There’s nothing I look forward to more than a good family reunion. Gathering with siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins is not only a great way to have some fun; it’s also an ideal opportunity to strengthen relationships, feel a sense of belonging, and make memories to last a lifetime! (“Do you remember when…?”)
But, as wonderful as they are, planning a family reunion can seem like an overwhelming task, particularly as families become larger and more people are involved. But if you break things down into a few simple steps, you’ll be on your way to a wonderful reunion in no time!
1- Choose Dates and Reserve Your Location:
If you don’t have a time and place, your whole cause is sunk. And remember, campgrounds, lodges, hotels, and other venues tend to fill up fast! Before planning the nitty-gritty details of your reunion, the very first thing to do is choose a spot and make your reservation. (Even if you’re only gathering at a park pavilion for an afternoon, you’ll need to make sure it’s reserved!)
Whether you choose a new location each time (It’s fun to see different places!) or simply return to the same place year after year (Traditions are great, too!) it’s important to think ahead and secure the spot. Oh, and when looking for lodging, you might consider finding somewhere that allows a little breathing room. Too much family togetherness can sometimes be, well, a little too much.
2- Spread the Word:
Since you want your loved ones to actually come to the reunion, it’s important to let them know reunion dates several months ahead of time.
Arrangements for travel, time off from work, and other details will need to be made—and all of that takes time! So spread the word well in advance.
3- Mealtime (and Cleanup):
No one wants to be around a bunch of “hangry” relatives, so make sure to plan the food and plan it well! Are you going to gather all together for your meals? Or are you going to break out into smaller families? Either way, you need to decide and communicate! You might eat as a big group, but assign individual families to head up specific meals (in which case, the family in charge would bring all needed ingredients and supplies). A food preparation and/or cleanup roster also works well so everyone has a chance to help. Post the roster so everyone remembers who’s in charge of what!
Also be sure to learn what kind of appliances and equipment are available. (Are there refrigerators or will you need to bring coolers? Stoves or fire pits? Dishes in the cupboard or paper plates?) Learn all you can about where you’re going and let your family members know exactly what they’ll be in charge of and what the facility is like. It is nice to have some communal equipment there like pots, pans, hot pads, aprons, wash clothes, etc.
You may want to plan a few activities, but try not to over plan. When thinking of the family reunions I’ve enjoyed over the years, we did a little sightseeing, swam in the lake, played some card games, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Activities were not held to a strict schedule; rather, we had lots of free time (swimming, card or board games, pick-up volleyball, movies) sprinkled with occasional planned events (meal times, excursions, and singing around the campfire).
In a nutshell, it’s a good idea to plan some activities but don’t become too attached to a rigid schedule. (You’ll need to stay a little flexible, especially when children are involved!)
5- Expect the Unexpected:
As wonderful as family reunions are, remember that things won’t go perfectly and that’s okay. Accidents could happen. Feelings may get hurt. Equipment might break. Weather doesn’t always cooperate. So, without being pessimistic, just plan on something going wrong and then you won’t be surprised if it does. Some of my favorite family reunions were memorable not because everything went right, but because something (or more than one something) went wrong. If you laugh and make the best of things, those times will turn into those priceless, “Do you remember when(s)?”
Family reunions are a time to catch up, stay up too late, eat way too much, tell stories, and simply enjoy being together. And however overwhelming they may seem to plan, remember that connecting with family is worth every effort!
Oh, I forgot the most important tip of all: HAVE FUN.