Planning a Family Reunion

Food, Home & Family
on April 13, 2008

A family reunion can be a fun and memorable occasion for all ages, but to be successful, such a gathering requires thorough planning. Planning a reunion isnt always easy, but the results are immensely rewarding, says Cheryl Fall, author of the Family Reunion Planning Kit for Dummies. Tracking down family members, sending invitations, and selecting a location, food and entertainment are just a few of the tasks involved. To manage all the details, Fall recommends that you begin planning more than a year in advance. The important questions Who? Where? When? should be answered as soon as possible.

Family reunions come in all shapes and sizes, from small groups of immediate family to large groups pulled from all corners of the world, Fall says. The type of reunion you plan depends on the number of people attending, the site and theme chosen, and the activities involved. Here are some tips to streamline the planning process:

  • Network. You may need to play detective to locate far-flung relatives. Start by contacting your immediate family and all others in your personal phone book, Fall suggests. Then use this network to track down the others.
  • Involve family members. Fall recommends creating committees for responsibilities such as set-up, food, entertainment, cleanup and correspondence.
  • Save the date. Most reunions are held in the summer, when commitments often are less demanding. If a summer event isnt possible, chose a school break or three-day weekend, especially if attendees have to travel from out of town. Consider the weather, which may dictate the success of outdoor parties.
  • Choose the right location. Select a site thats large enough to fit the party comfortably, yet small enough to be intimate. Small reunions are held easily in the hosts backyard or a family room. For larger parties, research a variety of sites, narrow the list to three, and ask attendees to vote on it.
  • Develop a budget. I recommend charging a small fee, even for potluck, picnic or bring-your-own-meal reunions, because expenses always crop up and the host or planner shouldnt bear the burden, Fall says.
  • Consider creative fund-raising to offset expenses. The Randolph E. Smith family of Washington state holds a family auction at their annual reunion. Each family member donates an item, such as a quilt or hand-painted Christmas ornaments, and we buy dollar-store items for the kids to bid on, family member Donetta Allen says. One of the older relatives acts as auctioneer, and all proceeds go to our reunion fund. An auction, online sale or yard sale could work if money is needed before the reunion takes place.
  • Blend generations. Design a theme and choose activities that allow generations to intermingle. Scavenger hunts, trivia quizzes and activities such as three-legged races or broom hockey can be fun for everyone. When planning games, create teams that are multigenerational. Try your best to assign spouses to opposing teams and to separate children from parents, so everyone gets to know other family members, Fall says.
  • Create a memento. One idea is to ask relatives to submit a favorite recipe, and compile them to create a family cookbook. Also, take plenty of group pictures and send copies to each attendee with a wrap-up letter after the reunion.

Most importantly, remember that this is about family. Dont worry if things go wrong; after all, the mistakes of the day could make the best memories tomorrow.

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