Set Location & Make Reservations
When an overnight stay is involved and there are too many relatives and not enough beds, reserve the bedrooms for the seniors and create a dormitory for the kids by gathering mattresses, sleeping bags and small tents. Not only does this arrangement make comfortable accommodations for the older family members, but also the children usually love this type of sleeping arrangement. It often makes for many laughs and fun memories.
When the reunion is held at a commercial establishment, one person might coordinate all the reservations and seek group discount rates. Or you can include a list of motel/hotels with the reunion invitation so that each family can arrange their own lodging.
Plan Activities and Entertainment
This is one of the most critical parts of planning a family reunion. Without a doubt, you want to make sure that everyone has a great and memorable time. It is a good idea to plan activities that appeal to all ages so everyone feels included but not obligated to participate.
For example, you can start a family reunion by having an ice-breaker such as the Family Treasure Hunt. Hand out blank sheets of paper and send people in search of signatures from the oldest family member present, the parents of triplets, the relative who traveled the farthest to attend and other pre-selected members. You could also create a family version of Trivial Pursuit with prizes handed out during the game.
The key here is getting creative people to head up the Activities and Entertainment Committee, since the activities of a family reunion are oftentimes critical to the success of the event.
Now, with most of the details figured out, you are set to mail out the invitations. This should be done at least four to six months in advance. Be sure to include the following information in each letter:
• Confirmation of dates;
• Schedule, including activities and entertainment;
• Listing of family members most likely to attend, based upon their initial reply;
• Listing of those family members overseeing the committees, with their contact information (along with an appeal for additional volunteers); and
• Pedigree chart (if possible).
End Game Flow Chart
About one month before the family reunion, send out another announcement. Firm up the details with any new developments, and reassure everyone the reunion is set to go.
Take time to confirm details a week before the reunion. Make sure the location for the reunion is ready with tables, decorations and food. Confirm that all of the equipment for games and other activities will be present. Reconfirm any lodging requirements.
On the day of the reunion, plan on being the first person there and last one to leave. Remember, however, to be generous in your delegation of activities and duties so you too can enjoy the reunion.
After the reunion, take time to write a follow-up letter (or email message) to the whole family, including the ones who couldn’t make it. Recount the highlights and thank everyone who helped make the reunion a success. If you’ve done a web page, update it with photos and short stories about the event. And if you have the time, energy and finances, create a directory with everyone’s contact information and enclose this in your letter (and on your website).
Create the Master List
Before planning the reunion, you should compile a master list of the entire family. The information you should seek is each person’s name, mailing address, telephone number, email address and relationship to the family.
In the first mailing to everyone, your letter should contain the following:
• A description about the upcoming event.
• Several possible reunion dates currently under consideration (i.e., Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, etc.). Ask them to rank the best available dates for their families.
• A request for help in planning the reunion.
• A request for guests to reconfirm their contact information.
• An updated list of all family members and their contact information. Ask each person to review the list and add information for distant relatives not listed.
• A request for birth dates, birth places, marriage information, as well as other data that will be of interest to future family historians (i.e., favorite hobbies, places you have lived or visited, etc.)
• A request for confirmation on how many family members plan on attending.
• Special considerations or comments, e.g., a reminder about Aunt Gertrude’s difficulty climbing stairs, Uncle Bob’s special diet, etc.
• A blank pedigree chart to see how far people can trace back. When you get the charts back, combine them on a big chart so that everyone can see how they are related on the family tree.
• A due date for all replies.
In this day when family members are scattered all over the country (and even the world), there’s nothing like getting the whole clan together to rekindle family ties. It’s a special opportunity to catch up on everyone’s life, marvel at the children, learn your ancestry, share fond memories, and simply enjoy your family’s company.
If you are ready to take over the reigns of planning a family reunion, then congratulations! Few things are more rewarding. To help you plan a successful and memorable gathering, I’ve provided a checklist and timeline to help remind you of the little details and keep you on track.
Set the Date & Delegate
Once you receive letters back, determine which date is the best possible to hold the family reunion. Of course you will never find an ideal date, as there will almost always be at least one person or family that cannot attend on a certain date. So pick the date on which most people can attend, and the location that works best logistically.
Although you are the one planning the family reunion, there’s no reason why you have to do everything. If fact, you shouldn’t. The more relatives involved, the more interest there will be in the occasion, and the greater attendance. So feel free to solicit the help of anyone who has expressed an interest in volunteering. Some of the areas in which you will need special assistance include:
• finances (dues, deposits, etc.)
• food and lodging
• activities and entertainment
• collecting family memorabilia for the occasion
• creating a family tree or an informal family history
• cleanup crew
• miscellaneous details (to handle emergencies, etc.)