Set the date early. The sooner you set a date, the better the response. Most people need plenty of time to co-ordinate their vacations around a reunion. Many families find it helps to gather during the same weekend each year.
Designate a leader. One person should assume overall responsibility to make sure things are accomplished in a timely fashion. In some families, the same person takes the reins for many years; other families rotate this position.
Appoint a contact person for each branch of the family. That person can keep members posted on the latest developments and keep the leader informed about how many will attend.
Let committees do the work. Divide tasks so more people can share in the preparations, but have everyone report to the leader. People involved in the planning are more likely to show up for the event. For example, one group can send out invitations and communicate with the family contact people; another can co-ordinate the food; a third can organize entertainment; and another can handle clean-up.
Reserve a location early. Unless you plan to gather at someone’s home, you should book your meeting site as early as possible. You’ll probably be required to pay a deposit. Consider this as insurance to guarantee the space you want. If you’re not returning to the family homestead, think about choosing a location that is convenient to the greatest number of people. Alternatively, select an exotic, out-of-the-way locale to make this a family reunion vacation that everyone will remember.
Determine costs. Estimate how much each person will need to pay to cover expenses. If you are camping, don’t forget such incidentals as garbage bags and charcoal. Normally, the lower the cost, the more people will be able to attend. Try to keep the cost low, but make sure you aren’t left with a lot of unpaid bills. Let everyone know their initial share for major items like lodging and meals, then divide up incidental charges after the reunion. Or, set up a family treasury to cover these expenses in the future. Some families hold a white-elephant sale at the reunion to help finance the next gathering.
Send invitations. Inform relatives about who, what, when, where, and how. Set a date for RSVP’s so you know how many to anticipate. Follow-up reminders will drum up additional enthusiasm.
Consider individual interests. How can you make everyone happy when Uncle Harry wants to fish, Aunt Gertrude likes to play cards, Bob’s into baseball, Grandma water skis, George dozes his vacations away, and Chris just wants to gab? Choose a location with a variety of options for both day and night activities. Then, plan some group activities that everyone can enjoy, and balance those with plenty of free time for the pursuit of personal interests.
Provide activities for each age group. Teenagers sometimes tend to shy away from family reunions, so plan something special for them in a location separate from the rest of the family, so they have a safe and fun way to get acquainted with each other. Do the same for the young children where they can be easily supervised. You might put the teens in charge of the younger children, armed with pizza and videos, so that the adults can have a night on the town.
Plan your next reunion while everyone is still basking in the pleasure of this one.
Send out mementos. Pictures or a newsletter bring back fond memories of your extended family. Some clans compile family recipes or genealogical histories.
Evaluate your reunion. Ask for feedback about what worked and what could be improved. Did everyone enjoy potluck meals, or should you cater a meal next time? Don’t be afraid to change; change can add vitality to a reunion.
Thanks to Better Homes and Gardens Magazine for these tips.