A family reunion is almost always a rewarding and memorable event. However, organizing and hosting a reunion may seem like a daunting task. It doesn't have to be ... not in the Age of the Internet. The Internet can make reunion planning much easier. Here is a page of family reunion tips and ideas.
Since you're reading this, you're almost certainly the person organizing the family reunion. You've taken responsibility to make sure this reunion comes together. If you haven't already, fully embrace this challenge. Acknowlegde that you're the Reunion Chairperson.
Can you enlist others? Family members will probably offer to help. Ask them if they will be on the Family Reunion Committee. By making them official committee members you'll be solidifying their offer into a commitment.
Organize meetings of the reunion committee. At the first meeting you may wish to assign responsibilities and titles to go along with them. Consider electing people for the following roles. Any of these could be combined into the same person, or set up as sub-committees with multiple people.
You might also consider putting individuals or groups in charge of the following: Food, Decorations, Games and Entertainment, and Cleaning.
One of the first decisions to make: what sort of party will you be hosting? For this decision you need to consider your family's culture, your budget, the number of people you're inviting, the mix of children and adults, and perhaps most importantly, your budget.
There are two basic possibilities:
This is a popular choice if you have children attending. You might consider hosting the event at a state or local park. An extension on this idea is an overnight or weekend camping trip, which can be a lot of fun if it fits your family's style.
A more limited version is a simple party at a family home or backyard. This is the most casual option. You don't even need to plan a meal if it's held at a late hour and there will not be many children. Drinks and hors oeuvres will suffice.
To keep expenses low you can make it a pot-luck where every family brings a dish. Be sure to coordinate who is bringing what. It's easy to end up with too many desserts, no drinks, etc.
This is a relatively more expensive and formal option and it's not ideal for children, but it may be more impressive for your older guests. One advantage of this approach is that you have restaurant, caterer, or event facility staff take care of a lot of the work involved.
Here's something to consider. It's becoming popular to coordinate a reunion with another family event, such as a birthday, anniversary, or wedding, or simply a holiday such as the Fourth of July or Christmas. Many of the same family members might be attending this event anyway so it can save you a lot of expense and planning effort. By making it clear the event is also a reunion you may attract many guests who would not otherwise plan to attend. Although you may be worried about slighting the couple getting married, for example, by turning their wedding into a reunion, they may be honored by the extended family group and welcome the opportunity to defray the cost.
You must send out invitations as soon as possible, if only as "save the date" notices.
It is traditional to send paper invitations or cards. If it's a large reunion you could get custom printed invitations. Look up "Stationery" in the yellow pages or try the Google search below.
You might also consider going to a party superstore. They will have invitations, as well as decorations, plastic and paper serving utensils, and things you've never thought of. Browsing the aisles may give you inspiration. Search for "Party Supplies - Retail & Rental" in the yellow pages or enter the keywords "party supplies" in the Google search box above. If you include your zip code along with the keywords it will trigger a local business search.
Whether or not you mail out invitations you may wish to send e-cards or electronic invitations. You almost certainly want to use e-mail to help coordinate the event and remind people when the day is coming.
This can be as simple as sending e-mail messages to your family members. However, you can also use electronic postcards, i.e. e-cards, such as the free and easy Family Reunion E-Cards. Unlike many e-cards, the cards here at WikiTree are 100% free and have no advertising or gimmicks. They are simple and classy.
Creating a website or page for your reunion is a great way to help keep people informed. It's practically de rigueur for family members under 30. They will love having a place to find the latest information about the date and location, who to contact, etc. It can also be a place to post questions and comments.
This is easy and free for anyone to do at WikiTree. Click here to create a webpage for your family reunion. A few seconds from now you'll have a page like this reunion webpage for the "Sample" family.
When you update information on your WikiTree reunion page everyone in your family will automatically be alerted.
Another advantage of using WikiTree is that the reunion page will be automatically connected with any family history that you add. It's ideal if you want to make a family tree available at the reunion. Moreover, you will have started a permanent, constantly growing resource for family history. It will be there the next time you want to plan a family reunion or gathering.
Alternately, there are sites that specialize in selling web hosting for family reunions. For example, FamilyReunion.com charges $10 a month for their service. Others are free but you don't get access to the "premium services".
Social networking sites can be a great organizational tool to supplement your reunion webpage. If some of your family members use Facebook this is recommended, but other social networking sites may be just as useful and more efficient if it's what your family members are used to using.
Facebook can help you organize simply by serving as a place to exchange private messages or "wall" posts. You can also create a Facebook Group for your reunion and/or a Facebook Event.
Here's how to create a Facebook Group. Start by clicking the groups icon on the toolbar at the very bottom of your page. It looks like two people standing next to each other. From the main groups page, click the "Create a New Group" button in the upper-right corner. From there you can invite family members to join the group.
Creating a Facebook Event works almost exactly the same way. Start by clicking the events icon on the bottom toolbar. It looks like a calendar. Then click the "Create a New Event" button.
Although this is more limited as a forum it has the advantage of the calendar function and RSVPing. That is, the people you invite can say whether they will be Attending, Maybe Attending, or Not Attending the reunion.
What will you do at the reunion? The main idea, of course, is to mingle, catch up, and get to know each other better. Here are some ideas for breaking the ice and making this easier and more fun.
It's a nice idea to plan to give a little welcome speech. You can use this opportunity to talk about the day's activities and give credit to the organizers. You might also want to list some of the people that are attending. You can recognize certain individuals or families that have traveled from far away or who might be less familiar. This can be a good way to introduce people to each other.
Another way to welcome people and help introduce them to each other is to print up a guest list or directory. Including contact information is a good idea, so people can keep in touch after the reunion. If you want to get fancy you can include photos. Alternately, you could incorporate this into your printed family tree or direct visitors to WikiTree profiles, since those are in the context of a family tree and can include biographical notes, photos, and contact information. The following section has more about sharing family history at the reunion.
Almost everyone at the reunion will share a common interest in your family tree and history. This makes family history a fun activity for the reunion and a wonderful opportunity for family genealogists to collect information.
If you haven't ever started a family tree considering printing up blank family tree forms. You might want to invite a each branch of the family to fill in their own tree so that you can put them together later. You might have a table set up for this purpose.
A more sophisticated way to handle this is to have a laptop or portable computer set up on a table at the reunion. A projector or large screen isn't necessary but if you have AV expert in the family they might enjoy helping in this area. Consider having this expert or someone computer savvy stationed at the table to serve as a guide and "designated typist" when necessary.
If you use WikiTree you can have your web browser opened to your family pages. WikiTree is well designed for this purpose because it highlights missing information. Family members can click around the tree following their interests and viewing photos. When they see missing information it can be added right then and there. They can also add memories to any person's profile. For example, you could ask people to enter a memory about your great grandmother on her page.
This page has more family reunion ideas. For example, they describe giving out fun awards and certificates.
Do you have other ideas to add? Perhaps you have notes or stories about a successful or unsuccessful reunion that you had in the past. What worked for you and what didn't? Please e-mail Chris with any and all suggestions and we'll incorporate your comments into this page. We can use your name or keep your contribution anonymous if you prefer.