All in the Family – How to Organize a Family Reunion without Losing Your Mind

Summer is one of the most popular times to hold a family reunion. Deb has some tips on how to organize your family reunion so that a good time will be had by all (including you!).

Set Your Parameters: Date, Duration, and Guests. Have a clear date and time frame – if it’s the first one, 3-4 hours is sufficient and you can provide a list of local places to continue the get-together for those who are having an absolute blast. You also may want to keep the guest list tight if it’s your first time (especially if you come from a large family!). Third and fourth cousins and great-great-grand-relatives that you aren’t very close to can be invited next year. If you’re taking over organizing duties from another relation, they will more than likely have a working guest list and history of locations – ask for them!

3…2…1…Contacts: Set up an email address specifically for the reunion that you can check on your schedule and that won’t disrupt your daily workflow. If your have family eager to help plan, create a team and designate tasks – you can do this with an application such as Asana which will help keep roles and assignments clear.

Where’s the Party?: If it’s a small affair, perhaps the organizer (or an enthusiastic relative) will host at their home. Smaller affairs can also be held at restaurants or banquet halls. Larger affairs do well at parks – just remember to book a pavilion (or two..or three, depending on how many you expect) – especially if smaller children will be in attendance; tweens and teens can get a designated moping corner (Joking! Kind of!)

If everyone has the means to really splurge, a cruise, amusement park, or other destination may be fun, but only if it’s within everyone’s means – remember, it’s a family reunion and not a family discord-generator. If your reunion will be even partially outdoors, remind guests to bring sunscreen and insect repellant. Also specify whether or not the event is pet-friendly, and if it is, provide rules (e.g. pets must have proof that they are up-to-date on rabies vaccines and must be crated or leashed at all times).

Out of Towners: For family traveling a distance, provide a list of campgrounds (RV and tent), hotels/motels, and local attractions such as restaurants, cultural/historic institutions, and entertainment venues in case they want to stick around for a day or two.

Feed Me!: If you’re going the pot luck route, provide guests with an estimate for attendance and ask them to bring something to share. Let them know what the organizer(s) are providing for the group and ask attendees to let you know what they’re bringing 10 days ahead of time, so you can let everyone know. Provide the number of grills and/or kitchen amenities that will be available so that nuclear families can bring their preferred protein. It’s fine if the organizers cannot provide meat/vegetarian protein/alcohol/soda, just let everyone know ahead of time. *When planning and providing guests with information, don’t forget to include food/environmental allergies.

Memories Old and New: Encourage attendees to bring photo albums, memorabilia, and upload videos to YouTube for sharing. Encourage cameras, and perhaps set up a Forever account for everyone to upload their photos from the reunion afterward.

Have Fun: As long as everyone knows what to expect, you will have one happy extended family! If anyone insists on complaining, just invite them to take over organizing duties with your happiest smile – if they don’t offer to get involved and help, it’s on them and not you. Put together a playlist from iTunes or Spotify, or just choose a Pandora channel and enjoy your event!