The snow is gone and spring is peeking through which means we’re getting ready for family reunion season to begin here at The Leadership Center. While the season doesn’t really start for a couple of months, we’ve been answering lots of questions from those planning their reunions with us. With that in mind, in today’s blog, we’re going to cover a few helpful tips for planning your next family reunion. These tips can be used whether your reunion is here or not.

Tips for planning your next family reunion:

  • Decide on the kind of family reunion you want to have.
  • Will it be a one day, pot luck at the park? A week long camping trip at the lake of vacations past? A two-day overnight in a hotel over the holiday?
  • The type of reunion you decide to host will help you determine the following:
    • amount of planning you will need.
    • location and potential reservations needed.
    • available recreation or activities.
    • if you need to arrange catering, assign meals or snacks, etc.
    • framework for a budget.
    • Who are you inviting?

Though the invitation list may seem obvious, the list can pose some potential issues. When deciding, you have to decide which family you are inviting and how far into the family tree you are going. If it is your first one, you may want to start with the immediate family and children. Depending on ages, you may have to consider inviting the children’s spouses too. Then you can move onto first and second cousins, etc. Be clear and as thorough as possible. If you have a family tree or a historian in the family, it might be wise to enlist them in the invitation list making so you don’t accidentally leave someone out. If this is not a new reunion and you’re not starting from scratch, ask the previous organizer for a list.

  • Give yourself enough time.

Here at The Leadership Center, we have families who do reunions annually, every other year, every 3 or 5 years as well, resulting in bookings as far out as 2020. Don’t let that intimidate you though. We suggest having at least 6 months to a year to plan and host a family reunion, though sometimes, that isn’t possible. Whether you have a year or just a few months, we highly suggest laying out a time line with all the necessary deadlines, deposit dates, r.s.v.p. dates, count deadlines,etc. This will help you stay on task and organized.

If you Google “Family Reunion Planning”, you’ll find endless resources to help you plan. There are spreadsheets, websites, calculators, etc. Pick what works for you and your reunion. We encourage you to check out all the tools available, but caution you that they are ample and can be overwhelming. Be selective and focused.

  • Don’t do it alone.

If at all possible, don’t plan your family reunion by yourself. They can be great undertakings. Breaking them down to committees or assigned tasks such as:

  • budget
  • activities
  • food
  • facility
  • entertainment
  • family artifacts
  • attendance

can make planning and executing far better. It also allows more people to be involved in making your family reunion a success. Utilize people for their strengths or areas of interest. Once tasks are assigned, hold them accountable to accomplish them. They are there to make this a success not to add stress or items to your to-do list.

  • It’s okay to start small.

We have reunions here that involve hundreds of people and others where the total is less than 20. They all take a lot of planning, but the bigger they are, the longer it takes to plan. If this is your first reunion, start small. It allows you the opportunity to focus on quality and build from there.

  • Make it affordable.

Some families are fortunate enough to have a fund or a benefactor to help defray costs of reunions. Most, however, do not. No matter the type of reunion you are planning, it is imperative to keep expenses in mind. Things like travel, accommodations, meals, family reunion favors (t-shirts, coffee cups, photos, etc.) should be considered. While attendance a reunion is optional and you cannot control economic circumstances, if possible, try to keep the factor of cost from being one of the reasons folks don’t attend.

**Whether this is a new reunion or an existing one, you may want to consider collecting donations on your registration form or setting up a fund to help defray reunion costs so families in need can attend or to help with the overall costs of the reunion.

  • Get the information out so people can plan to attend.

Once you have the date set and the facility booked, get all your important details together (i.e. cost, dates, location, booking info, food assignments, etc.) and get them out to those you are inviting. Try to allow as much time as possible, especially if travel accommodations and such are needed. Be sure your information, deadlines and expectations are clear.

  • Have a schedule.

With reunions, whether it’s a one day potluck or a 3 day weekend, schedules are important. They should include any planned activities including meal times, family photos, softball games, etc. You can also note any excursions or meetings too. This helps people know where to be and when.

Keep in mind, when planning your reunion and schedule, that you plan lots of time together. If possible, try to have activities for everyone. That is what reunions are about. Plan activities that might include traditions, share the family history, or things that bring people together like game tournaments, church service, talent show, etc. Provide time to not just reminisce, but to make new memories too.

One other time you may want to add into the schedule, is a family meeting where you discuss the next reunion and who might want to help plan it.

  • Pictures and Family Heirlooms.

Since you have everyone together, why not take some time to get pictures done? Schedule a photographer to come in at a set time during your reunion to get a big family picture as well as individual pictures. It’s a great way to preserve the moment and archive some family history.

Encourage people take lots of candid pictures too throughout the entire event. Consider setting up a family reunion Facebook Page or SnapFish account so everyone can share the photos taken. If you set up such a page, be sure to share that information with everyone.

Since we are on the topic of pictures and capturing history in the making, also invite the family to bring pictures and family heirlooms or the family tree, etc., with them to share at your reunion. It’s an incredible way to share the lineage of your family with young and old.

  •  Follow up.

We know you’re just planning your reunion, so thinking about what has to be done after the reunion, might seem a bit crazy. Trust us, it’s not. Follow up is important.  Take some time to share the mailing list, places to find pictures and such. It’s also a great time to send out a survey to see what everyone liked, didn’t like or would want to see at the next one. Be sure to say thank you for attending too.

If by chance, you didn’t get your next reunion set up during your reunion; use your follow-up correspondence to keep the momentum going. Solicit help to plan the next one.

We hope you found this helpful. Remember, here at The Leadership Center, we love families and reunions. If you’re interested in hosting one here or just have questions, give Micheala or me a call. We’re always happy to help.

Have a great day.

Maile’

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