We’re in the heart of summer, and that means the glaciers are melting, forest fires are burning, and family reunions are in full swing. And trust us, if you’re the one in charge of designing and ordering t-shirts for your family reunion, you’re probably going to have a tough time choosing which of those 3 things is scarier. Dressing your extended family up in custom family reunion t-shirts is an awesome idea; it really is. It enhances the sense of community and belonging amongst your group, it gives everyone a keepsake to treasure for years to come, and it lets the world know that you are celebrating the gift of family.


HOWEVER. It can also be a nightmare, the likes of which have only existed previously in a dystopian novel, a la The Hunger Games. Designing a printed graphic and picking a t-shirt that everyone in your family is going to be happy with is next to impossible, so you end up playing the game of “How Can I Annoy the Fewest People and Prevent My Family BBQ From Devolving Into a Thunderdome Bloodbath?” It’s a tricky game. And there are no prizes.


Never fear, family leaders! We are on your side with this, and we’ve come up with the perfect Survival Guide to planning your family reunion apparel. This will DRASTICALLY cut down on your headaches and panicky stomach flutters, and you’ll vow never to deviate from this process again when ordering t-shirts for your family reunion.


Ready? Here goes.


STEP ONE: Form a committee. This is a crucial step. Many family reunions that we’ve worked with in the past have over 100 family members, and trying to get the input of everyone is simply asking for disaster. Of course, you want to please all the members of your family, but pleasing everyone is an impossible mission that you DON’T have to accept. Here’s a little secret: people will rarely turn their noses up at a t-shirt when they see the finished product. When they are brought in in the early stages, though, almost everyone has an opinion.


How do you pick the perfect committee? So glad you asked! The best committees have 3-5 people. THAT’S LITERALLY IT. A committee of 10 is going to cause as much trouble as announcing to the family that you’ve run out of hot dogs. Just don’t do it. Find people who are organized and diligent. Make sure one person has an artistic flair. Make sure somebody handles communication well. And finally, it’s a good idea to loop a family patriarch or matriarch into the process. After all, who’s going to argue with the final t-shirt color when you say that Great-Grandma Maribel picked it? That’s right, nobody who wants to keep their head.


STEP TWO: Brainstorm design ideas. You don’t have to figure out exactly what the design is going to look like at this stage, but it is a good idea to get everyone stewing about what they want the design to feature. Are you looking for a family-centric design like a tree with family names, a family motto, or a special verse or poem? Do you want to feature the location of the family reunion? (St. Louis Arch, anyone?) Maybe you have a great family photo that needs to take center stage. Get some ideas on paper, so you know a general direction moving forward.


STEP THREE: Finalize your budget. Sometimes families have an all-encompassing attendance fee for their reunions, and this fee covers the cost of food, lodging, and apparel for each attendee. In other cases, the t-shirt is offered a la carte. Whichever way your family reunion goes, it’s important to figure out just what your family members are willing to pay. Your final t-shirt cost will depend on the number of shirts ordered, the style of the shirt, and the complexity of the design.


Once you have a budget in mind, you can reach out to us for advice on what this budget will get you. This way, you don’t come up with a brilliant apparel dream that’s realistically outside of your budget. If you come to us and say “Hey, Tiny Little Monster, we’d like to get about 100 shirts for our family reunion and we want to keep the cost at $12 per shirt,” we’ll know exactly what will work to keep you at or under that budget. Budgeting early is the way to go, as your budget will direct many of the next steps.


STEP FOUR: Pick Your Apparel. This is going to depend a bit on your budget, obviously, but generally there are 3 ways to go with apparel. The first option is the budget-friendly option. If budget is your main concern, we’ve got a bunch of shirts to recommend that will keep your costs as low as possible. These shirts will be 100% cotton, and will likely be Gildan, Port & Company, or Jerzees brand. If your budget allows for some upgrades, the second option is blend shirts like Poly/Cotton or Triblend tees by brands like Bella + Canvas or Next Level. These t-shirts are woven with multiple fabrics for ultimate comfort and breathability. The third option is to offer all the bells and whistles. Maybe you want to offer a bit of variety and let people choose between tees, tanks, and sleeveless tee options. Maybe your family members are dead set on a name brand like American Apparel or Alternative Apparel. We’ve got hundreds of different styles, so the options are truly limitless.


STEP FIVE: Decide how you’re going to take orders. (This decision is really easy, but to show you why, we’ll first describe how folks used to do this).


Let’s go back in time to the 1990s when family reunion t-shirts were becoming more and more popular. First, you would make an order form using Microsoft Word or a Sharpie and photocopy a bajillion of them. Then, you’d snail mail these order forms to the members of your family spread out across the universe, and wait anxiously for the order forms to be returned (again with the snail mail), so you could assemble a total quantity list.


Of course, the order forms would be lost, or eaten by Fido, or destroyed by spilled coffee. The ones you did get back from family members would be filled out incorrectly, or Aunt Beulah would have accidentally picked a Youth Small (or not so accidentally, we see you Beulah!). You would go through your rolodex and call all the family members who didn’t get their order forms completed correctly to verify sizes. Then, you’d call everyone who never sent one back and harass them for their shirt sizes. (Oh, did we mention that the order forms would have personal checks or assorted bills and coins sent back, and the amount would NEVER be correct? Yeah, that’s a thing). So then you contact people who still owe money. And finally FINALLY when you have the correct sizes and the right cash amount, you’d start getting calls from family members who forgot a shirt (or forgot a child, it happens), and you’d have to start over.


We’re breaking out into cold sweats just thinking about it. Well, no more, folks! At Tiny Little Monster, we will take this completely off your hands. We have the ability to make custom online stores for anyone. These stores will feature the shirts you’ve chosen with a mockup of your design, and members of your family can select the quantity and size they want and check out completely online. Yes, you heard correctly: you don’t have to take ONE SINGLE ORDER. How much do you love us now?


STEP SIX: Choose your fulfilment options. One cool feature of our online stores is the ability to choose how people will receive their shirts. We can create a shipping option that allows members of your family to enter their shipping address and have their t-shirts sent directly to them. This means you don’t have to worry about sorting and distributing t-shirts at the family reunion. Now, some families like the excitement of handing out t-shirts at the event, and we can do that, too. We’ll make the shipping option “Pickup At Event,” and you’ll pick up all the shirts from us after they’re printed, so you can distribute them to family members yourself. We’ll still bag shirts individually by name and give you a master list, so passing them out is SUPER EASY. And, of course, if you want to offer both options, you can do that as well.


STEP SEVEN: Start Early. Here’s an important tip. It’s crucial to get the ball rolling on the apparel for your family reunion as early as possible, especially if you’re going to use our online webstore option. Webstores take about 4 weeks from start to finish. The first 2 weeks is when your store is live. We’ve figured out that 2 weeks is a good timeframe to give people a chance to hear about the store, check it out, and decide what products they’re going to order.


After the store closes, it’s another 2 weeks for production, as we’ll order in your apparel, create digital proofs for the print team, print your items, and bag them up for collection or shipping. Tack on a week or so at the front of that to finalize your design and pick your products, and you’ll need to get going about 5 weeks before your event date. We’ve found that most families are pretty on the ball about family reunion t-shirts, but it’s worth mentioning anyway.


STEP EIGHT: Spread the word. Here’s another step that’s easier today than it was back in your parents’ day. With social media, it’s easy to let everyone know that the apparel webstore is live and running. Just remember to blast your family members CONSTANTLY with info about ordering and deadlines. One social media post is never enough. Your store is only open for 2 weeks, so plan on sending your family members a social media reminder every day during that 2 weeks. When you get to the last 3 days, it’s a good idea to check in with us to see how much is sold. Then, you can start sending out text message blasts if your sales numbers seem lower than they should be.


STEP NINE: Don’t take no crap! Here’s our final piece of advice to you tireless, selfless folks who get nominated to make t-shirts for your family reunion. Don’t let anyone push you around. Now, that may sound a bit harsh, but unless you take a somewhat hardline stance on things like order deadlines and t-shirt design, you can easily end up getting railroaded — and that just adds to your stress. If you announce to the whole family that store sales close on a Friday, then stick to that deadline. If you hear complaints about the shirt design or the apparel color, then ask the complainer to volunteer to head the committee next year. If someone orders the wrong shirt size, well then that’s on them. You’re human, and there’s only so much you can do. Family is tough, and we’ve never heard of a family reunion t-shirt order going off without a single hitch. We’ll definitely work with you to keep those hitches to a minimum, but when you hear of a few, just let them roll right off your back.


The good news is that most of your family members are going to be nothing but delighted when they receive their printed shirts. Everyone loves getting t-shirts, and when you have a t-shirt that features a personal, lovingly created design, it’s that much better. The rewards will vastly outnumber the stresses, and you’ll have the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing you’ve worked hard for your family. Good on you for even attempting a project of this scale. We’ll give you a sticker when you pick up your order, and we’ll share a knowing wink that says “You’re now a member of an exclusive club. Entrance fee: 1 bucket of blood, sweat, and tears.”


Viva La Family Reunion T-Shirts!