The planning itself provides a great opportunity to catch up with relatives and strengthen family ties.
However, the planning does take some work and proper organization will go a long way towards putting together an event everyone will remember.
The guiding principles for anyone organizing a family reunion should be to make sure that people get together, catch up, have some fun and hopefully continue to keep in touch after the reunion as well
Here are some simple steps to achieve these guiding principles.
Get A Historical Perspective
If this is not the first reunion in your family, then start by calling the previous reunion organizer to get some tips on what worked for them in the past. Rather than guessing what activities, locations etc. worked best the last time around, get a perspective from someone who already knows and can potentially lend a hand in getting your family reunion off the ground. Read more about what questions you should ask of the previous family reunion planner?
Get Volunteers And Decide On The Type Of Family Reunion
Call your closest relatives and ask them if they would like to get involved in the planning process. The planning is fun and you should face little resistance when you ask for volunteers. The best volunteer to guest ratio is approximately 1 for every 25 people invited. Below are some additional articles that expand on the topic of volunteers.
Once you have the volunteers, send out a family reunion survey on what type of reunion will be planned. Will it be a family reunion cruise or will it be reunion to remember in New York City.
Decide On The Date, Type, And Location Of The Family Reunion
Family reunions come in all shapes and sizes. You can have something as minimal as a potluck in somebody’s backyard or you could arrange for a catered meal at a local banquet house with entertainment.
Put together two or three ideas of what you would like to do and contact family members to get their opinion on dates and locations. Since your reunion is not that large, it is feasible to make 5 to 10 phone calls and get an idea of what works best for everyone else.To learn more, read “How to Select the Type of Family Reunion that is Right for You”.
Once you have an idea of where and when the family reunion is going to be, it is time to talk invitations.
Once you have decided what family members you would like to invite, the next step is to send out the invitations.
Make sure that you include the date, time and place that the reunion will be held. If you are hosting a pot luck dinner (or perhaps a Christmas gift exchange around the holidays), make sure to announce what everyone needs to bring on the invitations.
Once you send out invitations, wait two weeks before making calls and confirming attendance. While you wait, ponder over which family members can help you get things done.
Depending on the size of the reunion, you may need several committee’s to get things organized. Encourage volunteers to sit on several committee’s as they will get to meet and socialize with different family members in each one. Committee’s you should consider getting started are:
- Finance Committee– Get a budget together as far ahead of time as possible so when you decide to invite members, you know how much you will need from each participant for attending the reunion. A committee of two to three is best here, preferably someone who is either in finance, owns their own business, or is familiar with spreadsheets.
- Dinner/Banquet Committee– There are people in your family who know how to cook, and how to get great deals on food. Get these folks to make up your Dinner/Food Committee as they not only will know what to order but will do it in a cost efficient manner.
- Fundraising Committee- Select a couple of family members who are creative and high spirited, can talk forever, and have a great attitude towards life. When you are asking for help from volunteers or need to raise funds, you want to send out people who are quick with a joke, and can take lots of “No, thank you”, and can still plug along with a great attitude. Here are some quick family reunion fundraising ideas to get you started.
- Accommodations Committee- Look for someone analytical in your family. This person will have to be able to compare and possibly negotiate group rates at hotels, room comps, finalize hotel selection, and put together rooming lists. Here are some tips on getting group hotel rates fast.
- Activities Committee – Family Reunion activities should be for various age groups, and interests. When you are selecting family members for this committee, you want to pick three to four people from different ages and backgrounds so that the activities will reflect everyone’s interests. Here are some popular Family Reunion Activities And Games.
- Photography/ Party Favors Committee- Pick a couple of people to find local photographers or have a family member volunteer to take pictures and another one arrange for the party favors/welcome bags.
- Website/ Invitation Committee- Select someone in your family that is good with computers and have them create a family reunion blog or a Family Reunion Website so that you can communicate with attendees about any details. You can use the website to invite people, take polls, and to keep everyone in the loop about details like hotel location, etc.
Group Rates For Hotels
Once you have an idea of how many people will be attending the family reunion, get group hotel rates in your destination city. Plan to book a group hotel at least six to nine months out so that you get the best rates and selection of hotels to choose from. As you get closer to the actual event, your desired hotel may be sold out. Instead of calling hotels individually, just use the form provided and hotels in your desired location will bid on your business. To learn more about why it’s best to let hotels bid on your family reunion, click here.
Book a Venue
Family reunions have to happen somewhere. Unless you are just having a backyard get-together, you will need to reserve space at a local Park, a banquet house or even a hotel.
If you are going to be needing hotel rooms for your family reunion, make sure to use our group hotel rates form. Our site allows you to book hotels through an online automated bidding system. Hotels bid for your business and you get to choose the one that is right for your budget and family.
Selecting a location is an important milestone as you can now concentrate on picking entertainment, activities, and food.
Entertainment And Activities?
It is important to decide on the entertainment for the family reunion ahead of time. Select something that the whole family will enjoy (Like Karaoke). You could also hire a DJ and create a family dance party.
If your family is staying at a hotel, then using the pool as a good hangout that is both free and has enough room to put together a board game or two.
Be creative. you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have successful entertainment and activities at your family reunion. For some more ideas, read our article “Family Reunion Activities”.
Making the Meal Plans
When planning the menu for your family reunion, stick to what you know. Remember to plan simple and make a lot. The best way to cook for a large group of people is to do a buffet style meal. You may also choose to create a pot luck style spread where everyone brings something to share.
Make sure to be in contact with everyone several weeks before the reunion to be sure that all of the menu items are covered and that you will have enough for everyone. The last thing you need is a hungry clan in front of a camera.
Planning a Photographer or Videographer
Designate someone to take the pictures or record the day’s events. Make sure that if you are hiring a photographer you do so in advance. Having a family member take the pictures or video record the family reunion is another option. Either way, make sure that you know who will be capturing the memories.
Planning the Decorations
The decorations for the family reunion can be as simple or elaborate as you would like. It is important to consider the space that you will be using to host the event. If you are decorating outside consider items that can be secured to avoid anything blowing away. You can also use balloons or streamers to add festive color to any reception hall or family home. The sky’s the limit with decorations all you need is a little creativity.
3 to 6 Months Before
About a month prior to the family reunion, organize a meeting with all volunteers to finalize event details from each committee. See who is having trouble doing their assignment and help them along so that the reunion planning is not held up. Once all the details are set, send out an email to all attendees with the family reunion agenda that includes schedules, activities, and hotel details, and directions. If you have organized any group airfare rates, this is probably the time to mention those too.
Last Minute Details
2 Weeks Before
Confirm all reservations at hotels, restaurants, and any other group travel activities. Purchase any last minute decorations and supplies. Coordinate any last minute details with volunteers and committee members. Here is an article on managing the details at the family reunion.
The Big Day
Have fun by reuniting, and rediscovering your family members. Enjoy the activities and the meals you took so much time to plan. Most importantly, remember that not everything is going to go as planned and you should just make the best of any situation that comes up. Just remember the old saying “the family is our refuge, our springboard…our link to the past, our bridge to the future”
Before you close out the family reunion festivities, try and take a formal vote (maybe at the last banquet) to see what location people would prefer for the next reunion. If you are already planning next year’s reunion then this information will help as you will already have a location to plan for.
A week after the family reunion, send out a family reunion feedback survey to all participants with questions about what they thought worked and what they could have lived without. You won’t make everyone happy with all the events but so long as most of the people ended up happy, you did just fine. Plus, with all these comments, you now have some great material to work with when you plan your next family reunion.
What should you read next?
Since you’re planning a family reunion, take a look at some money saving ideas for your next event.