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It's a family reunion: here's your guide to planning the perfect gathering.

WHEN IT COMES TO negotiating million-dollar construction deals, C. David Moody Jr., president and CEO of C. D. Moody Construction (No. 87 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $37 million in sales), is in his element. But for an upcoming family project, he is trying to figure out just where to start.

Moody will be hosting the first annual Moody Family Reunion from July 27 to 29 in Lithonia, Georgia, and is trying to make it exciting and affordable for everyone. But he needs resources to get started. "Five of us are trying to brainstorm ideas for events that are informal but informative, and keep costs to a minimum with hotels and restaurants," he says.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, The Witherspoon-Strain Family Reunion is celebrating its 47th year. They, too, will be having their reunion this summer, but in Charlotte, North Carolina. The reunion committee expects 150 people, and Fred Witherspoon, the chair, wants to add fun and excitement by learning more about family-oriented games and entertainment. He'd also like to get involved in fundraising activities so that family members in other cities can participate.

Whether celebrating their first year or their 41st, families want to know how to carry out a successful reunion. And with good cause: According to a 2005 survey in Reunions magazine, 70% of respondents attend family reunions at least every 24 months. With the summer months just around the corner, we offer seven tips for hosting the perfect family reunion.

TIP #1


"The timetable is important because a reunion is a very large undertaking and has many details, all of which you want to pay attention to and can only do if you have a timeframe from the beginning," says Edith Wagner, editor of Reunion and author of The Family Reunion Sourcebook. For example, 18 months to 24 months prior to the event you should determine family interest and attend a seminar or workshop, whereas the host city should be chosen one year in advance. For a detailed timetable, see the sidebar.

TIP #2


Like Moody, YeRushia Brown is hosting her family's first reunion in Atlanta. Brown is trying to find out as much information as she can about the entire family reunion process, from which restaurants offer a variety of fare to choosing activities for all age groups.

For free planning information, try The Family Reunion institute (, which hosts an annual conference to educate families on organizing a reunion. The Web also has a wealth of free information on every aspect for your gathering, including getting started, workshops, travel, and souvenirs. At, you will learn how to determine the size or expense involved, select a theme, and find the best games. Or use the Net to create your family reunion Website at

TIP #3


Although we don't advocate overspending, for some, shopping at area malls and outlets is the most exciting part of their family reunion. Thus, many planners take shopping venues into consideration.

"The key is to make a reservation first so that the center can offer you extra savings that are generally reserved for groups," says Michele Rothstein, senior vice president of marketing for Chelsea Premium Outlets. "These benefits range from free coupon books for each person to meal vouchers for the organizers. To make an online group reservation, visit www.premiumout" Other national outlet chains are Prime Outlets ( and Tanger Outlets (

TIP #4


Sonya C. Waites is host of the Hill-Hough Family Reunion in Indianapolis and is curious about how to negotiate hotel rates and amenities in advance. She would also like to "implement an activity to foster communication among family members who do not know each other."

Selecting the hotel is probably the biggest and most expensive aspect of the entire family reunion. In addition to cost, reunion planners should consider proximity to shopping, restaurants, and attractions, plus the amenities within the actual venue. (For Waites, that means a space large enough for the family to have a meet and greet or informal party.)

Increasingly, families are selecting four- and five-star hotels and getting great prices. Some places even allow the coordinator to stay for free. Check out Websites such as

"Family reunion coordinators can find out about beautiful hotels and resorts that have availability and offer special group incentives. The Web is easy to use and faster than a phone call," says Donovan M. Shia, president of "Our Website features family reunion hotels from more than 40 major U.S. cities. You will find direct links to key contacts and Websites to find everything you need to plan your reunion."

Cruises are also a great option since they are all-inclusive.

TIP #5


Reunions typically cost $100 per person for a small gathering of 50 family members. If members are willing to roll up their sleeves and work at fundraising, they can lessen the financial burden of attending.

Entertainment Fundraising offers multiple options: the Entertainment Book of discount coupons, Sally Foster (specialty gift and gourmet foods), or Premium Collection Gourmet Cookie Dough (https:// ABC Fundraising (www.abcfundraising. com) has Spinners and Scratch & Help, where donors receive coupons in return for their contribution, which is determined by spinning an arrow or scratching off a circle. Krispy Kreme Doughnut fundraising is a longtime favorite (www.krispykreme. com/fund.html) in which fundraisers sell donuts, gift certificates, or discount cards. The World's Finest Chocolates are also a great option ( /iFundraising.aspx).

Even if you do not have the time for fundraisers, make an expense assessment for each family or each family member. "To be fair to everyone, divide the assessments equally. Since reunions must be affordable for everyone, every family must come up with its own solution," says Wagner.

TIP #6


Natalie Reese is the co-chair of the 2008 Dukes-Murphy-Burgess Family Reunion in Savannah, Georgia. It is the 30th anniversary and Reese wants to add interest through activities that spark excitement. "We usually have the traditional banquet, cookout, and Sunday worship," she says. "How do we make it more fun and interesting for all ages?"

Be sure to get brochures and coupons for leisure activities such as amusement parks, museums, and zoos. Go online, check with the visitor's bureau, or call individual places yourself. For inexpensive fun and games, go to ( Also read Fun and Games for Family Gatherings (Betterway Books; $7.70) by Adrienne Anderson.

The visitor's bureau can also be helpful with area restaurants. Or call surrounding restaurants to ask if they would be willing to provide meal discounts or coupons for a free appetizer or dessert with a purchase. Linda J. Hoffman, managing partner of Goodman Lauren Publishing, publishers of The Reunion Planner ($15.95), recommends the Zagat Guide ( to find eateries across various price ranges.

TIP #7


Virtually every expert interviewed says the host city's convention and visitor's bureau (CVB) is the absolute best resource for planning your reunion. "We provide a manual containing many ideas and helpful sources. We do all of the legwork for you," says Jon Manns, president and CEO of Atlanta's DeKalb CVB (

The bureau can assist with hotels, meeting rooms, attractions, cultural arts, group discounts, amusement parks, restaurants, churches, picnic venues, and more. "Our relationship with all of these organizations means that once the visitor conveys their needs, we know how to meet and exceed their expectations in terms of location, cost, and amenities," Manns says.

Some give gift bags filled with brochures, coupons, and goodies and offer seminars, preprinted name tags, and an ambassador to greet your guests at the welcome reception (all for free). For more information, visit the Website of your host city's bureau.

8 Useful Family Reunion Websites
Reunions Magazine
Cyndi's List of Geneaology
 Sites on the Internet
The Reunion Planner
Hotel Planner
African American Family
 Reunion Primer

Setting the Reunion Timetable

18-24 months before your reunion ...

* Determine interest and start the mailing list

* Talk to other reunion organizers

* Attend a reunion-organizing class or conference

* Form reunion committee(s) and establish duties

* Start keeping records of everything

* Develop a budget and bookkeeping system

* Contact convention and visitors or tourism bureaus

* Scout locations, facilities

1 year before ...

* Set date(s)

* Choose location

* Send first mailer with tentative reunion schedule, theme, and approximate cost

* Arrange or hire entertainment, caterer, photographer, videographer, and printer

6-9 months before ...

* Send second mailer with registration and souvenir order forms and cost

* Schedule events and activities: program, speakers

* Reserve block of rooms

* Begin list of attendees, memory book

5 months before ...

* Confirm reservations, entertainment, photographer, and caterer

* Choose menu

* Announce event to local news media, elected officials

2-4 months before ...

* Visit facility with reunion committee; meet with hotel

* Select theme, signage, and order printed items

* Reserve rental equipment

* Submit personalized souvenir order (T-shirts, caps, etc.)

6 weeks before ...

* Complete directory/memory book; deliver to printer

* Write checklist for reunion tasks

* Designate assignments for volunteers

2 weeks before ...

* Purchase last-minute decorations and incidentals

* Reconfirm accommodations

* Review final checklist

1 day before ...

* Determine location staff contacts

* Solve last-minute problems

* Review final details with reunion committee

Reunion day(s) ...

* Set up registration, rental equipment, and displays

* Juggle details: volunteers, food, photographer, games, entertainment

* Decorate

* Enjoy

Afterward ...

* Reflect and evaluate--note what worked, what didn't

* Complete bookkeeping; settle accounts

* Write thank you notes

* Start planning your next reunion

COPYRIGHT 2007 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:CONSUMER LIFE
Author:Royal, Leslie E.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:May 1, 2007
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