Affordable ideas to make your high school reunion a memorable event

Decorating for a High School Reunion

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High School Reunion Ideas Needed

I would like to know if you would have any suggestions for inexpensive table decorations for small rural high school reunion. Average age above 40.
Thank you.
Loyal D.

Time Capsule

For inexpensive reunion centerpieces, paper bags (they can get white or even colored bags) filled with sand and containing a candle are luminarias, and very pretty.

How about making a time capsule for each table, with small objects from the year of graduation, such as peace sign necklaces, incense, tape cassettes, 45 records, love beads, etc. The History Channel at http://www.history could yield stories about the year of graduation that could be included. Xeroxed yearbook pictures, glued onto colored cardboard could also help fill out the capsule.

Go to a thrift shop or ask local alumni to bring in old shoes from the era of the graduation - platforms, sneakers, spike heels, saddle shoes, whatever. Place each on a sheet of colored paper (school colors, of course) and, using a small baby food jar, place greens and a few flowers inside the shoe to make a centerpiece. Wrapped candy or other items could also be used. If the shoes are really old and dirty, you may consider spray painting them all bronze or gold, since they are Golden Oldies.

Ask local merchants or ask the almuni if they would like to donate a modest centerpiece, with their card attached as an advertisement. This is a tax deduction. Every centerpiece would be different, but it would be free and not require any work, except writing a thank you. Alumni who are very successful can show off their company, (and maybe drum up new clients.)

As an ice breaker, have a table full of "stuff" - ANYTHING GOES and the weirder, the better. Ask each table of alumni to go to the stuff table, select seven items, and make a centerpiece. Have a prize for the funniest, most creative, ugliest, etc. Take pictures!

'Home' Touch

I recently attended a banquet where several of the women involved took their own china and table cloths and decorated the tables with things from their own homes. Some used fine china and silverware, and centerpieces from their own homes, others used decorative paper products, and beach balls, or sunflower paper products and a bundle of sunflowers for the center pieces. It was gorgeous! The tables were all beautiful, and different, which added to the beauty of it, and the place settings become part of the decorations. Another neat idea would be to just decorate one table, with memorabilia from the high school days, a year book and pictures, an old jerseys, basketball, or football helmet, graduation caps and gowns.., maybe a small bouquet of the class flowers, and use table cloths or paper table cloths that represent the school colors.

Free Flowers

I recently made a bunch of table decor for practically NOTHING! I was able to borrow 20 ivy bowls (looks like a goldfish bowl with a ruffly edge) but you may have to buy them. The bouquet was made from discarded blooms at my local greenhouse. Occasionally they have to pluck off the blooms to keep the plant growing nicely. They just throw them out for mulch! I was able to pick up literally hundreds of flowers for NOTHING! Gerainiums, fuscias, roses, you name it!
Crystal N.

White Bags & Colored Paper

I am a Youth Leader and we are always doing dinners and pot lucks for our church. Recently we did one where we bought white gift bags with the handles, colored tissue paper and balloons. We decorated the white bags with our slogan in neon colored paints. (We used lettering sponges to paint the slogan and splash painted the rest).

This tissue paper is folded in a diamond and sticks out the top of the bag, then tie the balloons on the handles. We also used ribbon tied on the edge of the handles. These can be used over and over and changed to whatever color we want for that occasion.

This also works with colored bags and other tissues. Good Luck.....Happy fortieth.
Laurie H.

Let The Scouts Do Decorating

Contact a local Girl Scout troop or cub scout den--they are always looking for community service projects and are quite creative with craft ideas on a budget.
Marge P.
Mom of one Cub Scout and one Girl Scout

Decoupaged Memories

For the reader who is looking for ideas for a small rural high-school reunion - think flat! Why not photocopy a yearbook and "decoupage" each table with miscellaneous photos covered by clear heavy plastic tablecloths. Along the same lines, you could photocopy LP covers and intersperse them with class photos. Guaranteed to bring on the nostalgia (at any age, not just 40!)

Candles and Mirrors

I've seen beautiful centerpieces using mirrored tile and candles. The mirror reflects the light twice and if you add hurricanes to the candles it can be very pretty. Either way, call around to the florists you have in town and ask them if you can have their leftover petals and greenery. They can save these up to a week and you can sprinkle the petals around the candles for a nice flower touch. If you tell the florist it's for a reunion and you will give them advertising in your programs I'm sure they will help for free. I have done this and I've been very pleased with their reactions. All in all, everything that would have to be purchased could be used again and perhaps even sold at the reunion. Have fun.
Wendy W.

Rustic Jars and Flowers

For the person asking for inexpensive table decorations -- I assume there is a "committee" putting together the reunion. Ask everyone to clean and keep any clear glass bottles or jars they may have used the contents of (any from the size of a mayonnaise, applesauce, or spaghetti sauce jar down to a relish or jelly jar to a baby food or pimiento jar). Group jars of different sizes on the table, and place water and cut flowers (wildflowers look especially good in these "rustic" containers) and/or votive candles inside. The mix-and-match is interesting to the eye, and looks very "Martha" for very little money. I have been saving jars myself for a couple of months now and have more than I could possibly ever use. Free, trendy vases!

Have a great time at your reunion!
Lesley in Atlanta, GA

Inexpensive Lamps

You can use small coke bottles, fill with lamp oil and buy inexpensive (usually under $3) oil lamp wicks. Surround with flowers and light! They are really pretty and you can give them as door prizes at the end of the evening.
Rita A.

Then and Now

One thing that would be fun and encourage all to walk around and visit other tables would be to make a small display of "then and now" pictures in table centers. For this , you would need to contact people to bring some small framed pictures. Make sure you don't stick to just the "in-crowd." A small candle on the table would illuminate the pictures and provide atmosphere...the little scented candles they sell now in glass holder will easily burn all night (shop at Walmart and buy 4-packs) A round plastic, colored tablecloth with a paper doily in center set under the photos is a nice touch.

Floral Help

My mother is currently planning my wedding a budget. The budget did not include table decorations. She talked to a local florist. Every day or at least once a week, they toss out the old flowers that no one bought and and are too wilted to sell. My mom explained what she is doing and two of the shops let her pick up the wilted flowers once a day. My mom then drys the flowers in a food dehydrator she already had. Shes gathering up hundreds of them.

She then bought several small wicker baskets at the good will for .50-$1.00 a piece. The baskets are in perfect condition. She put a small ivy plant in each basket and arranged the ivy to cover the pot inside the basket. She then arranges the dried flowers amoung the ivy and adds ribbon bows.

If you gather 5-6 people around a table and give them the supplies you can make about 20 of these fairly quickly. The average cost per centerpiece is $2.00. It may sound odd with the live ivy and dried flowers, but they actually came out beautiful.
Rhiana in San Jose, CA

Live Plants

Use live plants, the 4 inch pot size. You could do a drawing during your reunion for them Another idea is to take larger jars/canisters and fill them up with decoartive but useful food. Pasta, dried fruit, lentils etc. You can do a drawing for these as well.
R. C.

Symbols of Youth

Have fun! Think about what symbolized junior and senior years to you. Perhaps 45rpm records of particular songs /a certain style of earrings or sunglasses/ 8-track tapes/ diary entries/ keepsakes/ paperback books popular with the time/ newspaper headlines/ Time magazine articles/ senior & junior yearbooks/ old snapshots of schoolmates at graduation age / ETC! Ask everyone helping with the reunion to bring any and all of these things to the reunion event.

Arrange several articles in the middle of the table as a "still life" arrangement. (Have each contributor put name on underside of item for safe return.) Arrange several items as a centerpiece, using stacks of old paperback books of the time (the "required reading") to add a variety of levels to prop items on or against. All of this will cost NO MONEY and be full of memories and interest. You could not have a more meaningful centerpiece.

Reunions are Big Fun! Have a great time!
Laura V

Pick a Theme

When my mother was in charge of centerpieces for a conference, she began collecting children's sized cowboy boots from the local thrift stores (it was a western theme). In each one she placed an arrangement of wildflowers (or silk flowers or whatever). They looked smashing. The idea here is that you could find a base (pottery, mugs, shoes, etc.) and then fill it with candy, flowers, or tie balloons to it, etc. Good Luck!
Karen R. in Tallahassee, FL

Survey Junkie

Look Locally

If you are thinking of a decorating scheme that goes with the small rural community, you have a lot of options. For example, if you are in a crop growing community you could use the crops for accents on the tables. A few sprigs of wheat or dried corn husks arranged nicely around a centerpiece would look very nice. If your town raises more animals, hay would also work well.

If you have tables with removable glass on top you could ask for donations (or borrow) photos, postcards, or any small printed items from a few years prior to the date of your graduation. Place them haphazardly on the tables and then cover with the glass top. It looks nice and I bet would even bring back lots of wonderful memories.

For napkins you could use bandanas. You can buy them in packs of two or three and they could be take home gifts as well. Remember, they don't have to match, mismatched things look more festive and creative. If you are looking for a more formal atmosphere, then I have two words for you, Dollar Stores. You can find candle holders, usually they can stock up to 50 of the same type at one time. You can also get candles there too. Dried wild flowers from your area could accent the tables. Or you could use narrow curling ribbon, or regular ribbon, in your school colors. Sprinkle some metalic or regular confetti on the tables (not much, just a little will do) and accent with the ribbon. It creates a brilliant, formal effect in candlelight. I hope you have a wonderful reunion.
Melanie H.

Wrapped Boxes

The reader may want to wrap small or medium boxes in wrapping paper (silver and gold would be festive and elegant). We have several paper outlets locally where large rolls may be purchased inexpensively and the boxes could be found from other frugal people that save them (like me!). Have a great time at the reunion!!!

Decorated Books

She should look for old hardback books in various sizes at tag sales, garage sales, church bazaars, etc. About 3-4 per table should do it. Remove any dust jackets. Spray paint the books whatever color you like (I guess the HS colors would be perfect). When dry, stack them & attach to each other with a little hot glue. Tie a decorative ribbon around them with a big bow on top. (That ribbon with wires in it is great). The stacks look best with several different size/thicknesses of books in the stack.
Debbie C.

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"I Remember You"

You can make your reunion personable and memorable without great expense! After all, the big attraction will be reliving old memories and getting updates.

Our school reunion committee took our yearbook pictures and photocopied them (the regular kind, not the expensive laser type) for name badges. That really helps you recognize someone when it's been a long time since you've seen them. How about making posters with the list of the top 10 songs, movies, television shows, books, etc... from your graduating year or era? I have several books with this information; if you don't have access to it at the library you can email me and maybe I can help. If you have a source of old magazines, use the car advertisements (& others). Look in your yearbook to see how the dances were decorated and use those ideas. Recreate an old school dance. Streamers and balloons are relatively inexpensive, too, and are usually what was used in the past. Have a paper and pencils on the table for people to write down their memories. Collect them and read out loud (screen them first!).

If you have the time, collect old pictures from classmates and have a contest to see who can correctly identify them. One of our reunions hired a disc jockey. I thought this was a big waste of money. Besides, he played modern stuff too, and all I wanted to hear were the oldies. Ask around and see what people have in the way of old records, tapes, and c.d.'s of music from that era-and before- which you can borrow. Take turns manning the music. Cokes in a tub of ice are much, much better than all the drinking that went on. I would highly recommend no alcohol. Some of the people who were jerks in high school came to the reunion drunk and got more so. They disrupted the program so badly it was canceled. Have a bake sale (even if you have to get the things from a bakery) for snacks like our mothers used to do at the ball games. Have a popcorn machine. Having the people pay for what they want to snack on helps keep the cost down for everyone to attend.
Carla H.

Reviewed January 2018

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