Guide to Reunion Etiquette

Family reunion
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Your class reunion invitation has arrived, and you stare at it with mixed feelings. Whether you were the class leader at your school or the person who blended into the woodwork, you're not sure how you feel about seeing all of those people so many years later. But then, as you think about it some more, you realize everyone probably feels the same way. Plus you're curious about how others have turned out, so you decide you might as well go.

You've sent your RSVP after receiving your invitation, and now you're starting to get excited about connecting with people you haven't seen in years. As you get closer, that excitement may turn into trepidation.

Once again, your old high school insecurities start to creep back, and you wonder what everyone will think. Will your classmates see you as the successful businesswoman you currently are, or will they remember how you used to get spinach stuck in your braces at lunch?

If it's a family reunion, you wonder what will happen if you don't eat Aunt Edna's potato salad that makes you gag. Or what if Uncle Joe starts another one of his fights, and you're in the middle of it? Perhaps you have a new husband or significant other, and you're concerned about whether or not the family will accept the person you care about.

Class Reunion

One of the most important things to remember about a class reunion is that years have passed, and everyone should have developed into well-mannered adults who can look past their childhood. If they can't, it should be their problem. Don't make it yours. Whatever the case, lift your head high, walk in with confidence, and have a good time.

How to Act at a Class Reunion:

  • Smile. Nothing covers nervous jitters better than a friendly face.
  • Mix and mingle with different people. Don't limit yourself to the group you used to hang out with. You might discover that you have more in common with the former captain of the football team or the former president of the Future Farmers of America than the guy you used to TP houses with.
  • Help others. If you see someone standing alone, approach the person and strike up a conversation. Doing this might make the difference between someone being miserable and having a good time. And who knows? Maybe you'll discover a friendship that should have happened years ago. At the very least, you'll put someone at ease and make their experience more fun.
  • Be respectful of everyone. Never tell embarrassing stories about things people want to forget. This includes bringing up being dumped by a huge crush in front of a person's spouse.
  • Remember that people age differently. Never make comments or ask rude questions about other people's weight gain, wrinkles, gray hair, loss of hair, or other age-related changes. You may have kept your youthful body, but others may have experienced something that prevented them from going to the gym every day.
  • Stifle the bragging. When you approach the former class president or head of the debate team, it is perfectly fine to mention what you currently do for a living. However, you don't need to brag about the fact that you can afford a mansion and a vacation home on the Mediterranean, with household staff to run both places. That serves no purpose other than to make the other person miserable or make you look like a windbag.
  • Dress well. Dress appropriately for the occasion. There is nothing wrong with wearing a designer dress or a custom tailored suit, but you don't need to make a big deal of it. By the same token, if all you can afford is something from the thrift store, make sure it is clean and there are no rips or holes. No one needs to know the origin of your outfit or how much it costs.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Don't drink too much, or you might say or do something you'll later regret. You will also leave an impression that will last until the next reunion.
  • Avoid conflict. If someone else holds a grudge against you for something that happened back in high school, there may be nothing you can do about it. Once you see that the person is spoiling for a fight, walk away and avoid him or her for the remainder of the party.
  • Exhibit good manners. Use proper etiquette from the moment you walk in until you leave.

Family Reunions

If you are fortunate enough to be part of a family that likes to get together for a reunion every once in a while, make a concerted effort to get along with everyone while you are there. It is just as important to be polite to relatives as it is people you work with. Remember that almost everyone has a crazy aunt, uncle, or cousin.

Etiquette Tips for Family Reunions:

  • Be who you really are. Whether you are the CEO of a major corporation or a school janitor, you are still part of the same family. Don't put on airs or be ashamed of what you do for a living.
  • Help out. Regardless of how much you hate planning, cleaning, or whatever is needed, chip in. It's rude to leave all the work for others, and not helping can give you the reputation of being the "lazy cousin."
  • Don't complain. Never gripe about the food, the weather, or other family members. You are all in this together, so try to have a good time.
  • Keep an eye on your children. Even though this is a family reunion, you should never expect others to be responsible for your children. Make sure they know what is expected before the event and always know where they are while you are there.

All Reunions

There are some etiquette guidelines you should follow, regardless of the type of reunion. Whether it's a class reunion, family reunion, or some other type of get-together, good manners are always expected.

Etiquette tips for all occasions:

  • Respond. If the host requests an RSVP, send it back with acceptance or regrets. Planning is difficult enough without having to worry about how many will attend.
  • Don't be late. Be on time for scheduled events. Everyone's time is just as valuable as yours.
  • Give people credit for accomplishments. Always acknowledge and congratulate others for the positive things they have done since you last saw them.
  • Show your gratitude. Thank the planner or coordinator before you leave the event. After you get home, send the person a written thank you note.
  • Have a good time. Most of the time you have a choice of having fun or being miserable, simply by adjusting your own expectations, attitude, and behavior. Choose to have fun, and you probably will.