entertainment, make sure to update your document. 

You will create a “Schedule” section for the week of the reunion. This section is important to plan early in the process, as it can be overwhelming to organize the week of. 

Schedule out 1-2 weeks ahead of the reunion, as well a detailed hourly schedule the day before the reunion, the reunion itself, and the clean up day. When you’re planning the prep day, which would be the day before the reunion, be as detailed as you can! Include the names of people in your family if you can delegate duties like cooking, shopping, decorating, or managing vendor deliveries.

A sample prep day schedule would look like this:

10:00 AM – Table and Chair Delivery at Family Ranch

12:00 AM – Monica brings table cloths and decorations; Johnson side of family decorates

2:00 PM – Gary goes to Costco to buy appetizers, lasagna ingredients, plates, and forks

3:30 PM – Deliver the food to the Family Ranch

4:00 PM – Stephanie and kids build photo family tree after driving in from Michigan

5:30 PM – Light appetizers and drinks set up for family

6:30 PM – Pre-family reunion appetizers and cocktails at the Family Ranch

event guests drinking wine

If you don’t have enough people to help you in person, consider hiring an assistant to help during the reunion. Sometimes the locations will provide an event planner or operations manager as part of your rental package. Make sure to stay in close communication with them!


Re-visit Budget and Delegate Responsibilities

As you go through the planning process, you will need to update the budget to reflect new vendor expenses.

Celebrating Your Family with Family Reunion Decorations

As you plan the reunion, ask your family members to bring photos for a large family collage!

Photo collection of little girl with her mom

“I’d recommend asking folks in your family to send photos and make a big collage of the family throughout the years. It’s a lovely way to honor those who came before us, and it’s fun to see which cousins look like great grandma Dorothy and great uncle Mel!”-Saundra Severtson

Keepsake /T Shirts

One popular way that many families preserve the memory of family reunions is through a family reunion t-shirt!

Check out our article called “The Ultimate Guide To Fun Family Reunion Shirt Ideas” for a guide on how to plan and create family reunion t-shirts.


Phase Three: It’s Time for the Reunion!

2 -3 weeks before the reunion up to the reunion day!

friends enjoying a campfire

It’s go time! It’s the week of the reunion. 

The details and communication process matter the most in the moments leading up to the event. 

Once the reunion starts, try to have everything managed so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor and have an amazing time with your family!

It’s Time to Re-confirm the Details

Double Check Your Detailed Event Schedule

This is when you return back to your “Master” / “Hero” planning document. Double-check your schedule and make sure all updates and changes are entered into it.

Here are the most important details you need to re-confirm the week of the reunion:

  • Preparation schedule 
    • Food shopping and prep: Will Aunt Pamela be delivering and cooking the food? Will your catering company take care of the main meal? Will you still need to shop for and prepare appetizers or drinks?
    • When can you decorate the venue? Who can help you decorate? 
    • Vendor deliveries: When will tables and chairs be delivered? Is there anyone who can help set these up?
  • Transportation
    • Parking at location: Where will guests park? Are there enough spaces at the location?
    • Will there be transportation provided from the hotel to the venue?
  • Vendors
    • Make sure to pay your vendors on time,
    • Communicate with your vendors the week before the reunion for any last minute changes or updates.
  • Seating arrangements
    • Do you want families to sit wherever they wish, or is it better to organize a seating arrangement?
    • How will you communicate the seating arrangements? Will you give guests a table number when they check in?
  • Check-In Table
    • Will you arrange a check-in table to provide name tags and family reunion information?
  • Plan for any emergencies: Always have a first aid kit and know where the nearest hospital is.
  • Schedule for Clean Up

YOU DID IT!!! It’s finally time for the Reunion!

friends enjoying beer

“Remember to ENJOY yourself at the reunion. It’s so important to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor – especially with family. Finally, if you can, hire a day-of person or enlist a friend to help out so you can have fun. They’re your family too!” – Saundra Severtson, Founder of wyldmynd.

The Reunacy team hopes you enjoy an incredible and special reunion with your family! Please let us know how your reunion goes, and if we can add any other helpful content to this post. Keep gathering together!