Family reunions can be a lot of fun, whether you’re getting together with a few siblings or a few hundred extended family members. It’s a chance to reconnect with your roots, your family history, and the stories that will be passed down from generation to generation.
Planning a family reunion may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! By following these five tips, you can make your reunion a memorable family get-together with minimal stress and maximum enjoyment.
1 – Plan Early
Trying to get your family together can be a little like herding cats, so you need to start planning well ahead of time. If possible it’s preferable to start the process at least 12-18 months ahead of time. The best way to start is by reaching out to a few of your closest family members to discuss what kind of event you want to plan, location possibilities, and a reasonable time frame.
Decisions to Make Early On
The number of people coming to the family reunion will have a significant impact on every other aspect of the event and its planning, so who will attend is the first item to figure out.
- Who Is Coming to the Family Reunion?
- How many family members are you inviting (or can attend)?
- Is it a small gathering of grandparents, parents, siblings and children?
- Are you inviting aunts, uncles, and cousins?
- Are you going all-out and inviting those second cousins you’ve only met a few times at weddings?
No matter how many people you’re planning to invite, you know your family is made up of busy people. A little flexibility goes a long way in making a successful reunion.
- When and Where?
- Instead of selecting a single date and hoping people can make it, pick three suggestions for dates and locations.
- Reach out to the invitees to get a consensus on what works for everyone.
- Don’t get impatient. It may take awhile for everyone to sort out what they can do, but that’s why you started planning so early.
- Use tools. You can use free calendars like Google Calendar to select options that your family can select from or have everyone choose day’s they’re available and select from those with the greatest overlap.
2 – Form a Committee
Whether you’re organizing a family reunion for 20 or 200, it is going to take some serious work. To take the load of one person, you want to recruit family volunteers to help with the planning so you don’t get overwhelmed or miss any important details.
- Form a family reunion committee with your volunteers. This committee will be in charge of all decision-making, organizing, booking, and family communications.
- Make sure you choose people for this committee who get along well and can work together.
- Set up a meeting to kick off your planning phase.
- If getting together in one place isn’t possible, organize a group Skype, or at the very least get a group chat going.
The committee’s first key decisions will be deciding on the date of your family reunion and your location.
3 – Your Location
While you can host a small family reunion at someone’s house, a larger gathering needs a venue. There are some great options to choose from ranging from local community centers to vacation rentals to national campgrounds.
If all the people you’re inviting live close together, it’s good to plan a location that’s nearby and easily accessible. Depending on the size of your group, it could be as simple as your mom’s backyard or a nice local park, or it can be as elaborate as a formal venue that comes complete with catering and entertainment.
If your family is spread out across the country (or even internationally), a nice option is choosing a location that involves travel for everyone. This is another good reason to start planning early, because you’ll need to give your family members time to save up, make travel arrangements, and arrange their schedules around any other important commitments.
Planning early also gives you the opportunity to explore more exotic location ideas, like a family cruise or resort vacation. Cruises and resorts often offer discounted rates for group bookings, and they even may provide a free room or two for the organizers.
If you’re considering a cruise or resort, make sure to choose one that will have activities for everyone. The reunion needs to be as great for the adults, easy for great-grandma, fun for the kids, and engaging for those hard-to-entertain teens. You want everyone to have a good time. No pressure or anything.
4 – Assign Duties
Your next step is to decide which committee member does which tasks. Your list of duties will depend on the kind of reunion you’re planning.
- No matter how simple or how elaborate your plans, someone needs to be the point person for all reunion and family communications. This person should be in charge of the guest list, the invitations, the RSVPs, and the trouble-shooting.
- Let’s be realistic; at some point, there may be some conflict in the planning process. This is family, after all. For this reason, the person in charge of family communications should be someone who’s organized, clear in their communications, and diplomatic to smooth ruffled feathers and keep the peace in the tribe.
- For a simple picnic or home reunion, someone should be in charge of planning and organizing the food and drink menu, regardless of whether it’s a pot luck or a catered meal. Another person can oversee the extras, including cutlery, dishes and décor.
- For a larger party, you will need a person dedicated to doing the research on venues, resorts or cruises, and booking and organizing the decided location.
- No matter what size event you’re planning, it is a good idea to have one person overseeing the budget and expenses.
- Finally, pick a person to plan and facilitate what you’re doing on the big day. Will there be name tags or matching family tee-shirts? A family-themed music playlist? Sack races, a softball game, or a scavenger hunt? Agree on what you want to do and assign someone to organize it and make it happen.
5 – Prepare Your Family Story
No matter the size or location of your event, family is the center of what brought you all together. This is a time to share stories, memories, and laughs, so allot a good amount of time to organizing family moments to make your reunion truly special. There are some great ways to bond as a family.
- Family Slide Show: Get everyone to send in family photos. The older, more embarrassing, or more endearing the better! Put them into a slide show that you can play on a screen during dinner.
- Family Trivia Night: Ask everyone for their little-known facts and create a family trivia quiz. Don’t forget to secure some fun prizes!
- Family Stories: Have everyone prepare a family story to share with the whole clan. For large gatherings, you may need to arrange for a sound system with a microphone that can be passed around from person to person. For your more shy family members, let them prepare a written story and have a more outgoing cousin read it out loud.
- A Family Tree: If you’re artistically inclined, you can create a blank family tree on craft paper and put it on the wall with lots of colored pens nearby. Have family members fill out their branches when they arrive. You can take a photo of it when it’s all filled out to share with everyone as a memento.
- Family Loot Bags: With a little creativity you can create fun and meaningful family gift bags to give out to each member as they go home. There are countless ideas for what to include, such as a treasured family recipe, a copy of a photo of some important ancestors, or a small token of the old country where your family tree has its roots.
- Family Group Photo: Remember to set aside a time to take a group family photo of everyone that comes. You can send it to everyone afterwards as a final, wonderful memento of the day.
With thoughtful planning and an active imagination, you’re sure to succeed at planning a fabulous reunion that your family will be talking about for years – or even generations!