With some creativity and advance planning, you can organize a memorable family reunion that everyone will talk about for years.
Steps to a Successful Family Reunion
1) Which family? It may seem obvious, but the first step for any family reunion is to decide who is family. Which side of the family are you inviting? Do you want to include only close relatives or all descendants of Great Grandpa Jones (or other common ancestor)? Are you inviting only direct-line relatives (parents, grandparents, grandkids) or do you plan to include cousins, second cousins, or third cousins, twice removed? Just remember, every step back on the ancestral tree adds a ton of new potential attendees. Know your limits.
More: Navigating the Family Tree
2) Create a guest list. Start by assembling a list of family members, including spouses, partners and children. Get in touch with at least one person from each branch of the family to help you track down contact information for each person on your list. Make sure to collect email addresses for those that have them - it really helps with updates and last-minute correspondence.
More: Tracking Down Lost Relatives
3) Survey attendees. If you're planning to include a lot of people in your family reunion, consider sending out a survey (by postal mail and/or email) to let people know that a reunion is in the works. This will help you gauge interest and preferences, and ask for help with the planning. Include possible dates, proposed reunion type, and a general location (discussing possible costs early on can discourage a positive response), and politely ask for a timely response to your questions. Add the names of interested relatives who return the survey to your reunion list for future mailings, and/or keep them up-to-date on reunion plans via a family reunion Web site.
More: Free Family Tree Charts & Forms
4) Form a reunion committee. Unless this is a get-together of five sisters at Aunt Maggie's house, a reunion committee is almost essential to planning a smooth, successful family reunion. Put someone in charge of each major aspect of the reunion - location, social events, budget, mailings, record-keeping, etc. Why do all the work yourself if you don't have to?
5) Select the date(s). It's not much of a reunion if no one can attend. Whether you plan your family reunion to coincide with a family milestone or special day, summer vacation, or a holiday, it helps to poll family members (see step 3) to avoid time and date conflicts. Since family reunions can encompass everything from an afternoon barbecue to a large affair lasting three or more days, you'll also need to determine how long you plan to get together. A good rule of thumb - the farther people have to travel to reach the reunion location, the longer the reunion should last. Most importantly, remember that you won't be able to accommodate everyone. Choose your final date(s) based on what's best for the majority of attendees.
6) Pick a location. Aim for a family reunion location that is most accessible and affordable to the majority of people you want to attend. If family members are clustered in one area, then select a reunion location that's nearby. If everyone's scattered, then choose a central location to help cut down on travel expenses for far-flung relatives.
More: Where Should I Hold My Family Reunion?
7) Develop a budget. This will determine the scale of the food, decorations, accommodations and activities for your family reunion. You can choose to have families pay for their own overnight accommodations, bring a covered dish, etc., but unless you have another source of income, you'll also need to set a per-family registration fee to help with decoration, activity and location costs.
More: Top 10 Features of a Successful Budget
8) Reserve a reunion site. Once you've chosen a location and set a date, it's time to select a site for the reunion. "Going home" is a big draw for family reunions, so you may want to consider the old family homestead or other historic site connected to your family's past. Depending on the size of the reunion, you may be able to find a family member who will volunteer to have it at their home. For larger reunions, parks, hotels, restaurants and community halls are a good place to start. If you're planning a multi-day reunion, then consider a resort location where people can combine reunion activities with a family vacation.
More: Location Ideas for Family Reunions
9) What about a theme? Creating a theme for a family reunion is a great way to interest people and make them more likely to attend. It also makes things more fun when it comes to being imaginative with food, games, activities, invitations and just about every other aspect of the reunion. Family history themes are especially popular, as are reunions which celebrate a very special family member's birthday or anniversary, or the family's cultural heritage (i.e. Hawaiian luau).
Next Page > Setting the Stage, Steps 10-18