Family reunions are the perfect time to connect with extended family members we don’t get to see very often – and summertime is the best season to host one!
Whether you’ll be gathering with a dozen close family members, or several hundred relatives, planning a fun, memorable, and meaningful family reunion can be challenging. You’ll need to stay organized and keep your sense of humor throughout this experience!
I’ve helped plan a number of family reunions and larger family gatherings over the last few years, and I’ve learned a lot about how to plan a successful event. Here are my top 10 tips for planning your own family reunion:
1. Plan in advance. To get a lot of people to attend, you’ll need to give your family members lots of advance notice about the event. Allow plenty of time for folks to get the date on of their calendars, and make their travel plans. Some people may need to buy plane tickets, and they can save money if they buy in advance, so the more notice you can give, the better.
2. Think about how long you want the event to last. Are you gathering for just one meal, or will your get-together last an entire weekend? The longer your event lasts, the more activities you’ll need to plan and the more food you’ll need to provide – but longer events also mean you’ll get to (hopefully) spend more time together as one big happy family.
Whatever you decide, make sure to communicate about the length of your event clearly, so your relatives know what to expect.
3. Consider the purpose of the family gathering. If your relatives are already getting together because of another event (like a graduation ceremony, wedding, or even a funeral), it can be a great opportunity to plan a family reunion. Everyone will already be in one place, which can mean you’ll be more likely to get people to attend your reunion.
The day after our daughter’s wedding (which is now right around the corner!), we’re having a family picnic. Since both sides of the family are traveling to Seattle for the wedding, we thought this was a perfect chance to spend more time together to get better acquainted.
4. Create a planning committee. It helps to have input and assistance when you’re planning a reunion, so get some help! You can delegate the food, accommodations, activities, and/or communication about the event. The bigger the family, the more details there are to keep track of, and you don’t need to do everything yourself to have a successful event.
5. Set your budget. Reunion expenses can get out of hand quickly if you’re travelling for the event, or have a large group of attendees. With your planning committee, decide if you’ll ask folks to help pitch in to offset the cost of the venue, food, activities, or accomodations. If you ask people to pitch in, work with your committee to come up with a figure that’s affordable for your attendees.
6. Carefully come up with your guest list. How large do you want your reunion to be? You can go big, and host a giant event with your extended family (one side, or both sides), but you can also consciously decide to host a smaller event, with just couples and kids.
When you’re making the guest list decisions, remember that large events can be great, but they can also be expensive and time-consuming to plan…..make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew!
7. Decide if you’re going to send invitations. If you decide you want to send invitations, you can use Evite, which enables you to send free online invitations via email, share details on locations and activities, track RSVPs, and receive correspondence about the event. Keep in mind that if you use Evite, you’ll need an email address for each family or attendee.
8. Consider who’s attending when planning the activities. If your group is multi-generational, you may need to split up your activities a bit, and have different age groups doing separate activities. You can get as detailed as you want when you’re planning activities. You can provide ideas for your family members to consider, or even make reservations for activities and outings for the entire group.
More than likely, you’re going to have some people in your group who need a bit of downtime every day. Make sure you give people the choice to opt out of activities if they need time to recharge.
In my blog post on family traditions, I talked about a Memorial Day event I attended with my family a few years ago. In their enthusiasm to create a fun weekend, my relatives packed every moment of that weekend with games and activities. As one who’s not a big fan of games, competition, or extended time with people (yes, I’m an introvert), this was a tough weekend for me in some ways. It would have been nice if the event planners had factored some downtime into the schedule.
9. If you’re planning an outside event, have a backup plan. Make sure you know what to do if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Can you gather under a picnic pavilion, or go inside the house, if you’re meeting in someone’s backyard? Make sure you’ve got enough room to accommodate everyone in your backup space.
For my daughter’s wedding, the post-wedding picnic will be held at the house we’re renting. The house has a nice-sized yard we can comfortably entertain in, but should the weather change, we can bring everyone inside.
10. Plan on including some storytelling in the event. Reunions are the perfect time for storytelling! Take pictures at the reunion and bring pictures to reminisce over with your relatives.
And by all means, prompt the members of the older generations to share their stories. How often do you get the chance to just listen to them talk about their lives, with that type of audience? Don’t miss this opportunity to get your older relatives to chat!
Want to know how to take storytelling photos at your reunion? Pick up a copy of our free report, 8 Ways to Tell Stories with Your Family Photos.
It’s great that you explained that it is important to give a lot of time in advance to allow family members to make travel plans when organizing a family reunion. My wife and I were put in charge of planning this year’s reunion and from what we know there are going to be a lot of people attending. I think it would be a good idea for us to find a large cabin we can rent for a week.
Very exciting to hear that you could have a large crowd! It does help to have a central place where most can stay! Good luck planning your reunion!