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Planning the Perfect Family Reunion

Picking a Location...
Gathering family from across a region or the country can be a challenge, so plan carefully. Centrally located reunions can help increase the number of people able to attend.

Note: Remember to take into account the ages of attendees when planning a spot. A reunion that is expecting a lot of great grandparents and great aunts & uncles probably shouldn't be in Phoenix in August.

 Where to Stay...
 Many hotels will offer great week-end rates... especially when you are purchasing blocks of rooms. Another great alternative is the lodges you will find at state parks. These usually will offer meeting rooms for getting together large groups, plus there are often onsite activities to be enjoyed.

Example: Mahoney State Park near Omaha, Nebraska offers a beautiful Lodge that sits on the Platte River. It has meeting rooms and a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Activities include:
  • Hiking trails
  • A water park complex complete with Olympic sized pool, water slides and wave pool
  • Horseback riding
  • Nightly melodrama productions (summer)
  • An arts & crafts center
  • A driving range & miniature golf
  • Paddle Boats
  • Fishing
  • A Nature conservancy and greenhouse
  • SAC Air Museum is 1 mile away
  • An ice skating pavilion is open during the winter months
  • Plus there are ample spots for Family cookouts.

Moral of the story... check out the State Parks near where you'd like to plan your reunion. You may be pleasantly surprised!

How Far Ahead to Plan...
Six months ahead is usually a good rule of thumb for making reservations. You may want to start communicating the event to family members up to a year in advance. (Especially if your family is spread across the country.) But plan on frequent communications as well, since with our busy lives people often forget even important dates.

Note: With email it is now easier and cheaper to keep everyone in the loop. So don't forget to update everyone often. And remember, with email, you'll probably get planning suggestions from others and maybe even offers of help. (Take help when it's offered, it will make your planning easier!)

For a three day reunion, three "Planned" events are usually enough. Remember, people will want some down time for themselves and the ability to explore the area too, so keep the major events to one a day.

Event ideas...
Opening Day Breakfast / Brunch - Everyone has a chance to meet and greet. Keep it casual and allow plenty of time for conversing as well as brunching.

Old-Fashioned Family Cookout! - Break out the Burgers and Franks. No family reunion is complete without a traditional cookout. Steaks, burgers, franks, brats, coleslaw, potato salad and chips... delicious but easy party fare that everyone loves. Don't forget to bring baseballs, soccer balls and footballs for tossing after your meal. If there are lots of little kids in attendance, a water balloon fight is always a big hit.

Planned Excursions - Take a day and plan exciting events everyone can attend. If you're reunion is small, stick to one. If you have a large group perhaps schedule a couple of options. Trips to the zoo, a local museum, or a nearby adventure/theme park will offer something for everyone and get people out and about. For large groups, consider hiring transportation. You can rent a bus or trolley to transport your crew and then you don't have to worry about distributing directions or losing anyone in route.

Final Night Send Off - On the last night of the reunion consider having a dressier dinner. Whether you go out to a local restaurant or have it at the nearest relatives house, a more formal menu makes the event seem special. Not to mention you'll have the opportunity for family portraits with everyone dressed for the occasion.

Other Ideas To Consider...
The Keeping Together Address Book - Buy an inexpensive address book and have it available at a table during all of the planned events. Encourage everyone to include their name, kid's names & ages, address, phone, and email. Sometime after the reunion is over, you (or someone who was kind enough to volunteer to help) can compile the information and send it out to everyone... making it easier to stay in touch between reunions.

Hire a Photographer - If you'd like to commemorate the event, hire a professional photographer who is accustomed to taking large group photographs. Then you can let everyone order a group photo. You could even make the photographer available for individual family groups to have photographs taken together. What a great memento to have at home after everyone has gone their separate ways.

Family Reunion Scrapbook (Digital Style) - If you are into digital photography here's your chance to shine. Take lots of photos during the whole reunion. Candid shots. Funny shots. Group shots. Touching shots. Everything. Then go online and create a Family Reunion photobook. (There are several online services that are easy to use.) Next email everyone and give them a chance to order their own photographic story of the family reunion. If you do this, you are almost sure to be creating a treasured family heirloom.

The Family Reunion Chalice - Get a fancy goblet (engrave it with the family crest, if there is one) and bring it to the most formal get-together you plan. Then you can pass it from family head to family head and give each five minutes to give a brief review of what their clan has been up to, how it's grown, blessings they'd like to be thankful for, and anything else you'd like to have them update everyone about. Then at the very end of the reunion, the Chalice is passed to the person whom will be responsible for planning the next family reunion (two, three, five years from now).

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