Organising a Family Reunion

Family reunions can be both the highlight and lowlight of any family’s social calendar. Sure you get the chance to see Cousin Kimberly from Australia, but someone has to spoon feed Great Uncle Herbert as well. When it comes time for your next family reunion, make sure you get things just the way you want them by offering to organise it yourself. This may seem like volunteering for a Mission Impossible, but with a little help from your friends organising a family reunion may just be one of the most worthwhile tasks you ever accomplish.

Gather the Guests

Depending on your time limit, budget and personal preference, family reunions can include everyone from immediate family only to every last living relative that can be tracked down. Before you begin to plan any other aspect of your family reunion, create a guest list. Knowing how many guests to anticipate will help you plan:

  • The size of the venues needed.
  • The scale of the catering/food needed.
  • How many volunteers you will need to organise.
  • What type of finances you can anticipate working with.

Save the Date

One of the hardest tasks associated with organising a family reunion is selecting the date. As with any event involving a large crowd, it is unlikely that any one date will suit everyone, so don’t even try. Instead, think about selecting a date that has family meaning, such as:

  • The birthday of the oldest living relative.
  • The wedding anniversary of the oldest living couple.
  • The memorial date for a particular ancestor.
  • The birthday or christening date of the youngest living relative.

Family Reunion Committee

Whether you want to formalise a committee or simply recruit willing volunteers, the key to organising a smooth family reunion is to delegate. Obviously the bigger the reunion, the bigger the committee should be. While you, the supervisor, need to keep abreast of developments in all areas, make sure you have at least one volunteer to be the key contact for:

  • Finance – someone willing to oversee record keeping and confident in working with the money.
  • Food – preferably a gourmet who can also take into account everyone’s food allergies, sensitivities or dietary requirements (low salt, vegetarian, etc.)
  • Activities – if you’ve got an ex club rep in the family, tap them to organise family friendly games.
  • Press – enlist a creative type to take care of invitations, family communications, and photography before, during and after the reunion.
  • Accommodation – organising accommodation for an entire extended family is a massive chore, particularly when wheedling hotels, motels and B&Bs for blocks of rooms and discounts is involved.
  • Logistics – rope in a few energetic youngsters to help set up and clean up for all events. Just think about all of the folding chairs and tables to be looked after!
  • Welcome – never underestimate a cheerful welcome to put everyone at ease. Ask of a few of the family’s best greeters to do their thing.

The Theme Scene

One of the easiest ways to get everyone in the reunion spirit is to coordinate all activities to one central theme. If you need something to tie your reunion together, consider:

  • An ethnic theme – use your family’s heritage to influence the food, drink, song, dance, sports and games.
  • Historical – trace your family history back as far as possible and centre your reunion around the earliest time period you can prove.
  • Sports – if you’ve got enough relatives to suit up and run a sports tournament, make this the focal point of your reunion.
  • Family History – of course the main point of your reunion may be to share exciting family history research. If this is the case, consider using reproductions of family photos and records as decorations and organising a forum in which the family history information can be shared.

Sneaky Sub Plots

While you enjoy your reunion, use this opportunity for a variety of extra purposes. For example:

  • Tap guests for family history information that could flesh out the family tree.
  • Write down the family stories you hear to create a book of family legends.
  • Make sure each guest’s contact information is gathered so a family directory can be made.
  • Take photos of each guest for the family record.
  • Network! Who knows which relative could hold the key to another’s dreams!

Though hard work, family reunions can be fun and full of information. If you are considering organising a family reunion, get started early and enlist an army of volunteers. The more work you can delegate and complete before the actual reunion, the more free time and fun everyone will have during it!