The world is moving faster and more unpredictably than ever before. With technology that lets us communicate 24-7 it’s never been easier to get more things done. It’s also never been easier to neglect the things that matter the most in life, like your family.
Family is history. It connects our pasts, reminds us where we came from, and supports us moving forward. Most of us see our immediate families everyday. But far too often we take our extended family for granted. Your favorite aunt. The cousins you played with as kids. Grandparents you always promise to try and see more of…
As families grow in size, they also can grow apart. Fewer people know each other well, schedules can be tricky to align, and there are a lot of personalities involved. That’s why regular reunions are critical to helping maintain those family ties.
For those of you bold enough to plan – or even host – a large family reunion, you know the inherent challenges such events pose. But ultimately, the rewards that come with reuniting make it all worth it.
A well run family reunion can be a great opportunity to reconnect, reminisce in a way that only families can, and, most importantly, have a lot of fun.
So whether it’s a big backyard bbq, a long weekend in the mountains, or an informal gathering at your favorite establishment, a properly planned family reunion can be something that all ages – and dispositions – enjoy. It takes some work, but the good news is we’ve done a lot of that for you! In this guide we’ll share our expert advice on how to plan a meaningful and memorable family reunion that everyone will be glad they attended.
Before the Reunion
Because large family reunions require a lot of planning, begin preparations a few weeks in advance. Some family reunions take longer to plan than others, so it’s up to you to know when best to start making moves. Formal versions naturally take more time to plan than the informal ones.
Overall, advance planning gives you enough time to drum up interest in the reunion and enlist some help to pull it off. It also gives your family members room to request time off from work.
So, here’s what you need to do before the actual reunion.
Step 1: Consult the Family
The very first thing you need to do is consult with your family to get a rough idea of who wants to attend, when best to do it, and where. These details can make or break a family reunion, so it’s important to lock them in well in advance.
Take note of any dates to avoid, such as a loved one’s graduation ceremony, wedding, or engagement party. Also, avoid scheduling during the holiday season unless you intend to turn the reunion into a holiday function.
Step 2: Choose a Date
In large, extended families, it’s rarely possible to accommodate everyone’s schedule, so choose the best date possible. A cardinal rule of reunion planning is that once the date is set, you have to stick to it.
Many people plan their family reunions during the summer months since it’s easier for school-going children to attend. Summer also offers more possibilities for outdoor recreation.
However, if you’re going to plan a summer get-together, make sure that you have the budget to match. If not, schedule the reunion during the off-season when it’s easier to get special discounts for venues, entertainment, catering, and so on.
Now’s also the time to establish how long your family reunion will take. Two hours? An entire afternoon? Just make sure the duration will work with the majority of the family members.
Step 3: Decide on a Budget
Next, determine the budget. A good way to go about this is to work with the person who was in charge of the budget at the previous reunion. This enables you to know how much money people are willing to spend on the event.
If that’s not possible, you’ll need to make a budget from scratch. Estimate what your most significant items will cost. These are usually food, beverage, and potentially, a venue. Then sum it all up into one final figure.
Once you get a rough figure to work with, decide if you need more money and how you’re going to get it. If you’re working on a tight budget, consider scheduling the whole event off-season. Booking off-season can provide you with big savings in popular destinations. For example, a popular winter destination might actually be very affordable in the summer.
Remember to track every expense with spreadsheets. Even those little items add up quickly, so make sure every single item is tracked and accounted for from the word go.
Step 4: Pick a Location
Will the family reunion happen at a family member’s home or at a beach-side destination? Now’s the time to decide where to host the get-together.
Aim for a location that is most accessible and affordable to the majority of people you want to attend. If family members are clustered in one area, select a spot that’s nearby. If your relatives are more spread out, try to find a central location to help cut down on the travel expenses.
Also, make sure the final location caters to a variety of age levels, interests, and physical abilities. Ocean or lakeside state parks are ideal as there are things to do on both water and land.
Step 5: Send Invitations
Once you have the date, budget, and venue locked in, it’s time to send invitations. You can opt for traditional paper or digital invitations. Either way, send them a few months before the grand event.
Again, Reunacy comes in handy in this regard. It allows you to set up an event and send out messages to share the details. It’ll save a few trees, too!
During the Reunion
The main event is getting closer and closer, and you can’t wait to see all your hard work pay off. However, there are still more organizational tasks to cover. Dedicate an entire day for planning the menu and the entertainment.
Step 6: Plan the Menu
Feeding a large group of people with different tastes is perhaps one of the trickiest parts of planning a family reunion. Make it easy on yourself by suggesting a potluck or perhaps a menu that celebrates your family’s heritage.
If you do settle for a potluck, you’ll need to determine the menu and assign the dishes to each family. Find someone to help you do this. If you’re planning to cook at the location and your budget allows, hire a caterer.
Other than a potluck, here are some tried and true family reunion foods:
- Pizza: Pizza is ideal for small family reunions. Just remember to place your order well in advance if you’re going to need more than one pizza.
- Chocolate ice cream cake: Who doesn’t love chocolate and ice cream? You can mix these two divine inventions and create a delectably decadent chocolate ice cream cake for the upcoming reunion. If baking is not your thing, have some enthusiastic aunts do it.
- Barbecue: Heat up the oven and serve some juicy, oh-so-tender ribs. The meat will fall right off the bones, and your toothless granny will declare you the master chef.
- Fried chicken: You need to have something at the table that the kids and adults can dig into, and no other dish can beat crispy fried chicken as the ultimate crowd pleaser!
No matter what you choose to include in your family reunion menu, serve several different foods. Some family members might be vegetarians, dairy-free, or glutton-free, and a diverse menu caters to their unique preferences.
If you really want to go all out, have the menu handled by a professional caterer or catering company. But be sure to reach out well in advance.
Step 7: Plan the Entertainment
So far, so good. Now’s time to schedule fun activities and possible entertainment options.
For a successful family reunion, offer activities that suit everyone—from the kids to the elderly to the differently-abled.
Here are some entertainment ideas for the big day:
- Pool party: If your venue has a pool on-site, take full advantage of it. Pools offer endless entertainment options during the summer.
- Play ball: Group ball games are some of the best family reunion activities because they allow everyone to get in on the act. Some games you can easily plan for include soccer, volleyball, baseball, or bocce ball.
- Egg race: Another reunion favorite, the egg race is ideal for a big group. Everyone is racing against each other, and if you drop the egg, your team is out.
- Tug-of-war: If you can find a solid rope (ask the group, somebody probably has one in the garage), a battle between kids or better yet, kids vs. adults will tap into that healthy competitive spirit.
- Family talent show: Let every family member showcase their hidden talent—be it singing, juggling, playing an instrument, etc.—in front of the whole group.
- Scavenger hunt: A scavenger hunt can be about solving clues that lead to treasure or searching and collecting specific items. Break the ice and build camaraderie between distant family members by putting them in one team.
- Family trivia: Host a family trivia event. Your trivia questions could be about work-life, sports, love, and marriage—or they could be questions about your family. For example, ask questions like “Uncle Jack played soccer for which Division 1 college team?” or “Grandma came to the U.S. in what year?” This is a fun way to get everyone involved and learn more about one another as you go.
- Story time: This will be a hit with the kids. If you have a large group, choose a person from each nuclear family to tell a story about someone else. Encourage storytellers to think of something that most of your extended family doesn’t know. The best stories are those that reveal something sweet, unusual, or funny about a specific family member.
If your reunion is more of a holiday function spanning several days, look into other family entertainment opportunities such as:
Step 8: Share the Reason for Getting Together
When the big day finally arrives, remember to share the reason for getting together.
Maybe you mentioned it in your invite message, or maybe it’s written on the back of everyone’s T-shirt. Whichever the case, remind the attendees that the reunion is all about reconnecting, spending some quality time with loved ones, and having fun! If there’s any other reason for the get-together, be clear about it too.
Step 9: Delegate Responsibilities
When people have responsibilities, they tend to have a more vested interest in the success of an event.
So, if you haven’t already, create a planning committee. Recruit volunteers and dole out tasks as appropriate. For instance, you could request some aunts to cook and some enthusiastic cousins to take charge of the ball games.
Here is a list of duties and responsibilities that you need help with:
- Activities and entertainment
- Decorations, invitations, and registration
- Food preparation and catering
- Budget management
Step 10: Have a Backup Plan
Anything can happen when planning a family gathering like this. A caterer can opt-out halfway, the entertainer can fall sick, or worse, the weather can act up.
It’s smart to have a backup venue, entertainer, and caterer. If possible, plan for both indoor and outdoor activities. It would also be best if you had a backup organizer. Something might happen (God forbid!) that could force you out of the planning process.
Step 11: Share Family History
Whether it’s through memory books or printed T-shirts, make sure your family history stands out throughout the event. Let it inspire the decorations, food, presentations, and so on. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and it is the little details that will stick in the minds of the attendees forever!
If time allows, display photos and videos that talk about your family’s story and lineage. Honor the fallen heroes, celebrate those who deserve it, and introduce each new family member. That way, you’ll teach the younger generations about your family, its history, and the importance of getting together.
Step 12: Be Sure to Take Lots of Pictures & Videos!
Is there a family member who makes the best pie you’ve had in your life? Make sure to take a picture of that pie. Does Grandpa Joe reading stories to the little kids look like a photo-worthy moment? Capture that too. It is such little details that make family reunions special, timeless, and personal, so be sure to capture them in real-time. And, two pictures are not enough, take as many as you can!
Here are some additional tips on how to get the best reunion photos:
- Let ’em know! Not everyone likes being photographed without some makeup on or when they look tired.
- Shoot at eye level. Even kids love it when adults enter their world.
- Be patient and as unseen as possible.
- Get everyone all together. Group photos are a family gathering staple for a reason!
- Be present. It’s okay to put the camera down sometimes.
After the Reunion
Hopefully, you’ve had a great time with your family during the reunion. Here’s what you need to do within two weeks of the event.
Step 13: Write Thank-You Letters
Pen thank-you notes to the planning committee, caterer, special attendees, nuclear families, and anyone else who made the event a success.
Step 14: Bring Your Photos to Life!
You must have taken some photos and videos during the event, right? Now’s time to upload them to Reunacy so everybody can enjoy them! It’ll also help you remember what you did when it’s time to plan the next one.
Plan Your Next Family Reunion With Reunacy!
After months behind closed doors, we’re finally free to get together and have fun with those we love most. Reunacy gives you the platform to get everyone’s info in one spot so you can organize a happy reunion. What are you waiting for? Start a free group on Reunacy today!