School reunions are social gatherings for people who attended an institution at the same time, years after they have left it. The most common and popular reunions involve high school classmates, because more people finish secondary school, and at the impressionable age of the late teens, than most other levels of education. Roughly the final level of compulsory schooling in the United States, high school and its completion rivals birth, marriage, or childrearing as a nearly universal human event in the U.S.
Reunions can take place at all levels, however. Colleges, universities, and graduate schools organize reunions of their former students partly as a marketing tool: reunions reconnect and inspire alumni, which undoubtedly boosts charitable giving to the alma mater. Although less common, individuals who feel so inspired may even organize a reunion of their junior high or middle school colleagues, an elementary school class, and even friends from kindergarten.
The vast majority of reunions schedule during the summer months. Not only does that approximate the anniversary of their graduation, but its usually an easier time for participants to travel. The months of June, July, and August see thousands of events across the U.S. each year. Rather than meet every year, however, school reunions tend to occur on the five-year anniversaries: 5 years after graduation, 10, 15, 20, and beyond.
People may gather for a simple restaurant reception or participate in a weekend-long series of events. On Friday nights, former classmates gather for an informal cocktail party, because others may still be traveling to the event. Saturdays are the big days, featuring anything from tours of the old school and other favorite hangouts, to a formal dinner in the evening and possibly a dance. On Sunday, people that have traveled a long way may already be gone, so a more casual activity such as a picnic or barbecue is more standard.
Organizing a school reunion requires much effort on the part of volunteers. They must secure venues for the events, track down and invite participants, create a budget for food, music, decorations, and other items, and decide what to charge the attendees to cover the costs.
Professional reunion planners are an option. NARM, the National Association of Reunion Planners, refers school reunions to trained and experienced planners in their region. Similar to a wedding planner or convention organizer, a professional reunion planner relieves the stress from the process so the attendees may just relax and enjoy.
The Internet has done a lot to boost class reunion activities. Websites such as Classmates.com, Switchboard.com, and Reunion.com help reunion organizers find other people from their town, school, and time period. Other sites help volunteer organizers put the event together. Examples include AlumniClass.com, CreativeReunions.com, and ReunionPlanner.com. Then there are online companies, like MyEvent.com and ClassReport.org, that facilitate the creation and maintenance of class reunion websites.
More recently, the growth of social media communications has possibly made school reunion organization simpler. With Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other tools, individuals have found it easier to track down lost classmates, and set up their own free web pages for a do-it-yourself school reunion.