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So, You’re Planning a Family Reunion?

Summertime is prime time for camping trips, outings and family gatherings of all kinds. Has your family talked about wanting to do a family reunion? Perhaps Great Grandma or Great Grandpa want some quality time with the younger generations while they are still feeling spry, or maybe those who live abroad are in-country for a period of time and it would be an optimal time to gather everyone together. Or maybe your family is spread out and not well-acquainted. For whatever reason a family reunion is a wonderful event but, be forewarned, they also take a lot of good preparation and planning.

Once you have decided you want to plan a reunion, it’s time to survey the rest of the key players and see if they want to attend. It’s no use to plan a reunion if you can’t get a significant number of the members to commit to it. Here is where e-mail comes in handy. Put together an e-mail group of the representative family members and begin the communication process. Who, when and where must be decided ahead of time so everyone has a chance to check their calendars and make the commitment. It’s a good idea to plan months, even a year ahead if you want everyone to be able to attend, and it’s a good idea to get a commitment in the form of advance fees or reservations to “lock” everyone in.

Some key decisions to make are:

Who: Are you inviting just one side of the family? Are second and third cousins included? Do you have contact information for everyone and if not, how can you get it?

When: Beginning the planning process long enough ahead will solve many problems of when. The length of the event will be determined by how far people have to travel. If air travel or long road trips are necessary for some, the event will be a little longer so people have time to enjoy the stay. 

Where: Find out where the concentration of the most family members is and plan the event nearby. Try to serve the majority. The actual event site can be anything from a family home, a park, a hotel or resort area, a campground, etc. Some reunions allow choices of a hotel or a camping experience to allow for differences in both physical needs and resources.

Once the basics of the event are in place it is time to plan for food, activities and all the details of the actual days spent together. Be sure to delegate. Someone can plan the menus. Will you ask for potluck dishes or have a caterer? Do you need to ask for fees to cover expenses, or not? Who will plan games for the children and who will oversee photography or photo exchanges? Who will purchase supplies, etc. Anyone who has planned a large event knows the importance of communication all through the planning process and for delegation of the work to ensure a smooth reunion event.

The actual days of the event should be filled with fun. Have a schedule printed up or posted for all to see. Reunions are all about family, so be sure there is a family tree posted prominently where any additions or corrections can be made. Plan some ice breakers to get everyone mixing and some choices of activities for the adults. Some can go fishing while others shop the local antique shops. Meals are the prime gathering times and evenings with inside or outside activities will be times to visit and catch up on family history. Allow time for music, or drama or “stories” that will make memories for all the attendees.

When the event is coming to an end and there is a clean-up committee on call, it’s time to put “next time” on a calendar and exchange follow-up information so that the family tree charts can be updated, printed and mailed out, the photos can be sent and all the new friendships can be continued via mail or on-line. 

In this day when families often live so far apart it is a wonderful thing to gather the whole clan together and to gain a sense of shared history. It’s a big undertaking, but the enriched relationships in your family are well worth the trouble. 

Here are some links to websites with all sorts of tips as you plan your very special family reunion.