Planning a Family Reunion Guide
This may be your first year planning a reunion, or maybe you are taking over the responsibilities from another relative. In either case, you will need to know how to plan a family reunion. Staying organized is easier these days with the widespread use of computers. Relatives are easier to contact and details easier to track. Still, there is nothing easy about organizing a large family reunion.
Enlisting the Troops
If you have a large family, it takes an army of aunts, uncles and cousins to get the job done. You will need accurate addresses and phone numbers for the family members you will invite. You will also be asking many relatives for help. If there are gaps in your address book, older relatives are the best source of contact information. Grandmothers are so good at keeping track of grandchildren!
Use your computer to help you keep everything organized. Make a spreadsheet of the jobs you need done. In column A, put the job. In column B, put the name of the assisting relative and put contact information in column C. You may also want to include a column D for notes. By maintaining a good spreadsheet, no detail will go overlooked.
Asking for Help
When asking for help, be specific. Rather than just sending a list out to everyone, it is best to assign the tasks to relatives and then send an email or make a phone call asking the relative to do a specific task. Do not be too quick to assign a task to yourself. Planning is hard enough. See if anyone is willing to take on more than one duty before you assign yourself anything more than planning the reunion.
Very large reunions form committees where you assign different categories to each relative and let them worry about the details. The different aspects you need to address at a reunion are finances, food, a gathering place, invitations and attendance, activities, photography, set up and clean up. Every army needs a general, so be sure you have one person who has the last word. This is important to getting things done, avoiding double work and keeping order to the planning.
Set the Date
Once all of the duties are assigned, you will need to choose a date for the reunion. This can be an exercise in indecision. What if it rains? Should we hold the reunion inside? Should we rent a hall? The answers to these questions depend on your family.
If there are a large number of young children in the family, you will need a facility that has lots of room to play outside. You can always hedge your bet by renting a large tent to put up on the lawn. Should it rain, your house will not become overrun with little ones. If you have a lot of elderly family members, it may be best to hold the reunion inside, at a location that offers some outdoor setting. This gives you the best of both worlds.
As far as the date, it is nice to try to make the reunion coincide with special anniversaries. Is there a couple with a fifty-year anniversary coming up? While it may be tempting to set a date on a holiday weekend, this is ill-advised if you live in a tourist area. The traffic will be a nightmare for your relatives and the men will be discussing nothing but how long they were stuck in traffic.
Create a Website
Once the date is set and the duties assigned, you should set up a website that keeps track of all the reunion details for everyone to see. You can do this for free at many locations on line. Be sure you create pages that allow you to create a list of duties and assignments, a map with clear travel directions from major locations, links to local lodging and a detail of estimated costs. This is one of the most important things to make public.
Finances are always a touchy subject at family reunions. The person who does the planning often gets stuck with a large part of the bill. Ensure this does not happen to you by making sure everyone knows what the different aspects of the reunion will cost. Explain exactly what the money will be used for. Collect an initial donation from each household for their share of the costs so that you can pay for rentals and other items necessary to planning.
You can put out a jar and a sign at the reunion showing how much you need to raise to pay for the reunion, or you can charge as people arrive. It is up to you how strict you want to be on this point. If your family does not share well, you may need to be more assertive in collecting the fair share of costs.
Remind everyone why they are there by displaying a family tree. Show how everyone fits into the family and have photos available for people to look at. Keep a guestbook where everyone can sign in and provide their address, email and phone number.
Set up a laptop and scanner at the reunion and scan the old family photos your relatives bring. Put them up on the website after the reunion so they are available to all.
Plan for Fun
The most memorable part of the reunion will be what you did together as a family. While adults are sometimes fine just standing around and chatting, children need to be kept busy or they will get into trouble. Children’s activities are well-handled by teens. This gives them something constructive to do during the reunion.
Try a few different activities so you can figure out what works best for your family and repeat it next year. This will help you create a template that makes planning easier each year.