How to plan a family reunion
This family reunion planning guide features 11 steps to a less stressful and more successful family reunion.
1. Make sure there's interest
Before you get started planning a family reunion, you must first determine if there is an interest. You’d hate to spend time and energy putting a family reunion together only to have nobody attend. Call a few of your closest relatives and get their input. If they express interest, ask them to help you plan the event.
2. Get help and form committees
Involving people in the planning process makes it easier for you and gives others a stake in the event’s success. Make a list of the areas you will need help with. This might include party invitations, site arrangements, transportation, food, games and activities and cleanup. Organize committees and match the abilities and interests of your relatives with the functions of the committees. Have your committees keep records and compile them in a reunion binder that you can hand off to next year’s planner. More ideas on committees.
3. Make a checklist
One of the best ways to stay organized is to create a timeline and checklist for items that must be accomplished for your family reunion. We’ve covered the basics for a large family gathering planned one year in advance on the Gatherings Timeline & Checklist. Not all tasks will be applicable to you, and we’ve left space to write in tasks unique to your gathering. Check off each step as it's completed. More ideas on making a checklist.
4. Decide the type of reunion you want
All families are different. Some require nothing more than tents, a grill and a park to have a good time. Others prefer a banquet hall with a band or DJ. Start talking with your family about what type of family reunion you want. Keep in mind that the earlier you invite people, the more will be able to attend. More ideas on deciding what you want.
5. Choose a date and location
Summertime is traditionally the time of year for family reunions, but if your family would rather sled than swim, winter gatherings can be great too. You might plan your event for a special day like a birthday or anniversary. Three-day weekends give out-of-town relatives more time to travel, but lodging rates may be lower during off-peak times.
Once you decide on the date, decide where the gathering will be held. Choosing the right location is a key part of a successful reunion. Think about what your family plans to do during the reunion and pick a location conducive to those activities. Wherever you look, consider the services available, capacity, cost, accessibility, restrooms and availability – and if necessary, be sure to reserve the location as soon as possible. More ideas on picking a date and a location.
6. Establish a budget
If you’re hosting a potluck buffet or a small gathering in your backyard, your expenses can be relatively low. Larger reunions may require more substantial funding. Keep accurate records of all expenses. You may want to set up a special checking account to help keep track of revenues and expenses. Don’t feel you have to foot the bill on your own. Ask family members to help by contributing, or hold a fundraiser. More ideas on budgeting.
7. Plan a theme
A theme can serve as a rallying cry. Use it in all communications about the reunion to create consistency, excitement and a sense of belonging. Themes are limited only by your imagination. More ideas on creating a theme.
8. Plan your food
Having the right food can make or break your reunion. Check with your family about food allergies or aversions before choosing food. If your reunion will be held at a restaurant, get a list of options and create a couple of menus that fit within your budget. If you plan to have a potluck, decide what types of dishes everyone should bring. More ideas on planning the perfect menu.
Send your first “save-the-date” invitation as soon as you’ve decided on a date and location. That way your family can put the reunion on their calendars early, and they’ll be more likely to attend. If you’re having a potluck, use the invitation to assign dishes. If the gathering will be at a restaurant, inform them of the price range or remind everyone to send payment in advance. Send a reminder a couple of weeks before the gathering. If you still haven’t heard from some relatives a week or so before the event, contact them to ensure attendance. More ideas on invitations.
10. Plan activities
Planning a few games and activities for your reunion can help relatives (especially those who don’t see each other often) relax and feel comfortable. Activities can also keep kids happy and occupied so that the adults can talk. The possibilities are endless — from a little friendly competition to icebreakers, to crafts that express your creativity. Decide what games and activities will be appropriate for your gathering and your theme.
11. Capture the memories
Your family gathering will be a memorable event. It’s also the perfect time to explore and preserve your family’s history and traditions. You can capture the memories in many ways including photographs, video recordings, video heirlooms and scrapbooks. And, while the family is all together, it’s the perfect time to create or update your family tree. More tips on capturing the memories.