Blessed be the ties that bind
Every time extended family has a reason to get together, someone always suggests not letting so much time pass before gathering again. Life can be so busy and so hectic that sometimes we forget to make time for the people who have always meant the most to us.
Why not make this the year you organize a family reunion and bring everyone together again! It might sound like a daunting prospect, especially if you have a large family that’s scattered to the four corners of the world, but we’ve compiled a list of tips and suggestions that can make organizing and hosting a lot easier.
- Don’t expect you can plan, arrange and host a reunion within a few weeks. It’s best to choose a day up to a year in advance to allow everyone to book the date, save money if they’re going to have to travel, and make any necessary arrangements with lots of time to spare.
- You likely won’t be able to get everyone to agree on a date—and it’ll be a hassle if you try—so choose two and go with the one that the most people can attend. If everyone knows it’s simply “majority rules”, they are less likely to be upset if the date that works for them isn’t the one chosen. Keep school vacations and long weekends in mind—it might be easier for people with children to attend if you coordinate your dates with school holidays.
- Choose a small committee of family members (preferably local to the reunion location) that will be able to help you with tasks like getting quotes from venues, contacting family members, and making important decisions.
- Task your committee with thinking up fun things to do during the reunion. The Dollar Stretcher has some heartwarming, fun and inexpensive suggestions for family activities that are designed to bring people together and help them share and make new memories.
- If there’s a milestone event coming up in your family—a 50th anniversary or 90th birthday, for example—it’s nice to plan the reunion to coincide with that event. It makes the gathering extra special and gives it a built-in theme.
- To keep people regularly informed, it’s a nice idea to start a website or a Facebook group so your family members near and far can stay up-to-date as the reunion draws near. It’s also a great way to get them excited about the upcoming gathering! You can make simple, free websites using Weebly (weebly.com), or click here for a list of the top 10 website builders.
- What is your budget? Once you’ve assessed the interest level for a reunion, ask how much everyone is willing and able to spend to attend. Make sure they take any travel arrangements into consideration. Calling a few prospective venues to get a ballpark figure on a cost per person is a good way to know roughly how much people will need to pay to attend.
- Is your family reunion going to be one day or two? If you have several people traveling long distances to come to the reunion, it might be better to stretch out the festivities over a couple days to make it truly worthwhile. Consider arranging a dinner on the evening before the reunion for those who have just come into town, and perhaps plan a brunch for the day after.
- Where will you hold your reunion? A lot depends upon the size of your group. If you have a small enough number, your reunion could be held at someone’s home. If there are a lot of people, a hotel banquet room, religious hall or other large meeting space might be in order.
On the day!
- Have a small team of family members on hand to help you greet attendees, liaise with staff (if you’re at a hotel or other venue), and keep things organized and on track. It’s also a great idea to appoint an emcee who can make any necessary announcements and keep things moving during the event.
- If your family is particularly large, chances are there will be some new family members no one has met yet attending. At some point early on, make a point of getting the group’s attention and formally introducing and welcoming those new people to the family.
- Make sure to display family photographs and other memorabilia throughout the venue. People love reliving the past and sharing memories this way. A slideshow set up on a laptop or television is a great idea to having running right through the duration of the reunion. Ask people to send you family photos to include in the slide presentation. It’s particularly nice to have an in memoriam section to remember those who are no longer with you. Check out Kizoa (kizoa.com), an easy-to-use, free slideshow creator.
- People will bring their own cameras, but appoint an official photographer and task him/her with taking photographs of every single person, and at least one group photo to send to everyone after the reunion.
- If you don’t already have one, start a family tree! Now is the perfect time to put out a chart and have everyone fill in the blanks, especially if you have older relatives who remember people and dates from long ago. For a selection of fabulous free family tree charts visit Family Tree Templates .
- Set up a photo identification table for anyone who has photos of unknown family members. Others may be able to solve those photographic mysteries. Make sure to tell attendees that this table will be available prior to the reunion so they can bring in any photos they want identified.
- Enjoy yourself! It’s easy to get distracted by tasks and details when you’re the organizer, so make sure to set aside some time to just be an attendee and visit with the people you love most in the world.
411390C CAN/US (04/15)