Planning a family reunion can be a major undertaking, but well worth the effort. You will need to keep everyone active and entertained--and that's just the beginning. You also need to introduce relatives who may not know each other and think of ways to document the event. Bringing together the various branches of your family tree isn't easy, but, once you start the ball rolling with these family reunion ideas, your event will become a tradition.
Planning, Planning, Planning
Before you begin laying the foundation for your family reunion, assemble a team to help you. Recruit other enthusiastic family members with whom you will be able to get in touch easily. Don't try to do all the planning yourself because you may wind up regretting you ever took on the job. Consider assigning each member of your planning committee with a specific task, such as tracking the budget, sending invitations, taking photos or entertaining the kids.
Begin by choosing a date and place. You will want to pick your time frame at least a year in advance. Summer is often a good time for family reunions because more people are able to get vacation time, the weather is suitable and school is not in session.
But, if that doesn't work for your family, don't hesitate to hold a family reunion any time of year. The off-season has the advantage of offering good pricing on hotels or other lodging. When narrowing down the location, consider how much your relatives, especially any out-of-towners, will be willing to spend. If you plan with other family members, they may have knowledge about some relatives that you don't, and your budget estimates will be more accurate.
Regarding out-of-town family members, either set them up with local family members, or book a block of hotel rooms at a discount. If your family is scattered across the country or is extremely large, consult with your planning team, and choose a family reunion location that is convenient for all members of your family, such as a resort that is equidistant for all of you.
You will also want to decide on the length of the reunion. Will it be just a day long or a whole weekend? If it's too short, people won't be able to catch up. If it's too long, family squabbles may arise. Once you know the date and the reunion length, you can start thinking about activities and souvenirs.
The most popular souvenir of all is the family reunion T-shirt. Start designing the T-shirt early so you can get feedback from family members on the color and the message, and order the design early. You can also send out T-shirts in advance so family members can recognize each other if your family is large and you're holding the reunion at a crowded resort, hotel or campground.
As family members send their RSVPs, start making nametags for everyone to wear at the reunion. Don't assume everyone will know each other since new members of the family are always marrying in. Some relatives might bring new significant others. Ask family members to provide names of guests to avoid any embarrassing situations, and be sure you send nametags to family members before the event.
Capture It on Film
One of the major reasons for a family reunion is to catch up with family members who are seldom seen, to reminisce and to make some new memories. Appoint a member of your planning team to head the photo committee. This person should decide how to take photos, such as relying on family members sharing pictures or hiring a photographer, and this person should also decide on how to get the photos to family members after the reunion itself.
If you want to keep photos simple, a fun way to catch spontaneous moments is to keep disposable cameras sitting around in convenient spots. Set them on tables or near activities, and pass them out to family members. You can purchase traditional disposable cameras, or you can take pictures with a digital camera and print them out before your relatives leave. Pop the pictures into scrapbook frames, let everyone sign his or her name and you have instant memories.
Set Up Activity Centers
Having tables set up as activity centers can be a good idea as well, especially if there are going to be many children in attendance. A table full of craft supplies can be fun for both young and old. Organize projects that are memory-related, like picture frames or handprint art.
Game tables can help keep family members busy and help them relive some memories, too. Did you and your siblings have a favorite game you played? Were all-night Monopoly tournaments a major event in your childhood? Ask around, find out what others did, get out the family reunion games and introduce them to a younger generation.
Make It Kid-Friendly
Make sure those in charge of food provide kid-friendly snacks and dishes. Plan games and activities just for them. Coloring books and crayons, a bin full of building blocks and a few dollies will make events run more smoothly and will give adults time to catch up. Split the activities into age levels: Have activities for the younger ones, for the third through sixth grade and for the teens. If the weather is warm, a kiddie pool is a perfect place for younger ones. Put teens in charge of creating the family travel map, where everyone's hometown is marked on the map.
More Great Family Reunion Ideas
Everybody's family is different--what one family will love another one will hate. Be willing to adapt for your family's needs. Here are some more ideas that can help you brainstorm:
If you have a list of main events and backup activities, then your guests are more likely to enjoy themselves, and you'll be on your way to making new family memories.
If your family reunion is going to have a rather large guest list, as many do, planning a family reunion is going to be too much work for one person to handle alone. Plan to enlist the help of your willing family members, and recruit those who are semi-willing. We'll even show you how to convert semi-willing into enthusiastic assistants.
Family reunions are supposed to be fun, happy times. Unfortunately, some people at the reunion might hold grudges. How can you smooth their ruffled feathers and stop fights before they start?
A family reunion speech generally ends in tears, in the best way possible.
If you're wondering how to plan a family reunion, relax. After all, this is family and when you're around family, life shouldn't be stressful.