Planning a Family Reunion

Holding a family reunion can be very exciting.  It can also be quite the headache!  From deciding which branches of the family the reunion should include, to finding family members, to posting ads in all the newspapers (on-line and off) and so much more…it can all be a bit overwhelming.

Take a deep breath and follow these steps to get started:

1.  Decide which branch of the family this includes.  Will it be all descendants of Great-great grandma and grandpa Smith or of Great grandma and grandpa Jones?  If you stay too close to the current generations you’re limiting your reach and if you go too far out your reunion could get out of control.

2.  Place ads.  Go both online and off for this.  You need a general idea of how many people to expect in order to choose the proper venue.

  • 2a.  Do your research.  I’m calling this one 2a because it really goes along with the ads.  You’re goal is to find out as much about the family lines down from great-great grandpa Smith or great grandma Jones.  This will help you when guesstimating the number of attendees.

3.  Find a venue.  This one can be a little tough.  No matter how much research you do, you will probably never know how many will attend your family reunion.  Choose a place that can accommodate large or small numbers of people.  Is outside ok?  A park with a shelter house and restrooms may be nice.  If you prefer indoors there may be a church with a fellowship hall you can rent.  These are great for small or large crowds.

4.   Enlist the help of family.  A few of the following steps can be done by family members.  You shouldn’t have to do it all alone.

5.  Decide on activities.  Will children be there?  Even if you aren’t sure, please be sure to have activities for children.  If they aren’t there the first year, have the activities again the second year.  Eventually someone will bring their children then word will get out.  You want the children to attend or your reunion will die out.  Will you be displaying the family tree?  Providing a large family tree where attendees can add themselves is always fun.  If you would like to raise money for next year (and to reimburse you for this years expenses) an auction is great!  Be sure to ask everyone to donate something to auction.  Which brings me to the next step:

6.  Send out a family newsletter/announcement/letter.  Something letting everyone know about the reunion.  If you’re looking for help (see number 4) or need family members to donate items for the auction (see number 5) this is how you let them know.  Send these to everyone you can think of and everyone who has contacted you through your ads.  Be sure to include all information everyone may need, including location and a way to contact you.  (include a few ways to contact you…some people only text, some people call while others prefer e-mail)

7.  Sometime before the reunion you’ll need to decide on food.  What kind of food will be served.  Will you be asking everyone to bring something (potluck) or will you have it catered.  If potluck, you’re going to just get what you get.  It’s difficult to assign food to certain people, I wouldn’t suggest it in this case.  If you’re having it catered there are a number of inexpensive restaurants you could choose.  For what it’s worth, our family reunion has been potluck since the beginning and it works very well.

8.  Hire a photographer.  A professional photographer is nice to have.  They will take the pictures while you enjoy yourself.  All of the candid shots are nice to have.  After everyone has eaten, get them all together for a great group shot.  Those group shots can then be purchased by attendees for only slightly over cost (get enough to cover shipping, also) or a little more to help with reunion expenses.

9.  Start a reunion Facebook group.  You can keep everyone posted on the reunion, post the candid shots after the reunion and even share family genealogy information as you find it.

10.  A week or so before the reunion gather all supplies, items needed for activities, etc and print out any genealogy papers you’ll be displaying.  Be sure to do this at least a week before so you can be sure you have everything.

11. Verify the venue and caterer.  Be sure to do this in plenty of time to find another should there be any glitches.

12.  Set-up a couple hours before the reunion.  Are you decorating? (most reunions don’t need decorations like a party…a large tree, pictures of members of the family on a board, etc. are always nice, though)

Most of all, just have fun.  They’re family, they won’t care if everything isn’t exactly perfect.  If you forgot to bring that third item for the auction or the pickles for the meal they won’t even notice.

Learn from your first year and get better the next.  You’ll always find something new to do or serve at your family reunion.  Listen to family members.  In our family reunion, the majority preferred a different day so we are moving it to Saturday (it was on Sunday).  We only did this after the overwhelming majority voted on this.  Since the day is a major change, we felt that was necessary.  Little changes like doing the auction at the beginning rather than after the meal is a small change and doesn’t really require a vote, in my opinion, but do what is best for your family.

Have a wonderful reunion!

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