Make a great first impression by handing your guests welcome packets as they arrive at the reunion. These bags can be filled with both helpful information and fun treats. If your reunion has a theme, the contents of your welcome packet are like an introduction; they set the tone for the event. Include an item or two that expresses your theme. For instance, if you are doing a luau theme, a plastic lei would be perfect.
Being organized will make your job easier, so fill and label the bags ahead of time, then store them alphabetically. Local businesses often supply promotional items (like pens, pads, and magnets) for large groups. Even though you may get a bunch of pens that say "Steve's Ice Cream, Newport, Rhode Island," you're getting free pens that offer some local flavor. Freebies can stretch a tight budget, and out-of-town guests will enjoy the free souvenir. For more complimentary treats or regional brochures, contact the local Chamber of Commerce or Visitors Bureau and tell them you are having a reunion.
It's also nice to include regional gifts like sourdough rolls (if you're having the reunion in San Francisco) or maple sugar candy (if your clan is gathering in Vermont).
Start off your welcome packet with a few of these easy-to-find items:
- The reunion schedule or program of events.
- A copy of the house rules, if guests are staying with you.
- Maps and brochures for out-of-town guests. Place a big map near the sign-in table with everyone's locale marked on it, and enclose maps, similarly marked, with a list of attendees. You can find regional maps at bookstores, gas stations, or online.
- A master guest list, including where guests are staying and their phone numbers while they are in town.
- Personalized pens and pencils, available online as well as at office-supply stores.
- Name tags. Make your own out of card stock, oak tag, or blank label stickers (small children should only receive stick-on nametags). Look in office supply stores and at Staples for label stickers and name badges you can customize. There are simple badge-making machines and button-design software to make name badges with pins or clips at several online sites.
- Trading cards. Make or order trading cards with photos of family members on one side and personal statistics and information on the other. To make your own, glue a photo to card stock or oak tag and write your information on the back. You can laminate the cards for durability. They are fun to share and make great name tags. Office supply stores such as Office Max and several Web sites offer laminators at reasonable prices. Check local copy centers to see if they offer personalized trading cards, or check out Web sites such as Custom Sports Cards.
- A family tree. Make it yourself or have it made. You can create a whimsical wall hanging of your family tree using your favorite scrapbook supplies.
- Binders and folders in which to store important reunion papers. Go to office supply stores or Staples to find binders and folders. Decorate the covers with photos or stickers and write "Smith Family Reunion 2008" to customize. You can order personalized binders and folders at Marnex Products.
- Shopping bags to hold all your welcome packet goodies. Try your local Chamber of Commerce or visitors bureau to see if any businesses are giving away bags as promotional items. They often do for large groups like reunions. You can also order personalized bags from Marnex Products.
- Reunion T-shirts. Make your own, with white T-shirts, stencils, and fabric markers or paint. For a professional look, create iron-on designs on your computer with T-shirt software and transfer paper. Office supply stores and Office Max have T-shirt software and transfer paper; you supply the shirts. Copy centers often offer customized T-shirts, with or without photos, and some provide same-day or next-day service. You can also look in your local phone book for printers who carry personalized T-shirts. On the Web, check out customink.com for inexpensive tees, with online graphics and text styles to create your own designs (you can upload photos, too); citywidetees.com specializes in customized products for African-American reunions.
- Single-use (disposable) cameras. Guests can use them at the reunion and hand them in at the end or take them home for processing. You can post the photos on your Web site or make albums as mementos. Photo stores and several Web sites carry these cameras.
Fun and functional party favors can really make an event. Favors can be homemade, like cookies baked from a family recipe or a family phone book assembled from the guest list. Free promotional items from local businesses (as mentioned above) can help to fill out your favor bags, and they make quaint souvenirs for out-of-town guests. Reunion T-shirts and other personalized products are very popular and available in a wide price range. When ordering items with minimums, contact the company if you need less; most firms will produce less at a slightly higher price per item and a small setup charge.
Always ask about a volume discount when you order more than a half dozen of items sold singly. To get an idea of what items can be personalized, check out the varied assortment of products at Marnex Products, where you'll find flashlights, folders, toothbrushes, T-shirts, and much more. Remember to include a simple but special favor for kids to enjoy on the ride home.
You can find party favors at many price ranges. Here, we suggest favors as low as $5 apiece and as much as $15 each.
- Compile a family phone book with the addresses and phone numbers of everyone invited to the reunion. Make copies and a cover page that says Smith Family Reunion 2008. Place in a folder or binder and add a personalized pen from The Discount Printer.
- Magnetic frames will keep the group photo where everyone will see it -- on the fridge! Make your own by cutting frames out of magnetic sheets and decorating. Compose your graphics on a computer and use printable magnetic sheets. Find magnetic sheets, both regular and printable, at craft stores or online at Learning Gear Plus. Order customized magnetic frames from the Web site Best Impressions.
- Stationery is a must, so folks can stay in touch. Make it yourself with stamps and stickers or on the computer with inexpensive desktop publishing software. You can also make a design and take it to a copy center to be copied. Buy envelopes and put them and the stationery in a folder. Write Smith Family Reunion 2008 on the cover to customize.
- Bake cookies from a family recipe and pack them up in a nice box. Put a Smith Family Reunion 2008 label sticker on the box and enclose a copy of the recipe. Design your own labels at The Discount Printer. You will find boxes (with tissue and ribbon included) at My Party Pal.
- Keep cans cool and fingers dry with foam beverage coolers from customink.com.
- Fill plastic eggs with small toys and treats for the children. Plastic eggs, novelties, and candy can be found at Oriental Trading.
- Keep track of all your reunion-related papers with a customized clipboard from Marnex Products. Step up from the simple T-shirt to personalized collared sport shirts at The Discount Printer. And last but not least, carry your favors home in a customized tote from Graystone Graphics or Best Impressions.
- There are many ways to perk up your personal correspondence before and after reunion time. Consider personalized notepads and envelopes from Colorful Images. You might also find you spend more time on your letters and less time on your envelopes with customized self-inking address stamps. Try The Discount Printer. And keep track of your family with the Rolodex Electronic Organizer from Franklin. Enclose a list of the addresses and phone numbers of all the folks you invited to the reunion.
- Reminisce. A personalized photo box from ShinDigZ has a place for the group photo on the lid and room for mementos inside. Also, reminisce as you assemble a jigsaw puzzle of the reunion group photo, available at ingreetings.com. And ball players and spectators will love a customized embroidered cap from The Discount Printer.
- More personalized items -- and a way to get them home: Stay warm and look great in a personalized sweatshirt from customink.com. Customizable, stainless steel travel mugs from ShinDigZ will keep your coffee warm all the way home. You'll be dry and proud under a personalized umbrella from Best Impressions. And children will love opening treasure chests (complete with locks and keys) that you've filled with novelties and candy from U.S. Toy. Take your reunion loot home in personalized duffels from online retailers Graystone Graphics or Best Impressions.