Monday, October 25 2021 - 11:28 AM
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Organizing Family Reunions

Few gatherings are as meaningful and as memorable as family reunions. As families grow and the individual members follow their own paths, family reunions serve as mileposts. They are a chance to assess progress, share experiences, and renew bonds. Family reunions have also become popular as more families have become widely dispersed. Family members still want to stay in touch with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and siblings on the family tree to see how the newest members are progressing. Yet, planning a family reunion can become complicated, especially a large reunion involving lots of people. How can you plan the perfect day and please as many family members as possible?

1. Family Reunion Committee

The first item on your checklist should be to establish an effective family reunion committee.

If you are planning a small reunion of 25 people or less, it can be one person. If the group is larger than 25, consider a larger committee. The committee should create a planning binder with lists of subcommittees (or other individuals that are willing to assist in the process): guests, assignments, resources, financial status, and anything else that seems important at the time. Experienced reunion planners recommend that families begin planning up to two years in advance.

2. Set a Budget

The second item on your checklist should be finances or budget.

How big and how expensive does the committee want this reunion to be? The simplest reunions tend to be the least expensive. The simplest reunion to host (and fairly cheap, if you have one every year) would be a picnic or barbecue at a family’s home or a nearby park. If you’ve never held a reunion before and are new to all of this, this could very well be the way to go. It takes less time to plan and isn’t as costly. It can be rotated between the homes of various family members over the course of years, or you may want to have the tradition of having it at a park each time. Just make sure that there are plenty of trees to sit under for shade and a playground for the children.

Another reunion option that is relatively easy to plan for is a nice dinner and reception at a decent restaurant, or maybe a nice hotel. This type of event doesn’t require a large amount of planning on the part of the committee. All that is needed is to make reservations, plan a few activities for people to enjoy, and notify relatives of the address of wherever you decide to go.

3. Select a Venue

Where do you want to have it?

If your family is the outdoors type, try out a family camping trip. Ensure the campsite you reserve is large enough for the family and that everyone knows to bring their own accommodations (RV, trailer, tent, or just a sleeping bag). It is easier if everyone brings his or her own food.

However, if all family members agree and don’t mind spending money, there is a big and elaborate family reunion. Big reunions need to be announced very far in advance to give everyone enough time to plan around it and save up. This would include but is not limited to reunions at theme parks (like Disney World or Disneyland). You may also consider a family cruise. Most of these larger reunions will require a significant amount of planning by those in charge and demand quite a significant outlay of cash from those attending. Always set a deadline sometime in advance of the reunion date by which at least a percentage of the ticket price is required. It is also important to remember that if tickets are purchased in advance, people are less likely to cancel at the last moment.

4. Select a Date

An integral factor in all of the planning is the date.

What time of year is best? And how long do you want to spend with all those relatives? For families who live close to each other, one day may be plenty of time to share fun activities, visit, and socialize. However, if most people must travel a significant distance to get to the reunion, they’ll most likely find it difficult to justify the expense for a single day. In general, if you have most of the people coming from Denmark to Colorado, make it longer. If they drive for 15 minutes, make it shorter. Long weekends during other parts of the year can also be a good time for a family get-together. You can plan around a grandparent’s birthday, 50th wedding anniversary, or another important milestone taking place in your family.

5. Communicate Details

Next on your reunion checklist should be getting the word out!

It’s time to spread the news and details of the event. Send out the invitations as soon as possible to give the guests a fair amount of notice. You want to give everyone a chance to put the date on their calendars, juggle their schedules, and plan their vacation time. Then, a few weeks before the reunion, send a little reminder to each family. You can use your computer to keep in touch with your family, too. Family newsletters, e-mail, and online chats can help you keep in touch with everyone out there.

6. Plan Ice Breaker Activities

An important part of your family reunion is the interaction that will take place between family members.

The goal of the family reunion is to bond with one another and create special memories. Yet, some family members may not know each other or know each other very little. Incorporating activities can help ease tension. Start with ice breakers, easy but in-depth questions to ask one another to get acquainted. Play different games that involve teams like Cranium or Pictionary. Engage in storytelling. Create family picture boards by asking family members to bring pictures to share and then work together by putting them on collages. Have a talent show. Go to a church service. Have dinner and a dance. But most importantly, keep the children busy with a craft table, movies, or sports.

7. Have Fun!

Family reunions are special because of the people!

As we hold families near and dear to our hearts, we understand that this time becomes part of our family history, part of how we identify ourselves. As overwhelming as planning a reunion may seem, remember to make it as memorable as possible. This, too, will be another memory to look back upon.

If you liked this, you might also like Family Tree 

Cecelia Liversidge writes from Southern California.

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