Summer is almost here, and if Pinterest is any indication, a lot of you are in the process of planning your class reunions!
Last year, I had the pleasure of serving with a great team to put together our 20-year class reunion. Our team had a vision of an elegant, casual get together for friends rather than the typical gym or hotel ballroom dance (we did enough of those in our school days!). We wanted an atmosphere that was casual but elegant, just structured enough, but not overplanned or kitschy. Our committee wanted the kind of party we would enjoy as a host or as a guest.
And of course, we needed to stay within a strict budget to keep ticket prices down. Our decoration budget was about $4 per ticket.
Impossible? No! Difficult, yes… But with some ingenuity, imagination, thrift shopping and lots of DIY power, yes, it can be done.
Here is the breakdown of what we needed:
- Centerpieces for 12 round dining tables (combination indoor and outdoor)
- Memorabilia table
- Welcome table
- “In memorium” kiosk
Budget total: $400, which equated to about $30 per table.
So how did we do it?
To make the centerpieces, we scoured HomeGoods, Marshalls and TJ Maxx for tall vases, and purchased filler material from the dollar store and remnant racks at the craft stores. Ribbon and mesh were purchased in large rolls on sale and with extra coupons. And we bought black, silver and gold spray paint and a drop cloth to spray the filler material in the colors we wanted. The mesh was more translucent than we liked,so we also spray-painted a roll of clear cellophane with gold spray paint. It didn’t need to be perfect, it just needed to shimmer and fill the vase well. A pro-tip here is to wear gloves when you’re spray painting the filler, if you don’t want to ruin your manicure and hide your hands at the actual reunion. Ha!
To further personalize the centerpieces, we sourced small wooden letters from JoAnn, wired them into groupings and painted them by hand. We did the same with wooden and papier-mache numbers. (And by “we”, here I mean my ultra-talented Mom, who enjoyed contributing to my reunion the same way she tirelessly gave of her time for school dances and grad parties back in my school days. Not only did she donate her time to this project, but she donated the letters, the numbers, the mesh and some of the vase filler material too).
For the remaining table decor, my Mom graciously allowed me to raid her silk floral supply and “borrow” all of her yellow flowers. We scoured thrift shops for votive holders and small glass containers to hold the floral arrangements. We still needed a few, so we bought the remainder from Michael’s. We hot-glued ribbon around the glass containers to give them a uniform look and to conceal floral foam in the bottom of each container.
To make short stems, we clipped all the stems from the large bunches of silk flowers we had on hand, and sorted them by type and color (in this case, yellow was our general color, so we used all kinds of yellows to make sure we had enough). We then divided the stems up so that each container on each table would have a pretty similar assortment.
Each table had its own unique set of containers, ribbons and floral arrangements. A pro tip: It’s helpful to create a kit for each table (we used plastic shoeboxes), to make decorating the tables quick and easy — just hand a box to each committee member after decorating the first table. We also scattered clear glass beads around the tables to add a little extra bit of light reflection on each table.
When it got dark out, the candle-lit tables created the perfect ambiance for extended conversations as classmates were able to catch up with one another.
We sourced 2 smaller vases (Marshalls) and filled them with mesh, along with yellow and white flowers to stay on theme. We painted some wooden candlesticks black and used them to hold up painted papier-mache letters at each end of the table.
For the memorabilia board, we used 2 tri-fold foam core boards and some very long pins. On the committee alone, we had marching band memorabilia, cheer and football uniforms, a mortarboard and several photos, and asked classmates to drop off any the would like to share, and used masking tape on the backs of the photos so they could be returned intact.
In Memory Table
To honor and remember classmates we have lost, we added a table with a framed 4×6 photo of each late classmate. We put up a yellow and white floral arrangement with greenery, and added black painted candlesticks to allow us to place the frames at multiple heights on the table. We sourced frames from the dollar store and added a tealight in front of each photo, along with a name card.
We added one more floral arrangement to the welcome table, also using yellow and white flowers and some greenery, with a simple black tablecloth.
And that’s it! We hired a DJ to emcee the event, and our photographer also brought a photo backdrop and a ton of props, which ensured a good time was had by all.
Last, we chose to host heavy appetizers and a partially-hosted bar to keep ticket prices down and to encourage attendees to circulate instead of doing a formal sit-down dinner. The location allowed for indoor and outdoor gathering spaces, and the patio setting outdoors created the kind of atmosphere that encouraged connection. One classmate said it best: “I feel like I went to a friend’s house for a summer party, and ran into everyone from high school while I was there. It was so good to see everyone again, to reconnect and to build new friendships.”
And with that, let’s toast to connection and friendships. Happy reunion planning!